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Five of the Best Retro Horror Movie Teaser Trailers

With the advent of the internet, teaser trailers have become more popular than ever, utilized as a way to generate fan interest in a film before the actual trailer is ready for viewing. But teasers are nothing new, and in fact, the ones from decades past are much cooler than the ones we typically get today.

Whereas most modern teaser trailers consist of brief clips from the films being promoted, it wasn’t uncommon back in the day for studios to film entirely new footage for their teasers – footage that did not appear in the actual films themselves. I don’t think there’s a technical term for teasers of this short, so let’s call them…

THE COOLEST TEASERS EVER.

To show you what I mean, here are five of the downright coolest retro horror movie teasers of all time, which share the common trait of featuring footage exclusively shot for them and them only!

Not only is 1990’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 a totally underrated sequel but it also had perhaps the most awesome teaser trailer of all time. Put together by New Line before the film was even shot, the teaser drew an utterly bizarre parallel between Leatherface and King Arthur, and was attached to prints of Elm Street: Dream Child in 1989.

It’s been rumored that it was none other than Kane ‘Jason Voorhees’ Hodder who portrayed Leatherface for this teaser, which makes sense considering the fact that he was the film’s stunt coordinator. It was R.A. Mihailoff who played Leatherface in the film itself.

Though horror fans have differing opinions on the various films in the Friday The 13th franchise, there’s one opinion that I’m pretty sure we can all agree on: whether we loved Jason Takes Manhattan or hated it, we’re still to this day bummed about the fact that the film featured very little footage of Jason actually… taking Manhattan.

While visions of Jason slaughtering subway riders and homeless bums on the street danced through everyone’s head when they heard the title for the film, it turned out that the concept and poster were far cooler than the actual movie itself. But at least we’ve got this original teaser to look back on, which is pretty much everything the actual movie was not. It’ll have to do.

It was only recently that this rare teaser trailer for John Carpenter’s The Thing surfaced on the internet, as it was apparently only included on a French DVD release of the film, which came out a few years back. The teaser played in theaters several months ahead of the theatrical release, in the summer of 1982.

Promising the end of the world as we know it, the eerie teaser shows something encased in a large block of ice, which explodes as the camera gets closer to it. Yes, a motherfucking exploding block of ice. This right here is the very definition of an effective teaser, as I can’t imagine ANYONE seeing it and not wanting to immediately watch the movie.

The beauty of all the teasers on this list is that they establish tone and atmosphere, without actually spoiling anything from the films. It’s a lost art, really, as the trailers we’re inundated with in this day and age almost always ruin a good deal of the fun, by showing us WAY TOO MUCH.

Another great example of properly setting the stage for an upcoming film was this teaser for Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, my personal favorite installment in the franchise – and one that is still quite underrated, despite recently attracting a much larger fan-base than ever before. The imagery of the witch mask was just enough to pique your interest, and leave you hungry for more.

And yes, that was totally the Jaws theme. I hope you got paid, John Williams.

Even when the movies weren’t so great, one thing New Line always got right with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was the advertising, with the trailers and various pieces of promotional art always managing to get you excited about the return of Freddy. In 1989, they cut together this teaser for The Dream Child, setting an eerie tone for the film.

It’s interesting to note that it was co-writer David J. Schow who portrayed the hand of Freddy Krueger, for this clip. The baby carriage was built large enough so that Schow could actually fit inside of it, and his arm almost caught fire at one point due to the various lights that it was outfitted with.

Look for more awesome retro teasers in the near future, here on Halloween Love!

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If you don't get enough of me here on Halloween Love, you can also find me on Dread Central, iHorror and Shock Till You Drop. Contact me via john@halloweenlove.com.
  • Great article. Teasers, and trailers in general, have become a bit of a lost art. I am always a fan of less is more.

  • Kirby4Ever

    Great article and REALLY great picks! Halloween 3’s teaser is my favorite. I remember when I was younger and just starting to get interested (obsessed) with horror movies, specifically the Halloween franchise, and I first found out Michael wasn’t in 3. I wasn’t gonna bother buying the DVD or giving it the time of day like every other fan (mostly), but that teaser hooked me. The music is so creepy yet mesmerizing, and when the eyes finally open, it always scared the hell out of me. As scary and alluring as it is, it’s most effective in that it gives you no information about the film’s content/plot. Even though I was disappointed there was no Michael (at first), I had to watch H3 to see what the hell it was about… and what a pleasant surprise!
    You took the words right out of my mouth about modern day teasers and trailers. Much like movie posters (which used to be actual ARTWORK), they’ve lost their touch. Most recently, I was so excited about films like the Evil Dead remake and Scream 4 that I must’ve watched every trailer, teaser, and TV spot thousands of times. But they gave away so many scenes that by the time I finally watched the actual movie, I was able to piece together what would happen next as the film went along. I’ve decided to stop watching trailers as best I can, but promotional campaigns for modern day movies are so hard to avoid if you own a phone, computer, television, or any form of entertainment!

  • Ben Kenber

    Very nice article. I do have to say you left one out, and that was the teaser trailer for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3. That one was brilliant.