Stealth Marketing Campaign for "Shutter" Promotes Bullshit Science

Illustration for article titled Stealth Marketing Campaign for Shutter Promotes Bullshit Science

Shutter, a horror flick opening next week, is a purely supernatural tale about spirit photography (taking pictures of ghosts). But it turns out the Shutter viral marketing crew is trying to suck in the sciencey/gadget geek crowd with a stealth media campaign: Fox reps are urging journalists to write about the "scientific causes" of ghosts, and push expensive spirit-photography cameras on people interested in the movie. An anonymous source passed me a fairly creepy email about this that was sent to a large, glossy magazine's editorial staff.


A promoter named Warren Betts with Fox Pictures writes in his story pitch to Anonymous:

Generally, I cover the world of science and technology and publicize movies with those themes, but this is a very intriguing story and in the film the characters use very sophisticated technology and optics in trying to capture this apparition on film. Next year a Japanese company is introducing the first camera (very expensive) that will allow photographers to shoot in the invisible light spectrum. This might make a very powerful tool for understanding this phenomenon and the possible scientific causes. The public is very interested in this subject and I wanted to check with you and see if you might be interested in hearing more about this? Would this possibly be something you would be interested in covering on your pages?


OK, what? There is no "scientific" basis for ghosts, or for ghosts appearing in photographs. Yes, there are scientific reasons why people believe smudges in photographs are ghosts. I believe psychology would call those causes "grief" and "desperation." And these afflicted people are going to be targeted by a "Japanese company" who wants to sell a "very expensive" camera to cash in on their grief. I think I know what the name for this phenomenon is, and it ain't scientific: it's pure, simple avarice.

Look, I have no problem with product tie-ins or goofy expensive shit that people buy when they like a movie. Hell, I have a ton of ridiculously expensive kaiju dolls — some of them are from the 1970s, and who knows what they'd be worth on Ebay. But nobody sold me those dolls pretending that they were somehow a "scientific" method of making Gamera come hang out with me, or helping me reach my dead mother. Pretending that something unscientific from a horror movie IS science in order to sell people movie tickets and expensive cameras is, as Penn and Teller would say, bullshit.

And it's the crappiest kind of viral marketing, too.

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Chris Braak

@Annalee Newitz: In my experience, people who are scared by horror movies can be divided into to general categories: People Who Are Scared By Real Things, and People Who Are Scared by Not Real Things. Usually, the former category is larger.

Playing up the "scientific" aspect of the spirit photography is an I think misguided attempt to change "ghosts" from a thing that scares the second category of people to a thing that scares the first category of people.

Horror movie makers often do dumb shit like this. I am compiling a thesis on the nature of horror, prompted entirely by such idiocies.