4 Examples Of The New Trend In Marketing Horror Films
Marketing horror films has traditionally been more engaging and interactive than that of, say, dramas or comedies. You can thank the master of the horror and suspense genre himself, Alfred Hitchcock, for revolutionizing how horror films are not only made but also marketed. He understood that for the terror to make any kind of impact, audiences had to engage with the film on a visceral level. For Psycho, he forced theaters to comply with a special viewing policy that disallowed attendees to enter the film once it had begun and insisted that anyone who had seen the film to remain tight-lipped about its plot. These marketing techniques succeeded at generating unprecedented buzz by turning Psycho into more than a film but an event that blurred the line separating cinema and reality.
Since then, many horror movies have been promoted in such a way that breaks the fourth wall and attempts to bring the terror into our world. In what is probably the most famous example, the filmmakers behind the small, independently-funded The Blair Witch Project (1999) managed to dupe viewers into thinking that the film was compiled from found footage taken by three presumably dead individuals. At the Sundance Film Festival, where Blair Witch premiered, “missing person” posters were on display featuring each of the film’s three principals. Before the movie was widely released, a website was set up that contained “documents” and other official details surrounding the case, and a “documentary” aired on what was then the Sci-Fi Channel — now SyFy — that explored the centuries-old “history” of the Blair Witch myth. (A mockumentary of a mockumentary?)
But now we’re seeing a shift in how slasher films are marketed to audiences. Not satisfied with simply breaking the fourth wall, more and more studios are taking their movies to the streets — literally. By combining flash mobs, hidden cameras, and haunted house-type thrills — both practical and sophisticated — marketing teams throw unsuspecting bystanders into terrifying situations and record the screaming and fleeing that unfolds. The viral marketing videos usually generate more online chatter than a conventional TV spot would, not to mention end up being more entertaining and creative than the film itself.
Call it “horror guerilla marketing.” Below are four of the best examples.
1. “Devil Baby Attack”
To promote the release of Devil’s Due, film-prop engineers designed a remotely-controlled baby stroller and left it unattended on the streets of New York City. When concerned couples and individuals approached the stroller, a possessed-looking animatronic baby jolted upright, growling, screaming, and even in one case projectile-vomiting.
2. “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise”
‘Snice Coffee Shop in West Village, New York City, became the scene of an alarmingly realistic telekinetic event to market the 2013 film based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel Carrie.
3. “The Walking Dead Zombies Prank NYC”
New Yorkers can’t seem to catch a break! Although AMC’s hit zombie series The Walking Dead isn’t a film, it got its own “horror guerilla marketing” treatment when convincingly zombified actors terrorized passersby from below.
4. “Curse of Chucky”
For the Brazilian release of the direct-to-video film The Curse of Chucky (2013), the sixth installment in the Child’s Play horror series, bystanders waiting for a train at night — an experience that can already put you on edge — were taken by surprise after a nearby advertisement for the movie suddenly came to life.
Joseph Guyer works for SenaReider in San Antonio, where he dabbles in copywriting, graphic design, and other creative hijinks. You can follow him on Twitter @joerobguy.