The power of a trailer

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You might be the person who doesn’t mind turning up to the cinema a few minutes late to avoid the first few adverts. Or perhaps you’d rather be ten minutes early grabbing yourself a bag of popcorn to dissect every single trailer – regardless, the power of a preview is patent. With a trailer averaging under a minute, the need to be engrossed comes to the forefront and the 50-something seconds need to be nothing short of cinematic flair. 

It is undeniable that preferences within media are subjective, but there are certain traits of a trailer which elevates them against others. The arguably most important quality of a good trailer is an ability to conceal key points of the plot line. When watching a film, the audience doesn’t want to know the whole plot, anticipation is something desirable. 

We are teased into the general plot of this film, without knowing its darkest secrets.

This is what makes the film Parasite thrive in terms of its trailer in relation to the film. Not only does Parasiteleave room for the imagination, but it encourages the use of imagination. The use of text within the trailer contrasts other cult classics. This use of text lulls the audience into a false pretence, that this film will be nothing more than a family affair. Yet, whilst this is true, the audience’s imagination cannot prepare for what the film has to offer. With the trailer ending with an inaudible whisper this sums up why this preview promises perfection; we are teased into the general plot of this film, without knowing its darkest secrets.

The only clips which the audience see are unrevealing, yet disturbing.

Similarly, The Blair Witch Project offers cinematic flair and even a new perspective on trailers in general. Nearly a quarter of the trailer is simply a black screen where all the audience can experience is Heather whispering an apology. Simplistic yet ingenious, all the audience learns is that some students went missing in a wood and their footage was leaked. The only clips which the audience see are unrevealing, yet disturbing. 

Due to the sheer simplicity of the trailer, this then allowed marketing to take off. Cleverly, missing people leaflets were utilised confusing the audience further as to whether this was a fictious independent film or a documentary presenting the solid truth. Regardless of what people thought, the confusion which the trailer conveyed then allowed both marketing and interest to skyrocket showing that often, less is in fact more. 

And then come the trailers where the storyline isn’t delved into, but not in a way that encourages the audience to see more. These trailers cause a lack of interest due to the use of cliché and limited imagination, ultimately making the 20 or so minutes of advertisements before the film in the cinema unbearable. 

Unfortunately, this is what the 2012 horror film The Woman In Black commits to. This trailer seems to follow nothing short of a formula. Opening with eerie music, an antique room and the inclusion of the overused prop, a vintage doll – this trailer promises to commit to the basics of any horror film – cheap scares. Throughout the trailer we see Arthur Kipps, played by Daniel Radcliffe, seeming to only understand how to convey a downright confused face. This translates to confusion amongst the audience as nothing about the plot is revealed other than one thing – this is a cliché horror. The lack of variety within his expression combined with the rhyming child’s narration in the background further heightens the attempt of trying to stir something up within the audience. Unfortunately, trailers of this nature have been done time and time againIn essence, this trailer offers nothing new in terms of the horror scene, setting the film up for failure. 

It is important to avoid telling the audience everything.

Trailers act as the epigraph for a film, underpinning what is to be expected – or in some cases the false pretence of what not to expect. Therefore, it is important to avoid telling the audience everything, whilst simultaneously not coming at the cost of cliché. However, even more pressingly, the audience wants to be welcomed with something new that offers a different perspective within cinematic culture, ultimately leading the way for new classics. 

 Image: Erik Witsoe via Unsplash

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