HOLLYWOOD—I am a fan of movie trailers, I think I have been since I was a kid, but I haven’t really realized how much until late. Why? I heard a film critic explain that he never watches a movie trailer before watching a movie. It got me thinking, wow, that is genius, but at the same time how can you know what you’re going into without at least seeing a trailer?
The problem with movie trailers nowadays is the fact that they reveal too much detail. They just do and with the invention of the internet and social media, you now have the opportunity to study how the movie might formulate thru editing. For those not in the know, a movie is not one seamless scene. It is made up of cuts or several shots of a film that have been spliced together.
You can easily take screenshots of a trailer and by connecting the dots you figure out what scene precedes a particular scene and what might be the big climax or big moments. This is a particular problem in the horror genre. Look, I grew up in the 80s, so as a kid I know the genre a lot more than what I should and if you go back and watch a trailer from a horror movie in the 80s, the filmmakers had no trouble spoiling the movie. You would know who died, how they died and a strong likelihood of who the final girl or survivors in that scary situation would be.
There is a slight difference from the 1980s and 2023: you had no internet, there were no cellphones or devices where you could watch a trailer over and over and over again and put the pieces of the puzzle together. You would have to go to the movie theater and watch the movie you paid to see a second time to see that trailer again. Yes we have VCRs, but the clarity of those devices is nothing compared to the invention of the DVD in the late 90s and the current Blu-Ray disc that provides such crisp and clarity to an image you can easily pick out things from a trailer today that 40 years ago would be near impossible without repeated viewings on the big screen, and I doubt people would fork out money to watch a movie trailer over and over again.
My focus on movie trailers have taught me something I never considered, I’m a film editor in my own right. I know how to splice things together and examine a movie and break up scenes and connect the dots. I’m actually spoiling myself in doing so, but I’m showing my filmmaker skills more and it’s telling me, “Take a more active role in the thing that you love to do.”
A good trailer should give you a snippet of what a movie is going to be about without spoiling any crucial scenes. I cannot stress this enough because it seems the horror genre suffers the most with a trailer because they want to give the audience something, but at the same time you run the risk of disclosing way too much at times which can simply spoil a movie before you see it.
Prime example, I cannot wait till “Scream VI” hits theaters on March 10. I have not been this excited to see a movie in years, and I’m hoping the filmmakers prove something I have yet to see: a horror sequel that tops the original. I just haven’t seen it in my lifetime. The trailer released in December was the perfect teaser giving away little to nothing, but that subway scene did make us all question the survival rate of one of our characters. Last week the official trailer was released and some people are clearly dying, while others are semi spoiled and a potential ending or climax is exposed that I think could have been hidden. I don’t love that, it is always a possibility to misdirect, but misdirects are never easy people; I prefer not to know the ending before watching it and I do not want to know who lives or dies in a horror film. The surprise element matters greatly to the genre.
However, I’m going to consider not watching a trailer before seeing a movie because it is going to lessen the expectation for the movie. This means I can now enter a movie without knowing anything which means I will not be disappointed if a scene I was previously teased did not live up to the hype. If anything it is going to help me find more tidbits in the cinematic universe that may go overlooked and actually enjoy the movie going experience without dissecting it bit by bit, but I guess that is the mentality of a film studies student. You’re taught how to do this, so unlearning something you’ve learned and studied is no easy feat at all.