You’ll find, of course, that the movies
advertised aren’t always that great, which is likely a prime reason the
trailers are so effective: the people who put these things together were
trying to make crappy films seem exciting, which required an extra
effort. It’s said you can’t polish a turd, but with movie trailers you
very nearly can, creating a succession of images that (for me at least)
linger in the mind, even after the movie they’re culled from fades.
So here they are, my favorite horror movie
trailers (complete with YouTube links if they exist):
You can’t go wrong with this amazing teaser, a wordless succession
of slime, fire, gunshots and sheer terror, set to deeply eerie,
foreboding music. The movie is a fave and so is this trailer, a
veritable nightmare on celluloid.
The 1989 BATMAN is widely viewed as the first modern blockbuster.
What people appear to have forgotten is the film’s wonderfully
innovative pre-release trailer, which I believe is largely responsible
for drawing audiences to the movie.
I’m referring specifically to the teaser released in
late 1988, pieced together by producer John Peters. Lacking music,
special effects and fancy editing, it’s genuinely striking in its
minimalism, perfectly encapsulating the film’s noirish visual style
while seeming to promise something new and exciting. The movie, alas,
was neither of those things.
This preview for the crummy Eric Red flick BODY PARTS (1991)
is everything the film isn’t: taut, shivery and compelling. It was even
somewhat innovative in the way it starts out as a straightforward
recounting of the movie’s plot only to devolve into a fractured montage,
a format that’s become quite common in today’s coming attractions but
wasn’t back in the early 1990’s. I’ll say this: of BODY PARTS the film I
remember very little, but have never forgotten the trailer--especially
that guy laughing maniacally near the end.
THE CEMENT GARDEN
1993’s THE CEMENT GARDEN was an unremarkable adaptation of Ian
McEwan’s disquieting novel, but this trailer is something else entirely.
I don’t know who put it together, but it’s one of the creepiest
damn things I’ve ever seen.
It can almost be taken as an avant-garde short, with
its near-wordless procession of sepia-toned images that convey an
overwhelming sense of fear and apprehension. It concludes with a
teenaged boy and girl facing each other and a man shouting “Julie,
he’s your brother!”
COME AND SEE
This trailer, for Elem Klimov’s 1985 Russian masterpiece
COME AND SEE,
is a rarity in this grouping in that it’s not a coming attraction,
having been put together over a decade after the fact. It’s a wordless
compilation of the film’s most striking imagery set largely to the
sounds of--get this--the monolith chant from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY!
Sounds crazy but somehow it works, in a trailer that’s nearly as
powerful and horrific as the film itself.
I only caught up with this trailer recently--just last week, in
fact--but it was love at first sight. The Japanese horror/comedy/musical
HAUSU (1977) is one
of the most insane films ever made, and this preview follows suit. It’s
wildly discordant and plain crazy, with images of severed fingers
playing a piano and cheesy animated segues, all set to a horrendous
disco tune--in short, perfection!
THE MYSTERY OF RAMPO
I’ve heard it said that the real measure of an effective trailer is
how much it makes viewers want to the see the movie it’s promoting. If
that’s true than this Americanized promo for the 1994 Japanese flick
THE MYSTERY OF
RAMPO ranks extremely high, as after seeing it I was all-but
counting the days until the movie’s release!
The film for the record is a pretty good one, but this
trailer is an astounding and altogether unique amalgamation of
historical drama and hallucination, a bit like SHOGUN meets ALTERED
This 1982 trailer has stayed with me over the years for two
reasons: 1). The sight of the late Dominique Dunne screaming “What’s
haaaappeniiiiiiiiing?” and 2). The closing voice-over: “POLTERGEIST…it
knows what scares you!”
I’ve been unable to find this teaser for POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER
SIDE on YouTube, which is a shame.
I must have caught this fast and furious montage at
least a dozen times back in 1986, and it admittedly took my pre-teen
self several viewings to recognize one simple fact: that its blindingly
intense succession of monsters and mayhem was culled entirely from the
Perhaps the most iconic horror movie trailer of all time. I’m not
sure it captures the mood or events of
PSYCHO (1960) all that well, but it’s
definitely striking. It consists of “The Fabulous Mr. Alfred Hitchcock”
taking us on a jaunty tour of the film’s locations (note the impossibly
deep imprint on Norman Bates’ mother’s bed, which looks as if it was
occupied by an 800-pound person), and concludes with a shot of Janet
Leigh screaming in the shower.
This short and elegantly simple trailer is as iconic in its own way
as PSYCHO’S, and there’s an excellent reason for that: once viewed (preferably
on a big screen, of course!) it can never be forgotten.
All we see is this: an elevator opening to disgorge a
torrent of blood with credits rolling over it, accompanied by
overpoweringly ominous music--which, it turns out, is more than enough!
I can’t recall where I first saw this. I do know I was a little kid
at the time, and that this trailer has stayed with me (particularly the
voice-over line “His only chance to break the spell is in a stone…but
which stone, and where?”) as much as
THE SHOUT (1978) itself, which is a
longtime favorite. The trailer, in fact, encapsulates nearly everything
great about the film, particularly its dreamlike atmosphere and overall
sense of understated but vivid horror, accentuated by a deeply shivery
Martin Scorsese’s SHUTTER ISLAND was just okay, but this colorful
and atmospheric preview is a superlative gothic extravaganza: macabre,
foreboding and quite trippy.
Another impossible-to-forget teaser, showing only Arnold
Schwarzenegger (looking particularly TERMINATOR-like) silhouetted over
an outer space backdrop and some rudimentary animation. Of course, the
best thing about this 56-second wonder is the endearingly solemn
voice-over intoning, “Your mind…it is the center of life…it is
everything you hear…everything you see…everything you feel…it is
everything you are! How would you know…if someone stole your
mind??” Good question.
This 1988 film
is a longtime guilty pleasure. Had it lived up to the oft-kilter
brilliance of this irresistibly nutzoid trailer, with its eye-popping
procession of doll’s heads, crashing model trains, sparks and a
knife-wielding Theresa Russell, it would be a legitimately good (perhaps
even great) film on the order of
To clarify, the trailer I’m referring to is not
the one currently streaming on YouTube and other sites. That trailer
(which incidentally is pretty impressive in its own right) appears to be
the English one, whereas the preview I have in mind features a pulsing
rock soundtrack and an American accented voice-over. It played the U.S.
art house circuit back in ‘88...and I’ve been searching for it ever
TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS
This jam-packed preview is stunning, and easily the highlight of the
2009 SHOCK FESTIVAL trailer compilation DVD. Viewing said DVD took me
back to my initial childhood-era viewing of this particular trailer, a
breathtaking swirl of magic, monsters and daring do.
Unfortunately I was also taken back to the 1983 film it
was advertising, a cut-rate RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK wannabe exhibited in
cheapo 3-D. The film was never released on DVD, for which I can’t say
I’m too disappointed, but I am glad the trailer has been preserved
(although it doesn't appear to be online yet).
TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME
I’ve always liked the David Lynch helmed
transposition of TWIN PEAKS. I also really dig this
Lynch-compiled trailer, which is scary, darkly lyrical and bewildering,
and makes excellent use of Julee Cruise’s wistful tune “Questions in a
World of Blue.”
WILD AT HEART
Further proof that nobody can cut a trailer like David Lynch, who
again creates a stunning marriage of music and image, this time set
(partially) to the rockin’ opening strains of the metal tune
“Slaughterhouse” by Powermad. This trailer perfectly captures the flavor
of Lynch’s 1990
movie: extroverted, outrageous and (of course) wild.