At a movie studio, once the pesky task of actually making a movie is out of the way the guys in the suits go to work. Their job is to bend and manipulate the movie footage into a short trailer that will tell you exactly what they think you want to hear. And it should be noted at the outset, they think you're retarded.
Here are five things we'd ask them to kindly stop doing, and why we know they never will.
Superbad's 30 second trailer promised that "Every generation has one iconic movie that is... quoted non-stop... Superbad is that film." That's high praise for movie producers; while we might mutter "douchebag" when a grown man emerges from a public restroom, fans his crotch and says, "Do not go in there!" in his best Jim Carrey inflection, the marketing community considers that shit free advertising.
What makes less sense is why, in a movie that's chock full of quotable nuggets, they chose "McLovin, sounds like a sexy hamburger!" to be the one line that turned up in the trailer that bragged about quotability. You know, since that line was so memorable that the filmmakers left it out of the movie altogether.
It didn't matter that the line was in no way quotable since it was a response to a name that doesn't exist anywhere outside of the movie, nor did it matter that both Jonah Hill and Michael Cera had funnier TV-friendly lines that were actually in the film. The studio wanted a line by Seth Rogen since he was in the previous summer's "once in a generation" quotable movie, Knocked Up. So the suits rifled through the footage left on the cutting room floor until they found a Seth Rogen line that didn't contain the word fuck, and we got a preview that did a great job hiding the fact that Superbad was actually pretty funny.
"This is a line in a movie!"
But what happens when marketing folks don't have an over abundance of good material to discard in favor of a deleted scene? The trailer for Black Christmas got around that problem by featuring a few moments that were shot just for the trailer. And by a few moments, we mean just about everything you see in the trailer was shot just for the trailer.
According to the IMDB page, the list includes:
An unknown caller saying, "All is calm, all is bright, who is in my house tonight?"
A woman rubbing the snow off her car and a hand reaching through it.
A woman falling off the roof tangled in Christmas lights.
A woman being dragged through the snow by a Christmas lights machine.
Melissa in the hallway with a flashlight while Billy is on the ceiling ready to strike with an axe.
For all of the actual film footage the trailer shows us, Black Christmas very well could be a remake of A Miracle on 34th Street starring Danny Glover and Webster.
Soon after it was released in 1989, Ton Loc's "Wild Thing" was put to use in the trailer for Uncle Buck, which actually made sense because the movie was about a wild man played by John Candy, and also because it was still 1989.
Since that time, Mr. Loc's anthem has been used in trailers for every fish out of water comedy that has been released in the last 19 years, including Undercover Brother, Garfield: The Movie, Bedazzled and the Rob Schneider vehicle, The Animal.
So why continue to use a song that had quickly become shorthand for "No matter how low your expectations, get ready to lower them!" Well, Hollywood thinks you need to be told exactly what sort of movie you're going to be getting. When you need to communicate that the main character is a live wire, why use cliched dialogue when you can use a cliched Ton Loc song instead?
The voice of several generations, apparently.
If the comedy has a big enough budget, they might even go with the nuclear option: Smash Mouth. Hollywood loves the shit out of some Smash Mouth; presumably because their songs are genetically engineered to get stuck in your head like some sort of incurable mind-AIDS. Also, they all sound the same, so instead of using that "All-Star" song like Shrek (and Mystery Men, Inspector Gadget, Shrek 2 and Shrek 3), you can get the exact same effect by using one of their many other identical-sounding songs; like in Made of Honor, Can't Hardly Wait, the two shittier Dr. Suess Movies and the shittiest Austin Powers.
In fact, every comedy genre has a preset approved-for-trailer list that runs about two songs deep. Romantic comedies get The Cranberries "Dreams" or the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin.'" Feel good comedies almost always use "Walking on Sunshine" or the most overused song in movie trailer history.
Yes, the only way to communicate that your film is the "feel good comedy of the summer" is to play James Brown's "I Feel Good." Apparently, Hollywood believes that you not only need to be trained like a Pavlovian dog to know what kind of movie to expect, you need the lyrics to literally tell you how to feel.
When they're not lying to audiences, trailers are telling them too much. Hollywood has been known to treat films with a unique plot, or a surprising twist ending with all the delicacy of Lenny in Of Mice and Men.
"I see dead people...wink."
Take, for instance, one of the first genuine twist endings in the history of Hollywood cinema. The studio knew they had a twist that would leave audiences head spinning if they could just get them to watch it. The whole trailer teases you with the mystery at the heart of the film's mind blowing ending, asking "What is the secret of Soylent Green?"
You'd just have to watch the movie to find out. Or, you know, keep your eyes open for the part of the trailer where Charlton Heston breaks into the factory and sees all the bodies moving down the conveyor belt. If you caught that, then don't worry about showing up, you can probably put it together from there.
With time, this became common place. The trailer for Ransom was geared around a dramatic scene in which Mel Gibson's character announces that he is offering his own ransom as a bounty on the kidnapper's head, a plot twist that kills any suspense you might have felt during the first half of the movie. The trailer for Wild Things ruined the first half of that movie by giving away the fact that the sexual harassment suit against Matt Dillon is a hoax.
A sexy hoax.
And of course there's Cast Away's trailer that shows the plane crash that lands Tom Hanks on the island...
Tom Hanks battling the elements, and then Tom Hanks being rescued by his friends who tell him, "You've been gone for four years."
They actually end the trailer with the final shot of the film, but commendably show the restraint to cut things off before the credits start to roll.