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Spot the spooky optical illusion in this iconic movie poster

The movie poster for Silence of the Lambs.
(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

It's been exactly 30 years since the release of the critically-acclaimed thriller movie Silence of the Lambs. But despite its popularity, fans are only just noticing an optical illusion in the famous movie poster. 

The psychological horror movie has become a cult classic in the movie world with its hauntingly good acting and iconic cannibal-themed quotes (liver and fava beans, anyone?). But we bet you've never noticed the Salvador Dalí inspired optical illusion on the movie poster. It's tough to spot without looking very carefully, but the skull on the moth has one very spooky secret. Loving this well-designed poster? Why not check out our roundup of the most inspirational poster designs

The movie poster for Silence of the Lambs.

The movie poster for the Silence of the Lambs is iconic (Image credit: Orion Pictures)

At first glance, you may think that the moth in the poster is a reference to Buffalo Bill's use of the Death's-head hawk-moth, that he puts in his victim's mouths in the film. While the moth in real life does have skull-shape markings on its back, it's normally not as defined as the skull in the movie poster. If you look a little closer, the skull on the moth is actually made up of human bodies - creepy, hey?

The skull is inspired by the photo 'In Voluptas Mors' created by Salvador DalÍ and Philippe Halsman. The photo features DalÍ, and seven women positioned to look like a human skull. If you compare the skulls in each piece of artwork, you can see that they are uncannily similar. 

A comparison between the two skulls.

(Image credit: Orion Pictures/Phillipe Halsman/Future)

Not only is this an illusion that has gone straight over heads for decades, but it's also a clever Easter egg that links to the movie. 'In Voluptas Mors' roughly translates to voluptuous or desirable death. The incentive behind Buffalo Bill's murders in the film is to (gory warning!) create a new skinsuit made from attractive women so he can wear it. Nice.

We think that the desirability, death and femininity associated with voluptuousness and the 7 women in Halsman's photo go hand-in-hand with Buffalo Bill's murderous narrative in the film, making this one very thoughtful (and somewhat terrifying) Easter egg indeed. 

The photo In Voluptas Mors.

In Volutpas Mors was shot in 1951 (Image credit: Philipe Halsman)

We aren't the only ones that think this illusion is amazing, and many users have headed over to Twitter to share their thoughts on the poster. One user tweeted, "This is TERRIFYING!" and we totally agree. Another even pointed out that the nude skull also refers to the theme of transformation in the movie, as Buffalo Bill attempts to change gender. The plot thickens.

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We think this sneaky illusion is incredibly cool, and love the reference to DalÍ. If you like this spooky poster, then you will love our piece on Saul Bass' rejected designs for The Shining. If you fancy having a go at designing your own clever poster, then make sure you check out our roundup of the best online poster makers

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Amelia Bamsey

Amelia Bamsey is Creative Bloq’s Staff Writer. After accomplishing a first class honours degree in Popular Music and a Master’s in Song Writing, Amelia began designing posters, logos, album covers and websites for musicians. She now enjoys covering many design topics on Creative Bloq, including posters, gaming and illustration. In her free time, she relishes in the likes of art (especially the Pre-Raphaelites), photography and literature. Amelia prides herself on her unorthodox creative methods, her Animal Crossing island and her extensive music library.