In happier times...before the numbers ran out

In happier times…before the numbers ran out.

The tagline for ‘Knowing’ is “What happens when the numbers run out?” And that’s it. That is how the marketing bods are trying to sell you this film. Personally, my perception of the film is that it will involve two hours of nothing but Cage, eyes closed and facing  a camera, counting to himself in silence. Eventually he runs out of numbers and his face falls off. The end. I’d like to be proven wrong (especially when you consider that it’s an Alex Proyas film), but for me this is a massive tagline fail.

Anyway, the article below is my first encounter with crap taglines. I wrote it around the same time Rob Zombie and Ben Stiller were raping eyeballs of all ages, up and down the country with ‘Halloween’ and ‘Night At the Museum’ respectively. Incidentally, both of these films have sequels out this year. Sequels that end in ‘2’. Coincedence or something more sinister?……

‘Evil has a destiny’ – so claims the poster tagline for Rob Zombies remake, sorry, ‘re-imagining’ of Jon Carpenter’s lo-fi horror classic Halloween. So if you thought evil just wandered around doing evil things at random, you were totally wrong.

But what does ‘Evil has a destiny’ actually mean? How is that line going to attract people to the cinema? And how do you qualify such a statement? Picture the scene a young couple at the cinema trying to decide what to watch, something catches the gentleman’s eye, he gasps “Hey baby, why not go and see that Halloween? Look, evil has a destiny!”

Job done, and while they may not enjoy the film, they can sleep soundly in knowing it lived up to the tagline. For the record, said destiny involves killing some people, making some masks then killing some more people – yay!

Halloween 2007 has a short, asinine tagline that doesn’t really mean anything. You could argue that this fully complements its audience who would probably struggle to read more than four words on the poster. But let’s look at the original’s tagline ‘The night he came home’. A deceptively simple premise that gives the viewer a bit more credit than its bigger and dumber descendant. We know it’s not just making a random observation; it’s a simple statement that asks a question ‘who exactly is he?’ Well from the title we know ‘he’ probably isn’t very nice and we’d be right, ‘he’ is ‘The Shape’, stalking the shadows, emerging only to kill teenagers who drink beer, have sex and possess no fashion sense.

The Halloween 1979 poster carries a statement that connotes fear, dread and actually makes sense. In contrast, Halloween 2007’s poster carries a few words that seem chosen because there was a gap on the poster (if I was being harsh I would suggest it’s probably where the critic quotes should go – obviously I won’t be doing this.)

The difference between the two says more about the state of film and its audiences than you may think. At least I hope it does otherwise I’ve been typing this nonsense for nothing.

Look at the poster for the (fairly) recent ‘Night At The Museum’ Ben Stiller’s tour de force about a silly museum. Every other bus carried a poster sporting the tagline: ‘Everything comes to life’. Now if we bear in mind this is supposed to make people watch the film, what we can gather about the target audience is they need to be told that the film is a fantasy film where ‘everything comes to life’. Presumably this is instead of people thinking it’s a horror story about a trapped Ben Stiller’s descent into madness, surviving by drinking toilet water, eating dust and arguing with himself, angrily.

So whose fault is it? Have the major film studios made us more stupid with insipid films and condescending posters? Or are we just more stupid anyway and the studios are doing people a favour by further simplifying pretty basic films?

To be honest I’m not sure, I want to see smarter and more infectious taglines. But then again, only for more imaginative films that force the marketers to come up with the goods in order to sell them. That way at the very least they’d be earning their money.

So what we need is for more studios to take risks on original properties or for us as an audience to stop watching dumb, recycled crap. I don’t think we should hold our breath.

In the meantime check out the poster taglines below. Or if you have your own theories, examples of crap taglines or just want to vent, then leave a comment.

blood and tits, halloween

the day after tommorow


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