In the first few weeks of quarantine in this wild year, it was reported that pandemic and apocalypse-related movies were trending as viewers sought a bit of escape from their real-life turmoils. That, combined with this month’s theme here at Nightmare on Film Street, makes for the perfect occasion to dust off some of the apocalypse-themed promo items and get them ready for our stockpile as we hunker down in the Collector’s Crypt!
The zombie subgenre got a bit of a reinvention in 2002 when director Danny Boyle unleashed 28 Days Later, a post-apocalyptic horror flick taking place just one month after the highly contagious Rage virus has virtually destroyed all of Great Britain, turning its inhabitants into bloodthirsty, crazed zombie-like beings (though technically not zombies as they are still living). Among the survivors is Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bicycle courier who awakens from a coma 28 days after the initial outbreak and teams up with fellow survivors Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and Frank’s daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) in an attempt to reach the supposed safety of a military base.
ENOUGH MERCH FOR 28 DAYS… OR WEEKS
28 Days Later was a hit when released in the United Kingdom in 2002, and soon it was gearing up for a release in the United States in the summer of 2003. It was accompanied by a massive marketing merchandise campaign, including such items as a 28 Days Later-branded CD case (remember those?!), backpacks, flashlights, bumper stickers, dog tag necklaces, and bandages. The large amount of advertising paid off, as 28 Days Later became a huge hit stateside, grossing over $45 million at the domestic box office despite being a limited release of less than 1,500 screens.
With positive reviews from critics and fans alike, 28 Days Later went on to become a cult favorite that is credited with reinvigorating the zombie subgenre and introducing viewers to “fast” zombies. Since sequels are virtually guaranteed with successful horror movies, 28 Weeks Later arrived in 2007, picking up two and a half years after the first film as Great Britain begins to repopulate, even as the threat of the Rage virus threatens to return.
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The sequel also received a large marketing campaign, with some cool collectibles like a mousepad, more bumper stickers, and even a jar of “Virus Slime” complete with bloody eyeballs. And although it’s not merchandise, one really cool thing the advertisers did is project the 28 Weeks Later biohazard symbol onto the White Cliffs of Dover, declaring all of England a quarantined infected area. This led 28 Weeks Later to be another financial and critical success, although to date it has not spawned the much anticipated third film, 28 Months Later. If and when that does happen, hopefully it brings even more merch for fans!
CRAZY FOR THE CRAZIES COLLECTIBLES
The Crazies, a remake of the 1973 George A. Romero film of the same name, was released in 2010, directed by Breck Eisner and starring Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell and a husband-and-wife, sheriff-and-doctor team in the small town of Ogden Marsh that is being besieged by a strange toxin that turns the residents into homicidal maniacs. Originating from a crashed airplane in the town’s water supply, the survivors must contend with both infected townspeople and military ghouls set on containing the disease before it spreads even further. That will be much easier said than done.
The updated Crazies opened third at the box office, going on to gross over $50 million on a budget of $20 million, and received mixed reviews that leaned towards the positive side. When it was released to home video in June of 2010, the marketing department decided to cleverly play up the virus’s main path of transmission: the water supply. Promotional water bottles adorned with the movie’s logo and date of home video release were sent to press outlets and reviewers to drum up hype. Never made available in stores, these water bottles are great collector’s items and sometimes appear on eBay.
GOING TO BAT WITH SHAUN OF THE DEAD
In 2004, audiences were introduced to an entirely new type of zombie apocalypse: Shaun of the Dead. A comical farce that happens to feature zombies, directed by Edgar Wright, Shaun stars Simon Pegg as the titular slacker/electronics salesman who finds himself unwittingly in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Taking cover in a pub with a group of other survivors, Shaun is forced to fight for his life if he wants to get back to his life of video games and beer.
To promote the release, which coincidentally occurred just a few weeks after the release of 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake, UK distributor United International Pictures created a large marketing campaign that included actors dressed as zombies appearing randomly throughout London to advertise the movie. Also, in a reference to Shaun’s weapon of choice in the film, a promotional cricket bat bearing the movie’s logo was created. These rare pieces are highly coveted by Shaun of the Dead fans, but sometimes pop up on eBay if you keep an eye out for them.
GEARING UP FOR A TRIP THROUGH ZOMBIELAND
Set some months after a zombie apocalypse has decimated most of the population, Zombieland is another zombie flick that heavily incorporates comedy into its horror and gore. Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as a quarter of survivors travelling cross country in search of anywhere that is free of flesh-eating zombies. Their travels take them from celebrity mansions to amusement parks, with chaos and the undead never too far behind.
Main protagonist Columbus, played by Eisenberg, has survived in Zombieland so far thanks to his meticulous set of rules and safety practices, including cardio, seatbelts, and the ever-important hand sanitizer. The marketing campaign for Zombieland played up on this idea, including small bottles of Zombieland-branded hand sanitizer in prize packs that also included T-shirts and baseball caps. When the sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap was released exactly a decade later, prize packs included t-shirts, bags, water bottles, bat-shaped styluses, and Zombieland-branded flash drives.
That finishes out this month’s edition of the Collector’s Crypt! Be sure to share your promotional collectibles (apocalypse-related or otherwise) with us on Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter, and check back in next month for another round of rare horror movie merchandise!