Friday, February 28, 2020

Let's Go Down the Rabbit Hole of Recut Trailers

Photo: 20th Century Fox

With the news this week that Macaulay Culkin will be joining the upcoming season of American Horror Story, I thought about Big Mac’s films throughout the year and how horror-adjacent many of them are.

Of course, the eldest Culkin was part of an actual horror/thriller/evil kid movie The Good Son but his biggest roles in the Home Alone films and My Girl are chock full of potentially disturbing and brutal imagery or even death! As such, YouTube editing geniuses have much to work with to retool these films, at least for a two minute trailer, into pint-sized thrillers.

Wen Powers writing for Vulture explains the rationale behind the common adage that horror films and comedy are very closely related:

Comedy and horror are intricately linked. That’s because these feelings are so primal. We don’t have to sit and analyze their effectiveness like a drama or a romance. We know their successes are based purely on the raw responses they provide us.

Comedy and horror tend to have heightened realities and larger than life characters which lend to the ease of flipping between genres when called for. This is how Robin Williams’ obsessed father in Mrs. Doubtfire or Jim Carrey’s unstable limo driver in Dumb and Dumber can easily be changed from affable humans to demented monsters through the magic of editing.

It’s neat to see on these YouTube clips just how much story and tone can be altered with a few dramatic poses and ominous music. But these armchair editors doing this for clicks aren’t the only ones capable of such deception. Many films have been sold to audience based on a trailer that either grossly misrepresents the tone of the film or exaggerates elements barely in the finished product. Look only to trailers for Drive or Hancock to see how creative these trailer folk can get.

Of course, comedy to horror isn’t the only way these things can go. You can turn the fraught and disturbing first half of Full Metal Jacket into a feelgood comedy. You can even make Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining into a wholesome family romp. While a more pessimistic person than I would use these as evidence to distrust any trailer or marketing for a movie (that ship has long since sailed for me, thanks The Mod Squad), it just goes to show how important editing is as one of those mostly invisible trades that only stick out when it’s really bad.

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