A man stands in the night by a lit streetlamp holding a physician's bag. He stares up at a window beaming light onto him and the street below. We see the silhouette of the man and the streetlamp from across the street. A baby carriage sits alone atop a mountain ridge silhouetted against a woman's face. Her profile suggests a mother - perhaps lying in the hospital ready to give birth or of a woman used in the worst way by the powers of evil.
The designers who created posters for Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973) used silhouette so effectively and without the use modern software. Showing us what we cannot see, in shadow, highlights the impact of this imagery and creates suspense and a sense foreboding for the audience. Several horror/suspense movies have employed this tactic
Another famous, and less creepy, example of this style would be from the original movie poster for E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) that includes a silhouette of a young boy, in a caped Halloween costume, carrying E.T. on a bicycle as it magically flies in front of a full moon. Here the poster conveys a sense of wonder and magic rather than the intent of suspense for marketing a horror film.
Movies from every genre have been marketed with this technique ranging from the biopics like Lenny (1974)featuring a silhouette of Hoffman as comedian Lenny Bruce and Chaplin (1992) to a dramas like The Color Purple (1985) using a purple silhouette.
20th Century Fox marketed the James Cameron science-fiction film The Abyss (1989)with a few different designs. The international one-sheet movie poster featured two silhouetted faces with the movie's tagline. There is no doubt it is a striking visual. Did it convey and market the film to the target audience? The domestic poster design was incredibly basic but did not feature the imagery in the international poster. This was a big-budget, summer film with two somewhat unfocused poster designs.
What other film posters have used the silhouette effectively? Have any used it poorly to market a film?
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