Celia: A Cautionary Tale of Video Titles

I enjoy attending MonsterMania Con because it allows me a periodical dousing in horror. Recently I’ve taken to finally viewing some of the selections that I acquired while there this last go-round.

My most recent selection brought to mind, yet again, an issue that seems to be popping up more and more. One film I picked up was bombastically proclaiming itself as Celia: Child of Terror, and the cover image featured a girl (Rebecca Smart) with shotgun in tow.

Now the image of her holding the shotgun does occur in the film, and there is build in the film throughout. However, the title Child of Terror evokes something entirely different than what the pull quotes suggest. Child of Terror evokes something exploitative and potentially hokey, meanwhile, the pull quotes wherein Janet Maslin of the New York Times makes an allusion to Blue Velvet and where Tom Hutchison of The Mail compares it favorably to The 400 Blows and The Fallen Idol portend something more serious-minded. So these things do not necessarily mesh. However, it was the quotes and the synopsis that sold me on the film.

Celia: Child of Terror (1989, Scorpion Releasing)

As the film started, I was reminded of some of the factoids I absorbed about it months ago when deciding whether or not I should buy it. I saw the title Celia come up, without subtitle and something I kind of knew, but didn’t fully acknowledge until that moment, crystallized: Child of Terror was an add-on by the video distributor, a video box title as it were. Sure enough, the IMDb confirms that.

I was ready and open for anything and found that the subplots, the rise up to a boil at certain sections of the film, like the rabbit muster in Australia in the late 1950s and the ostracism of Communists and Communist sympathizers, make the film a more artful and dramatic piece than the box advertised. I rather enjoyed the film and I can separate something that’s in the control of the marketing department and/or distributor and the filmmakers. I can guarantee you that this subtitle has coerced others to buy or rent it and had them come away disappointed because they felt duped.

The other place I noticed something similar recently is that Full Moon Pictures has had a tendency lately to rename films of theirs that are about a decade old and re-release them through Redbox. On Redbox’s site the film shows a new release date so you assume it’s a new film rather than a re-issue. The only reason I caught on the first time around was through researching the cast. Eventually through an actor’s filmography I was able to discover what the film was called the first time it was released.

Mystery Monsters (1997, Full Moon)

The Full Moon film was called Goobers on re-issue and I liked it enough to include it here. I’m not quite sure yet if Celia will end up on the 2013 version of that list, but I do know that while Full Moon and Scorpion Releasing may be boosting their sales and rentals through this slightly misleading branding, but they’re playing with fire with this strategy.

Consumer advocacy shouldn’t really play into criticism. The film is the film and a review of said film is one’s explanation of what they think of the film and why. However, I am, at the end of the day, also a consumer so I think it appropriate to make this statement of caveat emptor separate from a review. This is just another case wherein one should be very careful. I knew full well that Goobers would likely be quite silly, I just didn’t know it was an old film. I learned and pass that knowledge on so that others may avoid that. I also knew that Celia would likely be artsier than the title implied and that too turned out to be the case. I was fine with both films, but not with the marketing strategies employed, and thought that others should be aware of said practices so you can make more informed viewing decisions.

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