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The trunk shot is a cinematic camera angle which captures film from inside the trunk of a car. Though the trunk shot can be produced by placing the camera inside the trunk, the considerable bulk of a conventional movie camera and camera operator makes this difficult. Therefore, the shot is usually "cheated" by having the art department place a trunk door and some of the trunk frame close enough to the camera to make it appear to be shot from within a car. The trunk shot is a specialized type of low-angle shot.
This camera angle is often noted to be the trademark of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who disputes that he puts the shot in his films as a trademark and simply asks, "Where would you put the camera?" Although he did not invent it, Tarantino popularized the trunk shot, which is featured in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Inglourious Basterds. In Death Proof, Tarantino's traditional shot looking up at the actors from the trunk of a car is replaced by one looking up from under the hood.
Possibly the earliest trunk shot can be noted in the 1948 movie by Anthony Mann (though credited to Alfred L. Werker), He Walked by Night, when the police are inspecting the contents of a murder suspect's trunk. Another use of the shot is in 1967 film In Cold Blood (directed by Richard Brooks) after the two outlaws cross the borders to Mexico in a stolen car. A trunk shot appears also in George Miller's 1985 movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome when Max, Master and the savage children are following Jedediah's son while escaping from their chasers guided by Entity. It is also used in the John Hughes (filmmaker) film Uncle Buck (1989), wherein Buck (John Candy) opens his trunk to reveal a tied up teenager who cheated on Buck's niece. The technique also has been used in the 1990 film Goodfellas in which the characters of Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci are opening the trunk of their car, ready to kill the man within. The 1992 film Sneakers contains a trunk shot when Robert Redford is kidnapped. There is also a trunk shot used in A Good Day to Die Hard, when John McClane and his son Jack find a trunk full of guns and ammo in a car they are about to steal. Paul Thomas Anderson used the shot in his short film Cigarettes & Coffee (1993). In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) there is a scene with a similar perspective, where Jack Sparrow, Elizabeth and Norrington find a burried chest and the camera looks up to them from inside the hole in the ground that the chest is in.
In Parker Lewis Can't Lose season 1 episode 11, a series of trunk shots are used during the episode's intro. In the CW's Supernatural TV series, trunk shots can be seen looking up at the protagonists, Dean Winchester and Sam Winchester, in both the pilot episode and the second season's finale. The trunk shot is also used several times in AMC's Breaking Bad. A trunk shot can be seen in the episode 18 Miles Out (episode 10) from the second season of The Walking Dead.
In music videos
- Colombian pop-singer Shakira's music video "Objection (Tango)", Shakira is shown from a trunk shot, smiling sadistically at her ex-boyfriend and his mistress, who are bound and gagged in the trunk of her car, which she then slams shut.
- In Axelle Red's 1998 music video Rester femme, Axelle is shown from a trunk shot looking at her husband, who is bound and gagged in the trunk of her car, which she then slams shut and blasts off.
The trunk shot also reached the video game world and was used in the 2002 game GTA: Vice City, in a scene resembling the trunk shot scene of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. In it, Tommy Vercetti and Lance Vance pull weaponry from a car's trunk before storming in on Ricardo Díaz's mansion.