The horror genre has long been a staple for the big screen, with memorable monsters ranging from the early days of Nosferatu to the enduring Freddy and Jason and the current creepy Annabelle. One company, Crypt TV, is bringing a band of creative new horror characters to the smallest of screens – mobile.
Crypt TV is reimagining horror for the digital age, reaching new generations of fans by designing and promoting its product through social channels. Crypt has become dominant on Facebook though its Facebook Show Page, and one of Crypt's show pages Crypt Monsters is a top original content show page with 1.4 million followers. In fact, the Crypt Monsters show page recorded over 115,000,000 organic views last December alone.
Crypt TV is the brainchild of Jack Davis, a 27-year-old entrepreneur who founded his company in 2015 with Eli Roth and an investment from Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions. Roth and Davis came up with the idea for the company when they were students at Duke University. In 2014, they came up with a contest called ‘6 Second Scare,’ on Vine, a challenge for makers to create a frightening scene in six seconds. The challenge got 10,000 entries, and Blum saw a way to build his digital strategy for Blumhouse.
Today, Crypt TV is a fast-growing business, doing both original content and creating promotions for the horror film genre. Davis likes to say that Crypt is “Marvel for monsters,” meaning it is the modern comic book alternative for the horror genre. He has grown his audience quickly by creating iconic characters and putting them out on social media.
Some of those characters include Sunny Family Cult, the Birch (a scary tree monster), and most notably, Giggles the Clown, a frightening pixie nurse with razor-sharp teeth and a bloody smile, who has two of her own series of “Giggles Tries” and diary vlogs.
The audience is also a key part of Crypt’s success, as fans can interact with the company and their favorite digital series, like Look-See, Sunny Family Cult and Crypt Fables.
“Everything is created and grown because of this audience. We want to be where young folks are. Plus, it’s a cost-effective medium - [for only a couple thousand dollars], you get data and audience insight, immediately,” said Davis, who added that the data helps the company know what is working, as well as the instant fan feedback.
“What [content] we choose to grow is audience-response driven. We have enough of sample size to make informed decisions. We grow to serialize the characters through fan response. Data deeply informs the story. We have different demographic breakdowns by monster, and we know where, how and when people are watching,” he stated.
Mobile was a natural fit for the channel, since Davis and many of the millennials on his staff grew up using a mobile phone. Also, being from Los Angeles, he was steeped in great characters and stories and understands the power of having memorable characters.
“The best monsters throughout history – Dracula, Freddy Krueger, Jason – the best characters live forever. But no one has used this medium to create characters – social, mobile and digital. No one was bringing great characters to digital,” he said. “You need to be highly visual to succeed on mobile – people are scrolling through – but a very visual monster can do that. Sometimes people are not watching with [sound] dialogue.”
Davis stated that the process and content team combine to make Crypt a success. He added that the content makers come from everywhere. In some instances, the filmmakers approach Crypt to come on board, and in others, the team will reach out to them.
“We’re working with young creatives. They’re pumped up about creating for this format. If you’re a digital native creating it, you can really hit the mark,” said Davis.
Before they can contribute content, however, new creators must go through a Crypt bootcamp of sorts. They’re walked through everything the Crypt team has learned. They learn that a powerful visual is very important, especially since it’s usually on a smaller screen and the films are short. They then work with the development team, who reviews scripts. The preproduction team walks them through the equipment and how to work within budget.
“We know what has worked in budgets. You have to make every dollar work,” said Davis, but added that the filmmakers are allowed creative freedom. “You can never recreate unique creative.”
Socially driven horror with cross-platform promotions
Crypt is driven by social, and it lives on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, and that creates a sense of discovery, and of course, sharing. The channel works with influencers to get content viewed and liked.
Crypt also works with movie studios to promote mainstream horror films. The reason for the cross promotion is simple – horror fans love the genre no matter what the format. Davis says it’s organic and authentic to speak to the audience. They help with horror trailers – like the recent one for A Quiet Place – as well as with promotions and even red carpet coverage, often led by Giggles.
Davis said they won’t promote a film if they don’t like it, but they are passionate about the movies they work with and are competent and thorough in vetting. Also, working with studios helps the bottom line.
Ultimately, Crypt TV keeps growing because the content is good and horror fans flock to their pages because of solid characters.
“We want to build the next Freddy Krueger. One character alone worth incredible amount of money, but we’re not out for a quick buck,” said Davis.
Crypt looks to grow its intellectual property anyway it can, through merchandise, film openings and live events, though he doesn’t rule out that Crypt may some day look to television or big screen movies if they see that as the right way to grow.
No matter how it grows, Davis believes the next generation of characters will be born from the digital medium. He cites the popularity of Stranger Things as a great story that was born from a new platform in streaming. “The same type of culture changing story lines are going to come from these new mediums.”