Today, the teaser trailer for the eagerly anticipated Child's Play reboot debuted, giving fans a first look at the latest incarnation of the murderous doll Chucky...only it didn't.
While it is a fun, creepy tease of the upcoming horror movie, the trailer doesn't provide a full reveal of the reboot's take on its most iconic character. Glimpsed in the shadows, or barely seen from the periphery with his devilish, artificial hands at lethal work, Chucky is never actually seen in full at all during the trailer, though his terrifying presence is certainly felt throughout.
Not unveiling the franchise's most popular character in the reboot's first look is a fairly bold strategy, though not entirely unprecedented. In fact, one of the biggest box office surprise hits of 2018 employed a similar strategy regarding its titular character when it debuted its own first trailer: Sony's Venom.
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The teaser trailer for the Spider-Man antihero's film featured plenty of footage of Tom Hardy's Eddie Brock fighting his inner demons, with hints of the sinister symbiote at work under the surface. But the trailer included absolutely no actual footage of Venom himself. There were certainly lots of reasons for this strategy, the most obvious being that the visual effects to fully render the transformed character may not have been finalized eight months before the film's wide theatrical release. But Venom also signaled a return to a less-is-more style marketing strategy when promoting films, an approach designed to help build anticipation with the fans. It's something that has since been adopted by Marvel Studios and other major film companies in a big way.
In the wake of audiences complaining that trailers were giving away too much of an upcoming film's plot ahead of its release, marketing strategies have shifted to give an added air of secrecy. Even though many anticipated the resurrection of Superman in 2017's Justice League, the character's return was largely kept out of the film's promotional campaign (Some box office analysts would argue to the film's commercial detriment). Marketing for next month's Captain Marvel has pointedly avoided revealing exactly who Jude Law will be playing in the MCU film, with fan speculation divided over whether Law will portray Mar-Vell or Yon-Rogg. Avengers: Endgame has been even more guarded in its secrets, with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige commenting that the film's trailers may not even showcase footage beyond the movie's first 20 minutes. And LucasFilm's Star Wars: Episode IX has yet to release an official first look at the film at all, even though we're a mere ten months away of its scheduled wide release.
Of course, the downside of this marketing strategy is that it can put off fans desperately hungry for more information about upcoming movies, a paradoxical contradiction to many of the same fans complaining about the oversharing in trailers past. It also suggests the studio may not be entirely confident with its designs and is spending more time fine-tuning them to fan expectation; this backlash was experienced by Doomsday's design in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice resulting in a slightly redesigned look in the final film than that seen in the trailers.
The full reveal of Chucky by the Child's Play reboot's marketing before its June wide release is inevitable; even Venom had his grand debut two months after the release of his film's initial teaser, after all. But the trailer's conscious effort to keep the horror movie icon under wraps a bit longer is signs of a wider, more restrained marketing strategy employed by Hollywood recently. It's a pretty safe bet that when Chucky does make his grand entrance, the studio is going to make sure it will be a moment that gets audiences talking.
Child's Play is directed by Lars Klevberg (Polaroid) from a script by Tyler Burton Smith (Kung Fury 2). The reboot stars Aubrey Plaza, Brian Tyree Henry and Gabriel Bateman. The film is scheduled to be released in theaters on June 21.