Under a brilliant sky, the yards are tidy, the pools are crystal clear and the suburbanites are puttering and partying. All is right, perfect even, in these summer scenarios. Or is it?
That overturned lawnmower, still running, is a dead giveaway that something is amiss. And what about that silhouette of a guy stalking an unsuspecting bathing beauty, meat skewer in hand?
Welcome to Oxygen’s “Cruel Summer” stunt, a cinematic slice of David Lynch-inspired vignettes sure to send out a cold shiver on a hot day.
The cable channel, which reimagined its identity and programming lineup last year to focus solely on true crime, is launching new series and original episodes this summer. To entice more viewers, execs hired Mike Gioulakis, cinematographer on horror flicks It Follows and M. Night Shymalan’s Split, to be the director of photography for its promo campaign.
The concept came from the in-house team at Oxygen, where execs said they had wanted to collaborate with Gioulakis since the rebrand. Doing so gave them “a real Cliff Note into taking classic summer activities and putting a sinister, creepy spin on them,” said Nancy Mazzei, the channel’s svp, creative and brand strategy.
“We didn’t need to explain the darkness we wanted to portray,” she said. “He understood it from what he already does.”
In taking quintessential summer moments and turning them on their heads, shot with beautiful saturated colors and lilting throwback tunes, the spots pack an eerie punch in their final seconds. And using an in-demand filmmaker helps get the “quality and higher standard” message across, Mazzei said.
Gioulakis said in behind-the-scenes footage that he wanted to work on the project because “the violence was just hinted at — you don’t see anything,” which allowed him to give “a lot of focus on small details.”
A third spot, called “Camping,” builds tension from the very first frame (and dread, in the context of the series). Let’s just say that getting away from it all to a remote location in total darkness may be overrated, as far as personal safety is concerned.
The spots are rolling out all summer, with more to come, on Oxygen and its NBC Universal siblings, digital and social media.
EVP Marketing, Bravo/Oxygen: Ellen Stone
SVP Creative & Brand Strategy, Oxygen: Nancy Mazzei
Head of Production, Bravo/Oxygen/Sprout: Tom Bayer
Creative Director, Promos: Yanik Archer
Creative Director, Graphics: Kaori Sohma
Production Manager, Oxygen: Michelle Palmer
Director: Andrew Killoy
DP: Mike Gioulakis
Editor: Matt Landin
Sound Design: Jon Dickson
Production Company: NuContext
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