So the girlfriend and I went to the movies the other night, and I could have sworn we sat for a sextuple feature. This was because five trailers preceded the main attraction.
At least, I think they were trailers. It’s was a little tough to tell given how they showed what appeared to be pretty much the entire movie on fast-forward.
I think you know what I’m talking about. There’s no such thing anymore as a mere tease. Every trailer now comes with its own spoilers minus any alerts.
You emerge from viewing each with the overwhelming urge to leave the theater, grab a coffee and download the experience complete with storyline debate and performance critique.
What was the tipping point when the marching orders from film studios to trailer production houses was, “Okay, just take a little from each part of the film. Mix in plenty of jarring music and every shift of plot.
And don’t forget to include the climax! In slo-mo!”
The late, great trailer voiceover maestro Don LaFontaine has to be turning over in his grave. Then again, he too had a hand in this while he was still with us.
“In a world where nothing is left to the imagination and everything has to be spelled out…No one can hear your bewilderment and disgust at what you are about to see on this screen.”
When exactly was it that coming attractions became complete ones? This is what need be pondered while the previews dutifully wreck any future enjoyment of the film as you gaze up in air-conditioned, popcorn-fortified comfort this Labor Day Weekend.
Let me stop myself right here to make the point that this is anything but a smack at the trailer creators themselves.
Quite the contrary. They are magicians who have greatly perfected the art of bringing a film to life in an ADD-styled three-minute burst of action and dialogue.
It’s a far cry from the days of yore when you’d get a tacky, awkward jumble of disconnected imagery.
Yet at the same time, there was something charming about the sheer cheesy splendor of the old-style trailer promotion. For one thing, there was a lot more emphasis on whetting the appetite without ruining it for you.
Because I mean, even 60 years ago they knew that if you had the whole story unfold before your eyes like some freeze-dried, pre-shrunk concoction, you would be far less likely to want to plunk down your hard-earned cash (even during the days when it cost a mere nickel).
This is not an elaborate concept to grasp. In order to build buzz and curiosity, it would seem that the most prudent approach would be to grab your attention but stop far short of sating the appetite.
To use the analogy of a hot date, the max we should be talking here is second base — if that. You know, some nice making out on the couch and possibly an overanxious feel copped over a too-tight blouse, resulting in a mild slap of the hand and the implied promise of much more, or at least a little more, next Friday.
But what I saw the other night rounded third and drew a throw to the plate. And in at least one case, it slid home safely beneath the tag.
The most egregious offender of overstatement was the trailer for a forthcoming (opening Oct. 16) remake of the thriller “The Stepfather” starring Dylan Walsh as a boyfriend-turned-stepdad from hell.
To say that the preview took us to hell and back would be to put it far too mildly. Having seen these 200 or so seconds, I can tell you definitively what Wash’s character’s motivation is, his wardrobe, where he grew up, his mother’s maiden name, his Social Security number and the password on his Facebook account. I could literally steal this man’s identity right now.
Then there was the one for the romantic comedy-drama “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” pairing Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, slated to open Dec. 11. The trailer takes us through pretty much every implausible beat of their relationship in a feature I’ve already come to call “About a Goy.”
While this propensity to blurt every detail (however minute) about a film in the trailer like some crazy person doesn’t appear to have triggered a Hollywood slump at the box office this summer, it’s only a matter of time before a cannibalization effect has to take hold.
I mean, the same people who will hold up their hands and scream, “Don’t tell me! Stop! STOP!!!” as you attempt to describe the most mundane story detail of “District 9” think nothing of sitting through previews so comprehensive and vivid they could spur an educated review of the film on the spot.
Had “The Crying Game” come out this year, the trailer would not only have shown the fact that the lady is actually a gent; it would also have treated us to his gender confusion back-story.
And they could have used the sales pitch, “Come see the mystery that’s no longer any mystery at all…”