Why are movies billed as "the scariest movie ever" never scary?

I beginning to notice a trend here…

The Ring was billed in commericals as “the scariest movie ever,” and it’s hardly scary at all - creepy, sure, but there’s only 5 minutes of it that are truly scary. The same thing was in the commercials for 28 Days Later, which isn’t scary at all. Then there’s Ghostship, which wasn’t any scarier than the Ring, but wouldn’t you know it, the ads for that one too talked about how scary it is.

Why is it that this phrase is applied to so many films that are only scary to people afraid of their own shadows? There are far scarier movies that don’t get this label, so it’s a little odd… Is it some advertising ploy used in hopes of conning people into convincing themselves that they should be more frightened of fairly tame movies?

It’s a marketing ploy.

Because usually (to increase the legitimacy of the appelation), the phrase comes in the form of a quote from a film critic. And no matter how prominent the critic who made the remark, there’s undoubtedly going to be many many moviegoers who disagree.

How else would they get people to see the films? Tell them, “hey, we got this POS waste of celluloid and if don’t get one million people into the theatres the first weekend we’re going to lose our shirts”? I don’t think so.

No movie is ever advertised, promoted, or hyped honestly. None. Ever.

Sure, but why don’t movies that are actually scary tagged this way nearly as often?

The scariness of a horror movie is relative, methinks. But in any case, do you have any examples of truly scary movies not receiving the mega hype from its studio?

The only example I have is the Exorcist. Its popularity spread mostly thru word of mouth, if I’m not mistaken.

Like what? I can’t think of any scary movies that weren’t marketed as being scary.

And, although I haven’t seen The Ring or 28 Days Later, I do know plenty of people who did and found them quite scary.

I also think it has to do with audience expectations. If you bill a movie as The Most Frightening Thing You’ll Ever See Before You Die, then you’ll get a fair share of cynics who will turn up their noses.

The same goes for billing a movie with lines like “unexpected twist ending!” and everyone—prepared for the ending by the hype machine—sees it coming from a mile away.

If you had tried to bill The Wizard of Oz as “a classic for the ages! People will obsess about this movie for the next century!” then nobody would have gone.

Hollywood markets by genre, methinks. If they can plug a movie into a clearly delineated genre, they go with the genre formula.

Fish wins.

When hype hits a certain point–whether hyping spectacle, or scariness, or comedy, or whatever–backlash is inevitable. People tighten up, cross their arms, and think, ha! we’ll see about that! And, of course, they’re not really affected–they actively spot the bits of obvious cg or booms shots or various other men-behind-the-curtains, they snort at the scenes others jump and goosebump at, they scowl at predictable laugh points.

I’ve often thought of movies and television as something like hypnosis–the really enjoyable bits put their fans into a sort of trance state. Like hypnosis, a person just plain isn’t going to hit even light trance if they’re unwilling to–and hype-machining is a natural trigger point for unwillingness for those of us with skeptical and/or cynical leanings.

Well-known example: The Blair Witch Project. I saw it without having crossed the well-implemented hype machine for it (its web presence, etc.) directly at all–some friends simply said, “hey, we heard this movie’s supposed to be worth seeing, wanna come?” I liked it well enough. The hype machine exploded in the weeks following, then the backlash started. While I am, of course, a rock (an iiiiiiisland) and stand alone and unaffected by such things, I can still pretty much guarantee I wouldn’t have enjoyed the movie nearly so much if I’d known going in that it was the most amazingly creepy scary movie ever, like wow. Never would have gone into the light trance that makes movies enjoyable.

Probably the same reason you see commericals for movies billed “The Funniest movie of the year”-in January. And most of the times, the movies are obviously just another variation on the formulaic hollywood comedy and may or may not be starring the newest “flash in the pan” star. And of course, movies that spend a week or so at in the #1 box office spot and then drop dramatically afterwards.

Though I do remember reading a thread about “The Ring” about the time it came out and there were a lot of people saying that they were afraid to watch TV or answer the phone after seeing it.

I thought it was nicely done and creepy, but never once did I hestitate to answer the phone or turn on the TV due to the movie.