The Time I Decided to See a Movie Without Watching Its Trailer
I was three hours from wrapping up a ridiculously long week of work, adjusting my posture in the seat of my chair, when I really started feeling like seeing a movie after shutting off the computer and saying “fuck it” to a dozen outstanding to-dos. My girlfriend was working the evening shift, so the gameplan was to tell her I was seeing either one of two movies out of the sorry-ass selection in theaters this month, and that — I hoped — neither one would be too extraordinary so as not to ruin the notion that we only see good movies together. (I already biffed on this last year when I saw both Birdman and Boyhood without her.)
At the time of checking, I had Kingsmen and It Follows to choose from, because, honestly, there seemed to be nothing else worth dropping $12 on. A cursory glance at Metacritic put them both around the same temperature from critics (70-80), which was good enough for me. I’d seen a few trailers for Kingsmen, and both of them were so different from one another it was hard to gauge exactly what kind of film it would be — somewhat serious action film, or goofy/spoof take on James Bondish British espionage? I hadn’t seen the trailer for It Follows, but assumed it was some kind of American teen horror flick with a guy stalking some innocent person (with fairly high praise from the few snippets I’d glanced through). The poster was refreshing (no red text used!), but still I didn’t read a proper description of its plot or watch the trailer. Both were queued up for around similar times at 7:00, so I returned to work, waiting for the day to end.
After trying to trudge through the rest of my work, I ended up staying later than I should have. Now the options changed — only It Follows was available for viewing at 8:20, the most practical time at this point, so I decided to do that. I made a quick stop for reasonably priced water and a chocolate bar at Whole Foods, then lugged my laptop-ridden backpack up the AMC River East stairway and bought a ticket and medium popcorn for a movie from which I had no idea what to expect.
The opening shot was enough to sell me on the next hour and a half: A young woman bursts out of a Michigan suburb home along a quiet neighborhood street in some kind of lunatic hurry, clacking along in heels across the street, abruptly saying something to her dad, who meets her at the entrance of another house, running back out, leaping into a car, and furiously driving off. All one long, somehow claustrophobic shot. And it wouldn’t be the last of this kind of marauding, dreadful camerawork.
It was at about 15 minutes in when I realized my girlfriend was going to be annoyed — this was clearly a great film already, and she was missing out. But I kept stuffing buttered popcorn in my mouth and stressfully enduring minute after minute of the film until at about 10:15 when I was finally relieved to see the credits commence.
No, this isn’t a review of It Follows. But if you want the short of it, I highly recommend seeing the film. My favorite of the year so far. Instead, I want to say a little something about the joy of seeing a film without having subjected yourself to any kind of information about it. There are a rare few times when this has happened in the past. Most recently, we saw St. Vincent in a last-minute film switch at the theater, and neither of us knew what the film was about, aside from the assumption that it starred an old cranky Bill Murray. It ended up being quaintly entertaining, and destroyed the film we piggy-backed off it (the horrible Mockingjay). Aside from that, it’s usually random picks on MUBI that I find myself flipping on a film without any preconceived knowledge. Rather than having an idea of what the film may be about or what its tone may be like, you watch it unravel with unspoiled anticipation.
Just think about it. You don’t know who any of the protagonists are, what environments they will at one point encounter, no sense of music — which can drastically alter the timbre of the film’s feel and movement — and you certainly, most importantly, don’t have a sense of what the film is even about. Going into a horror film, of all genres, without knowing what to expect was rewarding in a way most of the films I’ve seen on MUBI haven’t been. It Follows wasn’t some foreign indie film that took a strange direction (like Kim Ki-duk’s 2006 Korean film, Time — wow: weird and recommended, too). It Follows an American-made horror flick hidden in the outskirts of Detroit, an unnerving score by Disasterpeace (whose work spans synthy-electronic videogame OSTs), and an unsettling sense of time-space discontinuity (it’s hard to reference any props in the film as an indication of when this film actually takes place).
So yes, I recommend seeing It Follows. I’d also recommend seeing more films without watching their trailers. The spoiler-laden fad of showing two and a half minutes of film is, unfortunately, the state of the film industry right now, and it’s hard to avoid accidentally seeing a trailer when they pin twenty minutes of them before your screening at the theater. But, perhaps, you can try this at home. Perusing Netflix. Or iTunes, or whatever. Watch an old flick without reading its description. Or one that you’ve heard of but know nothing about. It’s refreshing. It’s surprising. And even it’s a terrible movie, you at least didn’t have a sense of what you’d be in for until after a few hours of unblemished time passes.
And seriously, don’t watch the trailer for It Follows. It ruins part of the fun of the film, and certainly doesn’t set the tone right at all for what you’re about to end up of loving.