Attending a movie is all about the experience. You wait in line, buy your tickets, and grab your favorite candy and some popcorn before settling into a chair within the theater. From there, the lights dim and the commercials that have been repeating for the last half hour transform into everyone’s favorite part of the experience: the previews! Okay, maybe I’m the only one who finds them to be the most exciting aspect, but any movie lover, regardless of preference, has most likely seen at least one trailer in his or her life.
Because we are so frequently exposed to movie previews (on TV and the computer along with the big screen), many viewers may be able to recognize some of the typical formulas within genres. For example, horror movies often start out with eery music or silence punctuated by startling sound effects. Rapid shots disorient the audience member until the movie title appears, usually with thin, spindly lettering. These characteristics come forth in the trailer for House at the End of the Street and many others in the same genre.
In fact, most trailers utilize many of the same components to translate a movie’s message and tone. The rapid shot length previously mentioned is also present in action movies. The fast pace imitates the rapid progression presented in the movie itself (examples include Hansel and Gretel and Skyfall). Shot transition, too, alters how one might perceive a clip. Many family-oriented dramas use the “fade” transition, which aids in creating a slower pace (A Warrior’s Heart and The Words). Furthermore, one of the most prominent tools in creating a trailer’s tone is music, or lack thereof. Comedy films often display multiple humorous moments in succession throughout a trailer, with the funny parts highlighted by a moment of silence. Many horror films build suspense by starting with silence and the occasional startling sound effect, using music only after an initial moment of terror. House at the End of the Street, Seven Psychopaths, Fun Size, and Detention all use silence in these ways and more. Finally, the typography cements one’s first impression of a trailer; comedies such as Fun Size and The Oranges utilize bright colors and a cartoonish font. The latter film puts the text in colored bubbles, which conveys a light-hearted feel despite the serious subject matter–a young girl sleeping with her parent’s friend. Similarly, serious films also use distinctive texts. In viewing the trailers, I noticed the scarier movies had thin, spindly fonts while dramas often used all capital letters. Thus, multiple elements can be manipulated to portray any given genre.
The trailers I viewed clearly contained similarities. They all hovered around the two and a half minute mark; the shortest, A Warrior’s Heart lasted two minutes and six seconds while the longest, Seven Psychopaths and Skyfall ended at two minutes and thirty-three seconds. However, one technique that often varied was that of narration. Fun Size, The Words, Detention, and A Warrior’s Heart all contained voiceovers that explained the context of their plots. Other movies like 10 Years and Seven Psychopaths relied more heavily on textual information. Frequently, the trailers used a combination of the two techniques, which help to contextualize the stories and can attract audience members into wanting to see the film once they know the general plot.
All the aforementioned identifiers can easily be manipulated to alter the perception of any given movie; hence, recutting trailers has gained much popularity. The three I viewed had me in stitches; one turns Mrs. Doubtfire into a thriller about one man’s obsession with stalking three children. It amazes me how taking seemingly harmless shots of Mrs. Doubtfire smiling at kids can combine with the right music to portray her/him as a homicidal maniac. On the flip side, another recut turns a homicidal, maniacal clown (IT) into a “hero on the rise” through textual support and shots of smiling children. One complaint I did have pertaining to this video was the way it used audio from the film in which one could hear background noise. It was a bit distracting. The eleven instances of explanatory type might also sound like a bit much, but I actually really enjoyed it, primarily because the words were just so funny. Finally, Gay Harry Potter relied on a sleazy voiceover to imply a sexual relationship between Harry and Ron. All one has to do is emphasize “the goblet of fire” and two beloved boy wizards become homosexual lovers. For the most part, I thought the recuts came across as pretty professional. The audio synchronization lined up most of the time, because the creators most often used either textual explanation or a series of shots put together. The only voiceover was done by the creator of Gay Harry Potter, not taken from the movie, so the background noise wasn’t an issue. Thus, movie trailers utilize many elements to give audiences a carefully calculated perception of the movie they advertise. Recuts like the It trailer embedded below play on these components and show just how easily manipulated we audience members truly are.
Trailers: Fun Size, Hansel and Gretel, 10 Years, Seven Psychopaths, The Oranges, House at the End of the Street, The Words, Detention, A Warrior’s Heart, and Skyfall
Recut Trailers: Stephen King’s IT Trailer (horror to family drama), Mrs. Doubtfire (comedy to thriller/horror), and Gay Harry Potter (wizard friends turned homosexual)