When it comes to horror films, viral marketing is one of the most effective to bring them huge amounts of attention and pique curiosity. After the initial costs of the video or stunt, content going viral is essentially free advertising – people share it because it’s interesting or clever or scary and it spread like wildfire without an additional cent on the part of the filmmakers. Not only is it free advertising, but they can simultaneously set the tone for the type of horror film they’re promoting and how they want to present their film.

Here are three of the most successful viral marketing horror film campaigns:

The Blair Witch Project

Considered by many to be the horror film responsible for the launch of viral marketing, the filmmakers launched an official website detailing the story of the film, which involves three college students going missing while filming a documentary in Burkittsville, Maryland regarding a local legend known as the Blair Witch. The material was presented as being fact as a way to help hype anticipation for the film’s release. Additional updates were made to the film’s website with further details regarding the group’s “disappearance,” which helped to create even more buzz for the release.

Paranormal Activity

Viral marketing is also responsible for the wide success of this film, which involves a young couple moving into a home only to be terrorized by a demon who one of them believes has been following them all of their life. Similar in nature to The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity is presented in the style of found footage, blurring the lines between a narrative story and a documentary aesthetic. It also became one of the first films to used both social media and online buzz to help market it, and it ended up grossing close to $200 million worldwide.

Devil’s Due

To help promote this film, which involves a psychic giving a couple an ominous warning about the wife’s sudden pregnancy during their honeymoon, an animatronic “devil baby” was used on the streets of New York to elicit reactions from bystanders. The reactions were hilarious and the baby was most definitely scary, which caused the video of the encounters to achieve more than 54 million views on YouTube.

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