It’s the beginning of September, and although it’s still a blistering 90+ degrees on a regular basis here in Philly, the promise of fall is in the air. It teases and torments me in the form of witch and black cat decorations set out a month early in grocery store aisles, in the annoying Starbucks ads for pumpkin spice lattes that are suddenly popping up in my email inbox, and in the many, many trailers for horror movies that are slated to come out over the next two months or so. I will only complain about the latter in this post, a.k.a. diatribe.
Let me start by saying that it is a good time to be a horror fan. Seriously. There is some great stuff coming out these days: 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Invitation, The Witch, Green Room, Don’t Breathe. Go back another year or two and I could name at least fifteen more movies I’ve loved. And looking ahead, there are at least ten more I’m extremely excited about seeing. But now, let’s take one of those movies as an example of an insidious trend that's been creeping up on me for a while, but only started ruining my life - my very sanity - in the last few weeks: Morgan.
Morgan looks great. It had me hooked based on its lead, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), and the tagline alone: “A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.” I follow a lot of horror blogs, so I caught this one clip early on:
Like I said, I was sold. Good cast, good production value, a tense moment, sold. No need to lay out all the gritty details for me, thanks, I’d rather be surprised. Unfortunately, the powers that be (i.e. 20th Century Fox) could not let it rest. I went to see a horror movie in theaters soon after, and there was the trailer for Morgan, laying out every last detail of the film in, as far as I can tell, explicit detail. I mean really, compare the clip above to the trailer:
Now, I could be wrong. There could be oodles of plot left untouched, ready to be discovered only by those willing to fork over twelve bucks for a ticket to the show. But for my taste, this trailer tells way too much. I’ve already learned everything I need to know about Morgan, including exactly where her story is headed (if not how it ends). The element of surprise – of shock and awe – is gone for me. I know too much. And I have some shocking information for studio heads and trailer editors: I’m now far less inclined to go see Morgan in theaters.
I know, I know. Those in the biz claim that showing more of a film’s plot in the trailer makes audiences more likely to go see it. But dammit, pandering to the lowest common denominator is why we can’t have nice things, and I am so unspeakably tired of it. Why must stupid people constantly ruin things for the rest of us?
Yes, I said stupid people. I’m sorry if this offends you, but watching the entire plot of a movie in two minutes and then paying good money to watch it all play out again is stupid. Sure, it sucks to waste twelve dollars on a crappy movie, and maybe seeing the whole thing condensed makes you feel surer about your choice, but listen up, because boy do I have news for you: that’s what reviews are for. Do two minutes of research before heading to the theater (yes, I’m looking at you, person who decides which movie to see while waiting in line based on the titles on the marquee) and you can be fairly secure in the quality of movie you’re paying to see.
But apparently two minutes on Google is too much to ask of the average theatergoer these days.
This problem is especially egregious when it comes to horror films, which generally rely heavily on the element of surprise to, you know, surprise and scare audiences. Give away the biggest scares in the trailer, and what are you left with? Not me wetting my pants with fear and anticipation, that’s for sure.
Now I must harp on a film (just the trailer for a film) that I absolutely, genuinely love, and for that I am sorry – but it must be done. You see, I went to see Don’t Breathe last week, and it was every bit the pulse-pounding, heart-hammering thrill I’d hoped it would be. And you know why? Well, first of all, because it’s a great film – that certainly can’t be undersold. But also because: I went in completely blind. I knew the logline for the film and nothing more, aside from the fact that the director was a favorite of mine and the film had some positive buzz. I avoided trailers like the plague. I literally left a theater once to avoid any whiff of a spoiler.
And it paid off. It was one of the most suspenseful, exciting theater experiences I’ve had in years. Had I watched the trailer, though? It gives away a huge spoiler. If you haven’t seen it, I’m giving you fair warning, do not watch it. But if you’ve seen the movie already, let’s examine:
Less than two minutes in, bam. Giant spoiler. If I saw that before seeing the film, I would’ve spent the entire first half of the movie waiting for that moment, knowing it was coming sooner or later, and it would have colored the entire experience for me for the worse. And for those viewers that had that experience, rather than the one I got to enjoy – full of tension, anxiety, and genuine shock – that is a damn shame.
I know it’s not up to the filmmakers; like everything else, this comes down to money and marketing. As long as spoilery trailers rake in the bucks, they’ll surely continue churning them out. I can only send this futile yawp of frustration out into the ether, with little to no hope that anyone who can actually change things will take notice.
But I will “vote” with my dollars. I probably won’t see Morgan in theaters unless someone can convince me that there’s much more to the story than what’s shown in the trailer. And I’ll continue fleeing auditoriums during Blair Witch trailers (please, universe, don’t ruin this for me) like a fool, hoping that someday, someone will listen. Until then, ignore the weirdo in the next row humming through the previews with her eyes closed and her ears plugged. She’s not crazy, I swear.