Horror movie previews have a tough job to do. They need to capture the essence of a film in 3 minutes or less and give away enough of the film to make you want to see it, but not so much that they spoil the surprises of the film. Audiences don’t want to feel disappointed because all of the scariest stuff was shown in the preview, and since most horror movies will lose a chunk of their potential audience when they get slapped with an R-rating, the pressure is really on for studios to crank out great previews that make even a mediocre movie look like a must-see cinema event. They want to disturb the audience enough to leave them saying, “I have got to see that movie!”
Challenge of the Trailer – Drawing Audiences Without Revealing Spoilers
Here are several horror movie previews for some upcoming 2013 films, as well as some that have recently been released on DVD, and my take on whether or not the preview gets the job done. See if you agree.
2013 MOVIES COMING SOON
iTunes Synopsis: From the producer of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Sinister comes Dark Skies: a supernatural thriller that follows a young family living in the suburbs. As husband and wife Daniel and Lacey Barret (Keri Russell) witness an escalating series of disturbing events involving their family, their safe and peaceful home quickly unravels. When it becomes clear that the Barret family is being targeted by an unimaginably terrifying and deadly force, Daniel and Lacey take matters into their own hands to solve the mystery of what is after their family.
Director: Scott Stewart
Cast: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, J.K. Simmons
In Theaters: February 22, 2013
Preview Rating: 3 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: I was never a big Keri Russell fan, but I give her fanboy credit for giving a decent voice performance as Diana in DC Universe’s 2009 animated Wonder Woman movie. In Dark Skies, it looks like she’s facing a mash-up of Signs, The Sixth Sense, and Close Encounters. The preview offers up a few horror movie clichés and the plot seems to be of the standard “something weird is happening to our family” variety… right up until the end, where that big-headed thing rises up in the shadows behind Keri’s character. I bet it’s an alien and I hope it gets its extra terrestrial butt kicked for sneaking up behind her like that. This movie should not be confused with the short-lived UFO conspiracy TV series of the same name (starring Eric Close and Megan Ward) that was yet another genre show cancelled by NBC before its time.
A re-imagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz), a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother (Julianne Moore), who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom. Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen King.
In Theaters: October 18, 2013
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Gabriella Wilde, Ansel Elgort
Preview Rating: 1 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: The preview does a good job of showing how much carnage Carrie causes in her town, but it really didn’t seem all that scary. That’s kind of how I felt about the original, too. It’s a tense and depressing story, but I don’t recall being particularly scared by it… except for that last scene where Carrie’s hand comes popping out of the grave. Although, this one has Julianne Moore in it. She might be enough to get me to see it. Unfortunately, they didn’t show her in this preview.
TRAPPED IN ABYSS
iTunes Synopsis: While driving around a deserted ghost town in California, Andy (Bobby Hicks), Jackie (Antonia) and Dev (Shihab) decide to break into a supermarket. They get trapped inside the store as an evil force pushes them to the breaking point. Keen on finding her son, Andy’s mother shares an interesting piece of information with a reporter (Amber Armstrong), who tries to find out what has happened.
In theaters: March 3, 2013
Director: Srinath Ramalingam
Cast: Bobby Hicks, Amber Armstrong, Shihab Sinnalebbe, Antonia Villalon, Iris Karina
Preview Rating: 1 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: I got nothing out of this preview. It was slightly creepy, but it never really went anywhere. The cuts at the end were so fast, I could barely tell what was going on and the synopsis doesn’t offer any compelling reason to rush out and see it. The strange, grammatically incorrect title doesn’t help either. It’ll probably be on DVD before summer.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II
iTunes Synopsis: Continuing where the first film left off, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell) is found terrified and alone in rural Louisiana. Back in the relative safety of New Orleans, Nell realizes that she can’t remember entire portions of the previous months – only that she is the last surviving member of her family. Just as Nell begins the difficult process of starting a new life, the evil force that once possessed her is back with other, unimaginably horrific plans that mean her last exorcism was just the beginning.
In Theaters: March 1, 2013
Director: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Cast: Ashley Bell
Preview Rating: 1 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: While most people might find this preview horrifying, it doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t find possession movies to be scary at all. I even laughed all the way through The Exorcist the one time I saw it. What does upset me most about this preview is the bone-cracking sound effect they use when Nell is about to contort herself into what looks like really painful body positions. Seriously, you just have to pinch a nerve in your back just one time to fear the kind of pain that would result from that awful sound.
Reviews of the Best Horror Movie Previews From 2013
MOVIES NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD
iTunes Synopsis: It’s known as the Jersey Devil, the winged beast spawned 400 years ago by Satan himself. Some say this creature still inhabits the dense pine forests of southern New Jersey, where Richard Vineyard (Stephen Moyer) takes his family for a rustic weekend camping trip. As the Vineyard family ventures further into the woods in search of the perfect campsite, Richard teeters on the edge of sanity. And it seems that the blood-crazed demon called the Jersey Devil may no longer be just a myth.
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Stephen Moyer, Mia Kirshner, Allie MacDonald, Erik Knudsen, Shawn Ashmore
Preview Rating: 2 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: It looks like it has potential, but having spent plenty of time in the real Pine Barrens, I was more interested in critiquing the accuracy of the locations than I was in what was going on in the preview. Wherever this movie was filmed, it seems to be far more mountainous than the real Pine Barrens. And I’m not sure the whole “dad looking like he’s going crazy” thing is a plot device I would enjoy. I suspect that would just irritate me more than anything else. But it might be novel to watch it anyway and see if I get scared silly the next time I find myself in the Pine Barrens.
Two million fish washed ashore. One thousand blackbirds dropped from the sky. On July 4, 2009 a deadly menace swept through the quaint seaside town of Claridge, Maryland, but the harrowing story of what happened that Independence Day has never been told – until now. From Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson and the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious comes this nerve-shredding tale of a small town plunged into absolute terror. The Bay unfolds over 24 hours through people’s iPhones, Androids, 911 calls, webcams, and whatever else could be used to document the nightmare in Claridge.
Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Will Rogers, Christopher Denham
Preview Rating: 3 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: This one was losing me because I couldn’t help but wonder how much more mileage director Barry Levinson was going to try to get out of movies built around supposedly live footage. But I have to admit there were a few moments in this preview that got me … like when the parasite came rushing out of the fish’s mouth. And when they showed the person with the swollen stomach and you could see the little critters moving around inside. Creepy crawlies are always good for a few scares, especially when they’re looking to get into your body and eat all your organs.
Tommy Cowley (Aneurin Barnard) lives a quiet life in a decaying apartment complex with his pregnant wife. The couple is attacked one day by a group of hooded young thugs, and after the shocking act of violence, Tommy is left to raise his newborn daughter alone. So shaken by the events that he’s developed extreme agoraphobia, Tommy alternates days hiding out indoors in his new flat from imagined threats and intense therapy sessions aimed at bringing him back to normalcy. When the same hooded gang, seemingly intent on kidnapping his daughter, begins terrorizing his life again, he’s torn between his paralyzing fear and protective parental instinct. With the help of a vigilante priest who has uncovered the genesis of this ruthless, potentially supernatural gang, Tommy must overcome his fears and venture into the heart of the abandoned tower block known as the CITADEL to save his family.
Director: Ciaran Foy
Cast: Aneurin Barnard, James Cosmo, Wunmi Mosaku, Amy Shiels
Preview Rating: 4 out of 5 screams
Preview Effectiveness: Creepy. Creepy. Creepy. This preview was like watching a poor guy and his baby being chased around town by a mutated zombie version of the Children of the Corn. The fact that he’s scared and that is what attracts them makes it all the more spooky. It looks like a very intense film with lots of scares. It also looks like it has an interesting story and some strong acting by Bernard. I might actually buy this one.
After a “Bigfoot Hunter” claims to possess the body of a dead Sasquatch, a disgraced investigative journalist stakes his comeback – and the lives of his documentary film crew – on proving the find to be a hoax.
Director: Corey Grant
Cast: Drew Rausch, Rich McDonald, Ashley Wood, Noah Weisberg, Frank Ashmore
Preview Rating: 5 out of 5
Preview Effectiveness: Bigfoot has always scared the hell out of me. The growls, the footprints, the ability to rip people’s arms off. All of it terrifies me to no end. Even the dumbest Bigfoot movie on the Sy-Fy Channel with the cheesiest computer generated Sasquatch is enough to freak me out. I was even afraid of Chewbacca when I was younger, so the title of this one alone is enough to age me 5 years. It looks like it would be a pretty scary movie… for me, anyway. Sort of like the Blair Witch Project, only with Bigfoot. The preview doesn’t show any more of Bigfoot than a glimpse of a passing shadow, which is incredibly effective because the Bigfoot I’m imagining is probably a lot more frightening than the one they came up with for this film. But does the preview make me want to rent it? Hell no! I like being scared… but not THAT scared!