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Picture the scene: my roommates and I sitting in a packed Vancouver theatre to see Dunkirk. There’s an excitement in the air, the crowd hoping Nolan’s latest lives up to the seemingly endless hype (sidebar: it did). However, on the way home what provoked a discussion was not just Tom Hardy’s eyes and Harry Styles surprisingly solid acting chops. It was a teaser trailer shown for Mother! starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem.
My roommates are casual film fans – people who enjoy movies but not religiously like myself. Despite their A-list status, Lawrence and Bardem aren’t necessarily actors that will draw them to the cinema. The name Darren Aronofsky means little to their ears as do the words “From the director of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan“. Yet, the unusual, tight trailer perked their interest – perhaps getting them on the hook to see something that eschews from the blockbuster cinema they are used to, edging them ever so slightly into art-house territory. It’s not just my friends who were swayed by Mother!’s advertising with sites like Pop Sugar dedicating time to breaking down subtle clues in the advertising to find out more information.
Now the teaser we were treated to is different then the one making the rounds on internet (see above). The only image is a brief shot of Lawrence’s eyes, with the rest of trailer comprising solely of a completely black screen. However, we do hear snippets of dialogue and horror music which escalate in pitch and intensity over the thirty-second running time. Although, it must have not required a vast amount of editing and is one of the most simple teasers I’ve ever seen, it’s also one of the most effective, managing to do as exactly what a trailer should. Ideally, this piece of marketing should give its viewer a sense of the movie’s tone while revealing as little information as possible.
The advertising of blockbusters recently has been noticeably lazy. For example, trailers for John Wick: Chapter 2 and Fast & Furious 6 included footage from the last frames of the film – the latter of which even highlighting the punchline to a climactic set-piece that in the finished movie takes a significant amount of time to build up to. Meanwhile, a Terminator Genisys teaser gave away a major mid-way twist, one that I may have really enjoyed had I not known about it beforehand. Hell, even acclaimed trailers like one for the upcoming Kingsman: The Golden Circle reveal far too much info for my liking. Wouldn’t it have been better if viewers had no idea Colin Firth would be reprising his role from the first despite his character’s apparent death? Imagine the surprise.
A recent teaser that actually did its job effectively was that of It (see above), the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s clown monster novel. In many ways that film particularly needed a fantastic trailer, something which would buck reports of behind-the-scenes difficulties (a director and leading man walking away from the project, being replaced by people less experienced) and manage to draw both fans of the source material and newcomers. It managed to do that by not revealing too much of its plot, with much of the footage being foreboding visuals and brief snippets from set-pieces. Plus, what made the novel so good was how it took everyday imagery such as clowns, balloons and photo-albums and managed to make them terrifying, a quality the trailer for the film adaptation leans heavily on.
Alfred Hitchcock understood how to advertise his films correctly. The teaser for Psycho (see above) is delightful. Yet it just features the director walking around his Bates Motel set delivering a foreboding narration in his iconic voice.
With trailers, brevity and simplicity are virtues and a little ingenuity goes a long way.