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Bold Move, 'Spooky House'

By Kristy Puchko | Film | September 29, 2020 |

By Kristy Puchko | Film | September 29, 2020 |


There are many ways marketing teams try to sell movies to consumers. They brandish big names, flaunt ties to heralded filmmakers or their past hits, and paper trailers and box art in pull quotes from awestruck critics. However, sometimes those flashy quotes that proclaim a movie a “masterpiece” or a “must-see” don’t actually come from critics. A savvy consumer must look closer. Since the rise of social media, pullquotes might be plucked from random Twitter users, especially when critics have panned a picture. One critic has drawn our attention to a bold new move in the battle to market movies: a pullquote from one of the stars!

Film School Rejects’ critic Rob Hunter, shared this charming photo set on Twitter:

This is the newly debuted Blu-ray for the 2002 family-comedy Spooky House. Rather than plucking a quote from a positive review of the film, the back of the case boasts:

“It appeals to the child in us. And that’s what drama is partly dedicated to keeping alive.” —Ben Kingsley

Ben Kingsley, the Academy Award-winning actor who donned a fake mustache and lightning bolt eyebrows to play The Great Zamboni, is the one quoted on the back of this 18-year-old PG offering’s latest physical media release.

Having never seen Spooky House, I wondered what critics had said about it at the time. On Rotten Tomatoes, it doesn’t boast enough reviews to merit a score from critics. So, I dug deeper.

It seems the lack of reviews comes chiefly from a rocky road to release. In 2000, the film played at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, where it won the Children’s Jury Award and Best of the Fest. However, it then sat on the shelf for years, before opening in just 35 U.S. theaters. With such a small release, it’s little wonder Spooky House didn’t garner many reviews. Those I found don’t exactly scream “BUY THIS MOVIE!”

For instance, here’s an excerpt from Variety’s review: “Minor kidpic too often plays like a Saturday-morning TV sitcom for preteens, but boasts an impressively subdued performance by Ben Kingsley.”

So, it’s little wonder the Spooky House team went with this unconventional move of quoting its star on the box art. Yet one question remains, which online sleuthing has not answered: Is this a new or old quote from Kingsley?

Typically, when a film comes out, the media is given a press kit, which often includes quotes from the cast and crew about what making the movie meant to them. It’s possible this is where the above quote was pulled, or perhaps from an interview he gave at the time. But 2000-2002, we’re still talking the internet’s early days. The quote cannot be found online to confirm.

This leaves another option as a possibility. Kinglsey, nearly two decades away from playing The Great Zamboni was called up and asked to reflect on the magic of this magician movie. Ever game, he gave an elegant response that demanded to be on the back of a Blu-ray case. Perhaps he hoped speaking to the power of drama would finally grant this little-seen film the audience who’d appreciate it.

Spooky House is now out on Blu-ray.

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Kristy Puchko is the managing editor of Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter.

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