Earlier today I posted the trailer for Evolution, a new horror film from French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic that's shaping up to be one of the most intriguing genre imports of the year. The evocative spot manages to draw us in completely while giving away very little of the plot — an art that's been all but lost in the business of Hollywood marketing, which regularly advertises films as if they were cars, sacrificing any semblance of mystery as they cover every gleaming inch of the product being peddled.
Case in point: the “teaser” for The Bye Bye Man, a new horror film that looks sort of like A Nightmare on Elm Street meets Final Destination meets Sinister, with all the genre box-checking that description implies. I'm all for “original” ideas in horror, but this one doesn't inspire much hope thanks to a subtlety-free first look that should just call itself what it is: a trailer. For an action movie. (Side-bar: Why is nearly every studio horror film marketed as the next installment in the Fast & Furious franchise? That's a worthwhile topic of discussion on its own.)
But here's the most annoying thing: the so-called “teaser” for Bye Bye Man commits the unpardonable sin of claiming that the film is “Based on True Events,” a stubbornly persistent declaration in modern-day horror trailers that typically has very little basis in fact. Believe me, I've looked into this.
The “true events” that The Bye Bye Man claims to be “based on” stem from a short story entitled The Bridge to Body Island by Robert Damon Schneck, included as a chapter in the author's 2005 “non-fiction” book The President's Vampire: Strange-but-True Tales of the United States of America. The story centers on three Wisconsin college students who experience strange events after experimenting with an Ouija board that dictates the terrifying legend of the titular bogeyman, an albinic, psychic serial killer residing in early 20th century Louisiana. Okay! Ready for how true this is? Here's how Schneck introduces the tale:
“This story is different from all the others in this book.
First, the source is a close friend…”
That's it! That is literally it. A close friend told Schneck something scary, he wrote a story about it and now the movie version is being promoted as “Based on True Events” to, I guess, make it more real for people?
There's obviously an element of pandering to the more credulous members of the horror fandom going on here, but here's the thing: we don't need to hear that something was “based on a true story” or “true events,” et al. to go see it. We're not dummies! You don't have to get all “truthy” with us in order to to get our money! We just want good, scary movies. Give us that and I guarantee you we'll show up on opening weekend, regardless of whether said movie was “based on true events” or not. Which you know it wasn't.