X-Men: The New Mutants

As we begin to enter the holiday release window for some of 2017’s biggest films, trailers have naturally begun to focus on 2018’s slate. In some ways extending on the premise presented in this year’s Logan, X-Men: The New Mutants extends the X-Men franchise in yet another direction, this time promising something more akin to what one would expect from a horror film. 

Right away, the tone is bleak, grim, and downright spooky: as the camera slowly opens from black to a pan down a decrepit hallway in a non-descript, abandoned building, a cascade of atonal, buzzing synth tones slowly creeps upward in pitch as yet more layers in the bass are added. As an additional shot fades in on a graveyard, the swollen pitch then subsides. At 0:23, as the 20th Century Fox studio card enter, the musical premise is revealed: a children’s choir intones, “we don’t need no education,” an immediately recognizable lyrics and melodic line from Pink Floyd’s seminal classic, “Another Brick in the Wall.” At 0:32 we get the classic, sharp sound of what may be a waterphone, another acoustic marker germane to the horror genre. 

At 0:35 the next line enters, now with added bass synth: “we don’t need no thought control,” the choir sings, as we see a massive control room where children (mutants, presumably) appear to be held in secure lockdown. From 0:38 to 0:44 we hear a classic, sharp ascent and crescendo in all of the instruments as the narrator asks an unnamed, off-screen character, “one last question.” At 0:44, just a menacing, claustrophobic rumble in the bass remains, only for the Marvel title card to provide a jump scare of sorts at 0:45 alongside a huge aural hit to announce the second half of the trailer.

From 0:46 onwards we hear a more pulsing pattern in the bass as the narrator’s voice switches to the voice of one of the children. The bass alternates up and down a minor third while the strings jarringly remain on the high end of their range, and the choir continues chanting the /lyrics of “Another Brick in the Wall.”

After another massive build-up from 1:02-1:10 as the narrator tells the mutants that “all of [them] are dangerous,” we are introduced to what appears to be a diegetic banging sound coming from an old washing machine, with other sound effects that are unclear as to whether they originate from the sound-world of the visual. At 1:22 we get another jump scare, opening from there to a montage with a classic “heartbeat” rhythm pulsing underneath the proceedings. As the interspersed titles promise “something new to fear,” the choir returns, chanting “leave those kids alone,” alongside many other instruments and frenetic action, almost drowned out by the greater spectacle. The “we don’t need no education” line returns once more for the main title card, which notably uses a font similar to the one on the album cover of The Wall, not too subtly leaning in on the artistic and emotional cachet of the cover song.

The use of Pink Floyd’s lyrics and the iconic melody they accompany are part of a larger, current trend in trailers that could be deemed the “trailerization” of a song. It’s easy to see why this technique appear to be so in vogue and attractive to trailer music editors: one can leverage the nostalgic power and recognisability of any particular popular song, while editing it in a convincing way so as to best fit the demands of a trailer’s visual narrative. Only time will tell if and when this trend exits the mainstream, or how it may yet evolve.

 – Curtis Perry