Looks like horror makers have found a new weapon of choice: the shaky-cam. Next year will see a spike in hand-held horror projects, including Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) and Strike Entertainment’s (Dawn of the Dead) exorcism tale Cotton and Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment’s similarly plotted The Vatican Tapes. Can these “docu-drama’ inspired flicks mimic the box office success of Paramount Pictures Paranormal Activity? Depends on the marketing campaigns.
Ten years ago, The Blair Witch Project successfully intertwined the cinema verite approach with innovative marketing to scare up over a $100 mil at the box office. Imitators followed of course, but lacked the imagination, in story and promotion, necessary to match the Blair Witch’s success. Not surprisingly, the style was pretty much abandoned. Until now.
Crafty marketing campaigns are shaking things up again. J.J. Abrams sci-fi/monster flick Cloverfield gobbled up over $170 million worldwide. Peter Jackson’s aliens-meet-apartheid film District 9 broke free with over $200 mil worldwide. And, in just seven weeks, Paranormal Activity has grossed $100 million in the U.S. alone. Even the inexpensive zombie flick Quarantine (based on the critically acclaimed Spanish shaky-cam frightener Rec) ate up over $35 mil during its run last Halloween.
Eli Roth and Strike Entertainment’s Cotton is directed by Daniel Stamm (A Necessary Death) and employs shaky-cam techniques to capture an evangelical minister’s last exorcism in documentary fashion. It’s an interesting concept for sure. But, Lionsgate and Lakeshore Entertainment have done Roth one better by roping in Oscar-winning documentarian James Marsh (Man on Wire) to direct The Vatican Tapes. I’s unclear what may have possessed Marsh to take the gig, but his expertise in the Doc genre will surely benefit the project, a “docu-drama” centered on the unholy events that occur after tapes from a botched exorcism come to light.