Poster Picks: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Foregoing Flashback Friday this week because…well, because I’m not really in a reminiscent mood this evening. Although, I suppose that’s a bit of a lie, since I’m instead reviving a lamentably ignored featured series (lamented, I’m sure, mainly by me).

As I’m sure you’ve no doubt deduced, I’m a bit of a geek about many things, including comic books. I’m not quite Comic Book Guy-level geeky (Worst. Confession. Ever.), but I can hold my own when it comes to certain comics. One of my absolute favorite series belongs to those band of merry mutants, the X-Men. I was massively disappointed in the last of the first round of X-Men movies (so disappointed that I apparently wanted to try Bryan Singer for multiple counts of mutanticide).

I must confess, though, that I was pleasantly surprised by the…whatever they want to call X-Men: First Class (What was it? Reboot? Prequel? Preboot?). By going back to the very beginning, the movie succeeded in at least distilling the horrible taste left by X-Men: The Last Bland Stand.

Needless to say, First Class did well enough to actually warrant a sequel (Sequeboot?). Thus, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’m equal parts excited and terrified about this one, denizens. It’s based on another John Byrne/Chris Claremont story, just like part of X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s also directed by Bryan Singer, just like Last Stand was supposed to be before Singer bailed to give us Stripper-Pole Panty Superman.

Thanks for that. Really.

Regardless of my worries and excitement about the movie, I’m here now to share what I consider one of the most wonderful movie poster designs I’ve seen in a very long time. Surprisingly enough, the entirety of the design is a massive head shot, one of Sir Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier and one of Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto. You might remember in my first Poster Pick that I took the piss out of posters that relied heavily on showing only head shots of the movie’s star(s) rather than putting any effort into a creative design.

These two head shot posters, however, actually do rely on a lovely bit of creative zing, incredibly simple in concept but a tricky gamble in execution. You see, while the primary design elements are close-ups of Stewart and McKellen, each face contains a great surprise. A red X cuts across McKellen’s face. Look closely and you’ll realize that the X has revealed the face of Michael Fassbender, the young Magneto from First Class, beneath the older Magneto’s skin. Same with Stewart’s face—the blue X slices through his face to reveal the younger Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy.

Strip away old to reveal young. Strip away the future to reveal the past. So simple. So delightful. So excellently played.

I have to admit, I like the McKellen/Fassbender combination much more than the Stewart/McAvoy design, simply because the former actors resemble each other enough that I almost didn’t catch the morphing of their faces the first time I saw the poster. It was the fact that the designer didn’t perfectly align the images that made me do the immensely delightful double-take for this poster. The Stewart/McAvoy combination is far less subtle for several reasons, most obvious being all of McAvoy’s hair. Still, I think even that poster is starting to get to me.

I’ve no idea if this is the first time this design trick has appeared like this in a movie poster, but it’s the first time it’s registered with me. If you can think of an earlier design that utilizes this trick, please let me know. However, right now I’m going to give mad props to the designer of these two posters, for a brilliant bit of PhotoShop trickery. I’m also going to lament now the fact that this will undoubtedly be a trick that will start popping up all over movie posters. I really hope not, but…well, apparently, there are only a few designers who have been working on all the movie posters for a very long time.

Hopefully, this concept won’t get played out. Until it does, however, enjoy these two fine specimens. I really, really hope this is a reflection of the awesome to come with the actual movie.

xdofp-mckellen

xdofp-stewart

Poster Picks: The Broken

I have very little to say about this poster for the 2008 psychological thriller The Broken, because I think it pretty much speaks volumes without me simpering on about it. I will say this though: It’s effective. And absolutely unsettling. I keep staring at the jagged shards of Lena Headey’s head, and my brain keeps screaming that so many things are wrong that it simply wants to reject what I’m forcing it to process.

Simplicity, denizens. Sometimes it really, really works.

Poster Picks (and Bonus Movie Review): Cloverfield

I haven’t done a two-fer like this since my Runaways review, but I was inspired by my recent re-viewing of Cloverfield as part of my month-long Halloween movie marathon.

So, first, the poster. I’ve decided to go with the initial teaser poster, which had no text on it beyond the movie release date. That’s right, it didn’t even have the movie title on it at first. But, honestly, when you use imagery like this poster uses? You’re just going to attract even more attention by the fact that all you’ve included is the release date. Brilliant bit of marketing, no?

So, no text, no name, no tagline. Only a minimally written date in a nice white font, with dots as separators. Obviously, we’ve got to figure some things out based on what we do have. Let’s start with the primary focus of the poster: a headless Statue of Liberty. Not just headless though. From the exposed, jagged remains of the support frame, the torn copper, and the plume of debris and smoke, it’s obvious that Lady Liberty’s head was removed rather violently. By something very large.

And that very large something has headed into Manhattan. See the wave pattern in the water, leading from the Statue of Liberty toward the destruction within the city? Something has moved from the harbor into the streets…and it is hell-bent on taking down Manhattan. Look at the wreckage of the buildings that were in its way when it came ashore. Look at the plumes of smoke rising from the heart of the city. Look at the helicopters hovering overhead, so incredibly tiny in comparison with the surrounding damage.

Whatever has done all this is large enough that those dinky little choppers aren’t going to do much else besides probably annoy the hell out of it.

Not much else there though, eh?

Not so fast. There are conspiracy theories about “hidden images” in the Cloverfield posters. First, there’s the attacking sea turtle head:

See it? It’s the cloud shape to the right of Lady Liberty’s torch. It seriously looks either like an angry sea turtle…or a peener monster. Personally, I don’t want to think about either attacking the Statue of Liberty…

Next on the list? The smoke cloud monster:

Now, this one is a little more convincing and impressive if it’s true. Take the original poster, duplicate it, flip it horizontally and line up the edges…and voila! See the face? It actually kind of does look like what’s ultimately revealed as the Cloverfield monster. Or any other monster from any other J.J. Abrams movie. The man’s about as original as a Xerox machine.

Which brings me to…

Bonus Movie Review

I hadn’t seen Cloverfield since I went to see it in the theater. I did remember liking it enough that when I saw a used copy for sale for a couple bucks, I went ahead and picked it up (looking back, however, I was probably remembering the fun I had with the friends I went with rather than the actual movie). However, even more vivid was my memory of nearly hurling from the unrelenting shaky cam action. Not even The Blair Witch Project made me feel quite as queasy as Cloverfield did. Every time I thought about watching the DVD, that memory would drown out all others and I would simply put it back on my shelf.

I am pleased to report that the shaky cam was almost unnoticeable to me on the small screen.

More noticeable to me on this second viewing, however, is how truly unoriginal and lazy J.J. Abrams is as a filmmaker. Admittedly, my opinion of him is forever tarnished by the hot mess he ladled into my lap in 2009 with his Trek abomination. That was when I first decided that he was lazy. He could have made an original science fiction film. Instead, he usurped the name of a globally revered science fiction franchise, had some hack writers throw together a script that isn’t even worthy of being pulped into Communist-grade toilet paper, and smeared his Star Wars-loving paws all over a legacy that is so beyond his reach, it’s pathetic.

Why people wouldn’t let me space him for his crimes, I still don’t understand.

But I digress.

Back to Cloverfield. Most people have probably heard it described by genre fans as “Blair Witch Meets Godzilla.” That’s pretty accurate as descriptions go. Although I think a real match-up of the Blair Witch versus Godzilla would not only be awesome, it would be far more original than this movie. It’s fairly derivative as “monster attacking the city” movies go. The only “inventive” addition made here is the Barf-O-Rama shaky cam “found footage” aspect, which wasn’t really all that new by this point anyway.

What’s most troubling, however, and what makes me label Abrams as lazy, is the fact that there are several scenes in this movie that tap directly into a pre-programmed societal fear that was developed on September 11, 2001. New York under attack. Buildings toppled in the middle of the City That Never Sleeps. Plumes of smoke and debris roaring through the heart of Manhattan. Survivors trying to escape by foot on bridges leading off the island.

Some of the scenes from Cloverfield are almost frame-for-frame images that we witnessed on auto-repeat on all the 24-hour news channels that were covering that awful day in 2001. For Abrams and his band of filmmakers to tap into the still raw emotions of that day for what otherwise would have been just another cheesy monster movie (with CGI that has not aged well at all in some areas) feels cheap…and lazy.

I know that great horror often taps into our darkest fears and exploits them. This, however…I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too critical because I hate Abrams so very much. Although I do remember feeling displeased by these scenes the first time I saw the movie as well. Back in the halcyon days in which I still had hope that Abrams wouldn’t punch Trek fans in the collective naughty bits with a power converter from Tosche station while blaring Beastie Boys the whole time.

Douchey hipster tool.

All that aside, though, is this a good monster movie? Meh. There are far better ones. Far more original ones. At best, it’s brainless background fodder for when you want to watch something that’s not going to require any form of activity from you beyond blinking occasionally. I know that there were a bunch of Web sites out there, giving clues about what the monster was…tapping into the new way of presenting a movie as a holistic “new media” experience. Something that Abrams would try again with his Trek movie…only this time it wasn’t for free. “Hey, fans, does none of this make any sense to you? Well, that’s because you have to go buy the accompanying comic book! Then it probably still won’t make sense…but we’ll be that much richer!”

Okay, now I’m just making myself angry…

Poster Picks: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ooh, been a while since I dusted off this series, eh? Let’s not waste time with apologies or explanations. Let’s just get to it, shall we?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might be my favorite film to come from the charmingly cracked mind of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. Released in 2004, it tells the story of two people who, after a particularly painful breakup that followed on the heels of a possibly even less appealing relationship, decide to wipe each other from their respective memories. Most people who remember this movie’s release in theaters probably remember seeing a single-sheet poster of Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, lying side by side on a sheet of ice that is starting to crack, while they stare obliviously at each other.

It was a quirky image, true, but what always ruined this design for me was how this far more interesting and mysterious element of the poster was reduced to make way for a large, floating close-up of the top part of Jim Carrey’s face. You want to sell me on a movie? Don’t emphasize that it has Carrey in it. Also, if you have seen this movie, you know that Winslet not only plays just as significant a role as Carrey does in making this script work, but her performance was considered brilliant enough that she was nominated for an Academy Award. In hindsight, I’m sure it seemed a bit misguided that the marketing strategy was to focus primarily on Carrey.

But I do indeed digress this time, especially since this isn’t the poster that I’ve picked!

The poster that I’ve chosen looks like it might have actually been designed for the British market rather than the American one. It’s laid out in that loverly “quad” style that I previously discussed in my Shaun of the Dead poster pick. True, sometimes American movie posters are tweaked to a similar horizontal format for placement on buses or subway cars, but those are typically longer than this design. Maybe this was used for bus shelters. I don’t know, denizens. I can’t have all the answers.

Anyway, I know what most of you are probably thinking right now: But, Loba, you hate movie posters that use giant photos of the actors’ heads as the primary design element! You even said so! Right here!

This is all very true. However, in this instance, it works so well that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the concept. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

This design kicks it off with the movie’s release date (an important bit of information) and the tagline, “This Spring, Clear Your Mind.” The tag is written in a sans serif (as is the release date and the list of actors that follows the tag), colored in a bright, sunny yellow. There are two things that appeal to me regarding the font layout of the top part of this design. First, I love the pyramid layout of the text. Whether this way or inverted, a pyramid layout is always a clean, simple yet still visually pleasing way to present text. Second, I always enjoy the mixed use of smaller sentence case and larger upper case, as in the way the actors names are written. It’s a creative way to present bland text without going all PhotoShop crazy on our asses.

Yes, I did just write that. I’m feeling dangerous today, denizens.

Next comes the primary design element: a triptych of head shots for the first three actors from the preceding list: Carrey, Winslet, and Kirsten Dunst. These three facial elements were also repackaged as solo one-sheets, which I think makes a bit more sense (it seems a bit redundant to see them side-by-side-by-side here, showing the repetition of the “torn pages” element of the design on each). However, I loved each design enough that I decided I wanted to use the version that combined them into one poster. The head shots have been defaced, each one having had the strip where their eyes should be ripped away, to reveal that the photos were just the top layer of several, with each following layer ripped away as well.

Speaking of layers, this design element works beautifully on several (mmm, see what I did there?). We’ve ripped away the eyes. The eyes, which are the windows to the soul. One of the primary ways we take in the world around us. One of the primary ways we are visually (haha) recognized and can recognize others. But the removal goes even deeper than this. We’ve ripped away all that lies beneath the eyes, all that has been imprinted below the surface. Just enough left behind to give confusing, fractured hints at what might have been.

However, there are enough clues to leave us with the impression that what was beneath was some kind of informational brochure. We see the word “Lacuna,” which has that strange, meaningless-on-it-own, simple-word-complex-meaning, portmanteau-y feeling of a company name (kind of like Verizon or Microsoft). We see another strip of torn paper that discusses “a revolutionary process,” but all that’s left of the page above this statement is the word, “BROKEN.”

Shredded images, missing information, confusing clues, and something broken in the capital sense of the word. Sort of gives a delicious nuance to the original tagline about clearing our minds, doesn’t it?

At the very bottom of the stack of torn pages, we get three different statements/questions from our three characters: “I’m fine without you”; “Would you erase me?”; and “Do I know you?” Strange sentiments on their own, made even more unsettling when peaking out from behind sightless faces that still smile in progressively more open, more welcoming ways, even in their defaced states. I think the most disturbing pairing of quote and expression is on Dunst’s poster. Even with just the visual element of her mouth in tact, you can tell that she’s smiling/laughing in a way that intimates joyful familiarity with whomever she is interacting. “Do I know you?” simply doesn’t match the image in any way and leaves one feeling at the very least a sense of disorientation at the juxtaposition.

Finally, we get the movie title, broken onto two lines (it was a bit of a long name, wasn’t it?). The natural break right before the prepositional phrase ended up being what most people used to refer to this movie anyway. Therefore, the treatment of placing “Eternal Sunshine” in a larger, sentence-case yellow sans serif font while reducing “of the spotless mind” to all lower-case, smaller, white font was a nice touch. Then we get the movie Web site, with the familiar beginning and end components in a dark red, and the movie title (this time in its entirety) highlighted in yellow. And, once again, the text is formatted in a pyramid structure, this time inverted, giving a lovely balance to the text that sandwiches our primary design elements.

So see, denizens? Sometimes head shots work. But only when used in a creative way. And when it’s not just Jim Carrey.

Poster Picks: Hard Candy

Right off the bat, I have a confession: I have altered this poster. I only did one thing, but it was significant enough that I wanted to be forthright in my PhotoShop deception. I removed something from the top of the poster…a review quote, to be precise. See, I really don’t like it when movie companies place review quotes on the posters. I know, I know, it’s all about marketing…and good reviews sell more tickets. But, to me, adding a questionable movie review quote (because, really, how many people out there give a movie a good review in the hopes that their quote will be the one chosen?) to someone’s design is like adding the McDonald’s golden arches to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Okay, it’s not that dramatic. But it’s still tampering with someone else’s artistic vision. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but I have yet to choose a poster that contains review quotes. I highly doubt that will change…but never say never, right?

Anyway. So this is the poster for 2005’s Hard Candy. Without the gratuitous review quote at the top, this poster takes on an even more desolate, haunting quality. Lots of empty space, interrupted by this gorgeously unsettling image: a solitary hooded figure, facing away from us, standing in the middle of a giant animal trap. The person standing inside the trap has a rather androgynous quality to their figure; however, the skirt and leggings, the delicate wrist with the aqua-colored watch band, and the thin ankles and small feet lead us to believe this is a girl. True, the oversized nature of the trap makes her seem even more diminutive, but she’s obviously also rather slight, while her mode of dress leads us to believe that she’s young…more than likely somewhere in her teens.

And she’s bait. It’s not just the obvious that gives this away. Look again at what she’s wearing: a red hoodie with the hood pulled up. Perhaps it’s because of childhood conditioning, but I immediately think of one thing when I see a red hood: Little Red Riding Hood. My, what big teeth you have, indeed. Of course, the predator becomes the prey in Little Red Riding Hood’s story. Kind of like how a predator caught in a trap like the one in this poster also becomes the prey.

There’s a surprising lack of vulnerability in the girl’s stance. Even though she’s facing away from us and her hood prevents her from even sneaking a peripheral peak behind her, she’s completely at ease. Her weight is evenly distributed to both feet. Her arms are down by her sides, her hand possibly slipped inside a pocket on her skirt. We can’t see her face, but from the position of the hood, it seems as though she is holding her head at a normal angle rather than looking downward. Nothing defensive or protective in her posture at all. Just her standing there, in the middle of a trap with her mysterious bag of tricks slung over her shoulder. If it weren’t for all those jagged teeth around her, you’d think she was just waiting for a ride or something equally benign.

Oh, and yet again I’d like to mention: We can’t see her face. Rather limiting, don’t you think? No clues to her appearance or emotional status at all.

Here comes a bit of an assumption followed by a bit of possibly offensive image association. We live in rather disturbing times, however. And while there are many things that could require a teenage girl as bait, I think it’s safe to assume that most people would jump to a disturbing sexual conclusion about this scenario. Now, take another look at our red-hooded, upright (some might even say erect) figure inside this wide-open circular trap just waiting to spring closed around it.

Graphic enough for you?

As you look at the floor on which the trap sets, you can’t help but notice fissures running underneath the right side of the trap. Something isn’t quite right, something isn’t holding. Something is cracking under pressure.

Then comes the movie title. The artist used a clean sans serif, nicely kerned and in a complementary, almost soothing neutral color. Sort of softens the blow of the preceding image. It also somewhat lessens the jarring meaning of the title when taken in conjunction with the assumption that this is a lure for a predator of the sexually perverse variety. Hard takes on a rather sinister meaning in this unsettling, predatory light. To be honest, so does Candy. Something sweet. Something succulent. Something to be savored. Something to be devoured.

But not easily. This candy is hard…

Poster Picks: The Exorcist

Wow, a whole week went by with nary a peep from La Loba. What’s up with that? You’d think I had a life or something. Actually, I was busy pursuing that greatest of Zen mantras: Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Don’t worry…the blog post is already writing itself inside my loopy lupine brain.

However, today marks the last Friday of the great, blizzardy-white, freeze-my-paws-off month of January. This, of course, means the last of the special weekly appearance of my Poster Picks series. Guess this means that I should really start thinking about Flashback Friday again, eh?

On to the point then.

Regardless of your feelings toward the horror genre or this movie in particular, it’s relatively impossible to deny that the poster art for the 1973 classic The Exorcist is the very definition of iconic. The version that I chose to include with this post is the most stripped-down version I could find, without even the standard rundown of the performers, directors, writers, best boys, your mom, dogwalkers, company mimes, etc. All we get for text is the author of the story, the story title, and the director.

Here comes the standard font geek-out: I love sans serif and serif paired like this. In most of my own design work, I always try to stick to 2 fonts, and 9 times out of 10, it’s this kind of pairing (I don’t know why, but sans serif always delights me as the secondary font to a primary serif; gee, wonder where else I use such a pairing?). I also have a huge font-on for sans serif with “Ws” that criss-cross in the center the way this one does. Especially such a narrow sans serif. I’ve used fonts similar to this one several times. This is also a gorgeous serif font and the purple color is quite complimentary to the pea soup yellow-green tint of the image that follows.

Heh. Pea soup.

The writer-title-director combo of this poster has pretty much become the triumvirate of horror movie greatness. Blatty’s original novel continues to reign as one of the genre’s strongest offerings. The fact that he placed his story in Washington, D.C., and based it on an actual case of exorcism that occurred right in Maryland means that it gets extra coolness points from this resident of the Old Line State.

I’m delighted to say that, separate from this amazing novel, the movie stands as not only one of the greatest movies of modern horror, but constantly ranks very high on most critical and fan-created horror movie lists. To say this is a must-see of the genre is about as big an understatement as saying Dr. Crusher might be my favorite TNG character.

And who made it a must see? Friedkin. Love him, hate him, think he’s an asshole, the man made a masterpiece and, in doing so, secured his position in horror history.

Then we get that image. That glorious image that horror fans have burned into our souls (and some have etched onto their skin; actually, I’m going to have to say that Exorcist-themed tattoos might actually be scarier than the movie).

This is the movie’s defining moment. The beginning of the showdown. This is when shit gets real. This is the arrival of…The Exorcist.

Duh.

He stands outside the house, so unassuming and small in that blaze of light, which drowns out any details and gives us nothing more than his silhouette. His head is tipped slightly back, letting us know that he is looking straight into that sickly glow. All he brings with him is a satchel.

Oh, and the power of Christ.

One final nerd observation: I love how the streetlamp bisects the image, leaving a distinct separation between the evil on one side and the good on its own side.

Taken out of context (and without that fierce brightness emanating from that top-floor room), this is actually quite a benign image. Nothing more than a man standing outside of a townhouse. It’s a false sense of simplicity and security that permeates this movie…that things so generic can become so traumatizing, so horrific.

Poster Picks: Devil

Today’s pick is for 2010’s Devil. If I’m not mistaken, this is also the newest poster to make it to the Poster Picks Pantheon.

Woots.

The design starts with the movie tagline: “Five Strangers Trapped. One of Them is Not What They Seem.”

I love two things about the appearance of this tagline. First, is the font: a sharp, clean squared sans serif. It has a modern feel to it without being in your face about being new and hip and with it. Secondly, I love the use of bold on the second part of the tagline. Yes, it’s a bit leading, but aesthetically, it just looks appealing.

I love the claustrophobic feel of the tagline’s sentiment. From a personal viewpoint, I can’t imagine much else more uncomfortable than being trapped anywhere with four people I don’t know. Honestly? I don’t even know I’d want to be in such a situation with four people I know very well. Add to this the “not what they seem” variable, and you’re already building a scenario destined to leave me with a humongous NO feeling.

Then comes the primary graphic element of the design: an elevator entrance, bright silver against a dark wall.This gives off an eye-catching chiaroscuro effect that is amped up even further by an unnerving fiery light seeping through the closed doors.

First, though, check the floor number: 6. Say that three times fast, right? Also, notice how the “Down” button is marked black with a red arrow in the center. Nice delineation regarding which direction this elevator is heading.

Now, back to the fiery light coming from between the elevator doors. I’m going to have to say, this is not the kind of light I’d want to see coming from anywhere, but especially not from a space the size of an elevator, where four other people are stuck with me.

Even better though? The light from between the doors connects with the light coming from under the doors and then connects with the reflection against the onyx shine of the floor just enough to give a very identifiable image of an upside down cross. Even those who don’t know or believe the tenets of Christianity understand the meaning of an inverted cross and the implications of the appearance of such an image.

Also, taking into consideration this imagery, think back to the tagline: “One of Them Is Not What They Seem.”

The Devil, you say?

Speaking of the Devil, finally, here comes the movie title. It’s typed out in another sans serif font, this time less squared, narrower, and kerned beautifully.

I love how the vertical support of the cross lines up, with the top aligned with the elevator number and the bottom lined up with the center of the “V” in Devil. The symmetry of this design is absolutely sinister.

Of course, the most frightening aspect of the design comes now: “From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.”

Has a more chilling statement ever been written? Don’t believe me? Just think about The Happening.

Terrifying.

Poster Picks: The Skeleton Key

If you haven’t figured this out about Loba yet, let me inform you all now: I love a bit of PhotoShop trickery. True, I find it a little unnerving what one can do with PhotoShop if one has the necessary skills…but as someone possessing a modest level of Shop-Fu, I also know the immeasurable amounts of fun one can have as well (although I’m sure that those who have found themselves the focus of my PhotoShopping attention might disagree).

It’s no surprise, then, that I was immediately drawn to the teaser poster for the 2005 thriller The Skeleton Key. This is a beautiful example of how, even with mad PhotoShop trickery skillz in full play, giving away as little as possible will always have the biggest impact.

The poster’s composition is dominated by one thing: an unnerving close-up of an eye. Obviously belonging to an older person, as revealed by the deep wrinkles (which look like they’ve been more deeply defined by a little color burning) and the silver hairs within the eyebrow, the eye itself is gone. In its place is the superimposed image of a man in a wheelchair, sitting beneath a canopy of Spanish moss. His back is to the camera as he faces a slightly mist-shrouded house in the far distance.

Even before examining anything else about this composition, I have to say that I was highly impressed, not only by the sheer creepiness of the overall image, but also by the beautiful details that went into this work. The cropping of the image is so precise, showing us no more than what the designer wants us to see and bringing us uncomfortably close to this strange, aged face. The eye replacement is impeccable: The Spanish moss lines up perfectly, looking almost like the reflection of eyelashes; the shadowing is convincing; the photo curves along the natural curve of the eye in just the right ways; and I adore the added detail of still being able to see moisture along the bottom left edge of the eye.

[Loba Tangent: You know what’s really weird? I can’t stand the word “moist,” but I just realized that the word “moisture” doesn’t bother me at all. Crazy, huh?]

Beyond the off-the-scale creep factor of this image, what else can we infer about this movie? Obviously, it takes place in the American South. That house screams antebellum plantation house, and Spanish moss is only a regular resident of those warmer, stickier states as well. Already, I’m gearing up for a bit of Southern Gothic Horror fun.

The presence of someone in a wheelchair at the foreground strikes a balance between curiosity as to what placed him in this position as well as a sense of foreboding. A horror movie is a bad place to find yourself in a wheelchair, natch. Plus, he strikes such a solitary pose there on the grounds of that rather large and foreboding looking house.

Finally, who is it who is watching this man? This mysterious voyeur with no eyes but who sees all? Or at least sees as much as we’re being allowed to see? Because of the cropping and the use of color burning in some places and desaturation in others, there are no concrete clues about the gender or race of this person. Only that they are aged. And currently our only guide into this dark and lonely world.

The remaining elements of this design are equally controlled and sparse. At the top is one name, Kate Hudson, in a white serif font and sporting a classy bit of kerning between the letters (I love when kerning is used for good). Then, below the eye comes the movie title, written in a sans serif this time, with some mottled coloring and wear to give it a little panache. The designer gives us a gorgeous bit of bonus detail here by turning the “E” in “Key” into part of a keyhole, complete with a mysterious glow coming through the bottom. Very clever. Very subtle. Very nice.

The designer of this poster has conveyed just enough about this movie to pique my interest while holding back enough to make me want more. These are definitely mad PhotoShop and creativity skillz at work.

Poster Picks: A Nightmare on Elm Street

Time for a change-up here at the lair. Seems that I’m finding it a bit difficult at the moment to come up with suitable fodder for Flashback Friday. It’s not that I have no ideas…it’s just that they’re all of a rather morose variety. I don’t want to do that to you. I certainly don’t want to do that to me.

Therefore, for the month of January, I’m replacing Flashback Fridays with Poster Picks! Woot? Indeed. I did, after all, mention in my last Poster Pick that I had intended on writing up several horror movie posters during the month of October…er, Doctober. But that plan went a bit out the window.

Until now.

Time, then, for one of my all-time favorite movie posters from one of my all-time favorite movies: Wes Craven’s 1984 horror classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. If there was ever a more perfect slasher…it was done by John Carpenter 😉

This movie has withstood the test of time so well that it continues to fall solidly in my top 10 favorite horror movies and, while I’ve never done an “official” ranking, I’m thinking that this is really close to the top of that top 10. Nancy Thompson equally holds pride of place in my list of horror movie heroines, coming very close to the top of that list as well. Simply put, this is definitely one of those “must-see” movies that I recommend for anyone who wants to learn more about one of the greatest influences of the modern horror genre.

And, no, there was no remake.

As for the poster, it’s another impressive example of how a little bit of information presented in a tantalizing way can go a long way. First, as I also mentioned in my review of the poster for Gremlins, I love that this poster is art rather than photography. I don’t know why, but I have a warm, fuzzy spot in my heart for drawn/painted poster art.

This poster starts out with the tagline at the top, written in all capital letters, in a simple, white sans serif font: “If Nancy Doesn’t Wake Up Screaming She Won’t Wake Up At All.”

Never mind the lack of punctuation in the tagline; I love the connotations of sleep having the power to kill you. I’m sure that everyone has heard the urban legend that if you start to fall in your dream, you’ll actually die if you don’t wake up before you hit the ground. I think this tagline, even before you know anything about the movie itself (or, for that matter, the news articles that inspired Craven to write the script), feeds right into this level of primal fear.

The primary graphic of the poster is a POV rendering of us looking down at a teenage girl, presumably Nancy of the movie’s tagline, lying in bed. The layers of vulnerability in this image are magnificent. Sleep is a highly vulnerable state by itself. Just ask anyone who’s gone to a slumber party and had the misfortune of being the first to fall asleep. This vulnerability is ratcheted up even more by the fact that Nancy appears to be naked—or at least topless—beneath the sheets that she is clutching tightly to her chest. Next layer of vulnerability? That look on her face…so feral, so frightened. She’s looking directly out at us with eyes so wide that we can see the white all the way around both her irises.

[Minor artistic gripe here: Maybe this is just me, but I cannot open my eyes that wide without my eyebrows hitching halfway up my forehead. It’s always bothered me that Nancy’s eyebrows are so low in this painting. I know, I’m ridiculous sometimes.]

What has frightened Nancy so deeply that she would have such a panicked expression? Could it be those blade-tipped fingers hovering right above her head? Or perhaps the skeletal sketch of a face, with eyes the same color as Nancy’s…and that same wide-eyed feral stare? Made even creepier, by the way, by the lack of eyelids. I love how the face is partially transparent, how you can still see the slats of Nancy’s headboard through the skull. Same with how the blade-tipped fingers seem to be clawing their way out of her pillow. Also, there’s a symmetry at work here that delights me: I love how the second blade from the left lines up almost perfectly with the bridge of Nancy’s nose.

I don’t know about you, denizens, but if I woke up and saw either of these images floating over my head, whether real or not, I think I’d have that same panicked look on my face as well. My eyebrows would still be higher though.

I’ve also always loved how Nancy’s hair fans out over the pillow. It’s a great visual element and even adds another layer of vulnerability. Just ask anyone who’s ever had long hair get tangled in anything…like blade-tipped fingers. There’s also another layer of meaning only understood once you’ve seen the movie. Looks like there’s a gray streak through the hair on the left side of Nancy’s head (LEFT side, Dream Warriors. LEFT.) Wonder what caused that…

We then move down to the movie title, written in an appropriately bloody shade of red. I love the scratchy font used for “A Nightmare” and how it juxtaposes so nicely against the generic sans serif used for “On Elm Street.” Elm Street is such a generic street name anyway. As it will be pointed out to us in a later sequel, “Every town has an Elm Street.”

Indeed, it’s that ubiquity that I think makes the premise of this movie all the more frightening. Every town has an Elm Street. Everyone has to sleep. Everyone has to dream. Add all these elements together and no one is safe. Especially not poor, naked Nancy and her weird streak of gray hair.

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.

Yawn.

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.