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Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Strangers: Don't Believe the Hype

As horror movie fans, we've all grown very accustomed over the years to the whole, "based on a true story" gimmick. You've usually either got the films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that are loosely inspired by real life, or movies like The Amityville Horror, which purport to be reality-based, and are later revealed to be hoaxes.

But in the case of next month's home invasion thriller The Strangers, according to an article featured this week in Advertising Age, it gets even more cynical that that. I'm sure you've had the movie's "inspired by true events" tagline shoved down your throat by now, and you're probably wondering, "When did that happen? How could I have missed it in the news?" Simple: because it never did actually happen.

Universal Pictures President of Marketing Adam Fogelson told Ad Age:

There is absolutely a distinction between 'based on' and 'inspired by. 'Based on' means there are specific events that are being used as the basis for the story. 'Inspired by,' well, that's a much looser definition.


By "looser definition," Mr. Fogelson seems to mean, "bold-faced lie." Because in the production notes for The Strangers, the film's writer/director Bryan Bertino relates the supposed "true events" that "inspired" his movie:

That part of the story came to me from a childhood memory. As a kid, I lived in a house on a street in the middle of nowhere. One night, while our parents were out, somebody knocked on the front door and my little sister answered it. At the door were some people asking for somebody that didn't live there. We later found out that these people were knocking on doors in the area and, if no one was home, breaking into the houses. In The Strangers, the fact that someone is at home does not deter the people who've knocked on the front door; it's the reverse.


There you have it, folks. That sure is a loose definition for "inspired by true events," isn't it? It's amazing what today's marketing gurus can pull off with a little semantic tapdancing. Now granted, home invasions do occur all the time, often with horrific results. But to say that the movie is inspired by true events is more than a little misleading, since the idea is to get people to think there was a real case on which The Strangers was based, when, in fact, there was not.

When a studio pulls a trick like this to drum up interest in a movie, it gets me thinking that they're hedging their bets and trying to compensate for a release they don't have much faith in. Which is a shame, since the trailers have actually looked pretty promising.

22 comments:

Wes Fierce said...

well at least this clarifies as to whether or not this is "based on/inspired by" the same story Ils was inspired by, so we now know they are separate entities.

Sean T. Collins said...

To be fair, isn't this just the exact same fast one that the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre pulled? I don't really have any complaints about that one.

B-Sol said...

TCM was a little different, because Leatherface was based on Ed Gein. The plot of The Strangers was simply inspired by a childhood memory of a burglary that never even happened.

gord said...

God, I loathe these uninspired horror movies.

How many other films have been made where a select few crazy people, terrorize a nice suburban (or not) family, for seemingly no reason?

Does it look chilling? Perhaps a little. But this plot gimmick is getting real old real fast.

Anonymous said...

I had snooped around, and read some rumor that The Strangers was partially based on the Keddie Cabin Murders, which I had never heard of prior. The story is really horrific, though. I guess since they said it was a childhood memory gone awry, this rumor [better than the actual "inspiration"] was just that. Ray Ray

B-Sol said...

I had also heard that it might have been based on that horrible case last year in Cheshire, CT. But apparently not. Anyway sir, don't you have a wedding you're supposed to be getting ready for?

aureallis said...

I completely agree with gord, this schtick is painfully old already.

I'm extremely tired of 'let's find some real-life horror and make a movie out of it' in general. What happened to the genre? I'm sick of being reminded of the horrible crap that goes on in the real world and I like my movies to be an escape, (even if they are a bit bloody) not get me wondering when I'm going to get offed by some random crazies.

B-Sol said...

Yes, aureallis, this is why I've always tended to prefer supernatural horror to reality-based.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'am just the opposite. I love real life horror flicks. It makes the movie all the more scary. The wonder of what actually happened and what it must have been like to acutally be there. whoo, gives me the creeps. but thats the best part. To know..for a fact that what you are watching actually happened. uber scary. *Vampiebear*

Karl Hungus said...

Real life horror vs. fantasy horror aside, I think it's a very flimsy pretext to marketing a film as "Inspired by true events".

Anonymous said...

The movie scared the crap out of me regardless... who cares that much.

Anonymous said...

i saw the movie and i will admit that i saw it because of all the "true story" stuff but i really didn't think it was that good. not for all the promotion it had.

Anonymous said...

I did a bit of digging and the best answer for the events is that 1)it's based on the childhood memory 2)it's partly based on the Manson murders and 3) it is partly based on the Keddie Cabin murders!! He took bits a pieces from all the of them and combined them into one movie! It's a lame way to make a movie!!! Although the Keddie murders is a pretty gruesome case!!

Anonymous said...

it doesnt matter if it was real or not. based on or inspired by anything. the truth is that something like that could easily happen to anyone. Everyone knows that grisly murders happen. something like this is more psychological than anything else.

Anonymous said...

you might want to check out www.keddiemurdersfilm.com

Kevin said...

Didn't promo ads for "Primeval" advertise it as based on a true story about the most notorious serial killer in history? And it turns out it's a friggin' crocodile. Gotta love those marketing guys...they sure love to screw you out of your money. The Strangers was crap...just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

so it said it was inspired by true events. all that means is that sometime somewhere someone got killed. the whole thing about the texas chainsaw masacre is rediculous too. everyone says its based off of ed gein, well so was psycho and so was buffalo bill of sillence of the lambs, yet none of these movies mention anything about graverobbing which is primarilly what gein did. and there are a million stories about possessed houses to say that the amityville horror is just as based off of true events as all the others. the fact is that they are all still movies. their not documentaries so stop bitching and moaning about how true to events they are or how its based off of this or that. they are movies made by people trying to sell movies. they will put anything in or on it so that it will sell. if you dont like it dont buy it. and if you want to see something thats really based on true events watch a damn documentary.

Anonymous said...

however, the movie sucks

Impressed said...

Good movie...the way that you turned a childhood memory into such an intriguing horror film is even more impressive...and on top of all that, you left em thinkin.

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viagra online said...

this two movies was in they respective times a real hits, now the horror must be based in real histories, like the events in Amityville or something like this.

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