In order to gain an understanding of what makes an effective horror poster, I watched existing media trailers, which were of the same genre, and appealed to a similar target market as the product that I hoped to make. The trailers that I chose were very different in treatment and styling, which was considered purposefully as I wanted to gain information about conventions from a range of sources. Likewise, I also wanted to give myself some creative freedom when making my trailer, while using these codes and conventions to keep my trailer relevant. The trailers that I analysed were “The Last Exorcism”, “28 Days Later”and “Nightmare on Elm Street”. These were longer trailers than what I was aiming for, as I was aiming for it to be around a minute in length and these ranged up to two minutes, 15 seconds. However, it was still possible to learn which was consistent through these products . I learned that the trailers often started with a news reading or a police report providing background information. It was necessary for the audience to have an idea of the treatment but as this was only a teaser trailer, not to give away too much information. This was most effective in the “Last Exorcism” trailer and I based the direct, report style tone that I used in my trailer on this. The font used on “The Last Exorcism’s” trailer looked similar to the font used on old-fashioned typewriters, and I developed this in having the font typed across the page, on a conventional black background with a white font. I used Barthes Enigma code in saying “but she wasn’t…the same”. This leaves the audience wondering what has happened to the girl. The music used over this didn’t have a tune, but instead consisted of sounds to create ambience, such as “disorientated”, which left the audience feeling tense. I cut this as soon as the doorbell rang to show the start of the equilibrium, and return to the beginning of the treatment. I also attempted to shock the audience with this abrupt change, as the trailer goes from report of the death of three teenagers to the same teenagers arriving at a sleepover at the beginning of the treatment, alive and safe.
I created my trailer using the program final cut and used the tools on these for different edits. In my trailer I used the cross dissolve, additional dissolve and the fade in, fade out dissolves as well as straight cuts. As a lot of my filming was a lot darker than what I had hoped for, I used final cut to alter the levels to make the content visible. I also had problems with sound clarity, however, through final cut I was able to alter the volume to make the dialogue more coherent. Combining photoshop and final cut also meant that I could put the same font used in my website and poster in the font on my trailer. This was useful, as I wanted my promotional package to look like one credible package. To make the music for my trailer I used garage band to edit sounds.
In order to find out what makes a teaser trailer popular with it’s target audience, I used a questionnaire and focus group to gain information. As my target market was teenagers aged 17-19, I found it most effective to reach them through facebook, as teenagers typically spend a lot of time on social networking sites. Through the results I learned that they wanted a general storyline to be revealed and some information about the characters. The first draft of my trailer went straight to the disequilibrium, and therefore it was necessary to refilm to show the back story, and to gain an idea into the personalities of the characters. This took more time, however, I am pleased with the difference it made in appealing to a potential audience. The revealing of the start of the treatment was also used in the trailers I analysed and therefore this is conventional.
Through analysing these existing trailers, I found that they began with a green screen containing the marketing rights and information about the appropriate audience. Following this, the production company was shown as the institution. The institution companies used in “The Last Exorcism”, “ 28 days later” and “The Nightmare on Elm Street” were “new line cinema” and “lionsgate” and as I found that these were similar to “Twisted Pictures” as this is a small, yet pioneering company. I researched Twisted Pictures on the internet and found that they were famous for the” Saw”series, which are iconic horror films. I also found that they “mainly produced films of the horror genre” and therefore they seemed appropriate for my product. The clip was taken from “Youtube” and although I initially wanted to use music over the marketing information, I found that this was not consistent with the trailers I had analysed.
I also found that horror trailers follow Todorv’s theory of equilibrium, disequilibrium, re-equilibrium. However, the re-equilibrium is not shown, so as not to give away the ending. All three of my trailers started with at the equilibrium start of the trailer, setting up the potential for the disequilibrium in showing a conventionally isolated location, or the character’s provoking the villain. I attempted to use this convention in my trailer. The film shots started with the character’s arrival at their friend’s house for a sleepover. I used a bright, warming light which is typically associated with safety. I used a medium close up for the majority of these shots, to allow the audience to relate to the characters. For these shots, the camera was at the same height as eye level the audience was led to feel as if they were there with them.
In all of the trailers I analysed, dialogue was used during the equilibrium in order to provide the audience with information about what leads to the disequilibrium. Therefore, I combined the use of my characters talking about performing a séance and the report at the start of my trailer to show the beginning of my treatment. I wanted to reveal some of my treatment without giving away too much, so I used the character’s talking about the sleepover, and the scepticism towards the idea of calling forth a spirit . I used an omniscient narration in my trailer as the audience already knows that this will lead to three of the character’s deaths from the report. As the teenagers are shown drinking, and laughing in safety this references Barthes enigma code as the audience is left wondering what would cause the death of three healthy teenagers. However, this use of narration was not consistent with my audience feedback, who said that they would prefer a voice over narration to dialogue. Through my analysis of existing media products, I learnt that this was not conventional, and mainly dialogue was used. I did record some voice clips and attempt to use them in my trailer, however, this was not appropriate for the style of my trailer, and felt unnecessary.
Through the eye level camera angle, a universal style of dress and an average house I led the audience to relate to the characters. This perhaps left them feeling vulnerable, which would make the introduction of the disequilibrium more effective. My audience research showed that having the characters dress in a way “generic of their age group” was preferred, perhaps showing that relating to the characters was important to the audience, as it allows the audience to get more engrossed in the film. This would make the scenes in which pictures of unknown teenagers are shown with their faces scribbled out and a girl is dragged from the room particularly resounding with the target audience. In referencing Propp’s narrative theory, I showed the “complication” through one of the characters going missing, which was consistent with the trailers that I analysed; for example in “28 days later” the complication is shown when the main character wakes up to find London deserted. I turned off the lights and used a torch for these scenes, as the initiation of negative events is conventionally marked with darkness. An example of this is “The Last Exorcism” in which the girl becomes possessed in a barn at night. I started the music when my male character climbed the stairs to search for the missing girl, as this was the end of the equilibrium.
I used tense sound clips such as “stab scrape” to create a sense of disorientation and suspense. I found it was not conventional to use music in horror trailers, but rather to build these in tension to reach a climax to accompany a montage of film, which becomes shorter, and faster. This conventionally turns into a beat towards the climax of the montage, which I achieved by editing the clip “metal crash 2” so that the sounds overlapped. I based this part of my music on the end of last exorcism’s trailer, as the sound grows in intensity and rhythm. This was consistent with my audience research, as it was shown in a questionnaire that they would like the focus to be on the action, rather than the emotional aspect of the film. The use of metal crash 2 was particularly effective in a scene in which the possessed girl walks towards the camera, creating a sense of panic as the audience is views her approach through the victims point of view.
I started this montage with a shot of the male character attempting to open a door, showing his fear and desperation. This, and the shots following this were only up to 5 seconds long, therefore building pace. Up until this I had used fades and cross dissolves to create smooth transitions, but for most of my montage I used straight cuts to make it seem abrupt and jerky. I followed this shot with a killer’s POV shot of shoes walking through a forest at night. This used horror conventions of wilderness and darkness, as well as intriguing the audience as up until then the trailer had always been from the victims POV. This technique was used in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” trailer, when Krueger’s shadow is shown preceding him as he walks up a staircase. I also used the killer’s POV in a shot in the montage of the victims running through a field. The camera is handheld and shaky, and seems to be chasing after them, giving the effect of the killer pursuing them. The close up of the girl looking at the camera, seemingly possessed was inspired by shots of the possessed girl in “The Last Exorcism”. As my treatment also involved a girl’s possession by a spirit, I found “The Last Exorcism” very inspiring in creating my own trailer. I then used an additive dissolve with “from the creators of ‘18’” over the shot, as I thought that the image of the possessed girl was representative of my treatment, and therefore could potentially be associated with my promotional package as iconography. This was followed by a shot of same girl sitting up in bed, gasping, implying that she has woken up from a nightmare. As the same girl was shown only a moment ago possessed by a spirit, her innocence and shock in these shot provides an effective contrast. This applies to my treatment as it is a cliché of horror that individuals who have been possessed cannot remember what they have done. This also references Barthes enigma code, as the audience is wondering how this transition has taken place. This also uses an addictive dissolve with the title “Guilt”.
Through my internet research, I learnt that more gothic locations were conventional in horror trailers, for example, an isolated forest. This was also shown in my audience research, who said they would prefer more gothic locations such as “darkened basements”. However, as my target audience was teenagers and I wanted their characters to be relatable, I chose to challenge this and used a typical house as my location, as realistically this is where teenagers would spend time and I wanted the characters to be credible. To show the aspect of Propp’s structure, the “struggle”, I did use a forest as a location for some of my shots. However, during the equilibrium I thought it showed the transference more effectively if the trailer started in a place where the characters felt safe and comfortable. The use of a forest referenced aspects of the gothic genre, which is often referenced in the horror genre. For example, a forest is used in the “Nightmare on Elm street trailer “which is effective as it connotes wilderness and isolation.