As anyone knows nowadays, going to a movie fresh has become an all but impossible task. What with script leaks, movie leaks, or bloggers revealing too much in their movie posts (Hell, I'm guilty of this but I generally write about movies that were made before I was born, so I think the statute of limitations is on my side), we can give detailed descriptions of movies before even seeing them. Sometimes, however, studios are to blame when they reveal too much information in the trailers they make. This is the first entry in a continuing series in which I examine trailers that are guilty of this crime.
[Warning: Major Spoiler's Ahead]
The preview for Jacob's Ladder is one of the most blatant examples of a trailer revealing too much. Tim Robbins plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam Vet who experiences horrific flashbacks and demonic visions, the results of not only his combat experience but also of an experimental psychedelic drug that the military tested on his platoon (or so we think). By the film's conclusion, it is revealed that he is already dead (or, more accurately, in the process of dying). After being dealt a fatal wound in combat, as he tries to hold onto his life, his brain creates a continuation of his life in which he moves back to New York after being released from Vietnam. Eventually, he lets go and dies. Unfortunately, the trailer makes this only too abundantly clear, showing a couple instances of characters telling Jacob, "You're already dead." This was, no doubt, a factor in the movie's meager box office returns. Why would viewers at the time want to pay to see a movie whose ending they already knew.
Although this film's ending is not necessarily shocking to anyone who's read Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" or seen the French film based on it, Carnival of Souls, or half a dozen "Twilght Zone" episodes; it is nevertheless irksome to know beforehand that this is where the movie is going. Fortunately, this movie has enough going for it that, knowing its ending, will not take away from its power. Several viewings of this movie still have not lessened its ability to shock and unsettle me. Unlike some movies, whose entertainment value hinges on an "ain't I so clever twist" (I'm looking at you, The Usual Suspects and the works of M. Night Shyamalamading-dong.), this movie is more about the journey than the destination. It would still be nice, however, if the trailer manged to leave the destination somewhat mysterious.
(Incidentally, I found this fan made trailer/music video that, although showing more, does a better job of leaving the movie mysterious.)