While watching The Forest, I was subjected to two more horror movie trailers (The Other Side of the Door and The Boy) and what soon became apparent is how similar the trailers are for the horror movies. It is like there is checklist or formula for making the perfect horror trailer (or horror movie if recent output is anything to go by). With this in mind, I am helping any budding horror directors by putting a “how to” guide together and step-by-step breaking down the art of making The Horror Movie Trailer.
Step 1: Introduce your heroine
Note the word heroine. In an age when we strive for equality, it seems if you want to terrorise a human being on-screen, it will ultimately mean a female lead. This could be tradition, it may equate to box office success, maybe it is because woman are seen as more vulnerable or maybe there is the sex appeal to take into consideration but the first few moments of the trailer must show your heroine and why she has ben drawn into her coming nightmare.
Step 2: Introduce your rules
The second step is obviously vital. It must be clear. The rules can be anything. For The Boy it is a long list, including don’t cover his face. For The Other Side of the Door, it is not to open The Door and The Forest implores the heroine to stay on the path. Then of course we have step 3…
Step 3: Break the rules
Show the rule being broken. Or at least have a character say “you’ve done (insert rule here!)”
Step 4: A small amount of terror
Now the drama begins. All we need is one single piece of terror to fill the audience with intrigue. Maybe a dead son plays the piano, maybe a masked man watches the heroine shower or a doll moves seemingly on it’s own.
Step 5: Show loads of bigger terror – but quickly
This is the bread and butter of all horror trailers. Turn your music up loud and quickly flash a lot scary scenes. Have your heroine screaming, strange demons run to the screen, bizarre happenings with no context and of course sudden silence, followed by a large noise and your titular monster/demon/threat.
Step 6: Spoil your biggest scare
After your threat has been shown, the title will appear on-screen. This is then when you take your best scene, the one that is guaranteed to have the audience screaming and throwing their popcorn in the air, and show it as the final shot of the trailer. It is also a very effective way to kill it’s impact by having it repeated on TV over and over so people know exactly what is coming!
There are other features you could add to make your trailer work well. Start the trailer with slow piano music, have children sing or whisper or just have creepy text fade in and out between the scenes, particularly at Step 5.
Overall, if you follow my easy six-step plan, you will have an effective trailer for your seemingly generic horror movie. Even better, write the steps down and apply them to all the horror movie trailers you know!
(Try it with this slightly older trailer too!)