When is fiction too real?
Article By: Eilfie Music
In this day and age with the internet, we have an endless supply of information at our fingertips; it is only as limited as human imagination. With this vast source of information, it becomes difficult to tell, at times, what is fictional and what is real. Over the last few years, the style of realistic looking horror has started to pour into the theatres. The shaky cameras and not quite so perfect camera set-ups are starting to become the norm for horror movies that deal with ghosts, demons, and ax-wielding creatures that go bump in the night. These movies often campaign with “leaked” footage and “evidence” to stir people’s imagination. This has become a great way to push movies out into the mainstream. Since people are always intrigued by a mystery, this sparks debate about what has been revealed, and has people talking about it long before the movie comes out.
An early form of using news media to create a false story was with Orson Welles, who did “War of the Worlds” on local radio on October 30, 1938. He absolutely terrified people with the idea that aliens had invaded Earth through mock news bulletins. Later on you had films by William Castle that had people dressed up as nurses with ambulances outside the movie theatre, warning that the movie was so scary people might pass out or have heart attacks.
In 1992, on Halloween night, the BBC UK broadcast a show called “Ghostwatch” – a “live” showing of a haunted house. The BBC had field reporters for up-to-the-minute news of the paranormal activity, experts, and the family members at the haunted house. A studio crew took calls from viewers on their paranormal experiences while watching their fellow journalist on site. This of course was entirely scripted and pre-recorded. The story for “Ghostwatch,” though, was based off an actual haunting that occurred in 1978, known as the “Enfield Poltergeist”. “Ghostwatch” caused quite a stir, since people thought it was real; this might have been because they were using known journalists on the show instead of actors. People called in during the broadcasting complaining about how frightening this was, and “how dare they show it”. Today you can do a Google search and easily find it in its entirety on video websites.
In 1999 Blair Witch was filmed on a small budget in various locations of Maryland. Here you had the early stages of the net really being utilized for promotions. It was portrayed as a story of this old film being “found” and released to the public. It had an entire false back-story and everything. A webpage was created with the “evidence” and information. The SyFy Channel even broadcast a special on the legend of the Blair Witch that was well done and gave a prequel to the movie.
After that, we’ve had many fake documentary/horror films come out on various levels, from independent films to blockbusters. Then “Paranormal Activity” took the idea to another level. They made a horror movie as realistic as possible, with the viewer hardly seeing any ghost or demon – just people scared of an unseen force. Though many people knew this is just a work of fiction, many people also thought this movie was real as well.
Some paranormal enthusiasts enjoy going to these movies and either being scared or finding humor in it. When can you tell whether you’re looking at a viral video of a horror movie or actually looking at someone’s evidence? Granted, it is at times very obvious that someone fabricated evidence for either a movie promo or to try and see if they can get away with it. Other times it is not as easy to see. With all of these media sites, where you can post everything from images to audio files, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between real and fake.