The Spot: Undressed to Kill

Lingerie sexbots ambush their latest victim in Agent Provocateur's campy Halloween horror commercial

GENESIS: Agent Provocateur wanted a short film for its high-end Soiree lingerie that would be sexy, stylish, and show lots of product. A pink garment from the collection reminded director Justin Anderson of nightgowns worn in old horror movies. "I always watched horror movies as a way to get close to someone I fancied. It was an excuse to jump on them!" says AP creative director Sarah Shotton. "That kind of innocence has disappeared, and we wanted to bring that back." Anderson set about creating an homage to old horror—from the Hammer films of the 1950s and '60s to the erotic classic Vampyros Lesbos from 1971. In the two-minute spot, a woman alone in a house at night is set upon by half-naked vampire sexbots, who crawl around, strike seductive poses, and eventually feast on their host, turning her into one of them—blank stare, hair pulled back, a vision of aggressive, stylish sexuality.

COPYWRITING: The spot, titled "Fleurs du Mal" ("Flowers of Evil"), is a campy, erotic fashion show. "In fashion, the narrative is often driven by the need to show product," says Anderson—hence all the posing and writhing. And while horror may be a novel genre for fashion, at its core, the spot has "a classic fantasy makeover plot," says Shotton. "Like Grease," adds Anderson, "the girl in the pink nightie turns into the leather-clad vixen." There's no dialogue, except when the woman answers the phone at the beginning of the ad.

ART DIRECTION: The house environment is modern and cool—a departure from the more Gothic settings the client has used in the past. The spot is letterboxed at the start to make it feel like a real horror film. (When the vampires appear, it shifts to 16:9.) For the set, "a lot of the references I looked at were quite pop, like Allen Jones," Anderson says. "I wanted a kind of classical modernism."

FILMING: Anderson filmed in a house in north London over one long day and night, shooting entirely off a Steadicam rig on an Alexa camera, which allowed fluidity of movement but let him frame things precisely. The lighting is fairly bright and low contrast—the opposite of classic horror. For inspiration, Anderson looked at films like Night of the Living Dead, Michael Haneke's Funny Games, and teen horror like the Scream movies. "I am also a big [Luis] Buñuel fan," he says. "The dragging scene is a direct reference to Catherine Deneuve being dragged through the mud in Belle de Jour."

TALENT: Kirsten Varley plays the lead. Billie Brown, Georgie Hobday, Juli Molnar, and Luma Grothe are the sexbots. They needed to be able to act and have the right physique. "Often the girls who have the interesting looks can be too thin for lingerie," Anderson says. There is lots of nudity, but that's just the product. "The collection is what it is," he says. "If you are going to show a cupless bra or playsuit, then you will see a lot of flesh . . . My only decision was not to put nipple tassels on everyone, as I thought they might look like showgirls."

SOUND: Shotton wanted a death-metal soundtrack to amplify the horror and humor. She loved Epoch Films' suggestion of Omaha Bitch (whose lead guitarist, Faustin Claverie, is a creative at Mother in London). Shotton says it's "the kind of noise you want to hear when wearing your underwear." Adds Anderson: "If they floated around to Maria Callas, the film would be quite different."

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