If you find yourself compelled to purchase the poster for Lionsgate’s The Possession, and need a clue about what to hang beside it, look no further than the fine print atop the film’s title. The latest body-snatching thriller to court an audience that keeps on buying tickets, The Possession is presented and produced by Sam Raimi, and its icky one-sheet is a retread of that for Raimi’s own Drag Me to Hell, with the volume pumped up to full gross-out decibels. No need to employ the scaly hands that delivered Alison Lohman to Satan; young Hannah (Madison Davenport) has a taloned creep right inside her person, who can ship her soul to hell without even opening up the earth.
The Possession poster isn’t anywhere near as handsome as its counterpart. It trades ironic gleam for what is believed to be heebie-jeebie envelope-pushing, presenting an anatomical nightmare that makes one gulp and shudder. But the truth is, this poster, albeit strikingly macabre, is far more disciplined than defiant. Unremarkable in every way beyond its specific bodily harm, it joins an overstretched line of ads that routinely showcase shocks, which shuffle through a bland template like a stomach-turning slideshow.
If a hand up through the throat doesn’t quite do it for you, perhaps you’ll be better served by one inching out through an eyelid, which is what graced the poster for Jessica Alba’s spooky dud The Eye. Then there’s the beaut that advertised 2008’s One Missed Call, subbing in mouths for eyes to hollowly trippy effect. It would seem that, for so many of these mindlessly cranked-out creepshows (many of which, it should be noted, are remakes of Japanese originals), a grabber of a graphic is one of few elements with even minimal room for originality, and one of few sales tools that won’t immediately read as worn out and handed down.
The same surely can’t be said for the meager dash of remaining design bits, which all seem to abide by some unspoken rule of demonic-movie marketing. How many ways can one mar the serif font that’s slapped against a stark, featureless backdrop? The folks behind The Devil Inside fleck their letters and flip a D backwards, the one-sheet for The Last Exorcism (another Lionsgate release) muddies up its words’ edges, and The Possession poster faithfully splats and scratches its font—’cuz, y’know, that’s how the devil do. And let us not forget the all-important citation that the story is fact-based, as there’s evidently a wellspring of exorcism cases just waiting for a team of screenwriters to get the Hollywood balls rolling. There’s definitely a certain comedy to posters like today’s subject, all of which are, at this point, about as blasé as they are passingly unnerving. Whatever impossible torture is being suffered by the subject, seeing it draws less a reaction of horror than one of mutual agony. Case in point: plenty will simply gag at the notion of giving The Possession the time of day.