The movie publicity stunts that went horribly wrong

This week, the marketing team for Colin Farrell gangster flick 'Dead Man Down' decided to stage a fake murder in a lift (a bloke being garroted)… and film the public’s reaction.

Some helped. Some turned and ran. One person took a photo.

[Related story: Movie publicity stunt shows public react to fake murder]
[Related story: The most horrific films accidentally screened to kids]


The video went viral and racked up millions of hits, though whether this’ll result in people actually seeing the film remains to be seen.

The video was also a bit sick. Imagine if an elderly witness had a heart attack after watching the attack? Or the man who tried to stop the "murder" with a fire extinguisher blinded one of the actors?

Anyway, it joins a long and inglorious list of desperate movie publicity stunts that either went horribly wrong, or were just wrong to begin with...

The Birds (1963) – Poo fail
To mark the release of avian Hitchcock horror ‘The Birds’, giant feed trays were installed across New York to help mimic the frightening flocks of the film. Did it generate hype? More like a city full of pigeon poo.







Mission: Impossible III (2006) – Bomb scare fail 1
Promoters for Cruise sequel ‘M:I3’ wired motion activated musical boxes to newspaper racks around LA - surprising customers with the iconic theme tune when they reached for a paper. When one of the mysterious devices was discovered, the LA Bomb Squad blew up the newsstand thinking it was a bomb.

The Love Letter (1999) – Stalker fail

To promote forgettable rom-com ‘The Love Letter’, DreamWorks did the predictable and sent anonymous handwritten adorations to selected magazine journalists. Aww. Until a genuinely frightened Elle Editor called in the police, believing she had a stalker.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theatres (2007) – Bomb scare fail 2
PR for the big screen adapt of bizarre US show ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force' had a series of crude LED placards secretly installed across ten cities. Believing they were IEDs, the Boston Police Department locked down the entire city until they could identify the “threat”. It landed the promoters with a $2 million fine. Now known as the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare.




Mississippi Burning (1988) – Racism fail
French distributors reportedly pushed the video release of civil-rights thriller ‘Mississippi Burning’ with a  colossal feat of bad-taste… handing out free Ku Klux Klan masks with each purchase. Unbelievable.

Robocop 2 (1990) – Gun arrest fail
When ‘Robocop’ returned to French cinemas, marketing brought out the man himself – having an actor in full metallic get-up cruise the Champs-Elysees, waving a gun from his patrol car. He attracted the attention of his more human French counterparts, was unable to produce ID, and ended up being thrown in jail.




Snuff (1976) – Riot fail
Distributor Allan Shackleton hired fake protestors to picket cinemas showing controversial urban legend cash-in ‘Snuff’. Things got hairy when the rent-a-mob clashed with an unexpected group of real-life protestors from Women Against Pornography - resulting in the movie being pulled.

Million Dollar Mystery (1987) – Profit fail
The aptly titled ‘Million Dollar Mystery’ hid a real-life sack of cash somewhere in the US, with clues to its location scattered throughout the film. An interactive treasure hunt that saw one lucky lady, who found the stash in the Statue of Liberty’s nose, walk away with $1 million… $11,000 more than the movie actually made.

Black Water (2007) – Blimp fail

Aussie creature feature ‘Black Water’ mimicked the movie’s monstrous crocs by tying a 200 ft hellium-filled reptile to Sydney Harbour Bridge. The beasty blimp broke free in the winds, and drifted off into the city – reigning down terror and confusion like an inflatable Godzilla. Hilarious. See the news footage here.

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