First impressions are everything, which is why the art of the movie trailer has become the most vital tool in the film industry. A bad trailer can sour you on the best movie, but most of the time it’s the other way around. If Hollywood does anything right, it’s selling us a slow-cooked turd as delicious chocolate.
So here are Dread Central’s picks for great horror movie trailers that overshadowed their lesser films:
The Hills Have Eyes 2
Exciting trailers for bad movies are a dime a dozen, but what about the ones that are shot just for marketing? You won’t find a better example of an ad eclipsing a film than the brilliant teaser for The Hills Have Eyes 2. Completely wordless with only the sounds of dragging bodies and Devendra Banhart’s “Insect Eyes,” the teaser showed more artistry and directorial flare than anything in the actual movie. To this day, I can’t recall a frame of the end product, but this haunting teaser will always stick with me.
Trailer voice-over king Percy Rodriguez gave the kind of iconic narration that could strike fear into a Disney film. The man’s voice could sell you on a movie without ever showing you a frame – and that’s exactly what he did in this minimalist teaser for Jaws 3-D. These 80 seconds contain more dread than all 100 minutes of the actual film, and you can almost hear the excited hush of the audience when this premiered on screens in 1983.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
I’ll never understand why Platinum Dunes’ clichéd remake The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has fans, but I’ll be damned if the film’s trailer didn’t get me pumped up to see it back in the day. From the creepy production design to the haunting soundtrack and use of the original’s iconic flashbulb sound effect, it made the hairs stand up on even the most hardened purist. Unfortunately the actual film was devoid of any soul and set the tone for the rest of the company’s hollow music video remakes.
Dimension Films loves to acquire properties they have no idea what to do with, and the Hellraiser franchise was one of their earliest and greatest casualties. There’s a good movie buried somewhere in the mess of Hellraiser: Bloodline (and it’s certainly better than the godawful Hellraiser III), but the studio’s notorious meddling more than earned this one its Alan Smithee credit. Slap on Clive Barker’s name and throw a bunch of evocative images together to “Mars, Bringer of War” and you have one epic looking theatrical send-off for the cenobites. The trailer also has two of Pinhead’s all-time best lines – neither of which are in the finished film.
It was a shock to no one when a PG-13 Terminator film directed by McG turned out to be a complete waste of time, but the allure of a future-war movie and an incredibly slick marketing campaign momentarily raised expectations out of the gutter. With broody John Connor voice-over set to Nine Inch Nails’ “The Day the Whole World Went Away,” this trailer could almost convince you that Salvation was a pretty good movie you just happened to sleep through. It’s too bad the leaked audio of Christian Bale’s on-set meltdown proved far more entertaining than the end product.
Aliens vs Predator: Requiem
The most common movie complaint – aside from douchebags on their cellphones – is how today’s ads show only the best parts. Exhibit A: This red-band AVP: Requiem trailer composed entirely of money shots. Knowing full well they had another piece of shit on their hands, the Fox marketing department reacted to the fan backlash over Paul Anderson’s neutered first film by cramming every single kill from AVP-R into a fast-paced montage. And it worked. We all thought we were finally getting the balls-to-the-wall showdown the studio had promised for decades. Unfortunately that’s all we were able to see since the finished film looked like it was lit with a fucking Lite Brite.
Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
It wasn’t the last and it sure as hell wasn’t the best, but Rachel Talalay’s goofball Nightmare had enough wild imagery to form a memorable trailer. The promise of Freddy’s demise with the 3D gimmick made this film the buzz of every schoolyard in the country when it was released. Say what you will about the results, but event movies like this don’t happen too often.
Riding high off Stargate and Independence Day, the combo of disaster-king Roland Emmerich and Godzilla seemed like the perfect match. The numerous trailers and genius taglines teased a fun monster rampage through New York City’s many skyscrapers – something that feels downright ominous today. But all that hype and excitement turned into widespread booing when a giant iguana showed up onscreen instead of the Big G himself. In retrospect, the smartest move the studio ever made was to never show the imposter (better known as NotZilla) in its campaign. Here’s hoping the new incarnation won’t wind up on an updated version of this list.
Long before M. Night Shyamalan fancied himself a prophet, the man gave us a trio of solid films that catapulted him into the limelight and gave our genre a much-needed shot of maturity. The Village had all the makings of a new horror classic: a perfect concept, amazing cast and most of all, one damn foreboding trailer. It’s a shame the film squandered the premise and marked the beginning of Shyamalan’s downward spiral into masturbatory nonsense. I still want to see the movie promised in this teaser.
“I just wanted someone to do Stephen King right.”
King had to be coked out of his mind when he threw the gauntlet down in his trailer for Maximum Overdrive and inadvertently snubbed previous directors Brian De Palma, George A. Romero, David Cronenberg and Stanley Kubrick (okay, maybe the last one was on purpose). But it’s hard not to get a kick out of the man’s William Castle-esque theatrics, especially when they’re set to the Halloween III score. Of course, you know he’s lying when he says he “kind of enjoyed” making his self-described moron movie, which stands as an entertaining example of 80’s excess but sure as hell didn’t do any favors for King’s directing career.
To be fair, Alien 3 doesn’t deserve to be on any bad movie list. Time and a superior extended version have been pretty kind to David Fincher’s directorial debut, which fails as a sequel but succeeds as a brilliant and nuanced monster picture in its own right. Yet, for those of us who anticipated the film through the 80’s, it’s still hard not to feel jilted by 20th Century Fox’s original promise – which came in the form of this incredible trailer. The series always teased Earth as the big endgame (until the AVP films rendered it mute), and one can’t help but dream of a perfect trilogy ending with Ripley and her comrades battling it out on our planet.
What are some of your favorite trailers to films that left you cold? Sound off below!
Special thanks to Buz Danger Wallick for inspiring this list.
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