When it comes to the comedy genre, Step Brothers (McKay 2010) is about as standard as it gets. Come to think of it, is Will Ferrell comedy a genre of its own yet? All of his movies seem to end up following the same pattern. No matter how vastly different his characters’ lives are they always seem to have the same slapstick, stupid sense of humor that I love. They follow a pretty classic formula: the protagonist starts in a completely ridiculous and unrealistic situation as an extremely challenged member of society in general, when out of nowhere something important happens that makes his life have a purpose; while trying to fulfill that purpose he proceeds to make a complete fool out of himself until finally everything falls together and he overcomes his immaturity to fulfill his goal and get the girl all at once. Clearly we don’t watch these movies for the plot line – it’s all about the hilarious one-liners everyone will be quoting for the next five months. Sobchack was right when he said, “[. . .] the genre film is not realistic, because it is so blatantly dramatic [. . .] Yet the truth of the matter is that the genre film lives up to the guiding principle of its Classical origins” (196). This principle says that adhering to these genre models is what we value and where we find the artistic excellence we are looking for. I’ve never once questioned the ending to a Will Ferrell movie because the end isn’t what matters – I just want to hear the jokes.
I decided to take this classic Will Ferrell comedy and change the content completely into a horror movie trailer. For the most part I think that the audience will see the trailer as a horror film so I hope to have succeeded in at least that aspect. At first I struggled a lot to find scenes that would work within the trailer because while the video was a good match,
the audio gave the original content away. Instead of being scary, the whole trailer just looked like a creepy joke. Thus I happened upon the secret to making a horror film trailer – suspenseful background music. I have never in my whole life realized how background music can change a scene from being hilarious to terrifying until trying to tackle this project. This calls to mind an argument that we have been talking about in the latter part of this semester about sincerity. If something as simple as the audio track of a trailer can completely change the mood and audience experience, does the content even matter very much? Are we really these critical analysts or are we the slaves of a little background, mood-setting music? Shaviro touches on this in his article about reality when he says, “self-manipulation through positive reinforcement is simply the new, improved, all-American version of what European metaphysicians call ‘the law of pure disguise’,” (3). The pure disguise in this case is music. It seems like music is almost a tint – we take what we see and only interpret it through the medium that we are predisposed to with the music. What is the value of our reality if what we see can be altered by what we hear?
I have no answer to this question so I just used it to my advantage in my trailer. With the music as the key factor to setting the mood, I focused on finding scenes with creepy video which proved to be a pretty easy task with this particular movie. The second most important part of the trailer was the length of the clips. Horror trailers need to be a good balance of fast paced cuts along with long, suspense building scenes which I tried to do in my trailer alternating between short shots of the bullying and a lengthy slow-motion clip of the fight scene. One of the most essential parts of horror movies, according to Dick, is the extreme close-up shot of which there are two in this trailer. Dick argues that the extreme close-up “provide[s] his audience with a proverbial chill up the spine,” which is what I hope comes across in this trailer. (53) Using the video editing technology was difficult at first but pretty easy to maneuver once I got a handle on it. I have a feeling that I have barely even scraped the surface of what I could potentially do with that program. If I could offer advice to future students it would be to start at least six days early. This allowed time for the clips and my decisions to really saturate from day to day so that I could look at my decisions more objectively when I returned to them. I know that I could not have done this if I had waited until the last minute! Overall I really enjoyed this assignment and I hope that my trailer is successfully interpreted by my audience.
Thomas Sobchack, “Genre film: A classical experience.” Literature Film Quarterly, 3(3) 196.
Steven Shaviro (1999) “Walt Disney.” Excerpt from Doom Patrols: A Theoretical Fiction About Postmodernism.
Bernard Dick “Film, space and image” (2002) Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.