How Columbia Pictures and Blumhouse are selling a dark take on a television classic.
Blumhouse has made a name for itself over the last few years as the go-to production house for thrilling low-budget horror that offers something fresh for audiences. That reputation has been diminished somewhat as Jordan Peele has created something new and socially relevant to the genre.
The producer’s latest release is this week’s Fantasy Island, an update of the classic TV series fo the same name. That series focused on a magical island where guests arrived to live out their fantasies, which often provided some kind of insight into their true personalities, sometimes uncomfortably so.
While the new movie retains the same essential premise, it takes it into a much darker direction. Michael Peña plays Mr. Roarke, the island’s host. The guests that arrive include Elena (Maggie Q) and Melanie (Lucy Hale) among others, all of whom think they’ve come for a bit of a romp. It turns out the fantasies they’re offered are not only dark but potentially dangerous to everyone. It’s up to them, then, to navigate the island and save themselves.
The $12-17 million opening weekend estimated by early tracking would appear to be a disappointing number, even measured by Blumhouse’s niche standards. While Columbia’s marketing has tried to leverage the movie’s brand appeal, that hasn’t turned into meaningful interest.
In early November the first poster (by marketing agency Cold Open) came out offering an ariel look at the island, the shoreline of which upon further inspection forms the shape of a face screaming. The dread is further conveyed by the inclusion of “#NeverComingHome.”
Lurking danger is also the key message on the next poster (by marketing agency BOND), released later in the month. This time that’s conveyed by showing the relatively benign top of the island above the waterline while the bottom completes the form of a screaming skull. “Anything you desire. Everything you fear.”
At first everything seems idyllic and wonderful in the first trailer (8.2 million views on YouTube), released in November. We see Melanie and a group of others arrive on a paradise island, where Mr. Roarke welcomes them and tells them their every desire will come true during their stay. As those fantasies begin to come true, she and the others are surprised at how visceral they are. When things become even more dark they come to the realization there are more sinister motives at play on the island and they may be in danger.
The second trailer (326,000 views on YouTube) from late January opens with Melanie recording a video after having arrived on Fantasy Island. After the same basic setup that the characters have been assembled to live out their fantasies, but it seems there are powers that have twisted those fantasies into something much darker that may be a threat to all those on the island.
Online and Social
For such a potentially rich environment like a creepy, mystery-filled island, the movie’s official website uses none of that in its design or navigation. The standard content is there, but nothing else. It doesn’t even have a good interactive image or anything.
Advertising and Promotions
Videos like this cut down the trailer to its basic elements to introduce the concept along with some of the characters and establish, or try to, a sense of mystery and dread as a way to create intrigue in the audience. Those videos were used on TV as well as social media, on video sites as pre-roll ads and elsewhere.
Online ads – and presumably outdoor billboards – used the key art of the screaming island to build brand recognition.
Media and Press
The stars – particularly Pena, Hale and Maggie Q – made the talk show rounds, but that appears to be about it in terms of press activity.
It feels like there should be a lot more here. For a movie with presumably significant brand recognition – it’s likely a big reason why it was greenlit and moved into production – there’s not much being done to take advantage of that.
While the trailers and posters work well in showing the audience what to expect, including that this isn’t the kind of Fantasy Island their parents watched in reruns, the campaign also doesn’t play with the material at hand at all, which is disappointing. There’s a lot of potential here to deepen audience engagement with the brand through “What’s Your Fantasy” quizzes and interactive features, navigation of the different parts of the island and more.