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SYFY WIRE Original Video

How do you construct a horror trailer?


Scary movies have been a part of the cinematic lexicon almost since the dawn of films. There's something enticing and primal about experiencing a communal vision of horror surrounded by complete strangers in a darkened movie theater. Creating a great horror film requires a lot of skills and the right alchemy of actors, directors, and writers. However, the art of creating an awesome horror trailer can be just as tricky. A good trailer can lure audiences to even a mediocre movie. But a bad trailer can also keep people away from otherwise entertaining experience.

SYFY WIRE's Movie Crush Monday is looking back at the history of horror trailers to determine if there's a special formula that ensures the right audience response. As it turns out, there are several different styles of horror trailers that reflect the eras in which they were created. The awesome monster movies of the '30s featured booming voiceovers that focused on the star power of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in Dracula and Frankenstein, respectively.

The '50s and '60s introduced the gimmick era for horror trailers. Essentially, movie studios were constantly trying to find inventive ways to get viewers into theaters during TV's early days. Alfred Hitchcock even hosted an extended trailer for Psycho that was basically a guided tour of the set.

Perhaps our favorite era for horror trailers came in the '70s, with the rise of the grind house genre. But we've noticed that those trailers have a tendency to constantly repeat the name of the movie. How many times do we have to hear that The Hills Have Eyes? We get the idea, Hollywood!

More recently, the audience response trailers have been a popular way to promise moviegoers that they'll be satisfied by their horror experience. Studios have also come up with a few new ways to startle viewers that don't even include footage from the films. Just imagine seeing The Nun's terrifying face coming out you of nowhere in an otherwise innocuous black screen. It's the scream of the future!

For more about the history and construction of horror trailers, check out the full video!