Horror is not easy to pull of at feature length (or at least not easy to pull off well). It is, in some ways, even harder to scare someone with a two-minute trailer. But over the years some of the best (and worst) horror movies have found a way to get the blood going through just trailers alone.
Whether it's via panicked jump-scares or building a sense of pervasive dread, these trailers deliver the creepy goods.
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Takes Manhattan is not a good movie. It is not even a good Friday the 13th movie. But if you were a kid when you saw this simple trailer of a dude listening to Sinatra while gazing out at the New York City skyline, the revelation that said dude was Jason Voorhees was harrowing. 1989 New York was already pretty scary, but the thought of adding Jason to the mix is terrifying. Too bad about the movie, but the trailer is dope.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
"I see dead people" may have grown into a bit of a comedic cliche, but there was a time where it was one of the most unsettling lines uttered in horror. It took It nearly two decades to dethrone the M. Night classic as #1 in the horror box office.
The Conjuring (2013)
Insidious may have been the movie that set up the James Wan-iverse, but the first movie in that series to have a truly scary trailer is The Conjuring. Creepy house? Check. Lady hanging from a tree? Check. And that music box music! This was the origin of it and it remains a fixture in James Wan's films.
The Babadook (2014)
Sometimes all it takes is the right prop to draw you in when you're watching a trailer. The Babadook book is maybe one of the quintessential fictional horror objects, and the trailer that introduces it will most definitely have you Babashook.
It Follows (2014)
The deconstructionist art-house horror of the last few years has its fans and detractors. It Follows is almost divisive in that regard, and yet it's trailer does an extremely effective job of setting up the core conceit and impressing upon the viewer the extreme danger that comes of being followed by... it. The soundtrack, especially, is so oppressive, you feel like your head might fall off.
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Moms are nice. Moms who are wearing bandages on their face and who eat cockroaches and might actually not be your mom at all? Not so nice. This trailer, though, is Borat levels of nice.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors (1987)
Sometimes all it takes is a creepy girl singing a song while you wait for the inevitable. And when said inevitable is Freddy's signature knife glove? Never sleep again, indeed.
The Shining (1980)
If you travel much, you know that there's always something a little unnerving about hotels. Elevators, in particular, are these death boxes that open and close at times of their own choosing. We never know what might be on the other side. Like, say, for example, a metric @#$# ton of blood!
The Exorcist (1973)
The trailer for The Exorcist gives you all the ingredients in the perfect measure: a priest losing faith, a scared mother, a child's soul in peril... and, oh yeah -- THE DEVIL.
The thing that makes Poltergeist work is how 'everyday' things feel. Long before found footage films sold scare through normalcy, it was Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg who studiously examined the best way to take the nuclear family and tear their home asunder.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Leatherface bursting through a door and making that... sound. Is there anything else that needs saying? Again, there's something so horrifically low-budget and real about the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that makes it stay with people so much that it's often considered the greatest horror movie of all time.
Black Christmas (1974)
The original American slasher that kicked off one of the biggest horror sub-genres also has one of the scariest trailers of all time. And all it takes is a little Christmas music. Oh, and also murders.
In space no one can hear you scream. We are not in space, and everyone will hear you scream the first time you watch the trailer for Alien. Like the feature itself, the trailer for Ridley Scott's masterpiece is claustrophobically tight, shadowy, and altogether, well... alien.