Trailers are such an interesting aspect of the movie going process. They’re meant to entice us into seeing whatever new major movies the studios have got in store for us. But as is usually the case, most trailers give away too much! In an effort to get you down to the theater on opening weekend, some trailers tend to show you all the best bits. That’s why I’m more intrigued by “teasers.” And sometimes when it comes to franchises, the machine is already running and hence teasers will be crafted before the film they’re promoting is even done shooting!
One of my favorite stories came from a 2009 interview I conducted with director Jeff Burr for Icons Of Fright.com. He had literally just signed the deal to direct LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III and in celebration, went to see the latest film in the ELM STREET series that following Friday, which at the time was THE DREAM CHILD. Mere days after agreeing to make CHAINSAW 3, he’s sitting in the darkened theater when the teaser trailer for his yet-to-be-shot movie debuted! When it’s a surprise even to the director of the movie, then that marketing department has done their job!
I wanted to look back at some of those teasers – the kind you’d patiently sit through, wondering what they could possibly be for before being rewarded with the revelation that it’s the new sequel to one of your favorite franchises. Let’s take a look at some of the best horror franchise teaser trailers.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
Who would’ve ever thought there would be a sequel to Tobe Hooper’s insane 1974 cult classic THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE? With him at the helm, no less! Well 13 years after the original, thanks to producers Golan and Globus and their Cannon Group production company, Hooper not only got to make his sequel, but a handful of other eccentric and wild films that included LIFEFORCE and INVADERS FROM MARS. But back to Leatherface and the gang! This is the sort of teaser trailer I relish in. We slowly rotate around close-ups of a chainsaw with the voice over narration telling us about the notoriety of the original film. And finally we get a burst of new clips from the actual sequel, closed by the tagline “the buzz is back!” Now that’s a teaser!
LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3
As mentioned at the top of this article, I remember seeing this in theaters and having my mind blown. At first it plays like a traditional fantasy sword & sorcerer film, complete with the music and hints of the “Lady in The Lake” legend. But instead of giving King Arthur his Excalibur sword, it’s a damned giant chainsaw with the inscription “The Saw Is Family” right on the blade. It flies in the sky, lands in the hands of Leatherface and roars to life after being struck by lightning. It has nothing to do with the movie, but who cares? I want to see this film!!!
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
Another one of my personal favorites, the best teasers are the ones that use sleight of hand. Here, we’re slowly zooming into a man overlooking the harbor in the heart of New York City as a few notes from “New York, New York” are slowly filling in the background. A few New York citizens are walking by, minding their own business when BOOM! The guy turns around and it’s Jason Freakin’ Voorhees! Machette in hand and ready to wreck shop! “New York has a new problem.” Holy smokes! These were my stomping grounds and now Jason was intending to come here?! If only the actual movie delivered as well as this trailer did, it’d be considered one of the best of the franchise!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 3: DREAM WARRIORS
When it comes to the dream world of Freddy Krueger, you can get away with a lot of interesting visuals. But what I love is they keep it simple in these teasers and focus on the creepy out-of-tune famous nursery rhyme melody. What is it about the implication of childhood and innocence, slightly perverted that makes for such a scary teaser? Freddy gave me nightmares as a kid and so did this teaser!
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 5: THE DREAM CHILD
Once again, another entry in the NIGHTMARE series that wasn’t fully completed yet, but it had the title THE DREAM CHILD! And so we get a creepy look at the next entry in the series by circling a baby carriage and the promise that Freddy’s somehow responsible for this sure to be terrifying tyke! Great teaser for a not so great sequel!
While we’re talking about terrifying tykes, how ’bout this made for TV teaser trailer for Larry Cohen’s bonafide cult classic IT’S ALIVE! You don’t get to see inside the carriage, we just circle around it as the narrator tells us, “there’s only one thing wrong with the Davies’ baby… it’s alive!” SOLD!
CHILD’S PLAY 2
Speaking of childhood things and nursery rhymes, who better to exploit the good ol’ Jack In The Box and the “Pop Goes The Weasel” melody than Chucky?! It also gives us the tagline that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie, “Sorry, Jack! Chucky’s Back!” Doesn’t matter! After our killer doll smashes his foot down on the Jack In The Box, we get a quick glimpse of clips from the sequel and what Chucky has in store for us this time! Very cool teaser.
Believe it or not, the design of Godzilla for Roland Emmerich’s 1998 American reboot was pretty much kept under lock and key until the release of the film. Something that wasn’t accomplished successfully again until CLOVERFIELD. So part of the appeal of this reinterpretation of Godzilla was “what is he going to look like THIS time?!” Seeing the one red eye of Godzilla only fueled my imagination and fascination for this project. This trailer captures that awe perfectly and it remains one of my favorite teaser trailers to date, even if the actual film itself is unwatchable and Godzilla turns out to be a giant iguana.
And speaking of amazing trailers, remember when the teaser to CLOVERFIELD just magically appeared in theaters and sucker punched us with rampant reactions of “what the hell was THAT?” It didn’t even have a title at the time! Just a release date and that incredible last shot that finally brought the ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK theatrical poster to life. They also managed to keep all traces of the creature in question a secret until the release date and I’m still in awe of how bizarre and creepy it looks! You can examine the design for yourself at this post from earlier this week where John Squires gave us a thorough look at the toy!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2
Say what you will about this franchise, but Alex Aja’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake was a successful and impressive update of Wes Craven’s cult classic. So it was inevitable that there would be an immediate follow-up. While the actual movie is what it is, this teaser is so freakin’ cool and creepy. We, the audience become unwilling victims and are drug off into the desert with the cannibalistic clan. Check it.