Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?


Mesrine: Killer Instinct Trailer

Vincent Cassel has that kind of attitude I wish more actors had radiating from their faces.

I don’t know why I am so enamored of the man in this trailer, and I am not one to usually agree with a critic’s blurb that’s attached inside of it, but Cassel does possess an undeniable swagger, a toughness that seems to be lost on the pretty boys that pass for movie stars nowadays. While at first blush you may not have heard of director Jean-François Richet you may have seen his milquetoast re-imagining of Assault on Precinct 13. Why he seems to be a one and done here in the states is a mystery, I thought while the movie wasn’t wicked awesome, it did have its moments, it was surely a lot better than the work done by some jobbers knocking around Hollywood who still get work.

No matter, however, as this trailer is an example of great marketing. There are a few ways this is so much more superior to films like it, from a branding, positioning point of view, that I would hope anyone else looking to slip this kind of film onto an unsuspecting American’s radar without them knowing it’s a foreign language import would follow its lead.

One of the first things it does is to just create excitement for an actor many probably don’t recognize. It splices together so many unrelated clips with a frenetic pace, the trailer just accentuating the gangster portion of this film’s content, with guns and gun clicks and ‘asplosions and unsavory fellas, you can’t help but be hooked by its intrigue. It excites and tantalizes.

Then, it stops.

Shifting gears, but without you noticing there isn’t one drop of dialogue to be heard, a cool blues riff starts. What’s more, the song is in English. Against this we get the many awards this film has received along with the pull-quotes that hail this as the second coming. I can’t say different as what’s on display here is wonderfully constructed as the intent to craft a trailer that is a bit sexy, a whole lot of cool, with Cassel at the center of it all, works.

There is just something different about this film which the trailer manages to capture in a straightforward manner. A trailer should inspire you to seek out the film and everything that’s jam packed into this point to a film that, if it’s being honest, would be more than worth the cost to find out where it’s playing in your area.

If A Tree Falls Trailer

There was something to the allure of The Blair Witch Project that never was able to be recreated again in any meaningful capacity.

It was really the first film I can remember which had a War of the Worlds effect on the simple-minded and stupid. Many people left that theater wondering if, in fact, what they saw was true. The movie was about as literal as a bottle of lightning could be but it did show the power of what indie budgets were capable of even in the midst of films like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. This trailer has me pining for the days when horror was done on a shoestring and it certainly has me believing there might be some good scares, and good filmmaking, in here.

This represents director Philip Carrer’s second directorial effort and is scribe’s Ryan Barrett’s first feature film but the trailer certainly has a flair for the stylish aspects of old, late 70’s horror. With washed out colors, film grain dancing across the screen, you instantly feel like they’re going for more flash than they are actual sizzle but even though the acting from the outset feels very much like AAA batting practice compared to the majors there is the very real sense that the directing is taking us places.

The story is slow going, sure, we have a cavalcade of teenagers looking for fun on a small, secluded beach, but there is some tension underlying everything. The music isn’t tricking us, it’s deliberately neutral, and certainly the foreshadowing is apparent enough that if it were a shotgun blast you would be missing your most of your skull, however, when the music starts skipping and that big axe is in the shot? That’s when the fun really starts.

Again, this discussion is all about how well they’re selling this film and it’s here where the crazies come out of the woodwork, literally, and start hacking people to pieces. I appreciate that the directing gets as frenetic as what’s on the screen, the action before us is purposely vague about who or what is picking these people off. I can’t tell for sure if there are any quality kills but there is the hope and promise that there are. A good tease, sometimes, is all I need and that’s what we get.

All this trailer really needs to do is to get you wanting to know more about this film and, based on what’s here, I am more than giddy at the prospect of seeing Roscoe and his merry band of idiots start slashing away. Count me in. [Twitch]

The Silence (Das Letzte Schweigen) Trailer

You may not know director Baran bo Odar but you should.

This trailer brims with the kind of tense emotion some films only hope to sustain. What this little piece of marketing is able to do is use the director’s style and edit a trailer that tries to telegraph exactly what you might expect out of this movie. A lot of time it’s all about selling you a film that may not exist, kind of like how a comic book cover can appear so fantastic and say so much but end up not delivering on the promise, but this trailer just sucks you into its world of despair and mystery that it’s hard not to become invested in it.

A couple of things should leap at you immediately when you watch this trailer: the sinister, single note from a woodwind instrument that connotes all kinds of bad things are about to go down and the extended moment where a girl turns down a dirt path on her bike as a car passes by only to see that same car slowly roll backwards into the frame. A second later, an overhead shot that doesn’t move, that car, that driver, is pulling a body towards a lake. If this isn’t creepy enough for you I don’t know what it would take to get you animals excited.

The voiceover is just as chilling as what we see, the emotional impact of someone disappearing into a dense forest being all too believable, and what we end up getting is worth sitting through all the way to the end.

It seems ambiguous on purpose, with another girl getting snatched off her bike and killed without nary a suspect, but it’s that combination of people (parents, perhaps?) completely buckling under the pressure of wanting to know who did this with the pain of losing a loved one to a heinous murderer that’s so alluring. The film looks lovingly shot with natural tones and minimal use of cinematic flourishes that would take away from the story proper.

That this is in another language is merely incidental to a movie that appears like it could be one of the best whodunit films you’ll see this year if this trailer is any indication of its quality. [Twitch]

Amer Trailer

Not one clue.

I have no idea what’s happening in this trailer or give an accurate description why this hit a nerve with me but there’s something sexy and cool happening here. Seeing director’s Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s throwback to a bygone era of horror filmmaking seems to be done more out of love than it is ironic as this is something that makes you pause and appreciate the aesthetic they were going for here.

It’s more House of the Devil than it is Night of the Creeps if that helps to make the distinction. Whereas one was a silly opportunity to strike at the zeitgeist of the period in which it was done, Devil took that same zeitgeist and transmogrified it into something wholly fresh, original, and nightmarish. Devil was brilliant simply in its execution and aim but it stands to reason whether Cattet and Forzani have honored the memory of films made famous by Dario Argento. What’s so reassuring, then, is the splashes of color used here, of the camera movements that seem wholly obvious as your eye is dragged to the focal point of a scene, the music that’s employed, it’s all here in a trailer that just simmers with sensuality.

It’s that harpsichord, which opens everything up, that gets under your skin. It’s macabre and Victorian but it matches this trailer’s presence perfectly because it leads to a little girl’s eyes. These very same eyes see a creepy woman dressed in a black veil, black dress and the hunt seems to be on. The girl tries to flee but it’s of no use when we see the black laced arm of the woman sneak up on this child and wrap it around her face. Wonderfully, and artfully, we get the festivals this movie has played at along with some rockin’ horns straight out of the 70’s behind that harpsichord as we get introduced to our next victim.

Much in the same manner of the little girl, this woman senses danger, tries to flee, we get treated to the colored lights used to bathe some of these scenes as this fräulein sheepishly tries to make her getaway from unseen assailant who wields a straight razor. And, as if this little bit of awesomeness couldn’t get any more delicious, we see that same razor pulling ever so slightly across that girl’s neck. Wicked cool.

Cannot wait for this to hit my local art house and let it run red with the blood of the innocents.

Note bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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