Taglines can make or break a film
But regardless of all of these 21st-century marketing gambits, the good old-fashioned tagline is still a central part of a film's marketing strategy. Inception's used to be "This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime", but has now been changed to "The dream is real". Four little words, so much power. It suceeds in conjuring up any number of terrifying-yet-thrilling images, while remaining enigmatic enough to have legions of fanboys drooling in anticipation over their keyboards.
For something so apparently minor, the tagline has certainly proved its worth over the decades, with several making the leap from advertising slogan into popular culture. And in some cases, the tagline has gone on to achieve just as much - or even more - fame than the film itself. The top example of this has got to be Jaws 2 (1978) whose tagline: "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water" has become one of the most famous in movie history. Effective on so many levels, the line has been parodied almost non-stop since it first saw the light of day.
Also at the top of the list is Alien (1979) which hit the nail on the head with its eerie tagline "In space, no one can hear you scream". To be pedantic, while this is technically correct - space is a vacuum, in which sound waves cannot travel - the film takes place in the confines of a spaceship, where, it's safe to say, a lot of screaming can be heard. Especially when the alien makes its first appearance. Regardless, whoever came up with this deserves a pat on the back.
Jeff Goldblum's turn as the freakish mutant in David Cronenberg's, The Fly (1986), has another classic: "Be afraid. Be very afraid." The movie was a huge success upon its release, but has arguably since been eclipsed by the unwavering popularity of its tagline. The phrase has also been employed by countless other movies (including Bean and Addams Family Values), TV shows and various other media outlets.
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," is another movie tagline that has entered seamlessly into our lives. This phrase was the first thing to appear on screen for each of the original Star Wars films, and was also used on posters to promote the first film in the series back in 1977. The line and the manner in which it is shown on screen (rolling from the bottom of the screen before fading away) have been employed by countless movies and shows - from Mel Brooks' Spaceballs to Family Guy.
But for every tagline that lives on thanks to its greatness, there's one that is destined to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Taglines can misfire for a number of reasons. Some are just plain lazy. Step right up 2010 Clash of the Titans with "Titans will clash". We'd kind of figured. Or 2002's Ghost Ship: "Sea Evil." To be fair, the tagline here is about as good as the film, which is awful. Others are just plain inaccurate. The prize here goes to the 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria, which went with: "The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92." You know what's really terrifying? The film is only 98 minutes long. Presumably someone got fired for that one.
Other taglines fail because they inadvertantly point out the shortcoming of the film they are supposed to be advertising. The 1972 eco-horror movie Frog for example, doesn't exactly set the blood racing with the slogan: "Today the pond... tomorrow the world!" Just one of the many reasons why frogs don't make for a good horror film. In fact, there are so many examples of bad taglines that it takes something special to stand out, so all credit has to be given to whoever came up with the line that adorns the posters for the 1973 science-fiction film The Day of the Dolphin: "Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the president of the United States." It might be bafflingly bizarre, but admit it, there's a part of you that wants to see how that one turns out. And in the world of the tagline, that has to be counted as a success.
Published: June 30, 2010 04:00 AM