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Venom pulls a Gene Simmons in freaky new poster for the Spider-Man spinoff

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Sep 11, 2018, 12:20 PM EDT

With just weeks to go until it hits theaters, Venom is making its presence felt with yet another freaky new poster — and this one is all about the symbiote.

The new film, directed by Ruben Fleischer and starring Tom Hardy as both the title character and its host body, Eddie Brock, isn't just another comic book release this fall. Not if you're Sony Pictures, anyway. The studio, which previously launched The Amazing Spider-Man franchise with the goal of turning it into a superhero shared universe, is trying again to get its own megafranchise off the ground with a series of films based on the supporting cast of Marvel's Spider-Man comics.

Spider-Man himself, played by Tom Holland, is busy being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Sony is betting the popularity of Spidey and his villains and allies is such that they can crank out connected films with a look and feel all their own and generate a Spider-Man shared universe that way. Venom is the first of these, and it's important that Sony makes people pay attention. 

The latest attempt to do just that comes directly from Hardy's Instagram account, where early Tuesday morning he shared the film's latest poster, which highlights one of Venom's more distinctive features.

Poster releases are relatively small things in this era of massive movie marketing, but this is likely a sign of bigger things to come. With less than a month remaining until the film's debut, Sony will be pushing hard for people to go see Venom. We've already seen new trailers emphasizing the film's balance of comedy and horror, as well as an emphasis on branding Venom as a kind of anti-superhero movie, setting it apart from the pack. Then there's the revelation that Eminem has contributed a song for the film's soundtrack, and while liking a song doesn't guarantee that you'll see a movie, that also adds a certain amount of edge and weight to the promotional push. 

Will it work? Well, the most recent long-range box office predictions were good, though we haven't seen any revised numbers yet (expect that to change soon), and Hardy was confident enough in the film's prospects to reveal to the world that he's signed on for three films, setting up the potential for both sequels and crossovers. If Venom hits, it's a huge opportunity for Sony to create something that generates revenue like a shared universe franchise while not looking and feeling exactly like what Marvel and Warner Bros. are doing. This poster, with its smoke and tongue and popping logo, is another step along the way to doing that, so if you're intrigued by Venom now, stick around and see what the film's marketing team has planned in the coming weeks. 

Venom is in theaters October 5.