Ramp It Up

For my recut trailer, I plan to take a slow, meandering art film (Charlie Kaufman’s 2008 Synecdoche, New York), and dress it up as a high stakes crime thriller. I looked at eight trailers, most of which, for crime dramas, and noticed that an emphasis on buildup best characterized each one. Shot transitions almost always lined up with beats in the audio track. As the music grew in intensity, the time between cuts shortened, and the content on screen grew more violent and intense. Trailers starting with shots of households, and investigators picking through documents, later cut to knives, explosions, gunshots, and car chases.  The ramping up of cuts, music, and content follows the pacing of a solid crime drama. What starts as a skeptical investigation, or a minor gang feud, grows into full blown conflict.This template for a crime thriller trailer can extend as long as three and half minutes as seen in the trailer for David Fincher’s 2011 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, to as short as one in the case of the red band trailer for Gareth Evan’s 2014 The Raid 2: Berandal. I’ve included the trailer for the latter below (because I thoroughly adore it), though I caution those who have an aversion to violent content.

Average trailer length fell a little over the two minute mark. Music choices typically fell onto the side of dark synth or standard action style percussion. In the case of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 Drive, the soundtrack makes the ironic and glorious shift into the whimsical track Oh My Love by Riz Ortolani. The trailer for David Fincher’s 1999 Fight Club ends with the iconic track Where is My Mind by the Pixies. Fight Club leans more towards absurdism than high stakes action, making the track a better fit than bumping synth.

The trailers I watched took one of three approaches in telling a story. Trailers either relied on removed narration, disjointed dialogue, or a titular speech from an expository character. The trailer for Adrian Lyne’s 1990 Jacob’s Ladder employs a almost deadpan narrator to explain the setup behind the often confusing imagery. Though Jacob’s Ladder falls into the genre of psychological horror, the trailer spends considerable time building up tension and mystery, while utilizing the techniques already discussed. Oddly, none of the lines spoken in the trailer for Jacob’s Ladder perfectly matched up to the lips of the actor’s on screen. The trailer for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo leans heavily on a monologue from the reclusive industrialist Henrik Vanger. Henrik explains the mystery (with synchronized lips and audio) before the footage cuts away to various story beats. A recut parody trailer for Mike Judge’s 1999 Office Space takes a similar approach by taking a psychologist’s speech out of context. The recut parody uses the unnerving words to establish a dark and sinister tone. These two techniques ground disjointed but intriguing moments in the context of the overall plot or tone. The trailer for David Fincher’s Gone Girl, takes a more brute force approach to storytelling by flipping between important narrative beats with the dialogue from the corresponding scene still included.


Most of the trailers I watched kept the text sparse. David Fincher’s trailers cut in isolated words between shots. The trailers for Gone Girl and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo used a sans serif typeface with minimal stylization. The trailers for No Country for Old Men and Jacob’s ladder opted for a serif typeface. In every trailer, text was reserved for information about the director, actors, or source material, rather than for story or exposition. Out of all the trailers I watched, I only saw one example of text that didn’t relate to the actors, the director, the production company, or the source material. The trailer for No Country for Old Men, tells the audience “in the open country, you can find anything.”

I watched a few trailers that had nothing to do with the crime thriller genre. Firstly, I watched the trailer for Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson’s 2001 Shrek. Shrek has a fantastic trailer, beginning with a scene straight from the film in which the Shrek and Donkey scour a ruined castle for a princess. A narrator later chimes in to provide context, but seeing a scene straight from the film felt bold and satisfying. I also watched romantic comedy recut for Frank Darabont’s 1994 The Shawshank Redemption. The trailer utilized a corny narrator, upbeat music, and a smooth over stylized font. Ultimately, the trailer underwhelmed me after failing to vary the tone or energy whatsoever. The recut trailer felt incredibly samey throughout, with no levels to the content on screen. I lastly watched a modern recut for Don Bluth’s 1988 The Land Before Time. The trailer isn’t exactly a parody, but almost makes a joke out of how epic anything can seem when played with M83’s song Outro. The recut for The Land Before Time built excitement and scale along with the music to great success. I will provide youtube links to each of the trailers I saw, below.

Trailers: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Fight Club, The Raid 2: Berandal, Jacob’s Ladder, No Country for Old Men, Gone Girl, Shrek

Recut Parodies:Office Space Recut, Land Before Time Recut, ‘Shawshank Redemption’ as an Upbeat Romance – Trailer Mix

This entry was posted in Blog #4. Deconstructing Movie Trailers, Blog Prompts. Bookmark the permalink.

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