What makes us want to see any movie? Is it really the actors anymore? If that's the case, why do big name actors have so many movies that are losing money at the box office? What makes people want to go a see a movie is quite simply the trailer. Yes, that 2-3 minute snapshot of a film is the thing that draws us in. And, when dealing with genres, horror movies, aside from science fiction, seem to have all the others licked. In fact, the time constraints and story constructs of the trailer seem perfectly suited to this genre.
How so, you may wonder? Well, horror movies need only have a few elements to make them workable. In fact, 2-3 minutes might be too LONG for sneak peeks at these films. At their core, a horror film needs to have thrills, chills, girls, guys and gore. Yet, you don't want to reveal too much. However, that is where the horror genre is able to exploit these structural elements to their fullest potential.
So, is that all you need to have? Will people flock to your movie over that of one with a name actor if you present them with the requisite elements? No! This is the film business, right? The elements need to be put together in a way that is tantalizing to the viewer. Then, once you have that, if your film can also be interesting, unique or feature a surprise that promises to be one of those two, you just might have a film that will make viewers part with their dollars or hit BUY or RENT on their On Demand remotes.
And what better way to both display this and continue to celebrate Halloween than give you a list of the "13 Scariest Horror Movie Trailers Ever Made"? We know you remember them. They were the ones you saw in a theater or rewatched on DVD because you liked them so much.
They were the ones that had something about them that made you feel like you were going to be scared like never before. They were the ones that made you fall in love with this crazy, fun, quixotic genre called horror films. Or, maybe you are new to these films and want to know what all the hype is before you spend your precious time watching them. Think back to when you were a small child. Sometimes, the trailer was the only part of any given horror movie you were allowed to see. And it still worked, because the short spools of film still had all of their scary parts!
Do you remember any horror movie trailers that scared or scarred you as a kid? Chances are, a movie trailer first introduced you to some of Hollywood's scariest boogie man. Before you really got to become intimate with Freddy, Jason and Michael, these are all probably creeping shadows you first witness in a sneak peek not meant for your eyes. That first introduction is possibly what still makes them scary to this day.
Most of the best scary trailers were made way back in the day, as you can see by our list. In the 70s and 80s, trailers weren't as slick as they are today. They were truly terrifying pieces of blood-soaked cinema cobbled together by some maniac in a studio dungeon somewhere. These collections of horrifying images were made even more terrifying by a lack of structure and narrative. It's like being thrown in a pitch black room without a flashlight before hearing someone scream, 'Run!' These are the monsters that lurk in your closet at night. These are the things that give you nightmares!
And sometimes, a trailer can bring you to the edge of your seat with complete silence, as is the case with the first Alien movie. Trailers know how to play into your emotions, banging out beads of sweat like a coal miner digging for that elusive blood diamond. There are creatures of the night, serial killers, killer animals, space creatures, boogey men, babadooks, bleeders, slashers, and screamers. They're all here. And they want to munch on your guts and get deep inside that shallow brain of yours. Nesting, resting and ready to strike without a moments notice!
Whatever the case may be, sit back, heat up some popcorn, read our list and sample what we think are the horror movie trailers that really told it like was! We've also included all of the trailers, so you can bath in the blood, scream along and get a fear boner just like Pete and Kevin!
1The Exorcist 1973
With its ominous opening and red letters, nobody knew quite what was coming when this trailer burst onto the screen. Whether it was the image of the demons being on the screen for a few seconds, or young Regan (Linda Blair) writhing on the bed in full on possessed mode...If The Exorcist trailer didn't scare you, then you've got serious horror movie issues. The world had never seen a film like this before. Sure, this thriller was based on a best selling novel, but nobody thought that what was on the page could be converted to the big screen. Man, was it ever! This trailer also features the striking songs of The Exorcist theme which continued to haunt the film and viewers long after it first aired. Director William Friedkin certainly rose to the occasion with this film. This trailer was probably one of the few times where non-horror fans were intrigued enough to see a film that non-horror movie fans would've otherwise stayed away from.
2The Evil Dead 1981
Opening with the voice of a man that sounds like he's on the radio, The Evil Dead trailer works because it simply throws viewers into it. There is no build up, no need to establish characters or story, rather the titles appear (backed by thunderous organ music) and we are left to fend for ourselves. Add to this the images of bloody axes, doors flying open, people crying, and rampant pandemonium that seems to take place inside a tiny cabin and you have a trailer filled with "Oh Sh*t!" moments. When you consider that this thing hit screens in 1983, that makes the effect of The Evil Dead even that more groundbreaking. There is a real sense of horror as we briefly see the characters deal with the situation that has befallen them. We don't have to care too much. We don't have time for moments of nuance. Sam Raimi and Co. seem to be saying, "Hang on tight for less than two minutes and have your minds blown!"
This trailer is just about as perfect as horror movie trailers get. Excellent music by master musician John Carpenter? Check. Creepy voice narrating but not telling us what to feel or think...Basically, being creepy all by itself? Check. Taking this incredible movie and perfectly distilling it down to less than 3 minutes without giving away the farm regarding what this film is about? Check that box as well. This trailer is so perfectly paced, the footage so intricately put together that it both tells the story, leaves us wanting more, and never even comes close to giving anything away. The story of Michael Myers is both beautifully complex and sorrowfully simple. He is a killer who is determined to kill his sister. At the same time, his sister is a smart girl who ultimately has to become her brother in order to defeat him. This trailer not only plays on that idea...It depends on it and it all works incredibly well here.
When you consider how dismal A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge was, how could fans of this franchise not be stoked to see this trailer? They really took Freddy seriously here. So much so, that he isn't even featured that much throughout this trailer's 1 minute and 46 second run time. Rather, like the characters in the film, we, as viewers, have the pleasure of being slowly reintroduced to this diabolical monster. We see their fear as they discover that Freddy is indeed real, and we realize that he is coming back to the big screen. Ending with the classic Freddy nursery rhyme, the trailer for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors seems to be the last time that this character was delivered on the screen with the true mystique he deserves. This trailer simply foreshadows that in the most perfect of ways.
Opening this trailer with a voiceover telling us that the story portrayed in the film is true was nothing short of brilliant. This movie, in the trailer, looks like it was made for 30 cents. The sets look like they were dressed with Dollar Tree wrapping paper. Leatherface, the killer, looks like his costume was started and then abandoned. The filmmaking seems even more low rent. Yet, this was the idea and somehow it works to great effect in the trailer for this classic. This trailer is also edited in such a way that it just builds and builds. It is as if it is asking the viewer, can you even handle what you're about to see? The fact that this movie still holds up might just mean that this movie outlasted us all.
6The Strangers 2008
Opening with our main characters breaking up, The Strangers trailer works because it doesn't rely on editing. Rather, it earns it stripes because it lets us see many things the people on the screen do not. Clocking in at a little over 2 minutes, this trailer uses audio to great effect as it mixes disassociated images to tell the story of a couple being terrorized in a cabin. Like all great horror trailers, The Strangers shows us just enough to make this film a must see. Add to that that it takes a situation we have all dealt with (being alone in a house) and totally plays it without any artifice. The scariest thing about this trailer is how little is actually needed to freak us out.
Opening with the piercing score from the great Bernard Herrmann, we are shown brief clips from the iconic shower scene, and then a litany of clips in which the true story of this film is never really revealed. In fact, in many ways, this trailer is edited like your garden variety pot boiler from the 1960s. However, one thing is certain, Norman Bates was a role that Anthony Perkins was born to play. This trailer shows a great deal of action even though this movie is rather talky for the horror genre. Ultimately, this trailer's great strength is the dialogue and how it makes us question what we expect a horror movie to be.
8The Shining 1980
At a scant 95 seconds, The Shining trailer truly underscores the idea that less is more. We open with the elevators at the Overlook Hotel as organ music of a haunting variety continues to build and build. This trailer also gives us the credits to this movie and then eventually blood pours out of the elevator doors like Niagara Falls. This is all we see and it's all we need to see within this tale of a man going crazy with his family at an isolated hotel. There is such simplicity to this trailer that it honestly needs nothing more to attract our attention and interest. Ultimately, this trailer and film would prove to be two of the most creepy products ever created.
Space isn't suppose to be as scary as director Ridley Scott makes it here. Featuring fast moving footage of a planet in the nether reachers of the of the galaxy, all of these images come together to eventually rest on an egg of an alien. We soon go into footage of a space crew being scared out of their collective minds. Nothing of the alien is ever really revealed, and that works to great effect in this tone poem of a trailer. It has a richness and depth that truly elevates it within the sci-fi horror genre. The tagline of the film is, "In space no one can hear you scream," but they sure as hell can in a movie theater or your house!
10The Blair Witch Project 1999
While maybe not the first found footage movie ever made, The Blair Witch Projectcertainly kicked off a lot of movies in this genre. This trailer looks like it was made on iMovie, and to Artisan Entertainment's credit that was exactly what they were going for. Featuring a brief text description about how three people set out to make a documentary, we are then treated to a "WTF?" confessional about how what has happened in the film is all one person's fault. There is mystery, intrigue and if you don't wonder what the hell happened after screening this, you might honestly want to go to the ER and see if you have a pulse.
This trailer begins with a 20-something's going away party. Its being held for a guy named Rob. Then suddenly, the party stops and a 9/11 event seems to occur. We are then met with shaky camera footage of people scrambling for safety as the head from the Statue of Liberty flies through the sky and lands near whoever is shooting with the camcorder. This is all we get and it was honestly all we needed, to make us wonder what in the world was going on in this movie. A truly succinct, well crafted and terrifically layered trailer that did a great deal to advance the narrative of the found footage movie.
12Paranormal Activity 2009
Mixing scenes from the movie with ominous music and an actual audience seeing this film for the first time, Paranormal Activity is one of the few horror movies, found footage movies, and just any kind of movie to honestly live up to the hype. The whole film is a slow burn with each scare upping the ante more and more. The simplicity of this film, shot with an HD camera in anywhere USA, made it easy to copy, but almost impossible to replicate. One would have thought after The Blair Witch Project that it would have been very difficult to scare people with camcorder footage. Director Oren Peli, just with this trailer, showed us how easy it is to grab, change and manipulate an audience in ANY amount of time.
Playing on the idea of an idyllic suburban location, the power of the deep throated voice over, this thing quickly turns creepy with Heather O'Rourke's iconic chime of, "They're here." This trailer is then packed with all the thrills and chills it can possibly handle, yet it never gives away the store. In fact, if anything, it seems to touch on an even deeper truth about what scares us and what we believe. That is pretty heady stuff for any genre, not the least of which the horror one. Ending with the line, "It knows what scares you...," it seems that this trailer could easily be referencing the film's creators. A great trailer and one that still packs all the punch it did in 1982!
So what do you think? Are you ready for Halloween yet? Did we rekindle some of that old scary spirit you remember when you first saw these films? Was this your first time and now you're too terrified to talk? Did we leave anything out? Let us know and let us know now!