take_shelterAsk any decent father what he would do to protect his family and the answer would likely be “anything,” “whatever I needed to” or some variations thereof. We are hard-wired with the capacity to love boundlessly and to take whatever actions are necessary to make sure our wife and children are safe from whatever dangers we can see or imagine.

That word “imagine” is especially relevant for the new film Take Shelter. Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a husband to Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and father to Hannah (Tovah Stewart). He works construction in a small town and one day begins to see and hear strange things. Coming to believe some sort of horrible and dangerous events are in the future he begins, without his wife’s knowledge at first, to construct an underground shelter in their backyard. While those around him see him as acting strangely at best he thinks it’s all very reasonable based on the signs he’s seeing. But the key to whether he’s acting rationally or not may be held by his own mother, who has long suffered from paranoia and mental illness.

The Posters

The first poster was pretty creeper. Shannon and his family are standing outside an underground storm/bomb shelter (which looks kind of like jaws ready to devour them in the context) on a sunny day, but with a whole swarm of insects buzzing around above them in the sky. It definitely conveys a sense of impending troubles as the family looks like their on the verge of a breakdown standing there preparing to go into shelter.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie made it seem appropriately mysterious. LaForche, seems to have a good life but then explains that he’s been having odd dreams about apocalyptic dreams about severe storms. He begins acting strangely and starts to build an emergency shelter in his family’s backyard. We learn that his mother has a history of paranoid delusions and things quickly take a turn for the worse as his family and friends begin to turn on him because of his odd behavior, with his visions becoming more and more distinct and frightening.

It’s a tight, interesting trailer that not only sets up the premise of the film well but also gives us one possible solution, though my guess is that’s just a red herring for the real conclusion. It’s clear Shannon gives a powerhouse performance here and he’s in just about every shot of the trailer. It comes off as a little bit like something akin to Signs or similar movies but, based on the buzz that had accumulated before this trailer debuted, hopes are high that it’s more original.

Online

The movie’s official website starts off by playing the trailer, which is absolutely worth watching again.

After you close that the first section of content is “Synopsis” which is is exactly what it sounds like. After that is a “Director’s Statement” that allows Jeff Nichols to talk briefly about what prompted him to write the movie and tell this particular story.

“The Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections allow you to dive into the career histories of the major players on the film.

The “Gallery” has 14 production stills. “Reviews” pulls quotes from some of the festival screening-based reviews though there aren’t links to the full pieces, which is unfortunate. “Links” will send you to the IMDb or Wikipedia pages for the people involved in the movie and, finally, there’s the “Trailer” which just has that one video.

The movie’s Facebook page is pretty standard, with photos and videos and updates with links to press stories and other things to try and get people excited for the film.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There may have been a little bit of online advertising done but that’s about it that I’m even marginally aware of.

Media and Publicity

The made its first public appearance at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as one of a few (Los Angeles Times, 1/29/11) that used extended metaphors to look at the difficulties being faced by society today, in this case the endless preparation for some coming disaster. Director Nichols offered his thoughts on the movie (Filmmaker Magazine, 1/29/11) as part of the press there. Even before Sundance, though, the buzz was good after it picked up an early distribution deal from Sony Pictures Classic.

Overall

The marketing stuff itself is pretty good but the strongest thing this campaign has going for it is the word of mouth that’s come out of festival screenings. But as usual there’s been little effort – at least publicly – to capitalize on that conversation. There may have been things happening behind the scenes but without something public it’s impossible to fully utilize that.

The campaign, though, makes a compelling case for a movie that looks very good and which promises to have some strong performances in an interesting story. There’s a lot of good stuff here for an audience that might be ready for something more serious after a summer of cheese.