The new remake of Carrie came out Friday, and as we discussed last week, the genuine mystery of its need to exist is multiplied by its spoiler-iffic trailer — which basically reveals the entire film, beat by beat, up to and including its blood-soaked finale. That said, it’s far from the first movie to be marketed with a trailer that gives away the entire game; here are a few of the most notorious examples (and consider yourself warned, spoiler-wise).
Cast Away / What Lies Beneath
Here’s director Robert Zemeckis on the purpose of trailers: “We know from studying the marketing of movies, people really want to know exactly every thing that they are going to see before they go see the movie. It’s just one of those things. To me, being a movie lover and film student and a film scholar and a director, I don’t. What I relate it to is McDonald’s. The reason McDonald’s is a tremendous success is that you don’t have any surprises. You know exactly what it is going to taste like. Everybody knows the menu.” So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that both of his 2000 releases show the entire film. In the case of Cast Away, we basically get a Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version of the movie, up to and including our hero’s escape from the island, rescue (“You were on the island for four years”), and reunion with his lady love — so anyone who saw the trailer before the film (which is, y’know, most people) had no worries whatsoever, through the middle hour and a half or so of the movie, that he was going to make it back to civilization.
Zemeckis’s dollar-menu sensibility even more egregiously harms What Lies Beneath, a vaguely Hitchcockian thriller which lives and dies by its twists — all of which are inelegantly revealed in what amounts to a two-and-a-half minute spoiler.
From Dusk Till Dawn
This early Quentin Tarantino screenplay, revived after his Pulp Fiction success with Robert Rodriguez directing and Tarantino co-starring, motors off of a clever pivot: it begins as a straightforward crime picture, with two career criminals kidnapping an all-American family, and then unexpectedly transforms itself, midway through, into a gory vampire flick. In interviews, Tarantino said he liked the idea of a movie that goes from The Desperate Hours to Evil Dead 2 without warning, but the trailer gives that turn away completely — as if the idea of a Tarantino-and-Clooney crime movie wasn’t enough of a sell point in 1996.
Grosse Pointe Blank
As you can guess from the trailer, this 1997 comedy from co-writer/star John Cusack was firmly in the Pulp Fiction mold of chatty hitmen and ironic action. But the reveal of old (and maybe new) girlfriend Debbie’s father as hitman Martin Blank’s target was buried deep in the third act, yet freely dispensed here — along with most of the action and gags from the film’s climactic shoot-out.
Mark Pellingon’s 1999 thriller spends most of its first two acts on a slow boil, and Jeff Bridges’ terrorism expert becomes convinced that his blandly polite neighbor (Tim Robbins) is, in fact, a terrorist himself. But there’s no room for that kind of build-up in a trailer; instead, all but the film’s final twist are revealed, and they might as well show Robbins twirling his mustache for all the mystery that’s left about his true identity and intentions. Bridges was so irritated by the tell-all marketing that he complains about it on the DVD’s audio commentary.
This already-forgotten 2011 thriller puts Richard Gere and Topher Grace on the trail of a notorious killer — but watch out, there’s a big twist midway through, when Grace discovers that Gere (who claimed to have killed the object of their pursuit) is, in fact, the killer himself. It’s a dopey enough turn to take, but when it’s also spilled completely in the trailer, you can’t help but wonder if they were deliberately trying to sink the movie, Producers-style.
This 1996 Bond flick opens with 007 barely escaping an operation at a Soviet chemical weapons facility, in which 006 (Sean Bean) is shot and presumed dead. So when he’s revealed to be not only alive but the film’s villain much later on, it’s a big surprise — so long as you haven’t seen the trailer, which makes that reveal the big centerpiece, as though all of the 1996 Sean Bean fans needed to be reassured that he’d be in the movie a lot. Whaddaya want, it’s not like they had any other sizzle to sell here.
Brian De Palma’s 1996 adaptation of the popular television show is chock full of big action set pieces, culminating with a thrilling (at the time, anyway; the dodgy CG work makes it a little tough to watch now) train-and-helicopter chase. And luckily for cinema-goers, they got to save their money by seeing a trailer that includes not only the explosion that ends that closing chase, but the quiet beat afterwards. Though, to be fair, it’s not like Tom Cruise’s life is ever really in danger in these movies anyway.
As far as giving away the ending goes, though, it’s tough to beat this 2008 English-language remake of the cult horror flick [REC]. This found-footage story of a quarantined building taken over by zombies concludes with a shot of our protagonist, on the ground, being dragged away from the camera screaming — the exact same shot that ends the trailer.
The Last House on the Left
Presumably operating off of the Carrie principle that anyone who’s going to see the remake will have already seen the original, the trailer for this 2009 reworking of Wes Craven’s grisly breakthrough movie could only show more of the movie if they just ran it on fast-forward: it’s got the set-up, every plot turn, and every single kill in the brutal third act, up to and including the details of how the murderous gang’s ringleader is ultimately dispatched. And thus, the viewing of an already gratuitous film is somehow rendered even more unnecessary.
For all of our carping about the giveaways of modern movie trailers, it must be noted that most of today’s marketers are at least more interested in preserving a film’s secrets than their predecessors. Back in the 1970s, they had no problem with laying out the entirety of a picture’s events. Take, for example, Paramount’s original trailer for Roman Polanski’s neo-noir masterpiece, which not only spends three minutes laying out the bulk of the movie, but shows us the ending, including the iconic closing line, “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”
And we probably shouldn’t be too hard on the Carrie remake trailer — there’s an argument to be made that it was just following the lead of the original, which starts on prom night, sets up the character, and then shows, in agonizing detail, her crowning as prom queen, the dumping of the pig’s blood, and the split-screen orgy of death and destruction that follows. Man, it’s like nobody wanted to keep that a secret.