Throughout my research on recut movie trailers, I realized that much of the genre transformations can only be executed by using segments of the original movie and establishing a new context for the actions taking place in those scenes. With this in mind, I began my transformation of the gifted-child movie Matilda (1996), based off of a Roald Dahl book, into a horror movie called Madtilda.
The original film is about a young girl who is ignored by her family but is blessed with uncanny intelligence. Eventually, she discovers her supernatural power: with incredible focus, she can move objects with her eyes and command them at will. The presence of Matilda’s (Mara Wilson) power was absolutely necessary in order for me to transform the film. Greg Smith, in the “Genre, Shmenre” chapter of his book “What Media Classes Really Want to Discuss: A Student Guide”, argues that the horror genre relies on the incorporation of a supernatural being or power. With this in mind, I decided to center the transformation of Matilda around her powers. My trailer, therefore, had to alter the context of the scenes in which Matilda (Mara Wilson) uses her powers in order to effectively turn this movie into a horror film.
The trailers for horror movies often employed a few shared techniques regarding the shots, the transitions, and the audio. Based off the trailers viewed, the beginning would include a normal situation. From here, the trailers used music or text frames to indicate a perversion in the norm: that things were not as they seemed. I followed this general structure by adding daunting music, another characteristic evident in the trailers viewed. I also relied on the text frames to communicate that Miss Honey, the teacher who is a subject of my trailer, was in grave danger.
Bernard Dick, in his article “Film, Space, and Mise-en-Scene “, discusses how an extreme close-up shot can provide emphasis, which makes sense as the object is visually the only thing the viewer can focus on. I needed to emphasize the creepiness of Matilda in my recut trailer so I employed an extreme close-up, paired with disturbing audio of speaker feedback. This decision was effective, though not as effective, in regard to the scare-factor, as some of the trailers that I viewed. Potentially the most effective aspect of my trailer was the alignment of the action with the selected music. I found some solid horror music that was extremely eerie, which was a desired effect for my recut trailer. It worked extremely well with the selected clips and an added bonus was that a few of the clips used dark lighting, a typical characteristic in horror movies.
Scott McCloud discussed the usefulness of closure in his “Blood in the Gutter” chapter of his book “Understanding Comics.” He explains closure as the ability to take a few small things and formulate something larger out of them, often done unconsciously. I relied heavily on closure, and its limitations in a specific scene in my recut trailer. Following the dialogue where Miss Honey asks Matilda if she would like to come to her house, there is a clip of a person sprawled out in a way that looks as if they have died. I rely on the ability of the audience to employ closure in order to make the following assumptions: that Miss Honey is the character that is dead (she is not), that Matilda killed Miss Honey (she did not) and that Matilda is the girl on the swing (she is not). I have not decided whether this scene is super-effective or if it tries to do too much at once but I could see arguments for both sides. Regardless, this was probably my finest example of altering the context of the original movie, since the scene in Matilda has nothing to do with how it is portrayed in Madtilda.
I struggled with the length of the trailer because there was not much material in which Matilda (Mara Wilson) was not looking like the adorable 6-year old that she is. This assignment would have been much easier if I had elected to use clips involving Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris), who is a terrifying principal at the school Matilda attends. I decided that it would be too easy to use these clips since they were already designed to be scary. It was a decision that increased the challenge of the project but one I was willing to make in order to practice my ability to effectively change the context of certain movie clips. In this way, this project helped me improve my media literacy skills, specifically regarding the production of media.
To close, some tips for students in the future. First, start early on this project so that you can familiarize yourself with the powerful program that is Adobe Premier. Second, do not hold yourself concretely to your first idea, allow for some change in vision because it is often more effective. Third, do not feel restricted by the recut trailers that you saw since you are essentially free to use whatever movie you’d like and change it into whatever genre you wish.