Scary Good Content for Halloween
I’m not sure who you are, or what your life is, but I’ve already had to go back to Kroger to buy candy a second time for the trick-or-treaters because I ate the bag I had. If you’re one of those people who can buy a bag of candy and save it for Halloween night, send me your address so I can send you a trophy with a personalized note.
That brings me to my topic for the day: candy brands, and how they break ahead of the pack in time for one of the three biggest holidays for candy. (Wait, there are at least three holidays centered around candy…?! Guys, we need to reflect on who are as a people.)
This Halloween season, MARS candy and Fox Network Groups collaborated on Bite Size Horror: four 2-minute horror films that aired on Fox Networks. The titles are “Floor 9.5,” “The Road,” “Replacement,” and “Live Bait,” with each short film being presented by a specific candy brand. We’ll dissect each film, then dive into why going outside of the box in terms of content can solidify your brand’s image and messaging. Candy companies didn’t invent Halloween––however, the two are almost inseparable because of American Halloween traditions. Therefore, connecting those dots made for an incredible, spooky campaign.
Directed by: Toby Meakins
Written by: Simon Allen
“Floor 9.5” is my favorite one because of its distinctive creep factor. The camera work is unobtrusive and presents the horrors that await a hard-working woman who seems fed up by the monotonous office life. The visual clue of being in an otherworldly hellscape––the elevator floor indicator on the fritz––is almost Black Mirror-esque in its design.
Then, there’s the idea of someone mimicking your every move, almost following you, while standing in front of you. To me, it seemed like the movie was commenting on how office and work-life can ensnare you until you’re disposed of by way of downsizing. The moody, fluorescent, noir lighting scheme really punches up the level of spook. Overall, it’s an outstanding piece of filmmaking.
Directed by: Jack Bishop, Justin Nijm
Straight up, I do not like jump scares. I think they’re a cheap tactic to get a reaction out of an audience. However… sometimes they’re done right and earn their keep. “The Road” achieves that laurel of a jump-out-your-chair moment because of how it builds the tension. Some of you may expect it, so congratulations and I pity your life of being unsurprised.
Two minutes isn’t a lot to work with, so the teenage girl in the back shoots off the necessary backstory for the Dead Motorcyclist in an exposition dump. Not great, but it works. Then, the headlamp from the motorcycle establishes the myth-come-to-life. As the light draws nearer to our panicked characters, the editing ramps up to pull every hair-raising emotion from the story.
The comedic way the actors portray their terror puts you into a false sense of security, which is a credit to the directors’ abilities. Then… Wham! The sheer creepiness of the dead motorcyclist is scary enough to jar any viewer. I’m a little surprised they put that on television, quite frankly.
Directed by: Christopher Leone
“Replacement” seems a little more cerebral, to me. It deals with ideas that are scary to a child, but translate into legitimate fears in adulthood. The film takes advantage of the more desolate, The Hills Have Eyes vibe to the location. Obviously, the main family doesn’t live in the middle of nowhere, but it’s just isolated enough to add a spooky element.
The masked “replacement” is a great example of taking advantage of nuanced, quiet dread. The mask is not lavish––it’s blank features are for a reason. Our main character is fearful of this “replacement…” to be abandoned and forgotten. However, there’s a look that the “replacement” gives to the original kid that almost expresses fear. I wonder if it’s a cycle of children who are replaced and must take up the task to replace another child? It’s definitely a thinker.
Directed by: Andrew Laurich
Written by: Gabriel Miller, Andrew Laurich
What I love most about “Live Bait” is how it seems like it’s a lifestyle spot for some outdoor company throughout most of its run-time. You savor these beautiful shots of the lake, the sunlight spilling through the trees, the grains swaying in the wind… Then, there’s that beer can that emerges from the surface.
The old man rows to the can, pops it open, and takes a drink. Before he knows it, he’s got a hook through his cheek. Without showing too much, “Live Bait” dips into that much-appreciated subset of the horror genre: gore. It’s almost a cautionary tale about mankind’s hubris and lethargy connected to our dominance on the food chain. While we hunt, more insidious forces hunt us––in this film’s case: alcohol addiction. (The dude ROWS HIS BOAT to see if there’s any beer left in that can… that’s definitely an addiction.)
Frightfully Great Marketing
My first reaction to these pieces is how none of the films use candy, the brand names, or anything that connects back to the product. None of them. There isn’t a character eating candy, or a half-eaten candy bar on a desk in the foreground. Nothing.
It’s perhaps the most brilliant aspect of all of these films. MARS and Fox didn’t hamstring the creatives with forced product placement. That’s not to say that product placement is antithetical to good creativity, but you could feel a freedom in these pieces. They relied on a more subconscious advertising, almost Pavlovian.
Before every film, there’s the rising of the curtain of candy. “[Candy] Presents…” sounds off in the voice-over, but then any mention of the product is gone. It’s pure, cinematic spookiness. MARS and Fox were smart to connect those genuine emotions of terror presented by a candy brand. It’s genius. Not to mention, it’s refreshingly original, which always boosts a brand’s credibility. Everyone’s already shuffling to the movies in droves to see the latest horror films (and will likely buy a sweet treat for the show)… why not give them a taste of terror while reminding them of how delicious Skittles are?
Bite Size Horror, created by the All City agency, is another prime example of brands delving into fascinating original content. Their mission to celebrate both their candy and the Halloween season was executed perfectly in these short horror films. They entertained us and told compelling stories––they didn’t sell us a product.
by Benton Olivares