Nothing Comes At Night: The Poison of False Advertising
By Ryan Parker
There I was, early February 2017, still riled up from Superbowl 51 three days prior. Doing what most students do in between classes, I browsed through my phone with nothing better to do for the next 30 minutes. I checked my subscriptions bar on Youtube and was surprised to see that A24 uploaded a new video—a trailer for an upcoming film titled "It Comes At Night" (2017). Being a fan of the studio’s previous work, including the Oscar-winning "Moonlight" (2016), I was more than obliged to click play.
The video that followed sucked me right in. Stunning cinematography, an intriguing post-apocalyptic storyline, Joel Edgerton (a highly under-appreciated actor), and above all else… sheer terror and horror. This film had my name written all over it. Subsequent trailers portrayed similar themes of the horror element within the films narrative. Like many people, this film’s prospects grabbed my attention and didn’t let go until its release. A24 was no stranger to the horror genre with hits such as "Under the Skin" (2013), "The Witch (2016)", and "Green Room" (2016). Any sense of possible disappointment had not entered my mind.
The following June, the film was released. Fresh out of work, I got the chance to view the film during its opening weekend. To avoid spoilers, I won’t delve into the film’s story and details, but once the end credits began rolling, the first thing I heard: “Next time, I get to pick the movie”. As for me, I sat in the theater for a good five minutes, trying to articulate what I had just watched on the screen. Though I enjoyed the film, I couldn’t help to think that there was something missing, something left unfulfilled. I left the theater with a sense of disappointment that I could shake.
Once at my dorm, I took a minute to review the film’s teaser trailer once again. I then realized what was missing: The horror that was promised.
Since the film’s release, audiences have become split over the film, Rotten Tomatoes stating "Review Aggregator Rotten Tomatoes portrays a stark contrast of opinion between those of average audiences and those of critics". A quick review of the teaser will show why. A24 promised an experience of horror and fear unlike anything seen before. In reality, writer/director Trey Edward Shults throws out most modern horror conventions, and rather portrays the film as a character study, focusing on paranoia instead of than cheap scares and jumps.
While I am personally fond of more ambiguous, thought-provoking takes on the horror genre as this film portrayed, many audiences were left confused, disappointed, and betrayed by the films nonconformist storyline, thanks in part to the films poor advertising.
Advertisement is a pivotal part of the movie making prospect that can alone make or break an aspiring filmmaker’s career. Many trailers advertising big-budget productions, from the Marvel franchise to "The Lord of the Rings" have a bad reputation for spoiling parts of the movie, whilst more independent films, such as "It Comes at Night", are difficult to advertise due to lack of funds and ambiguous, original plot lines. Regardless of economic standpoint, modern trailers are ruining movies before they even hit the screen. So how can studios fix this issue?
Like the filmmaking process, the creation of feature trailers is itself an art form, and therefore must be treated as such. Editing, sound design, and story all come into play when attempting to portray a brief glimpse into the world filmmakers are portraying. Show too much, the film is spoiled. Show the wrong content, viewers become mislead.
For the pivotal model for trailers, look no further than the master himself, Stanley Kubrick. The trailer for the horror classic "The Shining" (1980) pushes the art of the tease to new levels. The entire teaser portrays merely a single shot of a pair of elevators. Menacing music immediately fills the air, as if the orchestra were menacingly laughing at us as blank white credits flow upwards. We are left to claw at the arms of our chairs waiting for what lies within the elevator doors. The last of the credits lifts out of sight. Then… a door opens. A tide of crimson blood rushes into the hallway, consuming all it makes contacts with. The walls, the furniture. It has no boundaries, nothing to stop it. Eventually is reaches the camera, leaving a stark red highlight. What follows, one last title card… “THE SHINING”.
A mood is set. The ominous music and pacing adds to an already horrific atmosphere. Nothing is spoiled as we get a taste of what is to come. We are left will an empty void and and without knowing what is to come. It is compositions like these that can save the movie industry from poor advertising and rejuvenate the excitement of today’s moviegoers.
Take a look at the trailers below!
"It Comes at Night":
"Green Room (2016)", Dir. Jeremy Saulnier
"It Comes at Night (2017)", Dir. Trey Edward Shults
"The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)", Dir. Peter Jackson
"Moonlight (2016)", Dir. Barry Jenkins
"The Shining" (1980), Dir. Stanley Kubrick
"Under the Skin (2013)", Dir. Jonathan Glazer
"The Witch (2015)", Dir. Robert Eggers