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Posterized October 2016: ‘The Handmaiden,’ ‘Moonlight,’ ‘Voyage of Time,’ and More

Written by on October 3, 2016 

“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.

It’s October and there are two bona fide horror films on the slate. Two. Four if you stretch your criteria. That just goes to show you how many genre films come out each year and how successful they’ve become to get summer release dates without a holiday tie-in. With the way Don’t Breathe has been performing, theaters may keep it rolling all the way through Halloween.

In their place come some actioners, thrillers, and a couple comedies. Oh, and one family film in Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (October 7). One? I guess studios are banking on kids still being in back-to-school mode with homework every night. Maybe I’m just realizing that October has become stay at home and rent a film month.

The age game

Two of those action films come in the form of Inferno (October 28)—or in layman’s terms, Da Vinci Code 2 or perhaps Angels and Demons 3 depending on your Dan Brown love—and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (October 21). That puts 60-years young Tom Hanks and 54-years young Tom Cruise on the marquees like it’s 1994.

We know how old these guys are and yet the studios still want to try and deceive us. Cruise is never going to look “old” but at least BLT Communications, LLC isn’t smoothing his skin to make him look plastic. I only wish I could say the same for The Refinery and Hanks.

Rather than the weird middle part from Angels and Demons, The Refinery goes heavy on the shoe polish for a conservative Ken Doll aesthetic. Maybe the issue is casting someone so young in Felicity Jones because even Irrfan Khan is looking a bit waxy here.

Sadly I can’t say any of the Inferno sheets are better. From the blatantly computer generated teaser mimicking Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain 180-degree pan to whatever LA was thinking on their bleeding red title against white. It’s a sad day when the boring triptych of glossy stills is our best option. At least the top Hanks looks real … ish.

Jack Reacher isn’t doing any better. Besides letting some wrinkles show on Cruise’s face, the formatting is quite boring across-the-board. We have Tom standing against American flag, Tom standing with back against IMAX letters, and Tom peering down forlornly with cheek gash as American flag waves translucently. At least the fourth has an explosion and what looks like it could maybe be Cobie Smulders. If not for her name being super tiny at the bottom, though, I never would have known. I guess Rosamund Pike took the subtitle’s hint.

October violence

They may not all be horrors, but these four definitely promise the violence you’d expect from the genre.

While Desierto (limited October 14) is the only one I’ve seen of this quartet, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it proves the “scariest” of them all. This tense thriller never lets go as a redneck “peacekeeper” goes border hunting for Mexican illegals with his bloodthirsty dog. Something about that premise feels more real than ghosts and goblins.

I think this foreign poster does a good job depicting that sense of dread with Jeffrey Dean Morgan at top and Gael García Bernal at bottom. This is a cat and mouse chase through the desert heat with very little cover from the former’s riflescope. The temperature is rising to haze out the title and a bit of the scale of the setting’s vast expanse is portrayed. It’s definitely been touched-up in Photoshop, but it has its merits.

If nothing else it’s more intriguing than the Spanish sheet with actors starring anywhere but at each other or us. This thing does nothing to express the emotion or suspense. The English language example is just as dry, the letters of the title looming as though actual aliens are coming from the sky to abduct the poor soul caught in the “R’s” tractor beam.

I may have no interest at all in Ouija: Origin of Evil (October 21), but I will say LA’s poster has its appeal. It’s not easy to make a ubiquitous board game creepy, so seeing them turn it into the walls of the darkened room a young girl must stare into the corner of is unique. I’d have taken out the shadow of the ghost, though—it’s not needed. A solitary girl staring at nothing is much worse than fake silhouettes that aren’t even in the same perspective as the object being shadowed.

The second poster proves how boring the board itself is. Do we need the letters and numbers behind the floating girl? She’s the focal point and the title in the identical font as the game is enough to make the connection. Everything else is distracting. Thankfully the teaser realized this truth and let the name and viewfinder satisfy Parker Brothers’ contract. It’s scarier to think about what might be in the darkness than show it waiting.

Gravillis Inc. was tasked with Rob Zombie’s latest freak-show entitled 31 (limited October 21) and they do an effective job showcasing the film’s inherent creepiness. Just look at the first tease of a van with clown head on top. You don’t need to do anything to this to make someone turn their head as soon as they catch a glimpse. Blood, vintage clowns, and Zombie’s name is enough to turn most people’s stomachs.

The final advert is almost too much in comparison. It gives everything away in its collage of horrors and lessens each figure’s impact at the same time. The character sheets are much better in highlighting one monster in high contrast black and white with blood red augmentation. There’s still mystery to them in their graffiti-stencil style. I also like the fun flourish on the “31” font. That sense of playfulness juxtaposes nicely against the genre and circus theme. The heavy sans serif never quite fit the others.

As for In the Valley of Violence (limited October 21), Ignition‘s imperfect design is definitely the best concept of this group. The idea of using the corner of a building—one side with light shining and the other shrouded in shadow—to differentiate “white” and “black” hats is inspired. I wish they took the time to stage this in real life so Ethan Hawke and John Travolta didn’t look like they were cut out of another photograph and pasted on this one, but what can you do? The vertical corner strip should probably be darkened too since it’s on the Travolta side.

It creates a much better mood than the teaser’s graphic drawing of a gun blast. This one has a comic feel with the “A Man Can Only Take So Much!!” coming across in a hammy lilt with double exclamations and starburst. But maybe I’m wrong and this tone is more appropriate in the long run. It just goes to show how important a poster can be at preparing its audience. Is Ti West’s latest a comedy or thriller? Depending on which artwork your theater hangs, it could easily be both.

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