More than just dancing on TikTok, M3GAN has become the moment by appealing to the key Gen-Z demographic by stirring up beef with Child’s Play’s Chucky on Twitter—replicating Nicki Minaj’s iconic, “Miley, what’s good,” rant. M3GAN also took the fight to a viral Reddit AMA, where she said she loved “middle-aged white males whose souls are stuck in the body of an ‘80s toy,” shaded Anabelle, and explained her love of Taylor Swift. To butcher the box office as a modern horror, you need to either bring something completely new or put a clever twist on an old idea, both in story and marketing.
Resurrecting the Genre Online
Away from launching a new demonic doll to laud it over the charts, there are some familiar faces also cutting a bloody trail for Hollywood’s viral game. In 2023, we’ve got the return of two legacy franchises: Scream 6 and Evil Dead Rise. Although Scream previously left Woodsboro in Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000), the latest chapter made the most of New York City with a poster that retraced the past 23 years of Scream lore as a subway map. And serving, as its own Easter egg hunt, fans loved there was a nod to Hayden Panettiere’s surprise return as Kirby Reed.
The Scream Twitter account is having a lot of fun right now too, creating its own BeReal as the latest social media sensation. It’s an evolution of 2022’s Scream, which created a TikTok ARG for two characters called Ash and Sarah as they tried to solve the killings. Scream 6, however, is elevating its footprint (or knife mark?) on social media trends by having “Ghostface” threaten Jenna Ortega during this year’s Golden Globes awards ceremony. The young star is everywhere right now after starring on Netflix’s Wednesday, and Scream 6 is making the best of the hype by reminding viewers she joined the Scream franchise first.
As for Evil Dead Rise, director Lee Cronin isn’t letting the fact that Bruce Campbell won’t be back as Ash Williams stop him. Campbell serves as an executive producer and has been on the media circuit saying it’s the “scariest” Evil Dead yet. Keen to cash in on its rabid fandom, the movie’s Twitter account asked whether we’d want a blood-soaked Red Band trailer or an audience-friendly Green Band for our first look. Even though it was obvious what we’d pick, no one expected the level of violence that ensued—putting Evil Dead Rise on the map as much more than just another reboot. Cronin has also honored the trailer’s most gruesome moment by tweeting about Greg the Grater… if you know, you know.
A Viral Pandemic
An emerging crop of horror directors have learned the mastery of how to get tongues wagging. Andy Muschietti’s It used a guerilla marketing campaign that tied red balloons to sewer grates while 2018’s Hereditary sent unmarked packages containing creepy dolls made by “Charlie” to unknowing influencers. After Jordan Peele built a reputation, horror hounds knew 2022’s Nope would be something special, but it’s sometimes what you don’t show. The trailers left us guessing, and although some thought it would be aliens, did anyone guess the villain would be a human-gobbling space horse?
Most recently, Parker Finn’s Smile smashed its budget in its opening weekend last September after hiring “Smilers” to lurk in the background of everything from The Today Show to a Yankees vs. Red Sox game. A website called smilesightings.com also encouraged you to report sightings or upload them to Snapchat. Is it any coincidence Smile’s $216.1 million dwarfed the legacy of Michael Myers when Halloween Ends limped away with $105 million?