The Scariest Things Episode CXVI: Our Favorite Horror Trailers (Part I)

Fangoria! Woo!
Coming soon, to a theater near YOU! Are you the type of person to check out a trailer as soon as it hits the internet? Well, this episode is tailor made for you. The Scariest Things is joined by John Foley, a veteran trailer producer and horror fan, to discuss our favorite horror trailers.

To avoid fainting, keep repeating to yourself, “It’s only a movie! It’s only a movie! It’s only a movie!”

The Last House on the Left

For many people, the first engagement with a horror movie is the movie trailer. And, as the adage goes “You Never Get a Second Chance at a Great First Impression”, so the trailer represents one of the most important marketing elements to a movie.

John Foley is on board to dissect the creative process behind the making of movie trailers. It’s a whole side-industry for Hollywood, usually operating independently from the studio that produces it. Why would a movie release control of one of the most important marketing aspects to a film? John is on board to help answer this question, and the rationale for how trailers get built.

Not only have the Modern movie trailers gotten longer, but they have become a bit of a canned formula. Because of the success of really successful movies before them, the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage has been in full effect for the past twenty years, at least. The three part narrative structure adopted by trailer creators has become a distilled version of foreplay, all in an effort to heighten anticipation in as little time as possible.

Watch this video clip… does this ring familiar?

Granted, this is the formula for an action picture. But horror movie trailers have their own formulas. The jump scare (super handy for a trailer), shrieking dissonant sounds, the merest glimpse of the monster/villain, and screaming young women fleeing from SOMETHING. The trick with horror film trailers is not to spoil the fatalities of main characters, but redshirts are fair game.

Even with all that said, we love our trailers. We post new and exciting trailers on our site. It’s the invitation to the scary, and without some sort of a preview, it becomes harder to convince somebody to spend two hours in the dark, and subject themselves to be spooked. T

The great thing about horror movies, particularly low budget horror movies, is that they take chances. There are no big VFX things to be revealed. You need to get creative on a budget. No better an example than The Blair Witch Project’s multi-pronged internet driven viral media campaign, so successful that it had people convinced it was a true story.

The similarly micro-budgeted Paranormal Activity used packed cinema reactions as a very effective endorsement. Showing the audience reaction in masse jumping out of their seats is more golden than any movie critic’s review. Authenticity wins! Of course… Blumhouse found so much success with this trailer that they did it again with The Conjuring, and now it’s a bit of a trope in and of itself. Of course, it really helps that the movies are authentically scary and these are real reactions. It makes you miss seeing scary movies in a packed theater, doesn’t it?

Another wonderful thing about horror movie trailers is the unabashed hyperbole that they are willing to pitch to an audience. So SHOCKING! So TERRFYING! You WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES! Horror movies can’t bank on Oscar Winning actors (usually) so go for the jugular with promises of something that will tap into your base emotions. Perhaps since the audience was pitched at impressionable teenagers (and kids) going all in on exaggeration was the best way to convince them to go to the drive in. Behold these classic trailers from the 1950’s!

THEM! (1954)
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1953)

It’s too bad that this type of trailer has come and gone. It will be very interesting in the future to see what people think of trailers from the early 21st Century. The Scariest Things does indeed identify some fantastic recent vintage trailers. I do love a good trailer. I am after all, one of those trailer junkies who will jump on a trailer as soon as it hits YouTube…and then I usually share it with you all! What movie trailers got your butts into a cinema seat?

Note: This is part 1 of 2, as we had so much to offer in this episode that we broke it into two parts. Our second and third rounds will be in part 2. We have included the trailers that we will be discussing in the Podcast below. For our impressions on these trailers, make sure to listen to this episode and the next one!

John’s Pick #1: Magic (1978)
Liz’s Pick #1: The Last House on the Left (1972)
Eric’s Pick #1: Slither (2006)
Mike’s #1 Pick: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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