CARRIE TRAILER & TEASER: A tell-all campaign for a high-profile remake

Though I love the Brian DePalma original (with the extraordinary Sissy Spacek), I’m looking forward to Kimberly Fierce‘s adaptation of Steven King‘s classic tale of shame, sexuality, puberty and power. Julianne Moore is an inspired choice to follow the inimitable Piper Laurie.

The 2:32 tell-all trailer (shown above) presents information chronologically. Immediately compelling, it builds toward the inevitable climax with copy, dialogue and quantities of excerpted scenes combining to position the film and explain its conflict and characters. Going beyond the need to suggest the likely resolution of the conflict, the trailermakers have made a virtue out of the fact that “Carrie” is a familiar cultural referent: everyone already knows the story and the ending. Consequently, the marketers withhold none of the plot, understanding instead that the topic (bullying, child abuse and its consequence) and the characterizations (Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role; Ms. Moore as her fanatically religious and over-protective/abusive parent) required maximum development. And, while marketers believe that audiences will come for the familiar pleasures of the tale and its spectacular, female-rampage carnage, they also expect to be rewarded by the performance and the psychological exploration–qualities emphasized in the trailer.

Curious to understand how the a/v campaign initiated awareness and generated buzz for the film, I watched the teaser to see it would handle story elements and appeal to audiences.


CARRIE – TEASER

The teaser is one long aerial tracking shot, as if from the P.O.V. of a police helicopter overflying, at a low altitude, a small town in which evidence of progressively devastating destruction is visible. The initial images are unremarkable, which stand in contrast to the eerie singing, the ominous sound design and the V.O. perspectives on the events in evidence below.

A haunting hymn sung by Moore (presumably) is the first sound we hear, over the crackling of flames. “This was always such a peaceful town,” says a male voice. Another continues: “I don’t want to use the word conspiracy, but that’s what it’s looking like.” As we pass deeper into the zone of destruction (buildings aflame and leveled), a girl says, “her mother was a fanatic. I don’t know how she lived with her.” Next, a deep, official- sounding male opines, “to believe something supernatural happened here, defies logical explanation.”

A swell of creaking, unsettling sound effects erupts as a card (white text on black) fills the screen: “This Spring.” (Apparently, the scheduled opening got pushed back.) Finally, an unidentified female classmate has the last word: “there’s something no one seems to understand. She wasn’t some monster. She was just this girl.” Carrie is revealed, at the center of chaos, covered in blood, trembling and looking scared as well as deadly. Cards with credits follow. A telephone number is given along with an invitation to Call Carrie. (What might she say?) The Website url is “whathappenedtocarrie.com,” an invitation to learn about what happened in her household before she ever danced at the prom.

The dialogue -probably specially written for the teaser, which looks specially shot as well–conveys a third person, reportorial or quasi-official account of events on the ground, enhanced by the perspective of unnamed peers, none of whom seem especially central to the events or the characters of the film. Apart from the description of the devastation visible beneath and the discussion of the title character as the responsible party, there is very little story, acting or excerpts from the film.

Indeed, this trailer is almost pure denouement: it’s the unwinding of the climactic scene, in which Carrie’s fondest daydreams have been raised only to be dashed in a cascade of humiliation. Her revenge –or at least its consequence–is all that we are shown. We see the blood splattered psychic-teen; we witness the cyclonic effects of her long suppressed rage. You might say, that the teaser builds to the pay-off, leap-frogging the events–all of which are assumed to be known already by the audience–to get to the pay-off; the cathartic moment when the innocent and victimized becomes knowing and victimizer.

The trailer culminates in a swoop down to find Carrie, drenched in blood at the center of devastation. And yet, this young appears frightened and traumatized, not vicious or monstrous, just as our unidentified V.O. actor insisted.

Of course, central to the appeal and shock and horror of Carrie is her iconography, a fact that hasn’t been lost on the visual creatives behind the teaser. Even in the midst of a burning town and bleeding bodies, Carrie remains a fertility symbol–a young woman having just attained sexual maturity in a traumatizing moment of public shaming. She is a sacrificial figure–a scapegoat for the sins of her classmates and for the community that ignores her suffering–but one who resists her martyrdom and creates a new myth of female power and menace.

It’s a great story with powerful elements from which to choose for publicity and promotion. Now, we just have to wait to the end of the week (Oct. 18th) to see whether the film is as good as its marketing.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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