I Am the Night

Coming in early 2019 as part of TNT’s “Suspense Collection,” I Am the Night promises to be a thrilling match-up, with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins directing Hollywood phenom Chris Pine. In this series, a runaway woman discovers that she’s familially connected to a doctor-come-murderer, George Hodel. The suspense that ensues promises equal parts horror and film noire, and the trailer certainly obliges.

After an eight-second micro-teaser, Fauna Hodel (India Eisley) opens the trailer with a monologue describing her journey thus far, uncovering that she was given away as an infant and is embarking on a soul-searching quest to discover just who she is and where she is from. Up to the 0:35 mark, a gentle but definitely increasingly voluminous bed of tremolo strings presage 0:39, in which the strings are ratcheted up high in the mix with some remarkably creepy, decidedly atonal pizzicato – more than likely, the strings of the peg box are being plucked. This bears a striking similarity to a prominent sound in the official trailer to mother! (2017). 

The next scene is particular interesting in terms of its interplay between sound and image: the clicking of a rotary phone’s dial mixes with the strings; a ringing telephone interjects. These sounds richly evoke the a sense of the film’s historical place, without a doubt sometime in the mid-20th century; one is reminded of Hitchcock, and adjacently, the revival of his aesthetic through the TV series Bates Motel.

Even so, the editors also mix in some decidedly contemporary-sounding trailer effects, at 0:54 dropping in a very ominous and modern-sounding bass synth, which only serves to allow the diegetic sound of the phone hanging up to stand in even starker, more unexpected contrast when the synth bass drops out.

At 0:59 this hang up tone carries over to the next scene, serving as a drone underneath the ticking, clockwork-like pizzicato strings (Dunkirk etc.). In fact, it distinctly sounds as though the strings and an actual ticking clock were deliberately mixed together, with the average ear unable to clearly distinguish the two tones. This now-cliché ticking sound continues and is used to sync up with the presentation of the title cards. 

The arrangement occasionally pauses to allow for the dialogue to shine through, and steadily builds, adding in some cymbal sounds and other strings, eventually rising one whole tone in a subtle but effective play to increase tension.

At 1:48 we are treated to a montage of action and -- sometimes -- violence, with the percussion having now reached a steady, beating, orchestral thunder. 

The peg box pizzicati return by 2:23, a distinctly Hitchcockian motif that has its own sense of memorability, even if it isn’t particularly hummable. Taken as whole, this trailer deftly melds the sound-world of the mid-20th century United States with the various aural conventions of the modern horror/noire trailer with aplomb.


– Curtis Perry