For me, the most exciting release last year was 1984 Publishing’s Ad Nauseam, a book packed full of horror ads from the 80s which highlight just how special the marketing was that lured us all to the theater in that decade. Taglines, poster art, the tease of the monster within, this collection of ads is a visual time machine showcasing a special point in horror history that many consider a golden age for the genre.
Former Fangoria editor-in-chief Michael Gingold has been collecting horror ads for decades and lucky for us, has shared his impressive personal collection in the release of not one, but two volumes of Ad Nauseam. For many of us horror lovers, Michael is a genre legend who ushered us through the horror movies of our youth in the pages of Fangoria. We’re lucky to have Michael in our corner as he continues to share his knowledge and passion for the genre. I was lucky enough to catch up with him recently about his new release, Ad Nauseam II, which continues where the first book left off, covering the ads of the 1990s through the 2000s.
Hi Michael! As an avid reader of Fangoria for decades I’ve been a longtime fan of your work. Congratulations on the success of the first Ad Nauseam book. You’ve created a must-have for horror fans in general, and a fantastic time capsule for someone like me who grew up in the era. It’s exciting to have a second volume in Ad Nauseam II. How did you have the foresight to hold onto these relics for so long, and is there any chance you’re still collecting them today?
Michael Gingold: Thanks, Brian! Like any avid collector, I was on a mission to collect every example I could of this particular memorabilia, and didn’t want to part with any of it. It helped that they didn’t take up much space! There wasn’t a sense of historical value for a while; I just enjoyed having so many cool and interesting ads in the collection. I guess it was in the early 2000s that their nostalgic value became apparent, particularly since horror ads had changed from the wild and outrageous excesses of the 1980s. That was when I first had the idea of putting them together in book form. I don’t collect them any more, simply because newspaper advertising for movies essentially doesn’t exist now-and in fact, seeing that getting phased out over the last decade was a particular inspiration to hold onto the ads, and get the collection published somehow.
There’s a real shift in the style of advertising horror in the 90s and 00s. Is there a tragic aspect you think was lost when you compare those decades to the untethered creativity of the 1980s?
Michael Gingold: Yeah, there was a sense of no-holds-barred fun to the ads of the 1980s that shifted to a somewhat more serious approach in the 1990s and 2000s. There was more suggestion to the ads of those decades, as the distributors wanted to tease potential audiences rather than ballyhoo them into theaters with bolder images and taglines. There were still a lot of creative ads during that period, they just weren’t as aggressive. It’s interesting when you look at something like the ad for Cemetery Man; in the ’80s, that approach would have been business as usual, but in 1996, it was a throwback.
You mention the advent of “quote whores” beginning in the 1990s. In 2019, Film Twitter has amplified this tactic tenfold as anyone with access to an advanced screening jumps at every chance to get their quote associated with a movie. For better or worse, how do you think this has evolved or changed horror advertising in general?
Michael Gingold: Well, once the Internet gave everyone a voice, you definitely saw more quotes on movie ads, horror and otherwise, from critics you’d never heard of. And the quotes themselves got bigger while the names got smaller, especially in TV advertising, as if the distributors didn’t want you to notice how obscure the outlet was. I’ve even seen ads quoting the IMDb-someone in the comments section!
In the first Ad Nauseam book, you talk about how many respected critics panned some of the most beloved horror movies of all time after seeing them for the first time. What’s your take on today’s trend of “Early Reactions,” where studios ask reviewers to Tweet their hot take on a movie immediately after walking out of the theater? Do you think some of these reactions would fare better if they had time to gestate, especially when it comes to horror movies?
Michael Gingold: I think early reactions are more applicable to horror than to some other genres, because it provokes a very visceral response: You’re either scared by a movie or you’re not, and you know right away once it’s over whether the film has delivered in that respect. There are other nuances to the movies, of course, that benefit from having the time to turn them over in your head for a little while-but then you can’t really convey that kind of thing in a Tweet anyway. In general, the whole “Early Reaction” trend has more to do with marketing than film criticism.
Ad Nauseam II showcases how horror advertising in print started dwindling as online advertising became more prominent. For what remained in print in the 90s and 00s, was there anything there that you found unique or inspired that didn’t happen in any other decade?
Michael Gingold: Well, in the 2000s, you actually saw a lot more ads for theatrical horror releases, as a lot more of them were being made in the wake of the success of Scream, The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense, and more independent films were given brief big-screen play-in major cities, at least-in advance of their video debuts.
You point out a time in the 90s where Photoshopping became more prominent. There was a move away from exploiting the monster in these ads in favor of showing off the “floating heads” of the slick young cast in an attempt to tone down the content. Being heavily ingrained at Fangoria at the time, are there any movies you can think of that may have done better at the box office had they actually revealed the monster or teased the gore instead?
Michael Gingold:The Relic is an example where they had a great monster, and didn’t show it or even suggest it at all in the print advertising. In general, the marketing for that one just described a “mysterious killer,” and the ads would have stood out a lot more if they had given us a look at the creature. Dead Alive is another example, where they sold the camp approach instead of the splatter. But what would have been more appealing to the target audience-the image they used, or, say, an image of Lionel holding up the bloody lawnmower, surrounded by zombies?
As horror fans, it’s pretty safe to say we all collect something from the genre. For me, I have tons of 80s horror home video artifacts in my collection. I find it fascinating to revisit how things were marketed to me when I was coming of age in that golden age of VHS when there were endless discoveries to be made at my local video store. Is there anything else in your personal collection you’d deem worthy of another curated book?
Michael Gingold: I have been a longtime collector of another kind of memorabilia that I’d like to curate for a book of its own. It’s too early to talk about that in any detail, but stay tuned!
You recently released another book, Ad Astra, which covers 20 years of newspaper ads from Sci-Fi/Fantasty films. Any chance we can start to get excited about an Action movie book next?
Michael Gingold: I wish! But I didn’t collect action-movie ads over the years, and now with the science fiction/fantasy book and two horror books, my ad collection is pretty much exhausted. I would love it if someone else came out with a collection of action ads from the ’70s and ’80s that could be presented in a book, or comedy ads for those decades, which were often really fun and outrageous. If you’re out there, make yourself known!
If you’re a horror fan, do yourself a favor head over to 1984 Publishing right now and pick up your copy of Ad Nauseam II: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1990s and 2000s which is available now.