Film Discussion: The Devil Inside and Hollywood Marketing

An interesting thing happened when audience backlash came pouring in days after The Devil Inside was released to theaters January 6th.

Sure, the “found footage” genre has been cranked out a number of times these past few years, including an exorcism film (The Last Exorcism), which leaves TDI arriving late to the party.  Certainly, Paramount did provide ample film marketing in the modern traditional sense for The Devil Inside.  However, moviegoers were treated with a rather unusual marketing ploy, something writer/director William Brent Bell claims “Paramount presented to [him].”  The abrupt ending cuts to a website link that audiences can follow-up and visit.

The interesting part isn’t just audience’s negative reaction to such a tactic, currently sitting at 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, but also the question raised:  are we witnessing Hollywood’s newest marketing creation?  Devin Faraci of Badass Digest posed similar questions in a piece he wrote on the film’s ending:

This bit of audience anger at transmedia makes you wonder how The Dark Tower would do if the first film ended with the title card ‘Continued on television this fall.’ Would there still be boos? Or could audiences be trained to expect that?

A clear and concise message is important in order to avoid confusion or misunderstanding.  Here, audiences have come under a false idea that following the website link provides the film ending.  This is incorrect — the website link is simply more marketing (post-film marketing).  As Devin concludes about audience frustrations, “The movie’s ending is the ending, and there isn’t some secret reel of footage to be discovered. But by the time anyone discovers that it’s far too late – they already hate the film.”

Is this just Hollywood testing the marketing waters?  Will moviegoers adapt or protest?  Here’s an interesting analysis that believes the root answers to these questions are embedded in Hollywood’s handling of recent horror films box-office performances.  We may never really know, but rest assured, this post-dot com advertising attempt won’t be the last.

Photo Sources:  IMDb (bottom), Hollywood Reporter (top), VisitingDC.com (bottom)

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