Trailer Park Thursday: “Serenity” and “Bad Times at the El Royale”

What is the job of a movie trailer? If you watched enough of them, you might think it was to offer viewers a “CliffsNotes” version of the full-length film, but we happen to disagree. A truly great trailer is the kind that leaves you with more questions than answers, one that can steep you briefly in the atmosphere of the movie without feeling like a tarted-up version of a Wikipedia page—and this week, two such trailers just so happened to release, for two movies that will be in theaters this fall. After watching each, we couldn’t exactly explain the plot of either to anyone, but that has absolutely no bearing on our enthusiasm to see both! Yes, it’s a very good week in the Trailer Park, indeed:


First of all, this needs to be nominated for a Golden Trailer Award. It’s masterfully done! This is what a trailer should be, folks. Second of all, if Anne Hathaway is the new Meg Ryan, then is Serenity her In the Cut? The name Jane Campion, who directed the latter, may be more familiar than Steven Knight, who directed the former, but though his two previous features may not quite have registered on your radar, keep in mind that he’s also the creator of Peaky Blinders (starring our forever #mancrushmonday Cillian Murphy), not to mention the screenwriter behind Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, the upcoming Woman Walks Ahead, starring Jessica Chastain as Caroline Weldon, and The Girl in the Spider’s Web, starring Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander. That all adds up to quite the calling card.

Things are also adding up to what might be a big year for Matthew McConaughey, who will also be starring in the soon-to-be-released White Boy Rick and The Beach Bum. One could argue he went a little too “Johnny Cash” in The Dark Tower, which is when we last saw him on-screen, but if he sticks to the trauma-tinged brooding and darkly wise pathos that made him so, so great in Mud and True Detective, Serenity just might shape up to be one killer film. The cherry on the sundae of erotic suspense, though, is obviously Diane Lane—we still can’t help but furiously fan ourselves every time we so much as think of Unfaithful!

Bad Times at the El Royale

We’ve got blood spatter on the camera lens, folks! “Thor, Don Draper, and The Dude all walk into a vintage hotel that straddles the California-Nevada border” sounds like the start to a truly superlative joke, and Chris Hemsworth as a shirtless, charismatic cult leader would make anyone drool. Anyone! Besides, cults are, so hot right now. We’re excited to see how relative-newcomer Cailee Spaeny does in a role that, at least at first blush, seems so different from the one she played in Pacific Rim: Uprising. And as for Dakota Johnson…we’re trying to keep an open mind. Who knows? She could be the next Kristen Stewart, once she’s fully shaken off the shackles of her recurring role in the Fifty Shades of Grey saga.

Like Serenity, this trailer is supremely well-edited, offering tons of fun teases (including some of the creepiest bank heist masks we’ve ever seen, and trust us, we’ve seen plenty) but no major giveaways. Unless, of course, you count Jeff Bridges not being a real priest. Both are also rhythmically driven, with a ticking clock or a clicking fishing line as the anchoring beat. While Serenity feels neo-noir (not least of which because it’s set in the sunny Caribbean), Bad Times at the El Royale seems like a much more classic take on, or perhaps a wry homage to, the genre, which makes sense, considering that director Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods is “about” the horror genre as much as it is a part of it. What can we say? We’re just suckers for that kind of thing.

Do you love previews? We sure do! Join us every week in the Trailer Park for hot takes on the coolest Coming Attractions (popcorn not included). Don’t miss our recent rundowns on the trailers for “Suspiria” and “A Star is Born” and our Jake Gyllenhaal doubles feature, “The Sisters Brothers” and “Wildlife!”
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