To grow a business, you must adapt. To adapt, you must sometimes destroy what came before you. As a boundary-pushing small business owner/vengeful spirit of a young girl drowned in a well, I learned this lesson the hard way.
I am Samara, the murderous ghost from the Japanese horror flick turned North American hit The Ring. If you’re one of the 17% of Americans who still use a VCR, you may know me well. If not, my rise and fall may be no more than a blip on your cultural radar. This is my story.
I ran a lucrative, buzzed-about business that was uniquely my own. For those unfamiliar, customers would watch a VHS tape (can you say “throwback”?) featuring eerie black & white images of my mother, a well, a lighthouse, and other seemingly disconnected visuals. Immediately after, I would phone them to pronounce the phrase “seven days”, and then hang up. Vague, no? Maybe even frustratingly so? Well, at launch, this ambiguity was everything.
Nobody knew what would happen in seven days, who I was, or how I got their number, especially if they were unlisted in the local phone book (can you say “throwback”?). What they did know for sure… was that they wanted more.
The VHS was passed around (I only made one copy, because exclusivity = profitability), but what really sold the concept was the fact that I delivered firmly on the promise that the final product would be worth the obscurity. After seven days, I would crawl out of my nasty little ghost well, slither across a lawn of dead grass and crusty grasshoppers, and squeeze out of my client’s TV set. And then, I would kill them.
I believe that a CEO has to get their hands dirty, and in this case, I put my money where my black sludge-laden mouth was.
My work was infamous. You couldn’t travel to a small New England town without terrified teens daring each other to give my murder tape a spin on movie night.
“Maybe we can play it off your dad’s project?”
“Wanna make popcorn?”
“Perhaps a double feature with this water banshee death tape and, I don’t know, Miss Congeniality?”
This type of open-ended brand synergy set us ablaze, which I’m sure begs the question: why haven’t you heard of me?
The answer brings us back to the opening notion of this piece: innovation. DVDs took over VHS as the preferred home viewing conduit, and converting my cursed VHS to a disc was simply out of our budget (despite our word-of-mouth success, we never made a penny. But hey, all great businesses lose money their first few years).
Still, as DVDs, VOD, and eventually streaming crushed VHS into a rectangle relic of the past, the final nail in my coffin came with the ubiquity of the smartphone.
My sick little blood movie required full attention. I saw my efficiency rate drop as many viewers missed pivotal moments, such as my mother sliding a large stone over the opening of the well, trapping me in their forever and jumpstarting my bloodlust. Instead of taking in the old woman as she stared horrifically at the lens, they would read a Cracked article titled “Seven Things You Didn’t Know Batman Was Allergic To”, rendering their viewing completely useless.
People would share clips of the tape via Snapchat, which, out of context, punctured a hole in the hype machine I had so carefully crafted. They mostly agreed that the tape was not worth the build-up, but of course it isn’t when you’re not getting brutally murdered by a child at the end of it. Nobody respects a slow burn these days.
Finally, smartphones and their intuitive caller ID led to more screened phone calls, meaning more voicemails for me. That built-in voicemail transcription tech is so finicky that often times it translates “seven days” to “sectional appraise” and people think it’s just solicitation from a furniture company.
So, what’s next for a wrathful phantom such as myself, you ask? Well, just as innovation may bring death, it also brings life.
I’ve experimented with a few new ventures; a musical remake featuring Beanie Feldstein as me; a puzzle game that, when you lose, results in me crawling out of your smartphone and giving the ol’ soaking wet ghosticide; I even have some streamers interested in a 4K remaster of the original flick, although I’m not sure I can keep up with distribution in terms of murder if this thing were to become a ratings juggernaut.
Whatever’s next for me, I intend to tackle it with the same ferocity, loyalty and can-do attitude I’ve applied to my entire career as a homicidal spirit. Let’s just hope my comeback is more of an Apple, and less of a Enron (can you say “throwback”?).
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Zach Raffio is a NY based comedian + writer. He is head writer of The Broadway Beat, a Broadway/theatre-based satire publication which Seth Rudetsky has called “truly brilliant comic writing”. He contributes to satire site The Hard Times and co-hosts the podcast PEAKED with HaleyJane Rose and Edward Precht, where each week the trio dives into a guest’s teenage years to decide whether or not they peaked in high school. Guests include Matt and Kim, Jamie Loftus, Ziwe Fumudoh, Zach Reino of Off Book: The Improvised Musical, and Wes Miles of Ra Ra Riot.