The Most Successful Print & Advertising for Psychological Thrillers of All Time

4 Jul

Last article in our 7 week series on Psychological Thrillers.

The most successful Print & Advertising (or P&A) for the psychological thriller genre always aims to have an emotional impact on the largest audience.  P&A or Print and advertising is usually hired by the studio to develop campaigns along side the films development. To achieve this success, these marketing or advertising agents must collaborate with filmmakers to maximize the disturbing sociological implications of the plot while accomplishing their promotional effort.  For anyone who wonders how P&A is paid for or where it stems from here is a short explanation from SoCalScribe a blog member of the entertainment blog Done Deal Professional


P&A is not part of the production budget. The production budget will
often have money allotted for dailies, the answer print, etc.,. but
P&A – for all intents and purposes – is a distribution expense, not a
production expense (and therefore not a part of the production

Though all implications of all films aren’t equally disturbing,
content complexity usually contributes to how engaging the content is.
Why was that statement important, it underlines how important content
is and equally how knowledgeable the P&A must be?

As Ultimate Listverve states the psychological thriller works on a few levels.

Nothing can beat the heart racing as you anticipate the next move and
better yet, these films don’t need to be filled with gore and blood to
shock and frighten. These are films that involve the brain – not just
the senses.“[2]

That said: one should understand that to participate in the publicity
strategy game narrative smarts are an absolute necessity.  In some
cases they should rival the directors.

As Hitchcock demonstrates with most of his films, a fine balance of
elements is necessary.  Yet what may be disturbing (to some) are the
way social standards, values and beliefs may have to be sacrificed to
motivate anticipation and surprise.  In my opinion this is how the
thrill is achieved.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho depends on three disturbances. The
audience has to be appalled by a serial killing Momma’s boy, has to be
scared by a social isolation of a secluded motel, and must be
horrified by the mutilation of a beautiful women.

Withholding only a small amount of this from the audience, the P&A
introduces just enough of this content to attract audiences (the
prey).  Once the audience arrives, it becomes apparent who the real
predator is, (the film) which will now deliver it’s surprise ending.

1. Psycho

Martin Scorsese uses the smoke at beginning of the trailer to create a
mystical aura of mystery before breaking a few social taboos of his
own. Using Travis Bickle’s unbalanced paranoia, he distresses using
other means. He does this by means of the introduction of pedophilic
desire represented by Jodie Foster’s character’s Iris.  In pursuit of
the thrill, Scorsese introduces murdering as his final psychological
assault on his audience’s senses.

How does the P&A of this trailer break new ground, using social
disruption it has thrilled by means never sought before in a widely
distributed film?

2.    Taxi Driver – Trailer

Fatal Attraction collected the public’s discomfort with liberated
professional women (who could set their own terms in relationships),
disgust with adulterous men professional men who found these women
attractive, and anger regarding how more traditional women might be
undone in regard to the relationships between the other two.  And of
course crazy neurotic behavior is always scary.

Unusually this project was actually sympathetic to actress Anne
Archer’s female character Beth Gallagher.  On a progressive note,
fortunately women could be both victim and victimizer with men could
be an enabling force; and not necessarily the hero.

3.  Fatal Attraction

  • Click here to see trailer

Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs takes a step toward
eliminating the horror master Hitchcock by instituting a new or
different horror master, Martin Scorsese.  He does this by using “Taxi
driver” actress, Jodie Foster as his heroine Clarisse Starling.  So
what will the director use to shock his audience?  Of course there’
was the horror of female mutilation, cannibalism, and lastly presumed
homosexual hatred of women.  Yet the last topic won’t be addressed in
the trailer.

Does Demme succeed in his effort?  In terms of success, given that
era’s 1.) Fears regarding gay sexual identity, 2.) Anger and anxieties
regarding female professional mobility, and 3.) The Universal horror
pertaining to humans eating other humans. Demme seemed to produce the
ultimate psycho-thriller stew.

4.    Silence of the Lambs

For the The Usual Suspects trailer, mystery is everything so unlike
so many of the thrillers before it, only a few narrative hints are
revealed.  One of the most misleading aspects of the film is its
formidible lead protagonist Kaiser Soze.  Unlike so many of the
previous movies no  female is placed in danger, no taboo violence is
threatened, yet the fear of retribution and the fear that it can’t be
withstood is hammered into the audience’s collective heads again and

A trick ending like few others, the ensemble cast threatens to hit on
as many intellectual levels (and gangster clichés) as possible, though
one should n’t expect the outcome to illustrate any psychological
legacy seen before. The P&A produced trailer is so cool, reserved yet
emphatic that one can almost tell an unexpected narrative outcome is

5.    The Usual Suspects

  • Click here to see trailer

Told from the perspective of the protagonist/antagonist who incidentally has
little memory, Christopher Nolan’s Memento is an exercize in paranoia,
frustration and fear based on a disability.  In some ways resembling
movies like Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Memento doesn’t strip the hero
of all of his faculties yet lets us experience his vulnerability like
it was our own.  No giant social issues in this scenario, all threats
are personal.  Like traditional thriller female characters, Guy
Pearce’s Leonard Shelby is objectified with a landscape of memories
tatooed to his body.  Were forced to use it to find any inspirational
note that might be salvaged; we understand Shelby may loose this
struggle but that doesn’t pursuade us to leave his side.

United in the goal of misdirection, the trailer threatens us, leads us
into dead ends, lies to us, and then cheats us out of our assumptions.
Who is on trial, in this drama: possibly the audience for every
common assumption and every presumed easy answer we apply.

6.  Memento

  • Click here to see trailer

Though not really important to his discussion, psychological thrillers
really do need a story that is unique enough to take audiences
by surprise.

However the film is constituted by way of director, screenplay writer(s), or actor(s),
all including the P&A collaborators must agree on the fears imbedded
in the central premise of the plot.

Also see: Are you Scared Yet? A Look Back at Oscar Winning Thrillers: What Happened Next? Part 2

Please join us for a discussion Thursday 7/5/2012@7pE/12UTC


Essential References:


[2] http://listverscom/2008/06/23/top-15-psychological-thrillers/

57 Responses to “The Most Successful Print & Advertising for Psychological Thrillers of All Time”

  1. littlebells at 4:01 PM #

    Fantastic! Will come back and continue reading and watching.

    Happy July 4th everyone!!!

  2. Comic Relief at 5:17 PM #

    Thanks LB,

    Feel free to comment too.

    • littlebells at 2:56 PM #


      How popular ate these films? I love SL and TUS. M is also great.

      I often wonder how the scripts are written, as far as process. When i see films with twists and turns, I wonder how these ideas come about.

      • Comic Relief at 7:17 PM #


        That’s an excellent question. I guess I should expect those questions from someone who is likely to identify with the actors.

        First I’ll get the bean counter stuff out of the way.
        Psycho: (1960) $32,000,000
        Taxi Driver: (1976) $28,262,574
        Fatal Attraction: (1987) $156,645,693
        of the Lambs: (1991) $130,742,922
        The Usual Suspects (1995) $23,341,568
        Memento: (2001) $25,544,867

        – Box office wise I think these films did exceptionally well.

        • Comic Relief at 7:19 PM #

          I think these movies cultural impact(s) can’t be underestimated either.
          -Obviously Hitchcock was an understood master at the point when “Psycho” was made.
          – “Taxi Driver” made Scorsese’s career.
          – “Fatal Attraction” made Glen Closes acting career
          – Anthony Hopkins hsa been a respected actor for a long time but I’m sure most remember “Silence of the Lambs” the most.
          – “The Usual Suspects” made Bryan Singers directorial career
          – “Memento” made Christopher Nolan’s directorial career

          • littlebells at 7:21 PM #

            It’s almost impossible to imagine these films with with different actors and directors. Like we’ve said before it’s the combination of talent that makes a film so magnificent and memorable.

  3. Open Book at 6:59 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    • littlebells at 7:11 PM #

      Hi OB!

      How are you feeling today? Did you watch any fireworks?

      • Open Book at 7:13 PM #

        HAHAHA! No fireworks. I’m feeling better Thank U! How are u?

        • littlebells at 7:26 PM #

          I wonder how TAxi Driver would be trailered today. The voice over kinda took away the thrill for me, tbh. Do you think voice overs can add, take away, or do both for a trailer?

          • Comic Relief at 7:46 PM #


            I tend to agree the voice overs can seem to hurt or help an ad equally. I think I tend to hear less of them toda y than in the past. Ernie Anderson was a really popular voice over artist for TV as late as the ‘90’s.

    • Comic Relief at 7:13 PM #

      Hi everyone.

      • Open Book at 7:17 PM #

        This is for everyone-

        What Psychological Thrillers released this year and last that u think had a amazing P&A campaign?

        • Comic Relief at 7:20 PM #


          • littlebells at 7:27 PM #

            Pretty much. To this day I love thinking about it. I also really enjoyed shutter Island.

            • Comic Relief at 7:35 PM #

              I hate to say this but there lot of really fantastic films in this genre. An LIH Editorial decision, this title….

              “The Most Successful Print & Advertising for Psychological Thrillers of All Time.”

              …was used to assure the article received hits. Yet I still think the films of this article are undeniably wonderful.

          • Open Book at 7:36 PM #

            What did u like about Inceptions P& A campaign?

            • Comic Relief at 8:00 PM #

              This was a film that had every intention of being smart and never tried to hide it. It reinforced that by way of maze imagery, the numbing soundtrack, and the discussion of dreams that audience would be taken on a relentless ride.

              Unlike so many examples form the past; Women, were not sold as disposable murder victims, though there were love interests in the movie there was no cheap or salacious sexual scenes and at the same time you felt that despite the complex plot everything was prepared for our enjoyment.

              Strangely it’s a heist movie. The P&A sold the whole thing in a very sexy way but did not give up the plot at all.

              • Comic Relief at 8:02 PM #

                Oh, but why should I bother. Here’s one of the trailers:

                • Open Book at 8:11 PM #

                  I LOVE THIS TRAILER….:0)

  4. Open Book at 7:03 PM #

    I hope everyone had a nice holiday!

    CR-How often does P&A influence the way a film is produced?

    • Comic Relief at 7:14 PM #

      I’m sure P&A is always a huge issue. As you know P&A is frequently farmed out to other firms, that doesn’t mean a director or producers wouldn’t have a huge impact on how the film is sold.

      Because Ozzie already did an article on the topic, I did not mention posters in my article. Yet DVD box design is part of the P&A campaign as well.

  5. littlebells at 7:12 PM #

    CR when does P&A begin once a film is set to go?

    What made you pick these films specifically?

    • Comic Relief at 7:28 PM #

      I think I said in the article that P&A frequently is developed concurrently (with the film). It can take as long to produce that material as make the film so producers can’t always wait until shooting is over.

      Plus a great deal of films are advertised really early to build or collect fan bases long before the movie is distributed.

      • Comic Relief at 7:29 PM #

        Originally I had a much larger article that included:

        – Cape Fear

        Unfortunately we have an article word limit.

  6. Comic Relief at 7:16 PM #


    That’s an excellent question. I guess I should expect those questions from someone who is likely to identify with the actors.

    First I’ll get the bean counter stuff out of the way.
    Psycho: (1960) $32,000,000
    Taxi Driver: (1976) $28,262,574
    Fatal Attraction: (1987) $156,645,693
    of the Lambs: (1991) $130,742,922
    The Usual Suspects (1995) $23,341,568
    Memento: (2001) $25,544,867

    – Box office wise I think these films did exceptionally well.

    • Comic Relief at 7:18 PM #

      Sorry, this was answer to your earlier question.

  7. Open Book at 7:43 PM #

    I know it fits within the sci-fi genre. However, it does share some relation to psych/thiriller. The film is Prometheus. I really liked their P&A campaign for big budget. It was new in how they gave background stories on the characters within the trailers. That was AWESOME!!

    • Comic Relief at 8:06 PM #

      I’m not sure I can talk about this movieor P&A yet but it was scheduled for review in my first in my first draft. Prometheus still drives me crazy (with glee). In fact I don’t know where to find it but I saw a new Prometheous trailer LAST week.

      • Open Book at 8:09 PM #

        Ah! Come on CR u are teasing me. U can’t find the trailer. Darn it!

        • Comic Relief at 8:34 PM #

          Sorry it was really obscure and not very great. I should not have brought it up.

        • ozzie20 at 8:36 PM #

          I liked Prometheus’ P & A campaign. They did a fake TED Talk too.

          • Comic Relief at 8:45 PM #

            Yeah all these scenes that were not in the actual film. If it wasn’t so innovative I would be screaming foul.

  8. Open Book at 7:48 PM #


    What is it about Shutter Island’s P&A that made u want to go see this film?

  9. ozzie20 at 7:51 PM #

    Hello all!

    Great article CR! I really wanted to know more about the trailers and was hoping you would expand on it. So I was very happy to read this and learn from it!

    • Comic Relief at 8:07 PM #

      Hi Ozzie and thanks.

      • ozzie20 at 8:15 PM #

        You’re welcome! 🙂

        I hope you are feeling well too CR!

  10. Open Book at 7:53 PM #

    Hi Ozzie!

    How are u?

    • ozzie20 at 8:00 PM #

      I’m very tired but ok. I’m so glad to hear that you’re better! *hugs*

      • Open Book at 8:12 PM #

        Big hugs back to u Oz!

        • ozzie20 at 8:14 PM #

          Thank you! 🙂

  11. Open Book at 8:02 PM #

    I thought this was interesting. Do u think voice overs for movie trailers is necessary today?

    • Comic Relief at 8:23 PM #

      For I don’t think I hear it as often.
      I think so often actor dialogue is used to tell th story.

      Along with actor dialogue,the new flm “Savages” featured actress Blake Lively doing the voice overs.

      • Open Book at 8:25 PM #

        Yeah! This is one of the films that would qualify as the worst P&A to me.

  12. Open Book at 8:15 PM #


    Do u hear a lot of voice overs in movie trailers in England? Are the voice overs more from the actors or voice over artist pov?

    • ozzie20 at 8:41 PM #

      I think its rare to have an actor doing the voice over and even rarer to have a talk over artist. Usually its just dialogues from the movie with a sentense/tagline in it somewhere.

      • Open Book at 8:48 PM #

        See I like that. Sometimes u don’t need to hear voice overs. Just get to the film. I can figure it out. LOL!!

  13. Open Book at 8:23 PM #

    This is for everyone-

    What psych/thriller film had the worst P&A?

    • Comic Relief at 8:25 PM #

      Tthis is hard comedies get alot of bad P&A.

      • Open Book at 8:29 PM #

        No I’m talking about Psych/Thrillers. U just posted one up above. Savages! The trailer tells the entire story. There’s no need to see it. Plus it looks like Bad Boys gone really wrong.

        • Comic Relief at 8:46 PM #

          I am absolutely sure you are right.

          • ozzie20 at 8:48 PM #

            I can’t think of any! God, I am so slow with everything tonight, lol!

  14. Comic Relief at 8:49 PM #

    Thanks everyone for coming. Unfortunatly I have to go. I will check back later if I miss any comments.

  15. Open Book at 8:50 PM #


    I have to go. CR great article and topic I learned a lot.


  16. ozzie20 at 8:56 PM #

    Sorry, I was so slow with my typing tonight. I think I better get some sleep, lol! Night all!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: