A Horrific Feast

It’s interesting to consider that our fears could be generated by memories of fictional experiences rather than actual experiences. But that is what so many horror movies are based on—recycled disturbing or overly-naïve characters deliver gruesome and suspenseful plots that play to our expectations for violence. A person is sitting alone in an empty house. Suddenly the music starts to build in rhythm and volume and the camera pans slightly beyond where they are sitting— we know someone else is in the house… with bad intentions.

Knife-weilding Julia. Fantastic cook, or psychotic murderer?

For my trailer, I tried to use as many typically horrifying techniques as possible to turn Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron 2009, here’s the actual trailer on YouTube) into the psycho-slasher flick What’s For Dinner. I build a false sense of security in the beginning with cheerful music and seemingly innocuous scenes, then cut the music and used the commonly menacing telephone ring to drastically and suddenly change the mood. The ominous music comes in, slow and quiet at first, but as it builds the tension increases until it’s obvious and inevitable that fast cuts of suggestively gruesome scenes will follow. One of my clips is of beef sautéing deliciously in a pan, but in this context its intentions to horrify are obvious if not successful.

The movie trailer is a fascinating microcosm of the genre file, an object intriguing in and of itself. The goal of the trailer is seemingly to give the audience enough to predict their enjoyment of a movie without predicting the entire movie. But it seems this predictability is exactly what is appealing. Thomas Sobchack argues that “the genre film provides the experience of an ordered world […] the plot is fixed, the characters defined, the ending satisfyingly predictable.”  He also dates the concept of genre back to Greek drama, referencing Aristotle’s description of plot as imitation of human action, though Greek plays did not directly reflect Greek life. “Genre films operate on the same principle,” he asserts. “They are made in imitation not of life but of other films.”

This strikes a relevant chord with our discussion of Baudrillard and his theory of hyperreality—where does Sobchack’s concept of an ordered world come from, if it can’t be experienced outside of movies? In theorizing on the nature of reality in our hyper-mediated world, Baudrillard states that “simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”

If we take Klosterman’s examination of human interactions (specifically love) defined by genre movies as a commonly occurring social phenomenon, then this “imitation” in genre movies ties interestingly back to Susan Blackmore’s meme theory. If memes are co-evolutionary, then the dissemination of reality-perceptions based on genre movies could be viewed as a form of social evolution. Our behavior is changing. Humans are no longer evolving based on the need for survival; we are now changing within this hyperreality of appearances and experiences. Even if we are aware of it, we aren’t denying it. This is why Klosterman’s analysis hits so close to home—it rings true on so many levels, both conscious and unconscious.

I thoroughly enjoyed this project. Once I started and the stress stopped looming over my head I got really into the process of editing. I had little to no problems with Premier. I found my minimal experience with Windows Movie Maker very helpful, combined with a short tutoring session from my lovely film-major friend. I would advise future students to definitely leave time to play around in Premier. Use your own clips—see what happens when you try different things. Watch a lot of remixed trailers to notice what techniques they used to create genre.  Ask a lot of questions. And most importantly: don’t stress about this assignment. It’s fun.

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