Thursday, April 28, 2016

Riske Business: Good Poster, Bad Movie

by Adam Riske and Heath Holland
This week, Heath and I explore some of our favorite posters for movies that pretty much suck.

Adam: My first pick is the poster for Jaws: The Revenge, possibly the worst sequel ever made. I still adore this poster, though. It has a few cool hooks. Among them is the scale of the shark compared to the woman on the boat (who is holding a measly spear). The shark looks so massive that it only seems inevitable that it will eat her. It's too large of a threat. I also like how the water blends with the sky to create this big mass of blue, making it appear that the entire area is water as if to say "You're in my world now!" Plus, as a fan of things being personal, I like the tag line quite a bit. This poster captured my imagination when I saw it in movie theaters as a 5-year old back and it's still really damn cool in 2016.
Heath: I haven't seen Jaws: The Revenge in years and years (probably 20 or more) and I don't remember much about it, but what I'm hearing you say is that it's awesome and I need to pick it up on Blu-ray when it comes out in June. If I'm reading you correctly, you're saying that the shark in the movie is even bigger than the one on the poster, and that this promo material teases an experience that the film totally delivers. SIGN ME UP. I just pre-ordered a copy for each member of my immediate family.

My first pic is the poster for 1983's Deathstalker, a horny little low-budget fantasy movie with the production values of a middle school drama department. The poster itself is from the painter Boris Vallejo, who has done a bunch of cheap paperback covers and -- most notably -- the poster for National Lampoon's European Vacation. The poster for Deathstalker has ALWAYS been intriguing to me with its depiction of a ghoulish beast hoisting a spiked mace in one hand and clutching a bikini-clad damsel close to him with the other. Facing the beast is a oily dude in a loincloth, sword held high. This painted artwork adorned the VHS tape box back in the day and always both compelled and revolted me. This is the kind of thing that video stores were made for. Pretty awful movie, but an incredible poster.
Adam: I am ashamed to say I have never seen Deathstalker, but that poster makes it looks like either a) a heavy metal album cover or b) a fantasy fiction book at one of the last existing Barnes and Nobles.

My next pick is this poster for Superman Returns. I have wanted to like a Superman movie forever. I never have liked a Superman movie, though, despite liking things about them (e.g. Christopher Reeve, the plane rescue in Superman Returns, etc.) and yet I find myself excited whenever there's a prospect of a new Superman movie. Superman Returns had, from what I can recall, a really great marketing campaign but the movie is a slog to get through. An example of the promise of this movie is its theatrical poster, which is striking and seems to be promising something special. Supes' suit looks great here, too. Man, I wish I liked this movie.
This poster is so great imho that I once almost saw Superman Returns a second time in theaters (knowing I did not like the movie) because I was drawn to the promise of that freaking poster when I was at the theater. I think I went and saw the Tyrese vehicle (see what I did there) Waist Deep instead.

Heath: That Superman Returns poster really captures the potential of Superman in a way I don't think any movie totally has. This isn't a word I bust out very often, but there's majesty to it. And it's totally appropriate.

Next I'm going to go with the poster for Every Which Way But Loose. I think some people would argue that this is not a bad movie, but it's not a good movie, either. Certainly the promise of the poster is nowhere near realized. We get Clint Eastwood looking tough as nails with Clyde the orangutan giving him a hug from behind. The elements of the film, like motorcycles, car chases and guns, are depicted in a circular pattern around Clint and promise a very exciting experience in the same vein as Dirty Harry (with added simian), not the country music comedy that the movie actually is. The poster seems to say "I'm going to punch that gun out of your hand and then knock your lights out while my orangutan eats your face off." The actual movie says "I'd rather be line dancing with my girlfriend Sondra Locke." Disappointing.
Adam: Again, a movie I have not seen. I'm the worst. I do dig the poster, though. I especially like that Sondra Locke's name is in bold and a larger font size than everyone else. I want to know the backstory there.

My next pick is Spawn. So simple yet so badass. This poster promises a much, much better movie than the CGI-diarrhea fest that is 1997's Spawn. The lead character looks great, like there's this awesome duality between good (the cape) and bad (his villainous face). The tag line is mysterious and interesting and I'm kind of geeking out a little over the font choice/effects used for the film's title.
Heath: I can't tell you how interested I was in a movie version of Spawn because I was a comic book kid back in the '90s and I also can't tell you how much I hated John Leguizamo in that movie. That poster is fantastic, though.

I'm clearly going too obscure with my picks, so I'm gonna go big or go home. I'm throwing down with the teaser poster for The Phantom Menace. Look, I unapologetically love The Phantom Menace, but I also understand that I am by far in the minority and that most people think that it's a terrible movie. One thing I hope we can all agree on is that the teaser poster was incredible. It was a shot of Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker on the familiar desert planet of Tatooine. The shadow being cast by the planet's twin suns stretches out behind him in the shape of Darth Vader. Such a simple image, but so loaded with sadness and a story yet to be told, and -- arguably -- still waiting to be told. I had that poster hanging on my wall for years, and I still have it framed, though it's now in storage. I'm not sure any movie could live up to what that poster promised, but it still gives me chills.
Adam: The Episode I teaser poster is really great. I especially like the timeline aspect of the two images of Jake Lloyd and Darth Vadar. And I agree with you on the movie somewhat. I don't hate it either. There's a lot of cool stuff in that movie.

On the opposite side of the star coin, I'm going to make my next pick Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It's by Bob Peak, who is actually the same poster artist as the one for Every Which Way But Loose. I just think the Star Trek V poster is so classy and beautiful. Everything about it looks hand-done and not artificial. I remember the movie being a major bore, though. I once saw it on the back half of a double feature with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and fell asleep during most of Trek V. I like the tagline of this poster a lot. "....Adventure and Imagination will meet at the Final Frontier." So great. That's one thing the movies of the '80s had that the movies of the 2000s don't: imagination and a sense of wonder and awe. I miss that in blockbusters.
Heath: The back half of a double feature is not the place to put Star Trek V. If Adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. If a nap has a name, it must be Star Trek V. I mean, I like parts of Star Trek V, but it doesn't work like it needs to and it is definitely not the movie you pick to send people home on a double bill. Have you seen the teaser poster? It's a theater chair with a seatbelt on it. I mean...what? It should have been a theater seat with a theology book in it.
But you're right, and I miss that sense of wonder in our blockbusters too. That's why I was excited about my number four pick, which is the poster for The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The posters for the first JP were so simple. They all featured the now-iconic T-Rex silhouette on a black background with taglines like "An Adventure 65 Million Years in the Making" or "The Park Is Open." So simple, yet so effective, but JP went on to change the way movies are made. So when we got a similar poster for the sequel The Lost World, the poster is similarly simple but possibly even more effective. This time we get a gray, stone-textured background with the same T-Rex skeleton, and the tag line says "Something Has Survived." Is that not the coolest ever?! This poster promises a return trip to the wonderful, scary place we barely survived the first time around and leaves us with what is essentially a threat. Unfortunately, I think The Lost World ended up being a mean-spirited movie that goes to weird, uninteresting places. I actually prefer Jurassic Park III to The Lost World these days, believe it or not. Joe Johnston 4 life.
Adam: Yes, I saw that Star Trek V poster when I was looking up the other one. What a lie! Haha. I share your sentiments on The Lost World entirely. That was probably the most disappointed I've ever been by a movie based on my love of the original. I went back to see The Lost World: Jurassic Park three times in theaters because I couldn't believe it was that bad. I kept making excuses for it like "I was tired." I'm not as big of a fan of the poster as you are, but it's all good. We can't agree on all of them. That would be crazy.

Speaking of crazy, my final pick is the poster for the remake of Psycho (1998). The tagline is great; both sinister and tongue in cheek plus the image of the shower filling up with blood is really provocative as if to say this remake is going to really go all out on the gore (which was not the case with the actual movie, which is intriguing in a "so bad it's good" kind of way despite there being no reason it should exist). I also thought there would be nudity based on the poster, which was important to a 1998 version of me.
Heath: Well, the remake of Psycho wasn't a complete loss to 1998's version of you because we all got a glimpse of something everyone was dying to see: Anne Heche's butt hole.

I'm going to close us out with the poster for M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 film The Village. I think the poster was amazing and I think the movie is a piece of garbage. The poster is super creepy and mysterious with the lines "I. Let the bad color not be seen. It attracts them. II. Never enter the woods. That is where they wait. III. Heed the warning bell. For they are coming." I was so stoked to see this movie in spite of feeling burned by Shyamalan's previous movie Signs, but I actually left this movie furious. I felt like someone had promised me sex, taken me into a dark room, and then knocked me out and robbed me blind. Actually, that might be a better experience than sitting through The Village. The real crime isn't in how much it fails to live up to the promise of the poster, but how much it wastes a fantastic cast on two hours of nonsense. Someone should make a movie based on the poster. It would be probably be awesome.
And as bad as some of these movies are, looking at all these posters has me kind of wanting to revisit a few of them. Anne Heche's brown eye, here I come!

Adam: That’s for your column: Holland’s Business.


  1. I'd maybe throw in the Eva Green poster for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

  2. That Star Trek V poster may be the worst movie-related thing I've ever seen.

    1. By which I mean the one with the space chair. It really makes me think, and what if makes me think is "what were THEY thinking?"

    2. Regarding Star Trek, to me the poster for "The motion picture" is still the best. It has a majestic feeling to it and, as far as I know, introduced the iconic font. That poster gave me goosebumps back in 79 and I still love it.

    3. I love the poster for the original, I love the opening musical theme introduced in the original, I just wish I felt that the movie itself was worthy of loving way more than I actually do.

  3. when I was 13 this cover Fucked me up, from 1982 a film called Fiend, a really really shitty movie by the way, but the cover, damn, it had the warning in red, "A horror movie definitely not for the nervous!" this warning was like crack to me a young horror addict, the film unfortunately did not work, but that cover!

    check out the cover in the link, the Britsh cover is the middle one of the three

    Scary Shit

  4. l will never pass up an opportunity to point out that the throughly forgettable Adam Brody film In The Land of Women has a stunning one-sheeter:

    1. I love that poster. But I also like that movie.

  5. Working at movie theater from 2005-2009 I amassed a decent poster collection. Perhaps the best worst movie posters I have are AVP R aka Alien Vs. Predator 2: Requiem for a Tuesday and/or Snakes On A Plane. I'm fairly confident someone out there has a tattoo from either one of those movie poster's symbols.

  6. Great pick re: The Lost World. The Star Trek: Insurrection poster is pretty great, too, promising an epic baddie the movie doesn't deliver. While I don't really plan to watch The Wolverine again, that Japanese-style teaser poster remains a thing of beauty. And the Mummy Returns poster is nice.

    But for me, the all-time best poster for a bad movie award goes to The Legend of Zorro. A pissed-off Alejandro! A wary Elena! A flaming Z! A blood-red sky! In service of a... PG/kiddie follow-up to the excellent PG-13 original. (Though it does have that one epic line where Zorro cuts a Z into the villain's shirt and growls "so the devil will know who sent you." That one line and the poster team, at least, were on the same page.)

  7. Can I play good poster, good movie for a second? A lot of the Inception posters are excellent in my eyes, but the one I link to below is probably my favorite of any movie in the past couple decades (I apologize that I still don't know how to text link on here).

    1. {a href="link"} your text here {/a}

      Where the {} symbols are the angle symbols between M and Shift. Same for italics: {i}your text here{/i}.

    2. Awesome, I'll make a note of that. Thanks!

  8. Riske, I completely agree on Superman movies. I want to love Superman (1978) so bad. Same with all the rest of them. Honestly, my favorite Superman version is the show Lois and Clark. I know it's cheesey and dumb but I just don't care! I still say it has the best version of Lex and Lois in live action and it is the only time those characters actually work for me.