How Netflix is selling its latest psychological drama.
Based on the book of the same name, The Devil All The Time comes to Netflix this week from director Antonio Campos. Tom Holland stars as Arvin Russell, the son of Willard (Bill Skarsgård) and Charlotte (Haley Bennett). Arvin is a troubled young man in 1960s rural Ohio who’s dealing with the legacy of murder and violence his late father and others have left in their wake. That even includes the small church Willard built after his tragic experiences during World War II.
Reverend Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson), the new preacher at that church, charms much of the small town but quickly comes into conflict with Arvin because of Teagardin’s sexual assault of Lenora (Eliza Scanlen), Arvin’s step-sister, which leads to her suicide. Adding to that is the corruption among town leaders and law enforcement and the secrets that everyone there seems to have.
Netflix’s campaign for the movie – which has a 68 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes – has played up the gothic noir elements of the story while also highlighting the all-star cast.
A small fire smolders in the corner of the first poster (by marketing agency P+A), released in early August. The title treatment is presented in landscape on the portrait-oriented design, meaning you have to turn your head a bit to see it. The transparent letters of the title reveal the faces of the cast, whose names also appear just above it.
In September the second poster came out. This one puts the members of the cast in an orange and brown image on the top half of the poster, the dark colors creating a sense of mystery and dread that’s emphasized by the ominous looks on most of the faces. At the bottom of all that is an animal skull that only adds to that sense. Of particular note here is the copy “Everyone ends up in the same damned place.”, which speaks not only to the fact that history tends to repeat itself in families but that some places are just damned.
The photos that appear on a series of character posters are all damaged in some manner, illustrating the way the characters themselves are damaged and twisted. Each one features a quote from that character as well to help set up who they are and what their motivations are.
The first trailer (11 million views on YouTube), released in early August, sets up a story about unexpected connections and sinister motivations. Centered on Arvin, we see how he’s grappling with the legacy of his late father in many ways while also trying to keep his mother safe from a creepy local preacher. Other relationships between the characters aren’t as clear, but the trailer certainly establishes a dark mood as a small town’s secrets and demons come to the surface.
Online and Social
No website for the film, but it did receive support on some of Netflix’s brand social profiles.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Netflix announced it had acquired the film in early 2019.
A featurette released a week or so ago had Holland talking about his accents, why he got involved in the project and approaching such dour material.
Media and Publicity
In August 2020 Netflix released the first stills from the movie along with an interview with comments from Campos, Holland and others.
A number of interviews with Holland included the actor talking about having to go a little darker than he has previously and his nervousness around that and more, though many of those wound up turning to topics like Spider-Man and other projects. There were also conversations with Campos where he talked about the violent nature of the story and with Pattinson about how he approached his role and performance.
Campos also talked about developing the gospel music heard in the film with producer/music supervisor Randall Poster. Costume designer Emma Potter was interviewed about creating the look of each character.
Your mileage for this campaign may vary depending on your interest in largely unredeemable characters and dark, nihilistic stories. Assuming you’re on board with that kind of thing, this may be right up your alley, something to scratch a particular itch with a movie that has lots of bad people doing lots of bad things for largely bad reasons.
While the details and actual outline of the story isn’t super clear from the campaign – there’s no identifiable through-line to the events or characters – the emphasis Netflix has placed on the actors themselves works in place of that. So there may be some fans of Holland, Pattinson and others who will check it out based largely on that alone, though they may find material that’s very different from the popular franchises those actors are well known for.