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: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we catch up with Kirk Cameron, the folks who have brought us many REC installments to see what novel location they’re fighting zombies in now, get jumped into a cult, consider dropping out of high school, and look to make big money working for an oil company only to become down and out.

The Overnighters Trailer

Just devastating.

I get that it’s hard for some people to feel something profoundly sad for those down on their luck. Director Jesse Moss took a fascinating concept and, somehow, infused this trailer with the most emotionally wrenching moments possible and, in the process, makes the case why it deserves your attention, your patronage, to understand the plight of these individuals. The trailer wastes no time at all in establishing not only the award pedigree of its content but what brings us here with these people. It’s the lure of jobs, jobs that pay extraordinary sums of money to people who would otherwise see their prospects dim if anywhere else in the country looking for work. While I’m not sure the roaring electric guitar that coats the back half of this trailer was the smartest music bed to select, it’s all but overshadowed by the extraordinary content supplied by people who find themselves at the bottom of a one fruitful dream to make good things happen for themselves. It doesn’t look like a story we’ve heard before and its content suggests its one that is sharp, on-point, but has a heavy dose of raw emotion.

[REC] 4: Apocalypse Trailer

When last we checked in with this one we had a trailer that needed some translating.

It only took almost four months but it’s back with the best possible argument why you would want to see yet another installment of this franchise that is starting to feel sluggish. Director Jaume Balagueró is bringing what I can only assume was the outcome of how you get people in a very confined space and keep them there. Submarine? No. Caboose? No. Gondola? Not enough room. Ship? Bingo. It’s like Speed 2: Cruise Control but with zombies. After watching the first REC I thought we could leave it well enough alone. However, this gravy train doesn’t stop and it’s not stopping anyone from taking a quaint little pelicula and transforming it into this hulking mass of disorder, confusion and anarchy. I don’t know what in the hell is happening, who is supposed to be doing what, who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, what’s at stake, or why I am even expending any time at all trying to figure this all out. On the verge of motion sickness from the trailer swooping in and out, trying desperately to retain that handheld POV that made the first installment worth talking about, I am left feeling queasy and unsure whether this is just another lap around a track we’ve already been on before.

The Homestretch Trailer

This is a dire issue that none of us will be able to solve.

One of the most heartbreaking things to witness is seeing kids so close to making something of themselves, so close to taking one more step that could mean the difference between living up to your potential or living off the street, and knowing that not only can you not do anything to make them realize this while also coming to terms with the fact that it is happening every day in our country. While there is a fantastic Frontline about this very same issue, documentarians Anne De Mare and Kirsten Kelly have taken aim at an even greater at-risk pool of individuals for falling off the social grid completely: homeless teens.  The trailer, while longer than more traditional trailers, absolutely earns the right to go a little more in-depth only because it sinks its emotional hooks into immediately. The teens tell their own stories and, as they explain what has brought them to their present state, it’s damn near impossible to look away and not try to wonder what could possibly happen to people like this who are at the proverbial crossroads in life. This is it. There is no question that they are at those moments where life can either take them down the right path or the wrong one. It’s black and white.

One Eyed Girl Trailer

It’s fun to see a blast from the past and compare notes.

Almost a year and a half ago I took a gander at director Nick Matthews’ latest and saw something fresh and exciting. It was quiet, poetic. It seemed to move across the floor with a smoothness in the way it drifted in and out. The information presented was spartan in nature but that was OK. It seemed that soft and lovely wasn’t the direction he wanted to go because we have swung in the exact opposite direction with the latest version. I am tense, I am anxious, and I am waiting for someone to get blown away. This trailer is so intimate and feels like we’re in the moment with these characters that this does become a character piece rather than an explanation of the narrative. What these two trailers share, though, is an expert hand that leads us down a very specific path. There is no wavering, no second guessing about what they want to show, it’s all very honest to the format. By the end of this one, though, I was left feeling breathless and unsure what I saw or what context to put onto it. That’s the point, though.

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas Trailer

With discussions about The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story, nostalgia is in the air.

Director Darren Doane is bringing Kirk Cameron’s vision of a Christmas that is indeed called Christmas with all its religious intonations and accouterments. The trailer itself is wildly entertaining from the standpoint that here is a man who has this point of view and he expresses it through the kind of  allegory (the guy in the Christmas sweater is named Christian, wocka wocka) in the way that has served him well. It doesn’t presuppose anything else about what it’s trying to do or who it’s going after. Regardless of your religious beliefs or non-beliefs this is a trailer that succeeds on its own merits for being quick, to the point, establishing its narrative angle, and then getting out. While this is a distillation, ostensibly, of Cameron’s idea that he doesn’t relate to people saying “Season’s Greetings” and wants to educate the rest of us on the meaning of Christmas, although if one among us hasn’t already seen A Charlie Brown Christmas you might want to get on that pronto, the trailer does a bang up job with hitting the core audience, preaching mightily to his own choir.

Nota 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 or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

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

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