It is pretty hard to shock people these days. Our movies have become more bloody, more gruesome and in some cases just wrong. People can easy watch blood and gore and sit through a typical jump scare with a yawn because it is a genre that has a lot of the same kind of thing. When a formula works, people don’t like to change it. While the content of our movies has changed over the decades, the way they are promoted doesn’t. How often do you see an article in the news calling a movie ‘the scariest movie yet’ and the people have thrown up and walked out in disgust due to its violence? Some have supposedly fainted and run out crying because they can’t handle it. Videos showing people screaming and gasping and hiding their faces in a cinema accompany the ads. It is all hype designed to get your butt on a seat. This is not a new practice, it has been happening for years. Here are some of the more famous ‘movie stunts’ to scare you straight to the cinema!
In 1973, one of the most classic ‘horror’ movies was released. The iconic image of the poster alone makes it one of the most recognizable movies. I am going to make a confession. I have never seen it! Please don't defriend me! Anyway even though I haven't seen it, I know the plot and all about its famous scenes. It was a movie based on the best selling novel of a woman that was possessed by the devil. We know how the story goes. What you may not know is that when the movie was originally released, people were terrified. Remember they were as desensitized as we are today. Soon news footage was circulated showing people who were running out of the theatre. At the London premiere, they had Ambulances parked out front for those the movie was too much for. This was not for the well being of the patrons. This was a way to cash in on the hysteria surrounding the movie.
When this movie graced our screens in 1999, it was a new kind of ‘scary movie’ at that time. It purposely blurred the line between fact and fiction. It was shot completely in the first person and marketed as a movie made from tapes found in the forest where 3 film students disappeared. Fake news articles and websites helped to build the hype. They even went as far as to convince IMDb to write ‘resumed dead’ on their profiles. It left some audience members wondering, was it real? I mean surely I am not the only one who was completely freaked out by the guy standing in the corner at the end?
In one of the remakes of the movie Carrie, a Hollywood company set up hidden cameras inside a café. They had a girl ‘move’ items using only her mind. They made it all seem very believable to the unsuspecting people in the café who were terrified (or at least acted like they were). The girl did not end up having powers, it was an elaborate hoax in order to promote the new Carrie movie.
While Alfred Hitchcock specialized in thrillers, one cannot deny the power of the movie Psycho. It was a movie with twists and turns not seen before in that era. Killing off your lead star at the beginning of the movie was almost unheard of. Having a cross-dressing serial killer one would say was quite ahead of its time. The studios did not want to make Psycho, so Hitchcock funded it himself by mortgaging his house. This meant that he also had creative control over how the film was publicized. In what is more of practice now, the set was silenced to secrecy so that no plot details were released. Remember there was no internet then. He had to rely on word of mouth. First, he issued a special booklet to moviegoers which warned them that they risked having a heart attack watching this film because it was so scary. He had nurses standing by to help anyone who felt they could not handle the movie. People were not admitted after the start time and people were urged at the end not to talk to their friends to spoil it for others. It created a hype unheard of at the time. People had to go and see what all the rage was about!
It was even rumoured the Charlie Charlie demonic pencil challenge was actually to promote the 2015 'The Gallows'. There is debate as to whether they created the online craze as a marketing ploy or that they just tacked onto something popular at the time, but the fact remains it worked! #charliecharliecharlie was a hashtag used by millions in a game to summon a Mexican demon called Charlie. It preyed on the stigma and fear associated with Ouija boards and is a game people still ask me about today.
The practice of hype has evolved over time and studios are trying to find ways to get you to buy into the hype. For the longest time, people were not aware that Charlie Charlie was faked for the purpose of a movie. They will continue to find ways to attempt to blur the line between reality and fiction. Next time you see a big 'craze' online, really do your research, it's highly possible you are being duped!
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