Jordan Peele, one half of the iconic comedy team Key & Peele, makes his directorial feature debut with this week’s Get Out, a movie that’s billing itself as a socially conscious thriller. Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, a guy who’s getting ready to go for a weekend away with his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her family. He’s understandably nervous because they don’t know he’s black, but goes along with her because that’s where the couple is in their relationship.
Things get super-weird when they get there, though. Not only do Rose’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) seem incredibly odd in their attitudes and behavior toward Chris but the entire neighborhood is incredibly white. That only gets weirder when Chris finds out there’s a history of black people disappearing from the area without a trace. When some black people, including the hired help of Rose’s parents, start warning him to get out while he can Chris finds himself in the middle of an all-out crisis situation.
The U.S. poster is meant to create a sense of mystery and disorientation. It uses the look of a shattered piece of glass, with different parts of the story presented in each fragment. So in one we see a happy couple, in another it’s Chris being greeted warmly by Dean. But others are more ominous, either Chris’ frightened, wide-open eye or some insane character wearing an iron mask. It’s not anything all that revolutionary – this design concept has been used before – but it does succeed in creating an unease in the audience. Peele is name-dropped at the top of the poster along with other horror films from Blumhouse. Toward the bottom, just above the title treatment, we get the copy “Just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’re welcome,” which hints nicely at the story.”
The trailer popped up out of nowhere back in October, appearing with little to no notice and taking everyone by surprise, and with good reason. It starts out by setting up the situation, showing Chris and Rose getting ready for their weekend away and his nerves about that. Once there things quickly take a turn for the surreal as the entire world appears to be creepy and dangerous as Chris seems to be subjected to more and more psychological torture, which quickly adds a physical element as well.
This looks just amazing. It sets up so much but only hints at the depths of what Chris is subjected to. Whitford and Keener in particular look great as they give off the vibe of being the kind of liberal white people that have academic conversations about race relations but are still capable of micro-aggressions of their own. Kaluuya, though, is the star here as he’s asked to hit so many beats. Just fantastic.
Online and Social
The front page of the official website features full-motion video of clips from the trailer along with a bit “Get tickets” button to encourage your actions.
The first content section in the top menu bar is “About” and is where you’ll be able to read a fairly spoiler-free synopsis. Skipping over another “Get tickets” link, the next section is the “Trailer” which you should re-watch. The “Art Gallery” has a handful of original art pieces that were inspired by the movie some of which is just amazing.
There’s a microsite next called “You Have to Get Out” that allows you to upload a picture and add some customized text to your own warning to others to get out of a location you’ve designated.
Finally there’s “Share,” which encourages you to tweet or otherwise post a link to the website on the social network of your choice. Oddly there don’t seem to be links on the site to the Twitter or Facebook profiles for the movie.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Some TV advertising was done with spots that tried to condense the important parts of the story into 30 seconds. That meant cutting out some of the setup, the stuff about Chris and Rose’s relationship, and getting straight to the bits about Chris being stuck in the house of increasingly terrible horrors. They’re tight and are meant to play directly to the horror fans, without many of story points of social commentary.
Online and outdoor advertising used variations on the key art to raise awareness and drive ticket sales. The trailer was used in some paid social advertising as well right after it was released.
Media and Publicity
It wasn’t on the official Sundance screening list but emerged as a secret midnight screening, something that earned it a ton of positive buzz and word-of-mouth. While there Peele talked about what inspired the story and what it was like making a horror movie, specifically one that’s so clearly about race.
As one half of a very popular comedy duo and the driving creative force behind the movie it’s not surprising Peele was the focus of the press push. Profiles of the writer/director appeared in GQ and The New York Times, allowing him talk about racial politics and identity, his intentions for the story, the horror and other inspirations he pulled from and lots more. At the movie’s premiere Whitford and the rest of the cast hit similar beats as well as what the experience of working with Peele was like.
Peele, as the creative force behind the film, also made the talk show rounds to talk about the movie as well as his comedy career and what’s next in all regards.
As I said before, there are elements of this campaign that seemed to downplay some of the socially aware – “woke,” to use the common vernacular – parts of the story in favor of selling it as a straight horror movie that’s just all about being trapped in a creepy house in a creepily nice neighborhood with an increasingly creepy family. That’s not true of the entire marketing push but it’s interesting that there are parts, specifically the mainstream TV segment that presumably will create most of the awareness and interest in the movie, where the racial angle is missing. Make of that what you will.
What’s also a bit surprising is that the campaign is so front-loaded to five months ago. Sure, there’s lots of press activity and TV advertising that’s been done in the last month or so, but I’m not sure why there wasn’t at least one other trailer recently. Maybe Peele and Universal decided to just let it lie and let that one trailer do the heavy lifting, but the lack of additional marketing materials means there hasn’t been fodder for additional press commentary and social chatter. The media interviews don’t achieve that entirely, meaning there’s seemingly a big chunk missing from the marketing as a whole.
That doesn’t take away from the impact of the campaign. That trailer is still incredibly good, as is the poster. It just means there isn’t the volume to the marketing that would help it achieve an even greater profile.