How Netflix has sold the latest adaptation of a gothic romance classic.
Rebecca, out this week on Netflix, is the latest in a series of adaptations of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name. This version, written by Jane Goldman and directed by Ben Wheatly, stars Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter and Lily James as Mrs. de Winter. The couple, married after only a brief courtship, soon move back to the huge seaside estate of his to begin their life together.
It’s at that point trouble begins. The new Mrs. de Winter is haunted by Rebecca, the first to carry that name. Sometimes that haunting is literal in how she still seems to be inhabiting the home, with bits of her life and possessions around and about. More figuratively, the young bride is constantly being reminded of she who came before by the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).
Mixed reviews for the film started emerging last week, giving it a lackluster 55% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, though most at least called out the fantastic production values. Netflix’s marketing has played up the atmospheric aspects of the story and the psychological trauma being visited on the young woman.
The newly-married couple are the prime elements on the first poster (by marketing agency Empire Design), released in early September. They’re embracing but he, at least, appears somewhat distracted, which hints at some of the drama to come.
A series of additional posters came out in early October that each take a slightly different atmospheric take on the story. All, though, visually play with the ideas of the new couple being close but somehow separated in some manner, often by Mrs. Danvers herself. They’re some very interesting designs that do more to present the tone of the film than the primary version.
The first trailer (1.25 million views on YouTube) came out in early September, starting with the meeting of Maxim and the young woman followed by the evolution of their romance. They are soon married, but when she joins him at his home at Manderlay things become dark quickly. The new Mrs. de Winter, as she’s becoming acclimated to her surroundings, finds the memory of Maxim’s first wife is still very much alive in the house, with physical evidence all around her. Not only is Maxim acting strangely when it comes to Rebecca but so is Mrs. Danvers, who keeps introducing the specter of the late wife into every situation and emotion. It’s an increasingly tense story being sold here, one filled with atmosphere and huge rooms containing layers of mystery.
Online and Social
Nope, but Netflix did provide some support on its brand social channels. It wasn’t much, though, as the company seemed focused on other recent releases over the last few weeks.
Advertising and Promotions
Netflix released the first official stills in early August, announcing the October debut date at the same time.
After the first trailer came out a short explainer video offering an overview of the story and introducing the cast was released. Hammer and James appeared in a featurette on how the book was adapted in this latest version.
James starred in a featurette focused on movie trivia and more.
Media and Press
In an interview from early September, Wheatley clarified that he wasn’t attempting to remake Hitchcock’s film but was instead offering his own adaptation of the source material.
Hammer appeared on “Kimmel” earlier this month to talk about the movie and did a few other interviews. James’ participation in the final publicity push seems to have been stifled by rumors regarding her personal life.
Outside of the book, the most famous version of this story is likely Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation. Compared to the marketing of that film, this one very much comes off as a kind of goth-lite, one that’s more concerned with shots of massive hallways and such than in effectively creating a sense of dread or terror akin to what the new Mrs. de Winter is supposed to be feeling.
But there is still a consistent visual brand that’s been established by the campaign. It’s just that this time around it’s a bit brighter and slicker than what’s come before. Hammer and James glide through that and look good doing it, but it remains to be seen if that’s a strong enough hook to get audiences interested.
Picking Up The Spare
James was interviewed on “The Tonight Show” about the film and other projects she’s involved in. She and Hammer were interviewed together about how this version is based on the original book and not meant to be a remake of Hitchcock’s classic film.
There were also two profile of the film’s costume designer about creating the look of the characters and how it plays into the style of the movie as a whole. Using a specific scene as an example, the filmmakers drilled into creating that production style. That was followed by a story about