How Netflix is selling a psychological thriller revolving around mental illness.
Alison Brie stars in and cowrote with director Jeff Baena the new movie Horse Girl. Brie plays Sarah, a woman who most people think is just a bit odd and awkward, never quite able to be fit in with family or coworkers. When she begins having strange dreams and incidents where she finds herself in places she doesn’t remember going to, the walls around her mental stability begin to erode. That becomes even more acute when she realizes she’s about the same age her grandmother was when she experienced a psychological break.
Netflix’s marketing of the feature has been brief but makes a strong case for Brie as not only an actress but also a voice for an issue that isn’t discussed frequently.
Sarah is shown in extreme closeup on the only poster (by marketing agency InSync Plus). It’s a common graphical approach, but one that matches the movie’s theme of mental health and the way someone’s eyes change when they’re going through a kind of break or episode. The poster was released so recently there’s no date here, just a “Watch now” prompt.
The first trailer (1.1 million views on YouTube) came out in late January. We meet Sarah, who at first seems like simply an awkward young woman who seems to want to have fun but isn’t quite sure how. Things become more serious when she reveals she’s having trouble sleeping and might be having hallucinations, finding herself in strange places with no idea how she got there. It turns out her grandmother had a history of psychological issues, and Sarah is concerned the same thing may be happening to her. And that behavior may be increasingly erratic and violent, leading to a potential break.
Online and Social
Nothing here, as usual.
Advertising and Promotions
The movie premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to generally positive reviews.
It was given one of the key promotional blocks on the Netflix signed-in homepage. Not above the fold, but still not down very far.
Brie expanded on her own family history with trauma and how she used that to inform this story in a featurette released by Netflix.
Media and Press
Brie was interviewed about developing the story and what kind of reaction she hoped it would have while at Sundance. She also talked about how the movie was shot in a largely improvisational manner, with the actors working out dialogue as they went and then filming what they felt was best.
The best parts of the campaign are the ones like the featurette where Brie talks so passionately about how personal this story is and the work she put into finding the right take on Sarah. It’s there that she makes the case that this is an unusual movie that touches on topics that aren’t discussed in many mainstream films, especially not with any nuance or detail.
It would have been great to see Netflix give this a bit more attention, but it seems that with so much else going on, especially given this is Oscars weekend, it just got pushed out with a minimal amount of effort and fanfare.