There are few things I enjoy more (in a very uncool way) than scouring through old trailers, seeing how effective they are post-release and just how much they ended up actually revealing. Spoiler: the answer is almost always a lot. The best horror movie trailers, however, leave some scares up their sleeve while also promising a tonne of terror, sometimes without even revealing a thing.
Below you will find some of horror’s greatest trailers, ranging from the contemporary to the classic and some hidden gems in-between. A lot of these have already gone down in infamy, while others deserve a lot more love, even if the actual movies themselves weren’t exactly amazing. Whatever the case, though, they’re all a damn sight better than whatever that Fantasy Island remake was.
10. A Quiet Place (2018)
Horror trailers have a tendency to be loud, blaring horns and screams regularly featuring heavily. Not the case with the trailer for A Quiet Place, which is mostly silent, highlighting its unique hook superbly.
While it does resort to cranking the volume up as things stack up, the trailer does a marvellous job of showcasing the movie’s world without resorting to major spoilers. It really makes you want to pay your money to find out what’s making this family so on edge, what becomes of the boy with the spaceship, and just how strong John Krasinski’s beard game really is.
9. Sinister (2012)
Yes, so it is one of those loud and flashy horror trailers that I was just denouncing, but Sinister’s trailer is hugely effective when it comes to giving you the willies, even if you’ve seen the movie itself multiple times.
When a father unearths an old collection of tapes in the attic, he’s totally unprepared for what he unleashes. Sinister’s trailer could maybe have been more effective without a sighting of the big bad monster, but its turn to the main character on the screen is completely chilling. Couple that with some terrifying jump cuts and you have yourself a crowd pleaser.
8. The Shining (1980)
There’s so much to love in the trailer for Kubrick’s The Shining. A preview which teases almost absolutely nothing about the movie itself, it’s a simple showcase of one of the genre’s most iconic sequences: a river of blood rushing through the corridor of the Overlook Hotel.
The Shining trailer is also worthy of love because of the somewhat funny note it ends on, it promoting Stephen King’s novel. King famously hates this adaptation, going so far as to try to his own hand at it with a terrible TV show instead. Despite the original author’s dissatisfaction, there’s no denying The Shining’s horror classic status.
7. Hereditary (2018)
Those guys at A24 sure know how to put together a captivating trailer, one that pretty resoundingly subverts expectations. We won’t spoil what the twist is here, but just know that around a third of the way through Hereditary, you won’t know what’s hit you.
Featuring some dissonant music and samples with a gatling gun barrage of unsettling sights, Hereditary really is one of those horror movie trailers that might be better after you watch the film itself. Plus, it does the unthinkable: all of Hereditary’s scariest, most memorable moments aren’t spoiled.
6. The Strangers (2008)
The Strangers is a horror movie that’s been treated very kindly by time. Dismissed at release, it’s gone on to be something of a cult favourite among genre fans, it offering a simple but hugely effective take on the home invasion angle that’s been around for decades.
Its trailer does a magnificent job of promising terror: the vinyl track getting stuck on loop is oddly unnerving, while the shot of Liv Tyler oblivious to the hooded figure behind her makes for such uncomfortable viewing. Yes, it does somewhat spoil the movie’s most iconic quote, but you can still go into The Strangers and come out mightily surprised at the end of it.
5. Halloween (1978)
By today’s standards, the original Halloween movie is rather tame, and the same thing goes for its trailer. However, for its time — a time in which horror wasn’t exactly mainstream or even that accepted — this is a groundbreaking trailer.
Featuring that iconic score as well as an extended look at some of the classic’s best scenes and a Michael Myers who is never quite fully in focus, Halloween’s original trailer promised an experience on the big screen unlike anything many had ever seen. Judging from the original theater audience reactions to the movie, it absolutely put butts in seats.
4. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Your mother is supposed to be the person who protects you from the thing that goes bump in the night, not the thing that goes bump in the night. Goodnight Mommy is a simple horror told extremely well, featuring twins who grow suspicious of their mother following a surgery.
The trailer does a fantastic job of ratcheting up the intrigue, as well as an excellent use of children’s songs to creepy effect. What happened to the mother? Why does she have no problem munching down on cockroaches? All is eventually revealed in this supreme Austrian horror that you ought to have watched by now.
3. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
As well as being one of the best horror sequels in history (don’t fight me on this), 28 Weeks Later’s trailer also deserves to be remembered. It showcases a recuperating London in great detail, juxtaposed by journeys through the wasteland — and then the inevitable disintegration of it all.
What really makes this trailer work is the use of ‘Shrinking Universe’ by Muse, it starting off muted before being unleashed with an infected bursting through a door. It’s high-octane action that promises many a great setpiece on top of a nice dollop of gore. It also achieves something very few movies can: making Jeremy Renner likeable.
Can’t wait for the trailer for 28 Months Later any day now. Yep, no doubt.
2. Us (2019)
A formula for a horror trailer so great that Monkeypaw used it again for Candyman, the trailer for Us takes ‘I Got 5 On It’ and somehow turns it into nightmare fuel. The remixed version also turns up in the movie itself in one of the least conventional (and all the better for it) scenes in horror history.
Away from the music, the Us trailer is a masterclass in how to show a lot without revealing too much. It’s also fascinating to look back on having already watched the movie — there are so many hints and Easter eggs that were left intentionally to be dissected, yet Jordan Peele ended up sweeping the rug from out underneath us all anyway.
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
This was a revelation to watch as a young kid without any knowledge of the prior Texas Chainsaw movies. I vividly remember watching it during IT class in middle school, which would largely inspire my fascination with horror movies now.
Watching it now, it hasn’t aged a day. This is truly a masterpiece of a horror movie trailer, the serene opening of ‘Song to the Siren’ by Mortal Coil promising a fun getaway with friends before a stranger arrives. We then get an innovative use of an old camera sound for a quickfire round of carnage, finishing with a montage of the horrors ahead, the last image being a glimpse at the great redesign of Leatherface.
While this remake didn’t get everything right, its trailer absolutely did.
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