After drying out from the endless supply of Johnnie Walker I was plied with at the 2017 Oak Cliff Film Festival, I gathered my wits about me, found my car keys, and had some time to reflect. As a result of this, I realized, A24 Productions, we need to talk, girl.
I was lucky enough to get into the well-attended screening of your latest outing A Ghost Story, (fawning, yet charmingly vulnerable review soon to follow!) and I got exactly what the trailers promised me. Just take a minute to reflect on that last sentence.
Yep, I’m still pissed about It (Doesn’t) Come at Night.
But let’s focus on the positives first-- a cube of sugar does help the absinthe go down, after all. When I watched trailers for A Ghost Story, it showed me what looked like a more secular version of Tree of Life with Casey Affleck in a children’s costume. Check. Check. And double check. The film got an enthusiastic round of applause, people asked sincere and touching questions of the director and crew, and no one hated you, A24. It was a good feeling.
Very unlike the tide of ill-will still floating around the saddest and most desperate corners of the internet (Can I get a cheer from all you Cinesluts?!) about It (Doesn’t) Come at Night. And no, I will not stop referring to it as such. Pulling in only a little over 11 million on a five million dollar budget (according to the combined forces of IMDB and Boxofficemojo), the disastrous word of mouth that spread after opening night crippled it and lead to this sad showing. The poor thing probably didn’t even make its advertising budget back. I can’t remember the last time I saw so much advertising for a horror film--certainly not since the languid, lurid, sweet, and sleazy time of the 1990s. And I was excited. We were all excited.
And then we got an artsy, nihilistic fable about grief and death.
Is what I would have usually said.
Really, no actual sarcasm there, A24. I have mentioned my unapologetic love of all things pretentious before, see HERE. My favorite horror film is Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf. I thought Lars van Trier was a jerk before we all found out he was a Nazi. I’m president, secretary, and part-time treasurer of my own Fabrice du Welz fan club. Yeah, this was the kind of film that was made for irredeemable, unlovable, unrepentantly snobby pieces of all organic, free range manure like me, and you blew it.
Trust is one of those intangible things that builds brand loyalty, establishes goodwill, and above all, sells tickets. When you cut the trailer of It (Most Certainly Doesn’t) Come at Night to make it look less arthouse and more grindhouse, you betrayed everyone who fell for what you promised. And shouldn’t we have trusted you, A24? You gave us the most gorgeous trailer I had ever seen for Anton Yelchin’s violent swansong The Green Room, and then presented us with a gritty, ugly, lyrical, funny story of punk rockers versus not-your-nerdy-best-friend’s Patrick Stewart. It was perfect madness, just like we were promised. And that’s just one example. Whether your films have been good or bad, they’ve been what they were promised to be, and we appreciated that.
Will I stop watching your movies? Hell, no! Sure, you burned me, misused my trust, and treated me like a common rube. At least you’re not making superhero movies (Sorry, Wonder Woman, but I just root for the bad guys the whole time, anyway). I’ll be back with my movie money crumpled in my sweaty palm for your next offering, and I’ll sing the praises of A Ghost Story, but girl, you did us wrong.
And while we’ll forgive you, and probably eventually forget (Who has time for this anyway? I’m already running late for my real job…) don’t besmirch the bad name of offbeat, indie cinema by refusing to bite the hand your trailers menaced.