I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: In the Heights, everyone can hear you sing

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Maybe Matt shouldn’t play games during a pandemic – because it seems that he mostly picks ones that translate this whole ‘social distancing’ thing into a video game format: first Journey, then Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Turns out that the most social contact he’s had in a game recently was in the ultra-Swiss folk horror game Mundaun, a grim little tale about deals with mysterious old men and disembodied goat heads that nonetheless talk fluent Romansh. At least that’s not something that the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly well known for!

So, while some of our cultural baristas try, and fail, to find escapist entertainment these days, others look for grimmer fare: Julie used last Friday’s Six Damn Fine Degrees to talk about Dario Argento, focusing on The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and its companion piece Tenebrae. Seems like horror of one kind or another is on many people’s minds these days!

And that’s not all we have this week for lovers of the gruesome and the uncanny:

Matt: I’m not sure I’ll be checking out Calls – there’s too much to watch these days and too little time, brains and presence of mind – but this trailer has definitely made me curious. The cast is definitely interesting – and while the format, a series of interconnected phone conversations, may end up too gimmicky for its own good, I can see this working quite well… though the question is whether this needed to be a TV series and not, say, a podcast.

Eric: As a more Hollywood evocation of the opening paragraphs from Julie’s Six Degrees post this week, Alien is horror that transcends a fair number of boundaries while still being in thrall to them, expanding the palette to shades of misanthropy instead of just misogyny – but it’s effective, nonetheless. And its trailer was a work of eerie sophistication, a thing of undulating terror slithering through layers of unease until it built to a sickening release. The most impressive part, though, beyond that famous tagline? It never once shows you the alien. So successful was this trailer’s makeup, recurring background scream and all, that Ridley Scott directly referenced it in the trailer for Prometheus (though Prometheus ended up being an incredibly flawed film deeply in Alien’s shadow).

But if that’s too much horror for you, then you’ll be pleased to know that an amateur crew from Dorset translated the Alien experience to a home-made stage production, and the results… speak for themselves. From biological horror to unintentional comedy and adulation, all via the same movie. If that doesn’t tell you this thing is special, then whatever could?

Though let’s finish on something brighter – we’re not all gloomy and grim at A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, as Sam’s choice for a trailer shows:

Sam: There was probably no musical more important to the American psyche than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s marvelous take on American history that was Hamilton in 2015: by casting solely Black, Latinx and Asian-American actors for all the historically white roles and by anachronistically scoring it with anything from R&B to hiphop, it exploded into a discussion on race that deeply questioned the meaning of “Every man is created equal” set out by the Declaration of Independence. The musical eventually made it to Disney+, but now Miranda is back with a true movie musical: In the Heights traces the fight for equality in a contemporary setting of New York’s Washington Heights and its likeable cast of underdogs fighting against systemic racism and inequality. The tone is light-hearted and the trailer uplifting, but for anyone who knows Hamilton, there is bound to be heartbreak and tears in Miranda’s world, so get ready to be moved in many ways!

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