‘Psycho’ and the Clever Marketing of Horror Movies (31 Nightmares #9)

31 Nightmares, Movies

It all comes back around.

(Spoilers for ‘Scream’ (1996) and ‘Psycho’ (1960) below.)

Tonight I re-watched ‘Scream’ (1996).


Commentary coming tomorrow, hopefully. Scream reminded me of how unique, for today’s standards at least, the marketing of that film was, advertising Drew Barrymore, who was really gaining popularity, as one of the main stars. Her name was last billed on the poster and she appeared throughout the trailer. Of course, if you’ve seen the film, you know that she’s killed off in the opening sequence to set the stage for the rest of the story. Audiences were shocked, and it took guts to kill a big star, like Drew Barrymore, so soon into the movie. That automatically gives the audience the feeling that no one is safe. ‘Scream’ starting off like this drew comparisons to another horror film, ‘Psycho.’

‘Psycho’ was one of the main pieces that helped formed the slasher film, a sub-genre that Screamed reinvented. Ironically, Scream’s intent was to kill the slasher film off once and for all. Psycho was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who made the movie everything it was. Hitchcock adapted Psycho from a book that garnered more attention after the movie than it did before. To preserve the secrecy of Psycho’s twists and not to ruin the movie for people, Hitchcock bought up every copy. When the movie was playing in theaters, Hitchcock demanded that no one would be let into the theater after the movie had started. This is pretty unheard of, as theaters will obvious take anyone’s money. Hitchcock did this, so no one arriving late won’t not know why big star Janet Leigh (Marion Crane) isn’t in the movie, since she’s killed in the famous shower scene, like what ‘Scream’ did with Barrymore.

Fortunately, there are movie trailers that still play with the audience’s expectations. That can be good or bad. While the experiment worked with ‘Psycho’ and ‘Scream,’ the filmmakers also have to have a good movie to backup that risky movie. Examples of this not working include Paranormal Activity 3 and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man.’ Both of these movies have a lot of footage that is missing from the actual movie. The problem with doing it here was most of the best and most interesting parts were in those scenes that were cut. All in all, taking risks is very admirable, but that only goes so far. Risks alone don’t make a movie or any type of medium.

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