I know I complain about this every few years or so but, seriously, they gave away a *HUGE* spoiler in the Don’t Breathe trailer.

Here, let’s watch it again:

DON'T BREATHE – Official Trailer (HD)

See what happens at 1:56? They give away the big twist of the film.

One of the things they could have easily done with this movie is billed it as “kids break into blind guy’s house but there’s a twist! He’s really a very, very dangerous person and we go from seeing him as the victim to seeing him as the implacable antagonist.”

See? That’s a pretty good pitch. I’d be interested in seeing that movie.

And then, when we watch the movie, we find out that the blind guy is also a guy who keeps prisoners in his house. They broke into the Silence of the Lambs guy’s house! Wow! What a twist! That’s, like, an even bigger twist than “heist that was promised to be a cakewalk turns out to end up being a deathtrap”.

And they gave it away. It’s right there in the trailer.

I can’t comprehend that. It has me go from “huh, that’s a cool conceit for a movie” to “huh, now I don’t have to see the movie” because they put the biggest twist of the film right there.

When I sit down and think about trailer theory, I meditate upon R. L. Stein’s great quotation: Every story has three parts: The beginning, the middle, and the twist.

Why in the world would you put your twist in the trailer? As an intellectual exercise, I’m going through various reasons to do that and I’m not coming up with anything even remotely compelling. Why not just put stuff from the beginning and the middle in the trailer?

I mean, sure, if your movie relies heavily on a twist (I’m looking at you, Sixth Sense!) you avoid putting the twist in the trailer… but why in the world would you give away the store in your movie trailer? Have they done studies that demonstrate that trailers that give everything away sell more tickets than the boring trailers that only give away the setup for the story?

(Featured Image is “Edison’s Telephonoscope” by George du Maurier from Punch Almanack for 1879)

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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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27 thoughts on “Sunday!

  1. When Jurassic Park came out, I remember thinking what an experience would be if the trailer never revealed the escape and mayhem. If they billed it as “March of the Penguins… But with super realistic CGI dinosaurs” and then *BAM* a raptor eats your face.

    You’d see that opening scene and be like “WHAT THE F?” Then you’d see the scene where Dr. Grant first sees the dinos and the score kicks in and you’d be all “Wow majestic!” Then the real shit goes down and you’d be flabbergasted.

    The problem is keeping families with young children or others who’d be harmed by being mislead out. “Marches with Penguins but with super realistic CGI dinosaurs and oh yea boobs too so no kids or anyone with a pacemaker.”

    Hm… Maybe not the best idea. But still…

    What if this movie pitched itself as a Sandlot reboot? Only James Earl Jones and his dog ate people? Oh man I could do this all day!

    ID4: A family reunion at a 4th of July BBQ with some unexpected guests (“Look Whos Coming to the 4th”?)
    Indiana Jones: “Not-so-Dangerous Minds”
    Star Wars: Cosmos Part IV


    • Jurassic Park: Man builds dinosaur park but hubris results in nature re-asserting itself. ALSO NEUMAN FROM SEINFELD BETRAYS EVERYBODY FOR MONEY.

      ID4: Space Aliens attack earth but Earth Fights Back. ALSO DATA FROM STAR TREK REVEALS THAT AREA 51 WAS REAL.

      It’s not that the main plot can’t be revealed, Kazzy. It’s not even that the first twist can’t be revealed. (e.g., the heist was supposed to be a cakewalk… BUT IT WASN’T) It’s that they give away important stuff from the second half of the movie that would detract nothing if they kept it just a hair closer to their chests.

      (Also, with regards to Don’t Breathe, I’ve heard, and I have no idea whether this is true, that the second twist was added after test audiences responded to the movie by saying something to the effect of “so… kids break into a blind guy’s house, he defends himself, and they’re the heroes? That’s kind of muddled.” If that’s true, and I have no idea whether it is, I can easily see there being a group of folks saying “I want to see the story from his perspective!” after the test screening. Hence making him a creepoid.)


  2. Agree 100%. The best trailer I’ve seen in a long time is the one for Zootopia, which was the DMV scene. It showed how funny the anthropomorphic animals were without revealing anything about the plot.


  3. I’ve been reading the Cunning Man by Robertson Davies and enjoying it. Then I left my copy at my parent’s house.

    For non-fiction Paris between Empires: 1814-1850 by Philip Mansel.


  4. 3 minutes seems awfully long for a trailer. Aren’t most trailers around a minute or less?

    For what it’s worth, all the reviews I have seen of the film do not mention the twist and present the movie as you do.


    • There are the “we’ve got a time out, so let’s hear some messages” trailers (aka commercials) for the television and there are the “you got here at 1:40 for your 1:50 showing of Everybody Will Talk About This Movie, but first, some trailers!” trailers that are around 3 minutes each.


  5. Maybe that’s not actually the twist. About fifteen years ago, I noticed a pattern where the previews for the next episode of some shows would regularly have what appeared to be major spoilers, but they’d turn out to be misleadingly edited, so that what actually happened was very different from what the preview implied.

    If you saw prisoners, there are probably prisoners, but maybe that’s something that comes up in the first fifteen minutes anyway, and the real twist is something else.


      • I don’t watch ‘Coming Next Episodes’ anymore.

        No, seriously. If they start one, I stop the video. Why would I? I’m going to watch the next one anyway. Why would I have watched the series to this point and just…stopped right there?

        I mean, yes, if it’s a horrible episode, in *theory*, I might stop, but honestly, if I have any real investment in the show, it’s going to take a few bad ones to get me to stop…and if I don’t have any investment, is a tiny preview really going to give me it?

        The contest *used* to be ‘Can we leave them in suspense so they will tune in next week?’, but that is not how TV works anymore.

        That was actually a pretty weird paradigm to start with. Have a self-contained episode so that everything wraps up at the end and the status quo is restored…and then make a tiny tiny mini-episode out of the next episode to make a cliff hanger. It’s something that could only make sense in the medium of network TV….all other forms of fiction that wanted cliffhangers just *made cliffhangers*, but TV couldn’t do that for the same reason they couldn’t change things…because it *used to be* that people would maybe miss several episodes, so everything had to make sense standalone.

        But at this point in time, most people who watch TV watch every episode, in order. Either via a DVR, or via streaming. And they don’t need to ‘remember’ to watch the next episode, it just collects. (Well, sometimes they don’t know the next season is out, but this doesn’t help with that.)

        So the question…why even do this anymore? What is it actually accomplishing? Is there really some large segment of ‘I don’t know if I’m going to watch the next episode or not?’ watching past episode 4 or so that isn’t due to the show turning to crap. (Which isn’t going to be solved by tricking them into watching the next episode!)

        (This of course doesn’t really have anything to do with movie previews, which do serve a purpose.)


  6. I watched Stranger Things! It was good! I will probably be sharing my thoughts on it later at some point.

    I also watched three different versions of Count of Monte Cristo. That’s probably going to get a post.

    I’m not sure if I am going to make it through The Americans before Clancy and Lain get back from back home. Sigh. I really needed to watch that one because that one is not Lain-in-the-room-friendly.


  7. Augh! This is not Jaybird! It is Maribou! (2nd time today on 2 different computers. I’m starting to feel cursed. Cursed by user error on my part, mind you, but still. CURSED!)


  8. Ordinary times bookclub, of course. And to back that up, Murakamis Hear the Wind Sing. Which was the novel he wrote fist, won a competition and started his career. It was never officially available in the states, only translated for a dual language version. Until last year. It was published with Pinball, 1973 last year. Very good, though a bit different than his later works. Still finding his style.


  9. Postulate: Bad Movies oversell themselves.

    Given that this is true, if you’ve made a bad movie and you know it’s bad and nobody is really going to give all that much of a crap about it, showing the twist is overselling.

    “If we’re willing to show you ***this*** in the trailer… IMAGINE what the ***REAL*** twist is going to be like!”

    And then you don’t need to deliver on the second, non-existent twist, because really the trailer was just the chance to front-load opening weekend so that you could make your didge before you slide to 7th place on the list in the next week.


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