Excerpted from “The Poetic Work of Trailer Recutters,” in the September 4 issue of The New Yorker
. . . On YouTube, viewable on my laptop when I should be writing or answering e-mails, there’s another spike for my cinema-addict veins: the work of the Trailer Recutters. These are would-be film editors and directors who make new trailers for classic movies. Modern (or archaic) music choices, quicker (or slower) cutting, iconic scenes and images scrambled out of sequence.
I’m not talking about the Recontextualizers, those prankish scamps who will create a trailer for “The Shining” as if it were a light comedy or for “West Side Story” as if it were a pandemic thriller. Those are delightful, but they serve a setup and a punch line outside the meaning of the film.
Adam Eyster’s Recut Trailer for Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Trailer Recutters, on the other hand, have discovered cinematic transcendence through sheer practicality and commerce. These people are very clear about their aim of finding work in the industry—the videos they make are calling cards, audition reels. But in this prosaic pursuit they sometimes kick loose aesthetic revelation. The film whose guts they’re rearranging yields a sleeker, differently breathing animal.
As an example, take yourself over to YouTube to watch the attempt made by an ambitious young editor named Adam Eyster at a “modernized” trailer for Tobe Hooper’s 1974 gorefest “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Keep in mind, the original trailer is a near-perfect bit of hilariously sombre drive-in sleaze. It does the job as effectively as the film itself does—it’s all grimy interiors, grainy lighting, and visual assault.
The original trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Eyster keeps the grime but highlights something that also exists in the film—and, upon repeated viewings, makes Hooper’s spit-roasted terror tale even more disturbing. And that’s the film’s poetry.
And before I go on—no, Eyster doesn’t cut his “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” trailer to make the movie look like a gentle Sundance darling. The awfulness is still sizzling and bright on the skillet surface. The bone furniture. The meat hook. The freezer. The razor attack in the van. Headcheese and a carving knife on cheap crockery.
In Eyster’s arrangement, we see these things as Timber Timbre’s dreamy, ominous ballad “Run from Me” plays over them: “Run from me, darlin’, run my good wife, run from me, darlin’, you better run for your life.” We also see Teri McMinn’s graceful walk to the (slaughter) house under a gorgeous Texas sky. Marilyn Burns’s sea-green jewel eyes in the middle of her sweat-striped, panicky face. Leatherface’s Busby Berserkely chainsaw swipe at the film’s climax. Painterly long shots of heat-hammered highways and horror houses.
These isolated moments, though forever affixed into the larger machinery of the movie, stay with me, burn into me hotter than the movie itself . . .
Halloween Trailers: Recut and Original
Adam Eyster’s recut trailer for John Carpenter’s Halloween
The original trailer for Halloween