Horror Movie Branding: Find Your Shower Stabbing
With Halloween just around the corner and trick or treating being highly discouraged, there is no better way to preserve the spirit of all things spooky than traumatizing your children and loved ones with your favorite scary movies.
When thinking of a classic horror movie, what do you remember best? Is it the extremely well-crafted plots and genuinely likeable protagonists (I write while trying to keep a straight face)? Of course not. I want you to take a minute, think about it, and then tell me the name of any main “good guy” character from any classic 80’s slasher flick. With the obvious exceptions of horror junkies, chances are most of you struggled a bit with this one.
What if I asked you to then not only tell me the name, but a vivid description of any VILLAIN from one of those movies. Immediately you get all of the Ghostface Killers (not to be confused with Ghostface Killahs), Jason Voorhees(es?), and Freddy Kruegers you can stand to hear about. So why is this? The main protagonist of a horror film has significantly more screen time throughout the film than the killer, who often remains unseen with whispers of where they might strike next.
It’s all about creating a brand, and horror movies are a masterclass in brand creation. Because of Friday the 13th, old school hockey masks are no longer just that, more often than not, I’ve seen them referred to as “Jason Masks” and nothing else. The iconic screeching instrumental accompanying the famous shower stabbing in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ is nothing short of horror film legend and is referenced in pop culture constantly. You may not have even seen the movie, and you know that scene and music anywhere.
Now while it may not be the best idea for your brand to adopt a machete toting mask wearing psychopath as the face of your company, there is actually a lot to be learned about branding from your favorite baddies.
So much of it boils down to the icon, it can be a logo, a product, or even the name of the brand itself! Jason’s mask, Freddy’s glove, the red spirals on Billy the doll’s cheeks (sorry my Saw fanboy is showing) each of these symbols immediately invoke one thought only. Horror iconography in some cases is just as recognizable as the logos and names of some of the largest most successful companies in the world.
The brand you create needs this icon, and it needs to express what sets you apart from the others. The best new horror movies are the ones that learn from the classics but take a new approach. Take such a simple thought or idea and twist it enough to make it something that is truly your own. Horror movies could’ve stopped at Psycho, but the simple killer trope was not enough. Supernatural horror could’ve stopped at the Exorcist, but when people saw just how much they feared the supernatural and owl-esque head movements, a whole new world was opened.