The Art of Genre-bending: Comedy to Horror

As the first taste of a movie the public gets to see, movie trailers face a delicate task of drawing attention and interest in the movie without giving too much of the plot away. The trailer has the responsibility of framing the story in an appropriate light through the use of narration, transitions, on-screen text, and background music. When faced with the task of transforming an existing movie into a completely different genre, I decided that I would re-create a trailer for the comedy, Stepbrothers (Adam McKay, 2008), that depicts the movie as a horror film. In order to do this I examined 8 existing movie trailers consisting of comedy and horror genres in order to note the differences between the two. I also watched a few comedy to horror recuts that proved to be comically entertaining as well as believable due to the film strategies that the creators utilized.

The trailers were all about 2-3 minutes long, ranging specifically from 1:52 min to 2:58 min. As far as horror movies went, the trailers typically opened up with quick looks at the setting and important places in the movies. The shots that followed would frame the protagonists and the villains first in isolation, which were relatively slower shots. Then, as the scenes develop to show both types of characters in the same scene, the shots become very fast, fragmented, and even overlaid on top of each other. Transitions were typically very blunt and cut the scenes in a very rigid way, often times using text to describe the characters or the storyline. When text  did appear, they were limited to about 3-4 uses throughout the whole trailer. Sound effects for horror movies typically included crescendoed heartbeats or ticking that quickened pace throughout the trailer. Eerie music was also included usually when the villain is being introduced. Crashing sounds, creaking doors, and high pitched screeching, and screaming were also included. There was also a few instances in which dialogue from one scene would overlap another scene as a sort of voice-over. The horror trailers typically did not include narration, but let on-screen text or dialogue tell the pieces of the story that the audience gets to sneak-peak.

As far as comedy movies, the structure of the trailers differ in many aspects. The trailers open up with quirky, upbeat music playing in the background as extended scenes from the movie are played. Each scene has the purpose of making the audience laugh before it cuts to the next scene. There is often a male narrator explaining the comical situation in the background as well. Another important difference is that the actors and actresses that are in the movies are often announced with their characters, since they are often renowned in their field. It makes sense that horror movies would not have this characteristic because emphasizing that the characters in the movie are actually played by famous people makes the horror element less intense.

The comedy-horror recuts that I watched were very easy to find and were very entertaining to watch. They definitely focused on mimicking the characteristics of the horror genre that I saw in the real trailers and successfully produced a horror-type of vibe. However, the recuts contained minimal voice synchronization since this can be difficult to achieve. However, because voice over is used in normal horror trailers, doing so in the recuts did not make the trailers feel too inauthentic. They were typically about the same length as the normal trailers also, if not just a tad bit shorter on average. However, there was an increased use of text to narrate the trailers in the recuts as one might expect. The characteristic sound effects used in horror films were definitely put to use and utilized effectively as well. Here is a sample of the recut of Mrs. Doubtfire, a comedy movie, as a horror film in which an insane father takes on another identity because of his infatuation with his children.


Movie Trailers: The Conjuring, Don’t Breath, Friend Request, Insidious, The Last House on the Left, You Again, Stepbrothers, Just Go With It

Recuts: Mean Girls, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Hangover

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

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