Low Budget + Big Name = BAD IDEA
I think it is safe to say that Horror B movies garner the least amount of respect from audiences (for good reason) Even porn is given more respect than these cheap shoddily made films. And so its up to the film’s marketing team to make these films appealing. If they want to keep their jobs (and make a profit) then they have to find a way to convince people to watch their glaringly crap movie. And sometimes, in their clear desperation and deep, deep love of money they pull a cheap trick and use the name of an *unfortunate actor who since ill advisedly starring in their turd has hit it big. And that’s when the law suits roll in.
*Except Val Kilmer, Val Kilmer’s just giving it away these days, put it away Val..
Jesse Eisenberg – Camp Hell (2010)
Probably the most high profile case of this sort of practice in recent years, Lionsgate really chanced their arm (and bank balance) when they concocted this marketing scheme and Eisenberg was not impressed. Jesse Eisenberg agreed to star in the film in a cameo role that took one day for him to shoot, at a reduced fee as a favor to the film makers.But once the Lionsgate marketing department saw the big business he was doing with his Oscar nominated turn in “The Social Network’, they promptly ditched their original poster and cover art and replaced it with a MASSIVE picture of Eisenberg’s head, which had to compete for space with lettering of his name and the title was still in somewhere too.
Eisenberg quickly called his lawyers and sued asking for three million in compensation (more than the film cost to make). Eisenberg’s camp (see what I did there) had this to say about the debacle ;
“Eisenberg is bringing this lawsuit in order to warn his fans and the public that, contrary to the manner in which Defendants are advertising the film, Eisenberg is not the star of and does not appear in a prominent role in Camp Hell.”
Well it’s good to know that you’re doing it for us the lowly public and not just because they stiffed you out of millions..Wow you’re like Batman or something.
Soul Survivors – Eliza Dushku (2001)
Filmed in 1999 but released in 2001, the marketing team behind this confusing mess of a film, decided that instead of admitting that they didn’t have a monkey’s arse what it was all about they would use Eliza Dushku (and her boobs) to sell the film. After shooting the film Eliza Dushku began her popular guest role of Faith on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. And despite being a bit player in the film, with the lead going to Mellissa Sagemiller(who can just about be seen far out on the horizon of the cover) Dushku was placed front and centre suggesting that she is the film’s lead. Many Buffy fans were confused/tricked into watching this awful film. *sidenote* If you ever see the DVD in a Bargain Bin (it’s natural habitat) it’s actually worth buying AS LONG as its the special feature edition, simply for a hilarious skit by the always amazing band Harvey Danger who’s song features in the film. These wonderful guys do almost everything sardonically but it’s hard to tell if they’re kidding in this 8 minute doc about the trauma caused to them by having their song appear in such a shit film (seriously). Unfortunately it’s not on youtube but its actually worth spending £1.50 on in the pound shop, if you do that though skip the film.
The Watcher – Keanu Reeves (2000)
In another casting snafu that got the lawyers involved this lackluster thriller had Keanu Reeves reluctantly taking the role of the villain, after, he claims a friend forged his name on the contract. Some friend. David Spade must have thought that all his Christmases had come at once (or that it was the 80’s again) when he discovered that he was actually being paid more than Keanu and was going to be billed above him, the latter being upon Keanu’s insistence. Reeves will happily discuss (now that the one year gag order he signed has expired) how much he hates the film and how he didn’t want to go through with it but that the legal tape was just too thick to cut through. Reeves lawyers managed to get the distributors to agree that his part in the film would be down played in the marketing of the movie and that he would NOT take top billing. And so the poster and cover art for the American release shows Reeves character in shadow without his face appearing and his name is tucked beneath Spade’s and Marisa Tomei’s. Reeves could sleep peacefully at night.
..UNTIL the european release. Hopefully Reeves skipped on his lawyers Christmas bonus that year because due to a legal loophole that declared Keanu’s stipulations to be null and void outside the U.S, the European marketing went to freaking town on using both his image and name like it was going out of damn fashion!
Now the original poster was tinkered with and Reeves face was photoshopped (badly) onto the shadowy image of his character and his name was stamped in HUGE letters across the cover. It got worse, another version went for broke and just splashed Keanu’s massive mug (and a helicopter?!) across the cover with his name towering over those other two actors who had better luck back when leg warmers were a thing. Here Keanu have a hug. *HUG*
Ellen Page – Ghost Cat (2004)
Before she was Kitty Pryde she was a Kitty Cuddler, or something, I don’t know, that was funny in my head. Anyway although Ellen Page did indeed take the lead role in this ‘interesting’ film she did so in 2004 long before her breakout roles in Hard Candy, the X Men series, Juno, et al. The film was originally a TV Movie made by Animal Planet Film entitled Mr’s Ashboro’s Cat, a family movie about a cat who has fallen foul of an editor’s fade out and reappear technique. When it aired, the poster art for the press releases featured all the top billed characters of the film Page included but with no names featured, ‘cause that ain’t how Animal Planet rolls, everyone’s equal at Animal Planet!
Cut to after Ellen Page becomes a Hollywood darling and the posters look a little different. The title has been changed inexplicably to Ghost Cat and the cover art that appears on Netflix shows a giant image of Page’s face as well an ominous image of a crazy pissed off looking moggy (the cat in the film is a friendly, helpful ghost and in life was a big fan of cuddles). And of course her’s is the only name on the poster and they’ve printed some quote guff about it being the performance of her career, or something. Not only is the marketing now obsessing over Ellen Page they are now also trying to claim that this family mystery is a horror film. Netflix have even placed it in the horror section. And the new poster suggests that the film is a ruthless Cat Vs. Ellen Page fight to the death! When in actuality the film is about a nice dead cat helping Page cope with death and how things die, or something, I’m not sure I fell asleep twenty minutes in but there was definitely no fights to the death, I would have remembered that and the cat was a cool dude.
Another poster which has ditched the previous titles and is now calling the film The Cat That Came Back features a brighter more family orientated cover with a pretty house behind a giant shot of Ellen’s head. But now we have the words “Academy Award nominated actress Ellen Page shines in this story of miracles and friendship” stamped on the poster. There’s also a shot of the cat doing a ‘Da fuck?” face as if to say “Ah Hello Bitches, I was there too!..Oscar nominate this” *rude gesture*.
Val Kilmer – The Traveller (2010) AND The Steam Experiment (2009)
The Poster for Val Kilmer’s 2010 thriller The Traveller (also known as Mr Nobody) that I’m not sure anyone saw, has a giant image of Kilmer on it and his is the ONLY name that appears on the poster, uh oh we’ve been here before..The poster for Val Kilmer’s 2009 thriller The Steam Experiment (Also known as The Chaos Experiment) that I’m not sure anyone saw, has a giant image of his face and his is the only name on the poster..
I’m not sure what went down exactly, perhaps he and his agent had a falling out but over the past decade or so Kilmer it seems would show up for a person making a film with Mircosoft Windows MovieMaker. And his lack of discernment when it comes to choosing roles has been taken full advantage of and he’s become a name for hire. To be honest I’ve no idea if he chooses these films just so that he can get to have his name stand alone above a big picture of his face. Maybe he does, perhaps he gives them as Christmas presents.
The moral of this piece is beware films with one well known name on the poster and films that have many different titles. And also don’t encourage Val Kilmer..