Well, this was a strange occurrence. I received a request from (apparently) Nino Aldi, an independent film producer and director, asking for a review of his new film STILLWATER and its trailer. As you regulars know, I try to do any requests I can feasibly undertake (given that I have almost no money at the moment, there are some challenges), so I will do this one. I’m reviewing the trailer today and the film tomorrow, because doing it the other way around would be weird.
Update: After I decided to undertake this, I had a loss in my family. As such, I have moved the movie review to Monday in order to travel and help with the funeral arrangements.
Okay, so, here’s the trailer:
SUMMARY for those of you who can’t watch
A group of friends who were apparently former champions of something go camping in the middle of the woods near a lake. They have a night of drinking, only to find in the morning that one of them, Cooper (Ryan Vincent), has fallen off of a cliff to his death. For reasons that aren’t explained in the trailer, because time-saving, they realize that Cooper’s death wasn’t an accident. However, they’re the only ones in the area, so it has to have been one of them. They start to turn on each other out of suspicion, with at least one image suggesting another murder.
It’s odd to review a two-and-a-half-minute trailer, but here are the positives:
The set-up and isolation are established pretty quickly, as is the nature of the relationship between the characters. The sound definitely plays into the atmosphere from the beginning, not trying to surprise you with a cheap switch from, say, a traditional party movie track to a mystery theme. Obviously, I tend to favor a trailer being representative of the film, in tone if not in content, and the sound and score definitely seem consistent with the “suspicious death and ensuing accusations” vibe of the movie.
As to the content of the trailer, it has a few overly expositional lines in it, but… well, it’s a trailer, you need to convey a lot quickly if you aren’t a major studio. Lines like “there’s no way he fell down this cliff” on their own don’t carry much aside from saying “yes, the premise of the movie will include us finding our friend murdered.” In a movie, saying that without build-up or without a subsequent explanation, would be terrible. In a trailer, it’s just getting the point across, and works fine. When the group first starts turning on each other, it seems like they’ve skipped a little bit, but it does convey an idea of how seriously some of the members are taking this. Since it’s a murder, that makes sense.
The use of switching between group and isolation shots works well with the idea that everyone has gone from being part of a team to individuals suspecting each other. I’m always a fan of using the camera to convey the truth behind the scene and that’s usually what that kind of shot indicates.
And here are the drawbacks:
This trailer needed to have about 30 seconds cut from it. I don’t know if the length is just an industry trend, so maybe some of the material is there for that purpose. The reason I say that is that this film appears to be a mystery and that aspect of a movie will sell itself: Put out a good murder set-up and fans of the genre will want to see it just to find out what happens. Once you’ve sold the set-up, quit selling, because everything else can only make us less interested. In this case, it’s all the shots showing us the elements of the fallout amongst the group and the reiteration that the person who killed Coop was one of them. For the former, it just tells us that what we’re expecting happens, which can dull the fun a bit. For the latter, we’ve established that Coop was killed by one of them, so saying it again either accomplishes nothing or makes us think the twist is that he wasn’t killed by one of them. Neither of these really helps with selling the trailer.
Overall, I’m not saying the trailer really has me super amped to see the movie, but it also hasn’t shown me anything that screams “mistake.” I do at least want to find out who killed Coop, so… hopefully the movie either answers that or gives me a solid reason why it doesn’t answer that.
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