The “monster” edition
Seeing a new preview in the theater used to hold an element of something special. Especially before the age of the Internet and when there were still surprises to be had when you settled into a theater seat, the lights dimmed and trailers for films you never knew were “coming soon!” played out. It goes without saying, when a trailer is expertly pieced together, you’re not only hyped for the film, but you want to see the trailer again and again. During middle school and high school, I’d often throw together trailer compilations on VHS, using a laserdisc player and VCR.
Some of our favorite previews are the perfect fusion of music, tantalizing visuals and imaginative editing. Some are elaborate. Others can take the minimalist approach yet strike a powerful chord. And some trailers are about the “moments.” This is everything Reel Fear is about: The trailers that drove us into the theaters to see the films they promoted, regardless of the film’s quality.
Each installment of Reel Fear will be broken up thematically, much like those old VHS compilations from back in the day.
For Shock’s first chapter in the series, the theme is classic creatures: Be it Dracula, the Frankenstein monster, the werewolf or a few other familiar, wretched faces.
REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955)
The Creature. Ladies man! Party crasher! Terrorizing kids left behind by their cowardly parents! This preview doesn’t screw around and appears to be edited by Michael Bay’s mayhem-loving grandfather. Cars are toppled and explosions rock the Black Lagoon. And just when it eases back on the energy, a narrator takes over, palpably exasperated as he babbles the hammy dialogue given to him: “They dared to study him, probe him, tempt him with the lure of a woman’s beauty!” The Creature himself approaches the camera 36 seconds in to “swipe” the title across the screen. Brilliant, even if the trailer is an abbreviated version of the whole film. Whoops. If you haven’t seen Revenge of the Creature, this is the sequel that a young Clint Eastwood appears in.
DRACULA A.D. 1972
“Boobie! It makes me cringe!” screams the screen shot below. That conspicuously placed camera angle favoring a prominent side boob is just one of the highlights of this Hammer preview which begins with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee kickin’ the crap out of one another on a speeding carriage. Cushing gets punted, Lee flinches and…a plane flies overhead! What the…? Say what you will about the film (I don’t mind the cheese), I love the way this one is put together. “You…you…YOU!…could be Dracula’s next victim.” It’s groovy ‘n gothic, man. Dig it. Because Dracula’s ready to freak you out! The presence of Stephanie Beacham and Caroline Munro doesn’t hurt either.
MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN (1994)
Oh, there’s so much right about this preview and the film is so utterly wrong. Too bad. In ’94, I was still reeling from the acid trip that was Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Dracula and chomping at the bit for a new interpretation of Frankenstein. When this trailer played and its clouds rolled in from the dark with the names involved in the movie – names that carried some weight – and the grand sound of Philip Glass’ “Itapiu” played, I was fixed to the seat. It’s a preview bustling with activity. People running this way and that. Equipment sparking. Gurneys smashing into machines. Sex. Violence. Pathos. Fear! God damn, why couldn’t this movie live up to the trailer?!
(Thanks to Jared for the music identification.)
THE FLY II (1989)
The teaser trailer was clever. This took it one step further bringing to the table smarts (“Listen…do you hear it…?”) and intensity. Fox’s preview for the sequel to David Cronenberg’s remake spends its first 35 seconds or so playing with your senses yet it still finds the time to cram all of the information you need to know about the story in a very short amount of time. It works in the telepods, the “Don’t Be Afraid” bit, and the promise of a newly designed creature. I distinctly remember the “I’m getting BETTER” line recurring through all of the television spots as well.
THE HOWLING (1981)
A collage of claw marks, seediness and the abstract. And, wait, did they just give away the ending? Eh, no matter. Joe Dante’s ode to werewolves juggles humor and horror and that’s a tough thing to sell in a minute and a half. But it’s emphasis on the horror is its strength. Both the sound design and Pino Donaggio’s score haunted me as a kid when I saw this preview.
BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (1992)
This had me within the first 30 seconds. It catered to the macabre, the unusual (dude, check out that muscle armor!) and the kid in me that was crushing so hard on Winona Ryder…and here she is sucking on a sugar cube, breathing heavy and showing off her cleavage. Yowza! Furthermore, there’s a scarred Anthony Hopkins drawing the viewer in with his account of Dracula’s history. The film looked fresh, naughty, and horrifying. I was there opening night because of this trailer.
GODZILLA VS. THE SMOG MONSTER (1971)
“Godzillaaaaaaaa!” Look, this is just another generic Godzilla preview with one hokey-ass monster, but I’ll tell you why this resonated with me: The hundreds you see die. As a young lad, the Smog Monster terrified the shit out of me. Sure, he’s a black blob of pollution with eyes. But when he flies, people die in his wake. Just by flying over the city! I couldn’t understand it. Not only do you die, but you instantly begin to corrode. Good lord, get the World Wildlife Federation on this ecological terror! Silly, I know.
THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)
Beyond the nostalgia value, the trailer is a perfect demonstration of escalating energy. It promises a film that’s both playful and scary. It’s about the point when Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the Omen films kicks in (the trailer begins with a track from Brad Fiedel’s Fright Night) where it starts to get serious, but the man (or woman) responsible for cutting this together knew to throw in a few of those innocent beats to lure in the adolescent audience and make this look like the coolest friggin’ thing ever. It doesn’t pull any punches and it had many of us quoting the “Wolf Man’s got nards” line with our friends long before we even got to see the movie.
I’ll revisit “monsters” in a future edition of Reel Fear. Until next week…
Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor