With so many horror movies coming out every year, studios need creative marketing to make sure their movie stands out from the crowd. In addition to posters and trailers, promotional merchandise is commonly created and given to movie theatres, members of the press, and websites to create hype for upcoming movies before eventually finding a new home in the hands of happy collectors.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone, so studios have to get extra creative during this time to make sure their movies to really lure fans in. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the coolest holiday-themed promotional merchandise for horror movies of years past!
Krampus Is Coming To Town
When Michael Dougherty’s Krampus came down the chimney in 2015, he brought with him an entire sleigh’s worth of mischievous toys and evil elves to terrorize a young boy and his dysfunctional family after they lose their Christmas spirit. The film was a hit with audiences & critics, and quickly became an annual must-watch movie for many horror fans.
Krampus also came bearing gifts, in the form of promotional merchandise that fans could win online as the movie neared release. Sweaters, shirts, hats, gloves, and scarves adorned with the movie’s logo kept lucky fans warm as they read The Art of Krampus, which detailed the production design and creation of the many creatures featured in the movie by Weta Workshop.
Other interesting items were created to promote the movie, including a replica of the bell that Krampus leaves for his victims as a sinister memento. Complete with a red ribbon attached so it can hang as an ornament, no Christmas tree would be complete without one! Perhaps the most unique promo item was a branded set of fireplace tools, handy for keeping the fire hot and for defending against any creatures that may come down the chimney!
Black Christmas In July
A bone-chilling horror classic, Black Christmas was originally released in Canada in 1974. Directed by Bob Clark, who also helmed another Christmas classic, A Christmas Story (1983). The movie told the story of a sorority house terrorized by obscene phone calls and a mostly unseen killer during the holiday season. Black Christmas is known as one of the first slasher movies and would inspire countless others, including a remake in 2006.
When released in the United States, Warner Bros. created a unique marketing campaign to highlight their Christmas chiller. As reported by Bloody-Disgusting, to advertise the movie and the creepy phone calls placed by the killer to his victims, automated phone lines were set up so that fans could call in and hear a sinister message advertising the movie. As the movie was actually released in the summer of 1975 in Los Angeles, Santa Claus actors were hired to hand out flyers and Black Christmas promotional buttons on the beach.
“Warner Bros. brought it to disturbing life in movie theatre lobbies with plastic-bagged mannequins rocking back and forth in rocking chairs”
Perhaps the most iconic image from the film is the sight of sorority sister Claire, the first victim who spent most of the movie sitting in a lonely rocking chair in the attic, her face partially obscured by the plastic bag used to suffocate her. This image was featured on the theatrical poster, and Warner Bros. brought it to disturbing life in movie theatre lobbies with plastic-bagged mannequins rocking back and forth in rocking chairs. Christmas wreaths adorned with bows bearing the movie’s logo completed the scene.
Another common piece of promotional merchandise is the tie-in novelization. These books sometimes featured additional backstories or scenes that were deleted from the movies themselves, and are popular among collectors. Black Christmas received such a novelization, written by Lee Hays. Long out of print and rarely appearing on eBay, this is a highly sought after piece of memorabilia for the holiday classic.
Because You Were Ho-Ho-Home
Sometimes, studios get into the holiday spirit even if the film itself is not set around Christmas. Such is the case with The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018). The long-awaited sequel to cult classic The Strangers (2008), the stand-alone sequel featured a family spending the night in a nearly empty lake resort. Soon, the titular masked trio arrive to wreak havoc on their unsuspecting victims.
The movie takes place shortly after Labor Day, as evidenced by a throwaway line of dialogue that explains why the trailer park setting is appropriately empty. Released in March of 2018, the marketing campaign kicked into high gear in December of 2017, signaling the return of villains Dollface, Pin-Up Girl, and the Man in the Mask (Emma Bellomy, Lea Enslin, and Damian Maffei respectively) with some fun holiday merch.
“Lucky (or unlucky?) members of the press received packages in the mail addressed personally to them in what appeared to be blood”
Lucky (or unlucky?) members of the press received packages in the mail addressed personally to them in what appeared to be blood. Inside were four Christmas ornaments, each featuring the mask of one of The Strangers, or one of the sinister messages they leave for their victims.
As the three masked strangers target their victims completely at random, it only makes sense that they would come prepared with gifts for any winter holiday. In addition to the ornaments, The Strangers Dreidel Game was also included in the package. Featuring a decorated dreidel, coins packaged in what appears to be a piece of the Man in the Mask’s burlap mask, and an instruction card for playing. Easily one of the more creative pieces of promo merchandise that marketing department ever cooked up!
Wishing You A Very Hairy Christmas
In 1997, An American Werewolf in Paris clawed its way into theaters, 16 years after the release of the original An American Werewolf in London (1981). The sequel was only loosely connected to the original, and doubled down the on the comedy aspects of the original. The plot followed three American tourists in Paris who rescue a beautiful and mysterious woman and soon find themselves running for their lives from werewolves. The film was not as successful critically or financially as its predecessor, despite its attempts to recreate the balance of humor and scares.
Though the film took place in the summer (one scene features a Fourth of July party), it was released on Christmas Day in 1997. Buena Vista pictures alluded to the release date with a fun Christmas ornament given to members of the press. The clear globe features the movie’s logo, and the tagline: This Christmas, things are going to get a little hairy! Also tucked inside the ornament is a tuft a werewolf hair, bringing a bit of hairy fun to any Christmas tree.
Many horror movies that aren’t part of a major franchise don’t get any merchandise at all, so it’s always fun to see the studios create clever promotional items for their movies. Collectors scour eBay and horror conventions, eager to get their hands on items from their favorite horror movies. Do you have any horror merchandise or memorabilia on display in your home? Show us the goods on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and stay tuned for the next spotlight on promotional horror merchandise!