Poster Picks: Identity

Here’s a secret confession for you, denizens. In conjunction with Doctober, I had originally planned to do weekly Poster Pick entries on some of the horror/thriller movie posters I love. Sadly, though, I routinely ran short on time due to many more obligations than I was expecting (plus, Doctober became much more of a creative challenge than I had initially planned on it being; it was just too much fun to come up with more and more elaborate ideas!).

Who says I can’t keep the Halloween spirit going after the fact though, right? Right. So here, then, is one of my favorite scary movie posters. Actually, some of you may remember that I chose Identity as one of my Top 10 Halloween movie recommendations last year (it’s okay if you don’t remember…just go here and you’ll be all caught up!). I think it’s a brilliant bit of writing from Michael Cooney and some great performances from a rather impressive ensemble cast.

The mainstream American theatrical poster for Identity was a bit dull, however: a photo montage of Ray Liotta, John Cusack, and Amanda Peet, hovering over a rainy, night-time shot of a sleezy-looking motel.


I’ve said this before (and you’ll notice from my previous Poster Picks that I stand by my statement): I find posters that prominently feature giant (and relatively unaltered in any interesting way) photos of the movie’s main actors to be a bit boring and a bit of a cop-out.

Then there was this teaser poster. We start with a stark white background, which already puts me ill at ease. To me, there’s something intrinsically unsettling about a horror movie poster with a white background. Something so dark and sinister subjected to such a bright, antiseptic treatment is a perfect way to immediately set me a bit on edge. Plus, I find so much brightness to be jarring and a bit painful to my somewhat light-sensitive eyes (hey, a movie poster review and an optometric update…just two of the many services offered here at the lair!).

Right at the top, we kick things into gear with the movie’s tagline: “Identity is a secret. Identity is a mystery. Identity is a killer.” Nice little teasing trilogy of statements there, disappearing further and further down the rabbit hole of delicious deceit and murderous mayhem (and annoying alliteration as well).

Then we move down to the poster’s sole graphic: a dark, slightly smudgy handprint. Anyone even remotely familiar with crime analysis knows that one of the primary bits of evidence that analysts search for in identifying a criminal is fingerprints. So what better way to visualize the concept of “identity” than with those potentially incriminating prints? Only here the fingerprints have been manipulated into silhouettes, and a face has been super-imposed over the palm…a somewhat unidentifiable face, with wide eyes and gaping mouth (two things automatically associated with a fearful expression), but most other features washed out from a bit of overexposure. So basically, we’ve got six figures whose identities are completely hidden from us (including the five “fingers,” thus marvelously reversing the assumed revelatory nature of fingerprints), but one of whom is apparently witnessing something quite horrifying. Remember, “Identity is a killer.” We hit this home with a nice color fade from black into a bright, blotchy blood red at the bottom edges of the palm and thumb.

Next, we get our primary ensemble cast line-up, all capital letters (with a nice small cap treatment for the “and” and Clea DuVall’s and Rebecca DeMornay’s last names) in a strong, simple serif font and a red that matches the bloody bottom of the preceding image. Similar font treatment for the movie title, only this time it looks like we’re going bold, and there’s a lovely black and red color fade that mirrors the graphic’s color fade. Sometimes it really is the little touches that make the effort all the more extraordinary, eh?

And one more tagline, in black, sentence-case serif: “The secret lies within.” Call me a word nerd (and I will answer), but there’s something deliciously suspect about this statement. I’m getting a distinct double-meaning vibe from the presence of the word “lies.” From the first tagline and the bloody graphic, I think it’s safe to assume that this movie is going to be about mystery, murder, and obfuscation…about showing us just enough and hardly anything at all. We’re obviously going to have to work to find the answers, but I think we’re also going to have to work to find the truth as well. The secret lies within. Don’t believe what you see, don’t believe what you hear, and don’t believe what you think is happening.

All in all, I think this is a tantalizingly clean and mysterious tease for what I discovered to be a delightfully eerie movie experience that I’d highly recommend.