Presenting: the unfilmable book trailer!
Author A.S. King’s new novel I Crawl Through It is a dream-like odyssey through the lives of a handful of high school students who are confronting the secret sorrows and absurd frustrations of their lives by unusual means.
Stanzi is a girl who has split herself into two people; Gustav is fashioning an invisible helicopter that could help him escape; Lansdale’s myriad deceptions make her hair grow as long as Pinocchio’s nose; and China has swallowed herself and turned into a walking digestive system.
They’re being tested on two fronts: one, with repeated lockdowns and evacuation drills to prep for a bomb threat or a school shooting, and two, through brain-numbing standardized tests, meant to assess their value to society – if they aren’t blown up or gunned down first.
The novel, which EW reviewed in September, is a mind-bending trip that pushes the limits of a reader’s imagination … and even its author wasn’t sure it could be adapted into the far more literal form of a trailer.
But directors by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (who also produced it) and James Bailey met the challenge. Check it out below:
In addition to Charlton-Trujillo and Bailey’s direction, the I Crawl Through It trailer was completed with cinematography by Michael C. Potter, and editing and sound design by James Bailey.
The cast, in order of appearance, is Bella Garcia, Zachery Taylor Uahinui, Madison Bintz, Jeremy Greenwell, Anna Verderber, and Jessica Miller.
EW also spoke with King about what her novel says about the bizarre, beautiful, and agonizing experiences of growing up – and how she never expected to see that walking stomach.
Entertainment Weekly: What kind of guidelines did you give the creators of this trailer?
I gave them no guide at all. I gave them the book. It was suggested, “Maybe we could make a trailer.” I said “No, I don’t think that’s possible… But I dare you!” I only saw it a few days ago and they did manage to do it. I lost that dare.
They didn’t have any questions for you?
When they were about to film, they asked me a few questions because I often don’t describe what my characters look like. I think they found the perfect Gustav, even though I myself never pictured Gustav. They bounced a few ideas off me, and they were all great, like the sound of the helicopter taking off in the end.
They even depict the girl who swallowed herself. I interpreted it so abstractly when reading it, but they went straight-up literal with a digestive system on top of a skirt.
I couldn’t believe they pulled that off. I thought it was great. They green-screened her and put a stomach on top. Even though it is a metaphor, she’s a different part of the digestive system every day. I thought it was perfect.
Kind of funny, but also creepy.
Very creepy! When the little stomach with a skirt runs away, it’s like, “Whaaat?” It’s very strange.
You’ve been touring to promote the book. What are the most interesting conversations you’ve had with readers?
The interpretations are many, which was the point. Everybody is going to see something different. Everybody is allowed their own ideas about this book. When everything is metaphor on top of metaphor, I think you’re allowed to figure out what you think it is.
It’s about teenagers, so what have young readers brought to it?
What’s been really eye-opening is talking about intruder drills at school. It started at Kansas City this summer when I started talking to teen read groups at libraries and schools about what sort of mental heath support they’re giving after the drills themselves, and did they find them scary in any way.
At that age, I remember never wanting to admit I was scared. That’s when you learn to front invincibility.
Far more than I thought opened up and were honest and said yes I find the intruder drills scary. Male, female, every color, it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter how tough they are on the outside. One girl said to me, “It’s very frightening to make yourself small against a wall and know that if you don’t make yourself small enough, that could be the reason you die.”
This is a new phenomenon. Who knows how it messes with their heads?
When I was a kid, we did fire drills. But never on the news did I see a school on fire. I’ll have people respond to me saying, “Well, we had duck and cover,” but yeah, you didn’t see nuclear war on the television. You saw propaganda, you saw frightening things, but this is a little bit different form duck and cover. It’s not the destruction of the whole world. It’s the destruction of your friends in front of your face in the classroom.
I have much younger kids, and they learn to hide from school shooters by playing “rabbits in the hole,” with the teacher clustering them in a closet as quietly as possible. She thinks it’s play, and I don’t know what to say when she figures out it’s about a man walking into her school with an assault weapon.
It does scar kids. There’s a certain age that it hits them. My 8-year-old thinks it’s hilarious because someone gets stuck next to the toilet when they all get shoved into the bathroom together. But there’s a moment when it switches. That’s the moment you want to be able to talk to them honestly about it.
Teens must intuit a little hopelessness from these drills, right? Like, we adults can’t get our act together and stop this, so you’re going to have to prepare for it as an eventuality.
It’s definitely disheartening that we can’t do just a little bit of something to try and make kids safer in school. But that’s what the book’s about. You have to crawl through it. You have to crawl through life, and hopefully you’ll make it. As a mother it’s disheartening when I hear about these drills. We undervalue teenagers so much and blow off their emotions so much. This is being blown off as well.
That’s probably the most tragic thing of all. We’re just letting them deal with the consequences.
If there was ever a thing that I would think would pull at every human’s heartstrings, no matter their side of the political spectrum, I would think the safety of their children would be the thing they might be able to pay attention to.
Some have the insane idea of arming first-grade teachers to protect kids.
Time and again, it’s just politics and politics and politics. As someone who suffers from PTSD after I was robbed at gunpoint quite violently when I was 24 … I blew it off for a long time. A lot of people will say, “Well, if it was me, I would have done this … or I would have done that.” I guarantee you, if it was happening to you, you’d just be trying your best not to pee your pants. You don’t even consciously do that. You just stand there in shock.
In I Crawl Through It, the students are going through these actual survival tests, but then they get mundane tests, too. They’re inundated with these fill-in-the-blank standardized tests until they’re numb.
As we all guessed, students get very anxious about standardized tests, and overtesting, and school is boring because they’re often being taught to the test. Between [intruder drills] and standardized testing, I think it’s going to raise anxiety levels in our teen population. I think it already has.
Writing about these things in an abstract way, is that an easier way to explore these issues. A chance to explore troubling topics with a dose of magical realism?
It was definitely a way to make it easier to talk about trauma and discuss different sorts of trauma, and the kind we don’t take 100 percent seriously. But to take a surrealist – or I’ll just call it “bendy” because I wouldn’t call it magical realism – to take that direction, it really was easier to explore these things. I’m in your face with the details when I have to be, but it was easier to do it through surrealism.
It’s not like the reality makes sense anyway.
All the concepts are so insane! It’s insane that we’re talking about this. It’s insane that American school children are taking over 100 tests in their life time, it’s insane they’re having to do these intruder drills. Because it’s so absurd, I had to use an absurd structure.
Is there a code to break here or is it truly abstract in the sense that any way you interpret it is the right way?
There is no code. Every human, no matter what book it is, will bring to a book what they want. The key is: get on the helicopter – trust me. If you can let go of the linear storytelling, and let go of the need for answers, that’s how you see where it takes you.
For a signed copy of I Crawl Through It, you can find them at King’s local indie bookstore.