As Hulu enjoys its biggest year yet thanks to the launch of its live TV service and the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, the streaming service is building on its momentum with a Halloween activation that it says will help it redefine TV while also driving new subscriptions.
Beginning today, Hulu is celebrating “Huluween” with an Hulu Haunted House that combines a short-form six-part anthology series called The House, VR videos, exclusive interviews with horror film stars and creators as well as a spooky spin on the Yule Log videos that are popular during the Christmas season.
“People have a default idea of what television is, and at Hulu, we have an opportunity to redefine it,” said John S. Couch, Hulu’s vp of experience design. “As part of our overall philosophy of developing new ways of telling story, we wanted to define new experiences for the fans. Part of that was be the idea of, let’s build this around a theme, and figure out new ways of leading a person through narrative into a deeper experience with the content.”
The Haunted House activation includes an opening short which establishes “the mythology of the original sin, the tree of knowledge and how the wood from that tree is showing up in different haunted houses throughout the world,” said Couch.
That theme is central to the six short-form House anthology films, three of which are available today. The shorts, which feature haunted houses in different locales and time periods, “are all homages to, and plays on, the horror and scary movie and show genre,” said Couch.
The first wave of House shorts—all of which are available for free—includes Let Us In, which Couch compared to films like Scream. Two people dressed in creepy nun costumes break into a house in order to make a “sacrifice,” but get more than they bargained for.
Let Us In will lead into The Reckoning, one of two VR extensions that WEVR created for Hulu, which are available for free on Hulu’s VR app. “You can have an additional experience by going into the VR side of it and seeing the opposite side of the story. So go from being the victim to the killer,” said Couch.
The second House video, Unexplained Phenomena, is a throwback to ‘80s shows like the Robert Stack-hosted Unsolved Mysteries, “that talk about things you can’t understand,” said Couch.
The third short, The Projectionist, is “a classic, almost noir-feeling film,” said Couch, that follows a young couple attending a special midnight screening of a horror movie.
By making the House shorts available for free, Couch hopes they will drive new subscribers to Hulu. “These short films will also be a way to engage the audience to say, hey, there’s this really cool stuff happening within the Hulu experience itself,” he said. “They are being both used as traditional content within the experience itself, but also as a way to expose the fact that we are doing this Huluween experience within Hulu.”
Beyond the House shorts, Hulu has created six “scenics,” extended videos of creepy Halloween-themed scenes, which Couch compared to the Yule Log videos that people put on their TV screens during the Christmas season. Viewers can watch a creepy graveyard or a witch’s cauldron, which Hulu suggested are perfect background scenes for a Halloween party.
Subscribers will also have access to new “Frights and Insights” interviews with the casts and crews of movies like The Monster Squad and Fright Night.
The activation’s second wave, on Oct. 25, will bring three more short films, one with another companion VR experience, along with additional “scenics” and a series of podcasts.
Ultimately, the short-form offerings will point subscribers towards the vast horror movie and TV content available in Hulu’s library. Each week, the streaming service is presenting new collections of curated, horror-themed library content.
The Huluween activation will run through the end of the month, and then “we’ll take this model and continue to own different seasons moving throughout 2018 and beyond,” said Couch. “You’re seeing it at the very beginning stages, and it will continue to grow and expand over the coming months and year.”
Hulu hopes that brand partnerships will be part of that expansion. The company didn’t team up with any sponsors for Huluween, but going forward, “the idea of having a really appropriate brand partner for the content would be awesome,” said Couch.