They Finally Made a Trailer So Bad It Ruins a Completely Different Movie
Imagine that you’ve just sat through a horror movie, the kind that actually scared you. Let’s say for example that it’s the original Paranormal Activity. The film ends on a dour note, with the future uncertain and multiple people you actually cared about now dead. The credits begin, solemnly, giving you all the space you need to catch your breath and let the events of the film sink in.
Then, without rhyme or reason, the trailer for something like Zombieland starts playing. And then, when that’s over, those solemn credits just resume like nothing ever happened. The effect of the movie that preceded the trailer has, needless to say, been ruined. It’s like someone told an Edgar Allan Poe story and then decided to wrap it up at the end with an unexpected fart joke.
That’s basically what’s happening at the multiplex this weekend, where the excitable trailer for the new horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is playing right after the downer ending to Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. And not after the credits have finished rolling, which might have actually made sense, but just after they started.
(This was not the actual trailer shown during the credits. We were unable to find that trailer online. This is tonally similar.)
That Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension isn’t a very good movie is besides the point. It also doesn’t matter whether or not you even like the trailer to Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. This is simply not the way this should be done. You can splice a teaser for a sequel or spin-off to the film you’ve just seen into the closing credits if you want to, because at least that preserves the theme. But tacking a wildly different narrative and tonal experience at the end of a story that was specifically designed to work without that added content is, to put it simply, rude.
It’s rude to the filmmakers, and it’s rude to any audience member who may actually have enjoyed watching the film that just finished playing. The closing credits to a film are not untapped marketing real estate, they have some actual functions: they list the people responsible for the movie, obviously, but they also to give the audience an opportunity to cool off. These are the moments – sometimes several minutes – when audiences members are left alone in the dark with thematically appropriate music to think about what they’ve just seen. Maybe they’re shaking off the jitters, maybe they’re contemplating the movie’s themes, maybe they’re just cracking wise about it, but they are definitely thinking about the movie they just paid to see.
So shoving a new advertisement in their face at that moment, without rhyme or reason, is to the detriment of the film, the filmmakers, the audience and – honestly – also the film being advertised. We are not ready to see a trailer to Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and we are unlikely to be receptive to it after we just watched the apocalyptically depressing conclusion to a far more serious movie.
To be fair, the trailers preceding Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension did ask us to stay after the movie for a preview of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, but the implication was that the movie would at least be over first. The credits rolled for only a few moments with the appropriately somber music, then there was slapstick zombie nonsense, and then the credits resumed as somberly as ever as if nothing had happened. It really does play as though the latest Paranormal Activity movie got punk’d.
Look, marketing a movie is difficult, particularly if it’s an original film without a built-in audience. I’m not unsympathetic. Finding new and clever ways to maximize that kind of film’s visibility is important. But this particular experiment didn’t work. It’s so random and disorienting that the impact of the advertising is ruined. And it is enormously unfair to the movie that preceded this stunt, which obviously had no intention of cutting to a wacky comedy trailer right after its dire, sober finale.
I wish I could give mad props to whomever at least tried to do something different here, but this was an idea that should never have come to fruition. Try to imagine this as the new status quo. Imagine that the serious Oscar contender Steve Jobs concludes and then, 15 seconds later, they just play the trailer for the next big Universal Pictures release: Krampus.
To be fair, I want to see Krampus. It looks awesome. But there’s a time and a place for everything, and a time and place that would ruin a completely different movie is definitely the wrong time, and the wrong place.
This cannot be a new marketing paradigm. If this catches on, if this continues, then going to the movies could very well be more unpleasant than ever. We have to nip this in the bud.
So Hollywood, let’s all just agree that this was a bad idea, and let it never happen again. Okay?
[Update: We have confirmed that not every theater is showing this trailer during the closing credits of Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, but some are, so this criticism still stands.]
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.