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May 30-June 5, 2007

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Cult Leader

Movie Mashups: Retrailers can turn your favorite movies upside down

By Steve Palopoli

IT HAS BEEN a couple of years now since the first recut trailer, Shining, made its way around everyone's email inboxes. Since then, the retrailer phenomenon has exploded—you can find parody trailers of just about everything on YouTube. Many aren't worth your minute-and-a-half, but here are 10 must-sees:

1. Shining: The original by Robert Ryang is still the best. Ninety percent of the retrailers that have come since have basically recycled what was done here, without ever equaling it. The greatness of The Shining comes partly from Jack Nicholson's fearless attempt to break through the cold shell of a Stanley Kubrick movie with the sheer over-the-top insanity of his performance. Reducing that artistry to lame "wackiness" by reimagining it as part of a subpar man-in-midlife-crisis piece of Hollywood mall dreck is not just funny, it's a razor-sharp commentary on the fine line, as Spinal Tap would say, between clever and stupid.

2. Brokeback to the Future: A groundbreaking retrailer that broke out of the Shining template by going a little deeper than the "reorganized clips + pop hit = new genre" formula. Its blending of Brokeback Mountain with Back to the Future, Part III never feels forced or simplistic. In fact, it's a bizarrely organic blend, using the famous Brokeback score over BTTF clips that are as solemn and nearly quiet as the scenes from Ang Lee's film. The laughs here run from subtle chuckles as the concept builds to outright guffaws when Christopher Lloyd appears to play a gripping love scene in his antennae hat. The use of Michael J. Fox's line "Hell, I'm in it with you, and I don't even understand it" is probably the most convincing hijacking of a piece of dialogue in any re-cut trailer ever.

3. American Psycho: In a way, this is very much in the same mold as Shining—turning American Psycho into a romantic comedy—but I like it because it has a darker edge that becomes more obvious on repeat viewings. The way lines like "I'm afraid I might hurt you" and "I don't want to get bruised" are incorporated becomes as much a commentary on the nature of love as movies.

4. C For Cookie: Another original approach. Most of the retrailers that involve re-enacting scenes are terrible, but this one uses the Muppets to turn V for Vendetta into a movie about freedom of snack choice—and that, my friends, is genius.

5. Scary Poppins: Mary Poppins recut as Scary Mary. A lot of these trailer parodies turn comedies or family films into horror movies, but this is the only one that actually gives me the creeps.

6. 300 PG version: A more visual take on the retrailer that's brilliant right from the opening line: "Tonight we dine in heck." From there, the violent Frank Miller adaptation is reimagined as a film where Spartans use their swords to offer up cake, and even the most bloodthirsty warrior is never far from an adorable cartoon bumblebee.

7. Wolf Boys on the West Side: West Side Story goes werewolf. Just plain weird. Also look for the 28 West Side Days Later Story.

8. Glen & Gary & Glen & Ross: Glengarry Glen Ross as a movie about four men trying to overcome Tourette's Syndrome? Nice. Minus points for breaking the unspoken "deadpan" rule with jokey critic quotes, but still pretty fuckin' great. Fuckety fuck!

9. Must Love Jaws: Somebody didn't think this one all the way through—it never quite comes together the way it ought to—but the last 20 seconds will make you laugh out loud, if you have a sick enough sense of humor.

10. The Departed: A Star Wars Trailer: I generally don't like recuts with words dubbed jarringly into them, but even with its distracting sound glitches, this one is clever. The Emperor as Jack Nicholson's Boston mob boss. Sweet!

Cult Leader is a weekly column about the state of cult movies and offbeat corners of pop culture. Email feedback and your favorite retrailer here. To check out a previous edition of Cult Leader, click to the Cult Leader archive page.

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