“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.
You’ve made it out of dump month, hopefully having caught up on all the Oscar nominees that rolled out wider nationwide. February even has a couple prizes for your trouble whether festival holdovers or hotly anticipated sequels. You may just have to tread carefully amongst a few more clunkers to find them.
Sadly, the poster selection is going to be no help on this front. Lackluster is the word that comes to mind: a few will catch your eye and a handful will draw you in, but most will escape your memory as soon as you walk by.
I don’t want to call BLT Communications, LLC‘s poster for A Cure for Wellness (February 17) a facsimile of Slither, but it’s hard. My assumption is that Gore Verbinski’s latest also has a scene of snakes in a bathtub. Choosing it for the marketing campaign therefore points towards the image being a visceral one to grab attention more than an intentional decision to prey on James Gunn fans’ memory banks.
What cannot be excused, however, is the level of artifice at play. From the bathtub down is great. It’s a bit bright and absent of atmosphere, but it looks “real.” The same can’t be said about what’s it. The faucet looks giant, flat, and badly Photoshopped. The shadow glows around it at the same consistency whether the pipes supposedly against the wall or the handle and spout presumably jutting out. Depth becomes nonexistent, the pristine tiles look like wallpaper, and both prevent us from believing the tub is real anymore.
Gravillis Inc.‘s entry isn’t perfect, but it gets your mind racing to decipher the choice of having a character float within a medicine bottle rather than pick apart its glaring flaws. There’s a fantastic sense of motion from bottle stopper down through the girl’s feet towards the title’s sharply angled, bold sans serif. The color pops off the white and the whole possesses that eerie sense of the unknown mirrored in the trailer.
The first thing I thought after seeing the poster for Bitter Harvest (limited February 24) was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The difference is that everything the latter did right, the former does wrong.
PPZ does a great job of coloring its sky to put a halo around its duo, their wardrobe fading into the cool-hued darkness yet standing out against the warm light. It also puts them in a stance that’s ready to uncoil, giving us the illusion of motion despite the impossibility of providing any.
By contrast, Bitter Harvest decides to muddy everything in the same brown: ground, clouds, and clothing. Even where there’s light, it’s just a tint of that tan. And maybe it’s just me, but the desire to put its duo in an embrace of potential romance is completely wasted. Rather than look like Samantha Barks and Max Irons are going to kiss, it seems like she’s moving in to suck out his soul and he’s stiff-backed and frozen in fear. I do believe the reason Stalin’s tyranny can’t destroy their love is because they don’t have any.
I hate to say it, but the generic collage one-sheet is light years better if only because of the color. Letting that same embrace from before show clearer and bigger also allows us to see the emotion on Irons’ face rather than blank pause. He does want her after all.
I’ll throw in some extra points for highlighting Barry Pepper’s hair too.
For my most anticipated film of the month — Jordan Peele’s Get Out (February 24) — LA goes another generic route with the shattered glass of scenes motif. This isn’t always a bad way to go, but it’s uninspired unless you’re putting a spin on it like Louder Than Bombs did (mirrors, broken family, torn emotions, etc.)
There’s no seeming rhyme or reason here because none of the shards engage us. These characters aren’t looking through the broken window. They aren’t looking into a broken mirror at themselves. Every section is a film still: the two at top showing happy times and the ones at bottom showing fear. I wonder what it would look like if the whole were just Daniel Kaluuya’s scared face staring at us, frozen in the glass with a silent scream.
I can’t even say the tease is better since it holds no impact. The darkness makes it hard to see anything, the text at top and bottom is way too big not to conflict with the title (considering half is outlined rather than bolded), and there’s nothing to focus on. This print campaign does the film no favors in cajoling passersby.
As far as Rings (February 3), BLT embraces the overused horror sheet with monochrome character underneath top to bottom text. Think the Carrie remake. Think The Evil Dead remake. Snore.
I will give the copywriter some credit, though, because the tagline is ballsy. “First you watch it. Then you die.” On one level it’s speaking about the video of Samara that permeates this franchise. On another it’s telling you that you’ll die after watching it. I like when a campaign puts the viewer into the movie. It gives you pause.
It’s also a lot better than “Evil is reborn.” Snore number two. I don’t mind this second poster’s imagery, though. The branded ring on her back is pretty gruesome and the font changes things up from the usual kid’s scrawl. Just don’t look at the release date. Like The Bye Bye Man before it, this Halloween-slotted work was dumped too.
Maybe things would have been different if BLT was able to talk the film’s American distributors into using the international graphic. I really like this view of Samara exiting the TV towards us. This could give you a fright with some 3D technology. More please.
It’s difficult not to come up with something fun where LEGO movies are concerned. The product built its reputation on creativity and imagination and has only expanded that success as the years advance. Going into the license business to create LEGO versions of characters was an inspired choice and the way in which they’ve fabricated helmets, hair, and faces to bring beloved pop culture icons to life inventively retains that LEGO feel.
So when Proof sought to give The LEGO Batman Movie (February 10) a teaser sheet, they went all-in. The yellow backdrop is a peg sheet, Batman’s helmet is beautifully rendered in its matte plastic, and the Bruce Wayne hair-do is impeccable. What I don’t love are the dueling proportions when affixing the logotype onto that pegboard. The pieces forming it are much smaller than the pegs presented for visual clarity. Maybe a flat yellow would have been better to avoid this? Maybe I’m just looking way too hard at it.
I’m not the only one, though. Just look at Ten30 Studios‘ poster. By shifting the pegboard to become the ground on which characters can run, the world is cohesively brought together. The peg size matches the feet sizes now — everything fits. It’s a minute detail, I know. But it’s one that matters in the context of getting the reality right. Now the logotype can float above and be whatever size pieces it wants thanks to a changing depth of field.
This is the version that gets the LEGO feel down pat. That doesn’t mean I don’t also enjoy Art Machine‘s graffiti character sheets seemingly melding the 2D faces from the original LEGO Movie and street art of The Dark Knight, but it’s not “LEGO world” specific. They’re cool (some drips go around pegs to give it three-dimensionality), but hardly unique. Although it’s not like the properties involved need mind-blowing advertising to battle for a box office victory.
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