Saturday, August 13, 2011

Too big and too graphic

Uh oh. Watch out.

I'm becoming one of those parents.

You know, the kind who worry about the graphic nature of the images their children are exposed to.

Actually, I'm only playing that role for the purpose of this post. My son is not yet a year old. I've had some pretty depraved movies playing on TV while he's been in the room. I'm not really concerned about him being scarred for life by images of sex and violence. Not yet.

But if he were three or four, well, I'd be somewhat worried by the gigantic billboard that's on my street.

The image in the billboard is the one you see above, for Final Destination 5, which comes out today. I included the actual poster so you could see it in better detail. But here's how it looks on my street -- or, I should say, one street over, but it's the main thoroughfare we take to get home:

Am I overreacting?

Or are you also a tad concerned by a giant image of a skull with no fewer than 11 rods of metal rebar smashing through it, causing bone fragments to come exploding outward left and right?

I'm no prude. But I think if I were a young child, I would find this disturbing.

The big problem is that it's the opposite of abstract. Let's look at the other most prevalent form of outdoor advertising for Final Destination 5:

See, this is more like it. Instead of an impaled skull splintering into a thousand pieces, you've got a 5 that's kind of in the shape of a sickle weaving its way through the skull. This is far more clearly a design than a reenactment of something that potentially happens in the movie. It gets across that it's a horror movie and that it's full of menace, without being such a literal depiction of violence. Even if there were a sickle shaped like a 5 in the movie, which there most certainly is not, it's doubtful it would take such an unlikely path through the eye sockets of the skull in order to kill its victim.

So not only is it more abstract, but it's also more clever, because it incorporates the sequel number into the image itself. Unlike the previous poster, which is just violent overkill. (Although it does communicate that the movie is in 3D in a way that the second one doesn't.)

It got me thinking about whether posters have always been this graphic and I'm just noticing it now, or if this is a particularly egregious case. For sure, you can find me a thousand more gruesome posters than this. But the real difference is that those posters were never displayed at a height of 20 feet on a busy street.

I think you're safe if you leave something up to the imagination of the adults. The idea is to communicate something to the people in the know -- communicate something that would go over the heads of those who aren't. You can still chill my blood and make me want to see a movie by being a bit more subtle. Like that second Final Destination 5 poster, or like this poster for the upcoming Fright Night:

You know he can't be planning anything nice with that axe. But there's a difference between planning to do something with an axe, and showing the axe actually sinking into somebody's skull.

As for the prospects of me seeing Final Destination 5 ... yeah, I learned my lesson after The Final Destination from 2009. I ranked something like 113 movies in my 2009 year-end rankings, and The Final Destination was #113. The series has actually been pretty terrible ever since the surprisingly good second film, and I think I'm finally accepting the fact that future installments will just disappointment me. I'm just figuring out how I'm going to deliver the news to my friend Steve that I don't plan to watch this one with him. (We've seen each since the second together.)

Looks like you'll have to puncture somebody else's brain with you metal rods, FD5.

No comments: