Imagine, if you will, a place where you could go and listen to some of the most influential, hilarious, intelligent, enthusiastic and generous genre filmmakers in the movie business talking about the movies they love, the movies that made them who they are as artists, the movies that make them whack themselves on the forehead in disbelief, some of them which you’ve never seen or perhaps even heard of. Imagine this place, full of three-to-four minute mini-film classes and remembrances built not around the films themselves, but around their trailers, so that you could be sparked to see the whole movie on your own and form your own perspective. And imagine that each week all new presentations would be added to the vast vault of horror, sci-fi, drama, musical, western, war, film noir and comedy trailers already available. Now imagine that it wouldn’t cost you a plug nickel (or a virtual one either) in order to access all this effervescent genre goodness.
Well, imagination is a wonderful thing, but this is one area where it need not be exercised (at least initially), because this place already exists, grown up from a good idea back in 2007 into a genuine Internet phenomenon, a must-see visit for casual film fans, genre geeks and tenured cinema eggheads alike. Yes, I’m talking about Trailers From Hell, where 40 self-described “Grindhouse Gurus,” the likes of site founder Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, John Landis, Allison Anders, Larry Karaszewski, John Sayles, Edgar Wright, Mary Lambert and many more gather together offer commentary on a huge variety of Trailers from all corners of that very special Hell known as the history of Hollywood, and world, cinema. Toss a rock at the TFH menu (here’s where your imagination comes in—don’t really toss a rock at your monitor) and you’ll hit anything from Joe Dante on Fail Safe and Macabre, to Eli Roth on Rolling Thunder, to Larry Karaszewski on Get to Know Your Rabbit and Salo: the 120 Days of Sodom (How’s that for range?), to Allison Anders on Lisztomania, to Neil Labute on Leave Her to Heaven and Josh Olson on Mandingo and The Witchfinder General. This isn’t your garden-variety Internet movie geek snark-fest, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the ADD set—these people know their stuff, mixing reverence and deep movie knowledge with humor and sometimes genuine disbelief (“These movies actually existed! And they were sold this way!”) when they sit down to experience these trailers with you. (Currently it’s Francis Ford Coppola week at TFH, where Josh Olson and Adam Rifkin have already checked in on The Conversation and Rumble Fish, respectively, and where Larry Karaszewski will dive into One from the Heart tomorrow.) And, oh, yeah, Trailers from Hell is not a subscriber service. It’s free.
Dante and company, including producer Elizabeth Stanley, Webmaster extraordinaire Tom Edgar, “Secretary of Information and Technology” Danny Mears and art director Charlie Largent, who has been creating delightful, iconographic images for the site since the beginning, have offered up Trailers from Hell pretty much as a gift to film fans the world over for just over five years now. And if you’re someone (like me) who has appreciated their efforts over the span of those five years, maybe it’s time you and I gave a little something back. Trailers from Hell is attempting to complete a grand total of 1,000 episodes that can appear not only on the Web site, but also on services like YouTube, Blinkx Channels, cell phones and other 21st-century avenues of distribution that will ensure an even wider range of recognition and enjoyment for what these mad geniuses are doing. In order that this goal might be met, they’ve initiated a Trailers from Hell Kickstarter campaign designed to drum up funds to cover the myriad production costs entailed in creating this one-of-a-kind site, including marketing and promotion so that, as they say in their Kickstarter press release, they don’t remain “the best kept secret in Hollywood.”
The campaign aims to raise $30,000 by Thursday, July 19, and with 27 days to go at this writing they’re already up to $12,160, and they’ll get there with your help and mine. As often happens with Kickstarter efforts, those who donate to the Trailers from Hell cause will not only be helping to keep this great site going, but they’ll also be taking home some pretty keen premiums for themselves, depending on the level of monetary participation. I can’t do much, but every little drop in the bucket counts, and for my meager donation I’m claiming a copy of Joe Dante’s masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch on Blu-ray, signed by the director. And there’s lots more available to those who choose to take part: just look at all the goodies you could secure for yourself with even a comparatively meager pledge.
If you love classic genre movies of every stripe, if you love smart, funny people talking about classic genre movies of every stripe, if you love looking at the ways some of these wild and unusual cinematic beasts were initially presented to the public in the hopes of luring suspecting and unsuspecting ticket-buyers alike through the front doors of theaters, then you’ll love (and probably already do love) Trailers from Hell, and you might very well want to have some small part in ensuring that it continues as a vital destination for movie fans (of every stripe) on the information superhighway. It’s a great way to give back to these folks and perhaps get a little something more in return. Trailers from Hell remains a special place, where art and fandom and criticism and craft mix it up in a thunderdome of undiluted movie love, a place where “any movie can be great at two and a half minutes.” Who wouldn’t want to do something to make sure it stays that way?