Swayed with swag | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Swayed with swag

Dear marketers: Forget the useless stickers and keychains, film media want bloody funnels and cool postcards.

The iPad-sized silver tin stands out among all the other mail. There's an orange sticker of a silhouetted lighthouse, designed like a vintage CN Rail poster, stuck on its top. "Welcome to Haven," the text reads. "It takes a village to hide a secret." Inside, there's a series of eight connected postcards, with photos of fish houses and buoy lines, diners and old inns. Typical touristy stuff, until you look closer and realize that the charming B&B is called the Don't Drop Inn, and the caption on the postcard says "Mind Your Own Business." Each postcard contains a hidden, menacing warning. They're all pretty smart. It takes awhile to get to the DVD on the bottom.

This is the promo package sent to media for the first episode of Haven, a series inspired by Stephen King's novella The Colorado Kid. Shot on Nova Scotia's South Shore---standing in for supernatural town Haven, Maine---Haven (Showcase, Mondays at 11pm) was co-commissioned by the NBC Universal division SyFy and Canada's Canwest Broadcasting. This tin came through SyFy, via Canwest in Toronto, and will now sit on my desk, alongside a dashboard Sexy Jesus (Hamlet 2) and a Create A Commie, where you can add a beard to your favourite dictator using a magnetic wand (The Trotsky).

When it comes to media coverage, movie promotional items are generally effective as fancy paperweights or garbage liners, especially when they're Harry Potter earwax-flavoured Jelly Bellies that make editors gag. But occasionally, a few capture the essence of a film or show, and our attention. Former Coast arts editor Tara Thorne is partial to a Legally Blonde clipboard and an Elle Woods-approved pen. The marketing team behind 13 Going on 30 also grabbed her attention with a package of time-travel glitter dust. Herald reporter Stephen Cooke says he scored a pair of Young Einstein suspenders and Disturbia binoculars, which came with a can of Red Bull and a Twinkie. Sadly, Cooke reports, he didn't get to keep the toy chainsaw from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.

It isn't just media that hits the promotional payload. Lee Anne Gillan, a former Daily News film critic, recalls that when she owned the Halifax video store Critics' Choice, she received a Truly Madly Deeply mug that revealed a photo of its ghostly star Alan Rickman when it got hot, and a now-rare Fargo snowglobe, with a tiny Marge (Frances McDormand) kneeling over the murder scene.

OK, so how do you promote a film that's a hard sell? Let's say the American remake of the adored 2008 Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, which has been openly criticized by media and the original director, Tomas Alfredson, even before its fall release. If you're Hammer Films, you target the cynical. And you time the campaign before an event at Comic Con.

Dan Tabor, managing editor for Geekadelphia.com (it is what you think---geeks in Philadelphia), documented the day a bloodstained funnel---discovered inside an evidence bag, inside an unmarked brown box from New Mexico---arrived at his house. "When I got it in the mail my wife was a bit suspicious of it, because of the lack of any real identifiable markings as to what it was or where it came from," Tabor writes by email. "She thought I had ordered something naughty."

In the original film, vampires use whatever they can get their hands on to drain blood---that funnel is a big clue. "You could see someone really put some thought and time into it to trigger that memory, if you're a fan of the original film," Tabor writes. "I also know if this was sent to someone else it might not necessarily have elicited the same response, so they did their homework first, finding people who 'got it.'"

Tabor, who earlier had written an article questioning why the film was even being made, says the funnel has somewhat softened his opinion on the remake's potential. "I have to say it's giving me a second thought on something I literally had already written off..." he writes. "But after getting this I think their heart might be in the right place, because I know, sad as it is, some people just will not give foreign films the time of day; and with the popularity of vampires, who would blame them [for wanting] to put such a fresh perspective on such a tired topic."

Marketing mission accomplished.

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