halloween kills – marketing recap

How Universal is selling the sequel to a movie that was a sequel that ignored the previous sequels to the original well I’ve gone cross-eyed…

Halloween Kills poster

2018’s Halloween got, by all accounts, better reviews than it was expected to, going on to bring in $255m at the domestic box office. Now the sequel to that film, Halloween Kills, is finally being released.

Picking up roughly right where the first movie left off, this one again pits Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) against the masked homicidal maniac Michael Myers, who is still bent on killing her and everyone around her. That list includes Laurie’s daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). It’s up to the three Strode women to try and bring Myers’ rampage to an end.

But of course this isn’t the end, and everyone knows it, as Halloween Ends, the final part of this trilogy, is scheduled for this time next year, all of which have been or will be directed by David Gordon Green. Until then, let’s see how this installment has been sold.

announcement and casting

That this movie – as well as the third installment – was coming was announced by Blumhouse during San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, with McBride, Green and Curtis all slated to return.

Shortly after that announcement the producers spoke about how unexpected this whole ride was. McBride and Green were interviewed about some details of the story, letting audiences know more or less what they could expect. Curtis talked about the movie in an interview last October, touching on the relevancy of the story to the current era.

At that same time a very short behind the scenes tease of what Green and the cast were shooting.

the marketing kills

Originally scheduled for October 2020, the release date was shifted a full year last July, with Green and producer John Carpenter issuing a statement explaining to fans why they felt the change was necessary to preserve the film and its intended presentation.

A short teaser was released in conjunction with that statement showing the Strodes being taken away from the scene of the fire while hoping that fire is allowed to continue burning in order to end Myers’ threat. Another came out on Halloween of 2020, promising the film would be coming out that time a year later while showing that things are far from safe for the citizens of Haddonfield.

An interview in late 2020 with Green had him assuring fans the filmmakers were not simply going to retread the story of the first film.

Curtis rightfully earned the title of Greatest Of All Time Scream Queen at the MTV Movie & TV Awards in December 2020.

The first full trailer (10.5m YouTube views) wasn’t released until June of this year, starting with the immediate aftermath of the previous movie. Michael has, of course, survived, with a body count following everywhere he goes. Laurie and her family are determined to end him, but he’s getting stronger the more he kills, setting up yet another confrontation between the two characters.

Myers’ cracked, scorched mask is the sole element on the first poster, also released in June. Embers swirl behind him, with the whole thing creating a very dark and gritty tone for the film.

In June of this year the movie’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival was announced along with Curtis’ receiving of a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Carpenter previewed “Unstable” from the movie’s soundtrack in August.

At Venice in September Curtis talked quite a bit about the series’ continued appeal, her award and how the movie’s message of evil being something not easily dispatched is relevant to the modern world.

Universal then announced the movie would debut day and date in theaters and on the company’s Peacock streaming service.

TV advertising began around that time as well, with spots like this that cut down the trailer while showing it’s not just the Strodes who are out to put a final end to Myers but the whole town, with the three core women leading the charge.

The final trailer (8.5m YouTube views) was released in late September. It shows that Myers is out once again on Halloween, terrorizing the residents of Haddonfield. He survived the fire Laurie set, but this time it’s not just her and a few others that have had enough but the whole town.

Early October brought a featurette that had the cast and crew talking about returning to the characters and story, whether their absence has been long or short. A second short featurette had Curtis talking about how the fight against Myers is multigenerational. In a third video everyone promises audiences that this is a *very* different movie and that the audience can expect lots of shocks.

The film screened at Beyond Fest earlier this month, with the cast and crew in attendance to answer fan questions and generally get folks excited.

A new poster released just over a week before the movie came out shows all three Strode women standing defiantly as their house burns in the background. There were also breakout character posters for Karen and Allyson.

Two more behind-the-scenes videos have Green talking about the technical difficulties of shooting this movie, including some of the more complicated effects sequences.

Overall

While this isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, the marketing campaign Universal has put together is cohesive, makes strong appeals to the target audience and spends only as much time as necessary connecting this to past films while keeping the focus on what’s new and upcoming. Those are all strengths. And you have to stand up and applaud how Curtis commits to the project, selling the movie with conviction and making sure to call out her costars and others.

Initial reviews haven’t been strong, with a paltry 54% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment. But tracking projects a strong opening weekend total of $35-55m, which may not be Bond numbers but certainly indicates strong audience interest. Whether or not the hybrid theatrical/streaming release impacts those projections will, I imagine, be watched with great interest.

Michael Myers GIF by Halloween - Find & Share on GIPHY

Stronger – Marketing Recap

The story of what happened in and around the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon has already come to the big-screen. Last year’s Patriots Day, named after the Boston holiday it took place, on, turned the events into a police procedural. This week’s new movie Stronger takes a different and more personal approach.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Jeff Bauman in this true-life tale. Jeff is a somewhat inattentive boyfriend to Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who’s running in the marathon. He makes the effort to go see her, though. Unfortunately he’s in the wrong place when one of the bombs goes off, losing his legs as a result of injuries suffered. The story follows Bauman’s journey through recovery as well as his reluctant acceptance of the role of inspirational role model for the whole city.

The Posters

The poster shows Gyllenhaal as Bauman in the middle of physical therapy, straining on the bars as he learns to walk again using the artificial legs we can just barely see at the bottom of the photo. “Strength defines us” we’re told at the top while below the title we’re reminded this is based on the “inspiring” true story.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out as Jeff Bauman encourages everyone at a bar to donate and support Erin’s upcoming run in the Boston Marathon. From there we see that their relationship isn’t always rosy before an explosion goes off in the crowd watching the race. We see Jeff wake up to find he’s missing his legs and everyone is trying to support and help him. He’s struggling, though, for obvious reasons. Eventually he begins to accept the new reality, including how everyone wants to view him as some sort of inspirational figure.

Well, it’s better than the trailers for last year’s Patriots Day, that’s for sure. It’s still all about hitting as many easy emotional chords as possible in an attempt to make the audience feel something, but at least it’s telling a personal, and therefore slightly more compelling, story. All the actors, from Gyllenhaal to Maslany, look fine as they’re asked to emote in various ways.

Online and Social

There doesn’t appear to be an official website for the movie, just a Facebook page and Twitter profile where the studio has been sharing updates on the marketing and publicity.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one show what happened to Bauman as well as the way the public expected something out of him that he struggled to deliver, namely the personification of hope and survival. We also see his rehabilitation and the work he does to eventually make peace with life and get better. Others like this were more concerned with focusing on the relationship between Bauman and Erin and how that changed over time.

The trailer was used later on as an ad not only on social media but on YouTube, where it ran as pre-roll. There were banner and other ads run elsewhere online that used the image of Gyllenhaal in the midst of physical therapy to help sell the movie as an emotional and triumphant story.

Media and Publicity

It was announced the movie would have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received a good amount of praise for the performances by Gyllenhaal and Maslany.

The real Jeff Bauman was interviewed here about not only the events he lived through but the experience of seeing a version of himself on screen.

Gyllenhaal carried most of the publicity load, though. He was interviewed here about his production company which was created specifically as a place to shepherd smaller films that deserve a bigger audience like this one. While at Toronto he also commented that after years of being asked if he’d play a superhero, this role allowed him to feel as if he’d done so. He made appearances on various morning and late night talk shows as well to talk about the movie and the real-life story that inspired it.

Overall

Usually my tolerance for these kinds of campaigns is pretty low. I don’t handle “inspirational” that well and tend to get tripped up in the attempts to blatantly appeal to my basest emotions.

This one hit me in a different way, though. There’s plenty of sentimentality on display, of course. The sweeping music, the nicely-lit shots showing someone overcoming the odds and enduring despite all the setbacks. But it was presented as much more of an individual than a spiritual story, which is a very different thing. Maybe that’s the influence of director David Gordon Green or someone else who more interested in not underlining the universal truths but keeping the focus on a more relatable subject.

Whatever the case, the campaign comes together very nicely as a cohesive whole. There are strong consistent elements throughout the push that create a single feeling in the audience and which could help the movie when it hits theaters this weekend.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.