Today's LAT story on The Descent, the new horror movie that hopes to distinguish itself from the glut of recent splatter flicks by being incrementally more shocking and violent than the last one to pass through the multiplex, offers a crash course in how to market a cinematic product that doesn't have the benefit of bankable stars or a big-name director as a built-in selling point, courtesy of Lionsgate: 1) Play up any connection between the new movie and the wildly successful movies your studio has released in the past, even if that connection is that the same set of people signed the paychecks, and 2) feel free to borrow ideas from other revered horror movies for your advertising campaign, even if those ideas don't really have anything to do with your product. Writes the Times:
The most recent poster and the film's TV spots explicitly sell "The Descent" as "from the studio that brought you 'Saw' and 'Hostel,' " invoking the names of two previous horror successes from the film's distributor, Lionsgate. Whatever the films actually do or don't have in common, the ads have a distinct "if you like that, get a load of this" angle to them. [...]
The first poster put out by Lionsgate featured an image inspired by a painting by Salvador Dali, later enacted in a photograph by Philippe Halsman, in which naked women form into the shape of a skull. The image was also used as a component of the one-sheet for "The Silence of the Lambs," where the skull appeared on the back of a moth. [...]
"Lionsgate have totally handled the U.S. marketing," he said. "They know their stuff. I don't know what U.S. audiences are like, and it would be arrogant of me to presume to know that. They came up with the image and I recognized it from the 'Silence of the Lambs' poster. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. It's a striking image, but I'm not sure what audiences are taking from it, what it says about the film. I don't know what Dali has got to do with 'The Descent,' but whatever works."
We think that they've ignored a pretty obvious marketing lesson we've all learned from a soon-to-be-released, cleverly overhyped little genre movie: Slap on a knowingly kitschy title, and sit back and watch as the crushing buzz mounts in the days before the premiere of Hot Chicks Die Disgusting, Painful Deaths.