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Ugly DVD Covers!
by: Protoclown

As competitive as artistic fields tend to be, it never fails to boggle my mind whenever I see new DVDs released with horribly shitty cover artwork. And this is something I see all the time, as I'm sure you have too. In fact, while I was doing my research for this piece, I ran across several blogs with other people complaining about craptastic DVD cover art, so I know I'm hardly the only one bothered by it.

Good movies, bad movies, none of them seem to be immune to producing some of the most eye-shuddering, revoltingly horrible examples of crappy photoshopping and just plain bad design I've ever seen. I'm no artist, but I know what makes me want to stab my eyes out when I see it. And as several of the blogs I saw pointed out, many of these movies have fantastic looking theatrical release posters, but then when it comes time to give you, the consumer, something to purchase and own and bring into your very own home, it's as if someone asks What can we do to make this cover as aesthetically offensive as possible?"

One possible explanation for the abundance of badly slopped together covers I've seen mentioned on message boards is that marketing people who know absolute fuckall about art try to get their fingers in the pie and make decisions about what must be included in the artwork, decisions that the artists then have to abide by. Having worked with some "creative" marketing people in the past, this wouldn't surprise me at all.

I'm sure I'm probably going to get emails telling me that I forgot this or that cover, but the simple fact is that the internet is not big enough to hold images of every bad cover that's out there. Ninety percent of B movies or straight-to-DVD films have awful eyesore covers anyway, and there's simply no way I could even begin to tackle a fraction of what's out there. However, if there's a cover you really think deserves to be torn apart, email it to me and I may include it in a future edition of ugly DVD cover analysis. I'd also like to thank the posters at eFilmCritic.com, who posted some of these on their forums, which greatly helped me with my search for bad covers.

I'll start out with the DVD cover that recently got me thinking about this whole topic, The Fountain. Now this artsy movie may not have been everybody's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it and greatly looked forward to its DVD release. That is, until I saw this abomination:

I've seen aborted fetuses that don't look as bad as this cover. As if I wasn't already sick of the whole "close-up of main characters faces on top, title in middle, and extremely muddled mess on the bottom" design, this has to be one of the absolute worst examples of it I've ever seen. Rachel Weisz appears dressed as a Mennonite woman at the top, with Hugh Jackman no doubt whispering naughty things about how he'd like to see her naked ankles, with a sickly green and brown vomit-colored night sky behind them. Underneath them, a large tree apparently goes supernova. And what the fuck is up with that Circus of Pain down at the bottom?

Well, apparently enough people complained that Warner Brothers had the good sense to change the cover artwork.

It's still far from perfect, with its annoying "which way is up?" theme, but I'll take it over the botched abortion above any day.

As a Star Wars fan since childhood, it greatly annoyed me to see that not only did the original trilogy not get the DVD treatment it deserved, but the DVD covers got a backhanded slap from George Lucas as well!

These Photoshop droppings are hideous, and given that artist Drew Struzan created some beautiful new poster art for the Special Edition theatrical releases back in the late 90s, there's just no excuse for this wretched shit. I mean, on the New Hope cover, an X-Wing is zooming in from the side and firing lasers at Princess Leia's crotch! Han Solo seems determined to shoot down the logo on the first two covers, and Return of the Jedi casts off half of the main cast in favor of Wicket the fucking Ewok!? Not to mention the fact that Darth Vader looks like he's about to crush Han Solo's head like a grape on the Empire Strikes Back cover. Who the hell came up with this shit? This is the kind of crap some obsessed 13-year old kid just learning Photoshop would put together and waste all his parents' color ink printing out to wallpaper his bedroom with. Oh, and to top it all off, the gold borders are ugly as hell too.

Another cover I've seen a lot of people complaining about is the one for Children of Men:

And it is pretty crappy and uninspired, wasting about 70% of the space on a concrete slab of wall, but when you compare that to this version that was supposedly released in Europe, it suddenly doesn't look so bad:

Now, maybe that's just some preliminary art that didn't make the final cut, and I hope so, because that looks like something that was prophesied in the Book of Revelations, and I wouldn't be too comfortable having something that heralds the end of the world sitting on the shelf in my local video rental store. At a quick glance, this colorful cover conjures up thoughts of the Easter Bunny rather than the harsh dystopian future the movie actually portrays. Also, it makes my eyes vomit blood.

Here's another fun pile of turds for you, in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy cover:

It's as if someone just had a vague sort of idea what the movie was about ("Oh, it's about space? Okay, and dolphins are important, so we'll just toss one of those in there. And the number 42 has some significance, so there's a constellation with it in there, and uh, it's about hitchhiking, so we've put the lead actor and the robot walking along a "space highway" lined on either side by Christmas lights!"), shlocked some ingredients together, and then stamped the most horrible looking logo they could find on top.

Plenty of other people online have already slammed this one, so I'm not going to spend too much time on it. Horrendous photoshopping aside, I will just say that whoever decided to have Kevin Smith peeping down at his cast like some kind of Pervo McBeardyhead was an artistic genius.

As if I didn't already have absolutely zero interest in seeing this movie, it decides to launch a full-scale assault on my senses with its cover. You know, when a movie gives me a splitting headache before I even pop open the clamshell case it lurks in, I'm probably going to think better about actually watching it.

You know, when the premise of the movie screams "uninspired shitfest" at the top of its lungs, you might just want to take the opportunity to put together a halfway decent cover image, to draw in those few poor suckers who didn't know anything about the movie beforehand. This washed out image of one Hollywood Has-Been (until perhaps Indy 4 comes out) and one Never-Will-Be doesn't exactly fill me with enthusiasm to check out the film, or to even bother flipping the case over and see what it says on the back.

I know there are some teenage girls who paid to see Titanic seventeen times in the theater who would probably argue that Leonardo DiCaprio is God, but I think this is going a little too far. It totally looks like he's about to eat the plane. His giant disembodied head is just floating in the clouds could this be the inspiration for the rumored "Galactus as a cloud" bit in the upcoming Fantastic Four sequel?

Say what you will about this movie (I enjoyed it), but this cover is awful. It's so badly designed that they couldn't even line up the actors' names right, because "Special Collectors Edition" up along the top gets in the way. Seeing three tiny little pictures of the actors along with an indistinguishable metal something-or-other tells nothing about this film, and certainly isn't going to make anyone give two shits about finding out more.

This was a great movie, with fantastic actors, and unfortunately for them, all of that is overshadowed by this plague of a cover image. Viggo's family cowers in the background from who knows what, and as for Viggo himself, where the fuck is he? Is that a subway train rushing behind him? Is he currently falling down a mineshaft? That appears to be a gun he's holding, but it's so blurry and for some reason they left the business end of it out of the picture, so for all I know he's holding a stapler. This movie had some really striking images for its theatrical posters, so it's a damn shame this image doesn't achieve anything beyond striking out.

Holy shit! Now I love me some Sledge Hammer!, but this cover is one of the most insane things I've ever seen. I don't even have anything else to say about this one. Just look at it. If anyone actually gets a seizure from looking at this, email me, because I WANT to know!

I really enjoyed this movie. I bought the DVD. Why then must this cover defy me? Yes, Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci are very pretty people, but couldn't they have possibly come up with something a little more iconic and interesting than this extreme close-up garbage? Or did they just want everyone who looked at the cover to feel like they were making out with the two leading actors?

I know one of the themes in this movie was "what the fuck is going on?", but does that really need to carry over to the cover? What a terrible, confusing mess. Not to mention that it's yellow. I don't like yellow. Adrien Brody is even peering at us with a pleading look in his eyes, as if he wants us to save him from the awful purgatory of that cover.

Nothing quite as sexy as a disembodied pair of legs (and from that perspective, they could almost be yours!) and a pig riding in a canoe. And riding towards what, I might ask? Well, from the looks of it, it appears to be either Heath Ledger chest, or that woman's cleavage. That woman who, as the cover would suggest, must be Jeremy Irons. Wow. He's never looked so good.

Everything about this image is a carefully crafted warning, urging me not to make the mistake of seeing this film. As if Tim Allen's presence on the cover wasn't threatening enough, it says in the corner that it's based on a novel, no doubt a children's novel, a hallmark of quality if ever there was one. And that kid with the giant fist just pisses me off. I realize that he's probably exhibiting some super power rather than a woefully bad misunderstanding of perspective, but his fist is bigger than anyone else's head, and that makes me wish very much for a fist to connect with his head. Also, why are they all dressed like mechanics?

Watching this movie will make you never want to eat in a restaurant again. Looking at this DVD cover, however, makes me never want to eat again, hoping that I will waste away into Death's sweet embrace, so I will never have to look upon that image again. And who the fuck is Ryan Reynolds anyway, Mr. Fantastic? How else is his hand so big there, compared to the rest of his body? He must have some long arms. Also, he's got the creepiest, fakiest face ever on that cover.

Again we have the principal actors' heads up at the top, the title in the middle, and a blurry mess as the bottom, in a composition that tells us absolutely nothing whatsoever about the film. But this time Keifer and Reese seem to have their heads fused together into some kind of horrible Brundlefly kind of scenario. It actually reminds me of the cover to an old Transformers comic, where Ratchet and Megatron became fused together in some horrible transporter accident, a la Star Trek:

And finally, we have what may well be the biggest stinker of them all, The Matrix Revolutions. This was clearly the weakest of the Matrix films, but did they really need to reflect that in the cover? Besides, they kind of had this theme going with the first two covers:

Notice how we have on each of these covers the three main characters featured front and center in a striking, iconic image? They don't exactly tell us about the movie, but they're simple, attractive, eye-catching images that do everything a cover image is supposed to do: represent the movie in a faithful way, and perhaps pique our interest in learning more.

Then for some reason, they decided to beat the third one with the entire ugly tree:

What the fuck is this Andy Warhol wannabe shit? Did they so quickly forget the simple, effective theme they established for the first two movies? Are the Wachowski brothers so offended by symmetry that they just couldn't abide having the three movies look good next to each other? It looks like they simply couldn't decide which of the four images to use, or they backed out of a "collect them all" four separate covers idea at the last minute and decided to give fans the whole package. What we are left with is a combination of four equally uninspiring images. I like how all four of the images feature falling rain, when to the best of my recollection only Neo and Agent Smith were present for the rain falling scene. I know for a fact the guy in the mech, who is a minor character, was not fighting in the rain. What did he do to deserve a position on the cover in the first place? Everything about this image is pathetic, and like the movies themselves, only serves to prove that you can only keep a good thing going for so long.

That sums up my look at horrible DVD covers. As I said, there are many ugly covers out there, many of them a good deal uglier than ones I've featured here, I'm sure, but these are ones that stuck out to me for one reason or another. Email me any covers you find particularly offensive, and if I have enough I want to use, I may to a follow-up feature at some point.

Questions or Comments about this piece?
email Protoclown

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