What Are You Doing in my Swamp?

Shrek (2001) is a family comedy about an ogre and his struggles with friendship and love. While the film has its adult moments, it is, for the most part, a children’s film. I decided to recut this film into a trailer for a horror movie. I initially wanted to recut the Spongebob Squarepants movie, but after not being able to find the DVD, I went to Shrek as my backup. Horror movie trailers, like trailers for most other genres, rely on music, color, and pacing to develop the narrative. Generally, they often begin with a few shots of a seemingly “normal” situation, and then one weird event, often involving something supernatural. From that weird event, the trailer begins to pick up pace, and the tension builds up until a climax. After that moment, the trailer may show one or two more shots, or it may end. Many of the shots are cut very short, or often involve some distorted figure in order to amp up the creepiness – if you can’t see what’s happening, then the trailer becomes more unsettling. By using creepy music and cutting shots up so it is more difficult to see what is going on, I was able to attempt at recreating clips from Shrek into a horror movie trailer. The premise is that Shrek lives alone in his house, but then fairy tale creatures start showing up and tormenting him. Greg Smith noted that our usual definition of horror comes from the existence of some force that is beyond what we believe to be possible in our reality. Even though ogres themselves are supernatural, Shrek himself believes he is alone, and the fairy tale creatures that have infested his home prove otherwise.

I began the trailer by showing shots of Shrek living at home, as if this is what would be his “daily life.” I used bits of audio of Shrek and Donkey talking about how Shrek prefers to live alone. The music isn’t happy, but is not really tense quite yet. Once this premise was established, little by little the infestation of Shrek’s house is shown. He hears something outside his house, and then finds the three blind mice on his table. Once creatures start showing up, the shots became shorter and faded in and out from black. The shots don’t match the beat of the music entirely, but follow critical changes in the music, such as the sound cutting out, or loud booms. The music used is creepy, and starts out slow, building tension as the video goes on. I tried multiple different kinds of creepy songs, including creepy doll music and high intensity music, and even using multiple tracks. Doll music didn’t build enough tension, but high intensity music didn’t match the calmness of the beginning of the trailer. Using multiple tracks seemed like a good idea, but the change in key between the tracks made the trailer feel more disjointed. I had to use one track that lasted the length of the whole trailer, and edited the timing of the music to match the clips.

For horror movies, color is a huge component in creating the tone of the trailer. Many horror movie trailers often have little to no color – they seem almost entirely black and white even though they are filmed in color. They are often very desaturated or have the temperature of the film very low, so the images appear bluer. Since many of the clip were rather-warm toned or bright and colorful, I turned the saturation of the clips down and made the temperature of the clips much colder. This made the subjects appear colder, or more distant, and made Shrek’s home feel less “homey.” The fonts that horror movie trailers use varies incredibly, so I just settled on a font that seemed as if it would belong in a storybook, so felt as if it fit the theme of the trailer, but also remained clearly legible.

The main difficulty with this assignment was the challenge of finding the right clips to use in the trailer, both in terms of audio and video. The film itself doesn’t really have many creepy shots – so most of the shots in the trailer are anything but creepy, but had to be edited in order to imply the intended genre. The few clips that were genuinely unsettling in the film were extremely rare – since this film is a comedy, the dramatic scenes barely last more than a few seconds. That being said, while Shrek is the intended victim of the recut film, he is generally more threatening to all of the fairy tale creatures than they are to him. Since, according to the Bernard Dick reading, close up shots often give insight into the emotions of the character, it would have been ideal to find close ups of Shrek looking frightened. There were almost no close-ups of Shrek at all in the film, and finding any clips of him looking unsure or threatened were difficult. Also, all of the shots involving the fairy tale creatures were originally comedic. Furthermore, finding dialogue to include was almost impossible. I could only find a few lines from the film that could imply what the trailer was hoping to achieve, and Shrek, still, remained a generally intimidating character. Any of the fear I tried to portray in the trailer had to be done so through what Hitchcock called “pure cinema,” or the Kuleshov Effect, by showing Shrek looking at something, and then showing what that thing was, and showing his reaction. Lastly, the score played over most of the dialogue that I wanted to use, furthering the limitations on dialogue clips. However, Shrek has become somewhat of a meme in recent years, and I was able to find a clip of audio with the background score remove online.

One thing that really helped me give my trailer direction, especially in a time crunch, was going into creating the trailer with a loose storyboard planned and drawn out. This way I was able to watch the film and find clips that would help piece the trailer’s story together as the movie progressed. One thing I wish I would’ve done was found the music beforehand, which would have allowed my trailer to follow the music more smoothly.

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