The Devil made me do it!
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.
Welcome to chapter two, disciples of cinema. Raise a devil hand salute to this collection of trailers that drive a pitchfork through all things Satanic! Naturally, there are more devilish delights to be covered. We’ll get to those in another installment. For now, here are six trailers that tickle my pointy red tail.
Race With the Devil (1977)
Warren Oates. Case closed. Well, there’s more to this two minutes of high-octane. It cuts to the chase, so to speak, presenting the filmâs key sacrifice sequence that lands our four protagonists (Oates and Peter Fonda, Loretta Switt and Lara Parker) in a cauldron of hot water. The rest is action, action, action. Winnebago action. Dirt bike action. Shirtless Satanists. Witchcraft! Hey, who put the rattlesnake next to the box of Stuffin’? Runâ¦and fightâ¦and race with the devil. Get some!
To the Devil, A Daughter (1976)
Hammer, in its struggle to keep up with the changing face of horror in the ’70s, knocked out this adaptation of the Dennis Wheatley novel in hopes to capture the Devil film zeitgeist. Say what you will about the film (I kind of dig it), the trailer deftly sets up a grudge match between Christopher Lee and Richard Widmark. Check it out this vitriolic volleying of dialogue:
Lee: “When this ceremony has been performed, I shall destroy you, John Verney.”
Widmark: “The demons hate you, Rainer. They’re waiting for you.”
Oh, snap! Admittedly, it balances cheese (“Damn you! Damn you!”) and some creepy imagery. The mix suits me just fine.
House of the Devil (2009)
Arguably one of the finest contemporary horror trailers, hands-down. It’s one of those previews that turns on you and lashes out at your expectations with the fury of a rabid dog. The music helps and the careful placement of select dialogue delivers just enough information to get you interested and send a chill down your spine.
The Devil’s Rain (1975)
Where To the Devil, A Daughter had Widmark versus Lee. This gives you what you really want: Captain Kirk versus Cabbie! Yes, a plaid-wearing William Shatner briefly takes on a cackling Ernest Borgnine and the trailer presents all that is extreme about the film. Following what I presume is concept art from the film, this preview gleefully dives into a vat of melting faces, horned goat men, hellfire, Tom Skerritt heroism and a shout-out to Anton Lavey – cut to some groovy ’70s music. Where other previews orchestrate their sympathy of the Devil with a dash of subtlety, Rain‘s preview wholly embraces the absurdity…and gives away all of the best FX gags.
The Devil Rides Out
Another Christopher Lee and Dennis Wheatley picture, this is a favorite of mine from the Hammer library. The story of two men trying to keep a friend out of the clutches of a cult. It never really dawned on me that Johnny Deep may have taken a cue from Lee’s facial hair here for the Polanski film The Ninth Gate. Nevertheless, here’s a trailer with cool graphics, tons of fanatical debauchery that culminates in the presence of the Devil himself, but it gives a bit too much away. Out of context, it all still works.
I distinctly remember my father having this film on laserdisc. I hadn’t seen it at the time, but he showed me a scene and had me watch this trailer. My reaction was not unlike Ellen Burstyn’s face below. My young curiosity needed to see this film. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t come until years after I saw the trailer.
I dare you to find me a preview today that begins with: “Hey, let’s make love.” But, if you know this Roman Polanski film, the act of making love is where the trouble begins. This trailer is a curious one, a studio picture that sells itself like an art house film and really emphasizes the dream sequences for an off-kilter vibe. I also love the Pray for Rosemary’s Baby bit at the end.
Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor