The Exorcist trailer - Saw this in a college class and then had to walk home across campus in dense fog. Didn’t sleep a wink that night, nor did most of my friends. Yes, it was a Jesuit college.
Halloween trailer - I saw this screened at a NACA convention in a small classroom with about twenty people. At a critical point in the movie – when you could hear a pin drop - the guy next to me goosed the girl in front of him and she rocketed skyward with a bloodcurdling scream, which made most of us soil ourselves. Then a walk back across a foggy campus where the film distributor hired a Michael Meyers lookalike to drop from a tree. (I’m still washing that pair of shorts.)
The Blair Witch Project trailer - The very last scene makes no sense if you didn’t pay close attention in the beginning. If you did pay attention, it will scare the shit out of you. Kudos to the creators who took a shoestring budget and made one of the best viral movies ever, with special thanks for making that scary ending so subtle. Hope the creators of Paranormal Activity are slipping these guys a few bucks.
House on Haunted Hill trailer - Where I grew up in NYC there was an afternoon matinee called Million Dollar Movie that aired from around 4:30 until 6:00. Occasionally they would show the same film Monday through Friday. I remember watching this film every day for five straight days and still jumping ten feet in the air every time scene with the “floating woman” came by…god, that still creeps me out! Starring Vincent Price at his smarmiest and featuring the always willing to chew scenery Elisha Cook, Jr. They have remade this movie several times but nothing touches the original.
Session 9 trailer - Contemporary horror movies are mostly gorefests. This was a thinking person’s movie, where the horror was deeper than any axe blade could cut. I thought David Caruso might even have resurrected his film career with this one, but I guess I was wrong. Subtle and pensive but very, very creepy.
The Shining trailer - Ever watched someone go insane right before your eyes? (Married people, step back.) Jack Nicholson channeling palpable dread… tempered only by the fact that I wanted to kill Shelley Duvall myself. Redrum!
Psycho trailer - Alfred Hitchcock’s movie trailers are better than some people’s movies. The screeching score was as much a part of the fright as the visuals. A landmark classic.
Rosemary’s Baby trailer - The scariest films are sometimes the ones with the most plausible characters (apart from the whole Satanic thing, of course). What brilliance to cast condo dwellers as the evil ones? Conspiratorial horror. I never looked at Ruth Gordon the same way again (even in Harold and Maude I wondered if she would snap Bud Cort‘s neck and eat him).
Night of the Living Dead trailer - Yep, no big names, cheesey by modern standards, but at the time one of the creepiest movies ever made. You don’t spawn that many sequels and imitators by sucking!
Phantasm trailer - Speaking of cheeseball, some of the sets and (lack of) costumes will make some think it’s a lame movie, but when The Tall Man enters the screen, all bets are off. The last scene of this movie is one of the scariest moments on film. And has there ever been a better horror movie name than Angus Scrimm? Ice cream trucks, ponytails and the sphere.