Maria Der’s Alternative Cinematic Universe

Maria Der’s wonderfully deranged visions from the tobacco cured VHS parlours of yesteryear allow us a peak and a prod at the underbelly of many beloved Hollywood favourites.

I recently shared a virtual bottle of Echo Falls and a few highly contraband menthol cigarettes with graphic artist Maria Der to discuss the scant euphoria that comes with nostalgia and the uncomfortable moisture allowed by the lapping tongues of Exploitation, Giallo and a legion of Video Nasties.

So, just what the hell is a Maria Der anyway?

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster… But I ended up becoming a Graphic Designer. That’s what I do for living, that’s my occupation, but I would best describe myself as a ‘Fiction Maker’. I create various worlds, dimensions and stories through writing, filming and of course poster making. Life is too short and too dull to live in one dimension.

Down to business then. Let’s have a chat about your posters and where the idea for these initially sprang.

Well, one morning not so long ago I woke up and looked through my portfolio and suddenly realized that some of the things I’ve produced throughout my life are incredibly boring and average. That was a moment when I understood it’s time for some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. I was also job hunting and I started to think about what can represent my skills at their best and make me stand out as a creative. I instantly thought of making a series of film posters, as cinematography is my main passion in life.

I particularly enjoy horror of all sorts from giallo to slashers and I also enjoy a good laugh. Over a glass of wine, I fantasized what would be like if those British cheesy rom-coms would be directed by Argento or Fulci instead of Richard Curtis and what would happen if Tom Cruise went into Mike Myers routine? As a start I had few laughs, then the work started.

How long have you been making them for and which was the first one to slither from your mind?

I started last summer. Probably the only thing I can thank Covid for. Self-Isolation has driven many good people coo-coo, and I am not an exception. The first ever poster I produced was Jerry Maguire, as I think this film is an incarnation of the word ‘cheese’.

I reimagined Tom Cruise’s character, a successful sports agent, as Patrick Bateman. And to be honest with you I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Bret Easton Ellis actually got his inspiration from Jerry Maguire while writing American Psycho. Then hell’s gates were open: romantic dramas as giallo, teenage films as filthy Japanese slashers and family comedies as suspense thrillers. You name it – I’ve made it.

Do you have a favourite? I particularly enjoyed your Meg Ryan Halloween week, which saw our heroine being subjected to all manner of ugly treatments.

Ha! Yes! Meg Ryan’s Halloween week was a quite fun one! I mean, Meg, blood, gore, terror, bit of Hanks, what could go wrong mate? My personal favourite is actually When Harry met Sally. It might not be the most skilful one, but that’s the truly dear one for me indeed. I tried to deliver this 1980’s shock horror feel through it and was inspired by Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik. Also, it received a big thumbs up on Facebook from Mister Buttgereit himself, which was a great honour.

Is there a film, too brutal, too transgressive, too out and out shocking that you dare not tackle, in dread fear of the horror you may inspire?

I might avoid making… Oh, actually, I am a fearless one. My latest one was What Women Want with Mel Gibson, so if he turns up at my door, me and my baseball bat are ready for a chat. Alright Braveheart? You want some, son?

Your Breakfast Club and American Pie posters are also favourites of mine, with their Japanese exploitation stylings, but I also get a kick from your Giallo inspired compositions. Is there any secret sauce as to how you decide which direction to take an image, any method to the madness?

I think I can consider my knowledge of cinematography as rather advanced and that’s what makes my method. I don’t just take a random comedy film, cut out main characters, adjust dark tones, add blood stains and then write the title in gothic style font. I carefully think of the film I’m approaching, build bridges between films of the opposite genre, analyse plots and the characters and use visual references.

I don’t change the original film taglines and base the poster’s composition on it. Also, important is that I fantasise about what these imaginary films would actually be like. This comes early on in the process and will often be the difference as to whether it makes it onto my silver (computer) screen!

There are now many pies out there that bear your fingerprints. Which is an overly elaborate way for me to suggest that you do much more than just these posters. I know that you work pretty extensively in film, with some fantastic parodies of some very typically British stereotypes, which all come across as very affectionate and playful, as well as more than a little bit doolally.

As a non-native to these shores, what draws you to these characters, seemingly plucked from the screens of daytime television?

I like people and I talk to everyone and anyone! You soon get a feel for regional accents and characteristics. It can be a bit Carry On-ish which is no bad thing but like most comedy it lives and dies on the script, which is why they are so funny!

So they are slight tributes to people I’ve met or known and others are inspired by daytime TV shows as you mention. Those shows are goldmines really; almost beyond parody. Also, before the covid times I used to be an experienced Wetherspoons goer, where you can find many unique characters which don’t even need to be exaggerated.

I’ve got some great new ideas for 2021 to try and reflect the ridiculousness of life currently!

From here on out and with the notion of life’s ridiculousness ringing in our ears, the Echo Falls had kicked in and we spent the rest of our conversation talking about various family members losing their fingers and toes. None of which needs to be repeated here.

But for those curious to further explore the Wild Wild World of Maria Der, the links below provide a veritable treasure trove of valuable entertainment, where posters and T-shirts are available for those early birds optimistic enough to think we will have a Christmas this year: