Dreaded "Trailer Curse" Poised to Strike Again

A few things you need to know about IT, which hits theaters everywhere on Friday:

  • IT is adapted from a Stephen King novel.

  • IT was previously a made-for-TV miniseries that aired over two nights in November 1990. It ran more than three hours and was pretty forgettable, save for Tim Curry as the killer clown, Pennywise. Speaking of which…

  • The trailer for the modern-day IT remake certainly makes the film seem like some sort of killer clown show, when IT is a killer clown movie to the extent that McDonald’s is a French fry restaurant. To label one as such is a tad bit misleading.

Whether IT the modern-day remake is good or not is to be determined, though early reviews are quite promising. What is certain is that the trailers leading up to the film’s release are an absolute master class in putting asses in the seats. IT, good or no, will do major bank this opening weekend, for two reasons … (1) again, people get off on killer clowns, and (2) the trailer showcases the maniacal Pennywise just enough to tease viewers, but not too much as to feel like they’ve already seen the movie.

And if IT ends up being a movie that earns millions but disappoints those who paid to see it? Well, it won’t be alone. In fact, cinema history is littered with films whose trailers far outpaced the films from which they were spawned. This is what happens when bad movies happen to good trailers. (This list is in alphabetical order).

American Hustle
Don’t let the talented cast and all the awards fool you; American Hustle was a scattered mess of a movie. In fact, having seen it three times – I’m a glutton for punishment – I still have no idea what the movie is really about. It’s a shame too, as the trailer that preceded it was tight and energetic. If only the movie had followed suit.

The Blair Witch Project
Put aside all the buzz and fanfare that fell upon Blair Witch when it was released in 1999; this movie is boring as hell. A few college kids wander in circles for 80 minutes, the acting is poor, the camera moves so much as to induce motion sickness. There’s nothing good here. That said, the trailers and marketing that built up the movie really were landmark in terms of the found-footage genre. They are also the only good thing to result from this movie.

I’ve only walked out of two movies in my entire life; Angelina Jolie’s turn as Tomb Raider, and this piece of drivel, which coincidentally enough, was also adapted from the work of Stephen King (if any author has proven damn near impossible to adapt, it’s him). The trailer for Dreamcatcher really sells this thing, though the film — which devolved into some sort of second-rate monster movie — fails to make the payoff. The film also underperformed at the box office, so at least not too many folks got suckered in to shelling out for it.

Godzilla (1998)
Not the one from a few years ago; that Godzilla was actually pretty good. No, I’m talking about the one from 1998 that may very well go down as one of the five worst summer blockbusters of all time. The plot was nonsensical, the actors were checked out and the monster reveal was disappointing. But the trailer, man, the trailer! Talk about building anticipation. That’s probably why the film dropped nearly 60 percent in box office from opening to second weekend; audiences realized Godzilla was all sizzle, no steak. It did, however, provide one kickass soundtrack.

Man of Steel
Perhaps it’s time to just let the Superman thing go. How many times do movie studios have to try to make this thing happen before they realize that the character itself just isn’t all that interesting? Case in point, Man of Steel, which is one of the better Superman movies ever made but is still preachy and boring. However, coming off the abomination that was Superman Returns, producers realized a more serious tone was necessary to help sell the film. And while the film itself was kind of a bore — and Henry Cavill is just as bland as Brandon Routh — the end of days-like tone established by the film’s trailer is first-rate. It makes it seem like the movie really matters, even though it didn't.

The Purge
The horror/thriller genre is a tricky one, in that you have to give audiences enough of a feel for the movie without giving away all the scares. As trailers go, the one for the original Purge does that about as well as a trailer could. However, the film itself really isn’t all that tense or scary, but rather, a fairly generic bore.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Let’s be honest; George Lucas and crew could have shown a blank screen for 60 seconds, followed by the Star Wars logo, and Star Wars types still would have freaked out at the prospect of new franchise material. So the bar was fairly low for the first Phantom Menace trailer, which is actually pretty good. If only the bar had been lower for the film itself, which even diehard Star Wars defenders had to admit was a childish mess of a film. Fortunately, the most recent Star Wars installment seems to have made amends for the Phantom Menace, nearly 20 years after the fact.

White Noise
If you forgot about this movie, you’re not alone, considering it wasn’t very good and because it starred Michael Keaton before his career resurgence was in full effect. The plot concerns a man who communicates with his late wife via electronic voice phenomena (EVP). The film is fairly forgettable, but even today, that first trailer really sells it, even though it doesn’t really sell the film at all. Rather, it features real-life EVP examples of people allegedly communicating with loved ones from the other side. Chilling stuff.

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