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Great moments in trailer failure: “After.Life.”

Great moments in trailer failure: “After.Life.” (photo)

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If your trailer can’t win a multiplex audience over — if, in fact, it incites active derision — you’re in serious trouble. Such proved to be the case this weekend with “After.Life,” the upcoming, oddly punctuated Christina Ricci-Liam Neeson horror movie (or whatever it actually is — it’s hard to tell). The “After.Life” trailer was running in front of “Cop Out,” not a hard crowd to win over — no one who shows up for “Cop Out,” myself included, is setting the bar terribly high. If you ever want to assess how a movie is getting marketed, you could do a lot worse than simply sit in a darkened theater and listen to the audible reactions. In an era of widespread multiplex rudeness, you don’t have to do much to make people respond.

[“Cop Out,” for the record, was much funnier than I’d expected — despite the dismal reviews, there’s a reason the movie performed respectably in the box office.]

Though it’s unwise to extrapolate too much from trailers, which tend to err on the side of the actively deceptive to pack in audiences, what’s amazing in the case of “After.Life” is how apparent it is that there isn’t enough footage to deceive. All you’ve got is that Christina Ricci may or may not be dead, Liam Neeson may or may not be a creep and Justin Long is without question an ineffectual boyfriend (between this and “Drag Me To Hell,” Long’s career as the disposable horror boyfriend is really taking off).

In the past few months, I’ve heard a few trailer reactions that stood out — the woman who said loudly about the “When In Rome” trailer (one of the dumber high-concept synopses of late, one that seemed to actively assume everyone watching is an idiot) that “that looks good.” More presciently, there were the sounds of active confusion over the “Nine” trailer. It’s like numbers polling for amateurs.

The bar is not very high for horror trailers: all you really need to do is keep the lights down, the cleavage up and throw in one last shock cut before you fade out, and you’re pretty much on your way to a $15 million weekend. (The audience for baseline-competent horror movies is nothing if not consistent and easy to keep coming back to the well.) So why do audiences (or at least my audience — this is obviously not a scientific survey) find it more risible than usual?

03302010_sorcerer.jpgThe main problem with the “After.Life” trailer is that there’s no big scare. It’s unusually muddled, starting in the middle, flashing back to what happens before Ricci’s accident and then implying Liam Neeson will be defeated — yet somehow managing to deliver no tension. There’s also something inherently ridiculous about the whole “are they did or just being deceived” premise — metaphysical horror movies, as a rule, are not a terribly popular genre. No matter how off-the-beaten-path your film is, it helps to sell it like any other.

Saddest of all — this trailer can’t get as much of a buzz out of the audience as freakin’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” (It’s a woeful day indeed when an old Disney cartoon chestnut is reappropriated as some kind of chasing-the-“Harry Potter”-gold vehicle. Why’d they even need the name?)

Here it is. What happened, Ricci/Neeson?

[Photos: “After.Life,” Anchor Bay, 2009; “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Disney, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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