It takes a lot to make a movie. There’s the time put into the script, casting, finding the right director, building movie sets, and adding special effects. All of that hard work culminates not at the debut, but when hours or footage is condensed into less than two minutes of promotional materials. The trailer can make or break anticipation for a movie, and a bad trailer can be a devastating blow.
Maybe the tone is wrong, or the footage is misleading, or it’s just bad at conveying what the movie is about. At best, it can lead to relieved viewers happy the final product wasn’t as awful as the trailer depicted. But it can have the reverse effect, where an awesome movie gets bad reviews because it simply wasn’t what audiences expected.
We found ten awesome horror films with the worst trailers. Be honest: would you have watched the movie based on these promos?
The Stuff (1985)
If you watched the trailer for the 1985 horror movie, The Stuff, you’d likely expect a horror movie that took itself way too seriously. The premise is about killer ice cream, after all. How scary could that be? We don’t know if the promotional team never watched the movie, or if the satire just went over their heads, but they clearly missed the memo on how to market the film. The entire promo makes it seem like the movie is trying to be about terrifying dessert instead of a clever premise mocking American consumerism. With a solid cast and decent effects wrought from a low budget, The Stuff ends up being a solid horror comedy.
There is a lot going on in this trailer. So much, it’s difficult to feel like you can even get a sense of what to expect. Maybe that’s what they were going for as it does lend itself to piqued curiosity. But it also misleads you into thinking you know the twists, and that they’re fairly run-of-the-mill, which isn’t the case at all. The complex, layered movie draws you into a tense and terrifying plot with Toni Collette giving an absolutely stunning performance. Hereditary is well worth the watch.
Evil Dead II (1987)
Maybe the 80’s were just the time for bad movie trailers, but once again, this promo tries to make what is objectively a fantastic and fun romp through horror feel entirely too serious. With nothing to go on but gory clips and a very dry narrator, the slapstick elements come across as bad special effects instead of the over-the-top comedy moments that they’re meant to be. It’s likely fans of the first movie knew what to expect, so maybe they were able to overlook the tone of the promo, but as far as attracting a new audience, we think this trailer simply missed the mark.
Hell House LLC (2016)
Shaky cameras. A ton of jump scares. Fairly typical horror fodder. If you walked away from the Hell House LLC trailer thinking same old, same old, you wouldn’t be alone. But the actual movie is far better than the trailer implies. It has everything in the trailer, but because it’s spread out and used far more precisely than as simple horror effects, they serve the exact right tone for each terrifying moment. Hell House LLC is one of the better found footage films out there and the only reason we can think of that it isn’t more popular is simply bad promotion.
The Abyss (1989)
We don’t know if the nature documentary approach to the opening of the trailer was supposed to give the movie levity, but it comes across as flat and boring. Combine that with a lot of shots that either cut away before they reveal anything or very dramatic close-ups of very emotional clips, the promo for The Abyss does not do the movie any justice. It feels like a bad horror movie crammed into two minutes, when the reality is far different. A tightly paced, claustrophobic thriller with horror elements, it’s a spectacular movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Invisible Man (2020)
We’ve all watched trailers where it felt like a fast-forward version of the film, and if that’s how it felt watching the promo for The Invisible Man with Elisabeth Moss, we agree. The trailer does feel like it gives away some major plot twists, leaving little for the movie itself. But this remake is one of the better ones out there with plenty of surprises woven into the plot. Moss does an outstanding job drawing the audience into her character and we experience the terror and tension with her. It’s unpredictable and intense, even if the trailer misleads you into believing otherwise.
Crimson Peak (2015)
The Crimson Peak trailer is another example of how marketing your movie badly can hurt rather than help. Every moment in the promo makes you believe you’re going to get a chilling, gothic ghost story, when in fact, it’s a surreal gothic romance steeped in cautionary folklore. The sets are decadent, the cast perfection, and the aesthetic is perfect. But if you thought you were going to get a horror film filled with gruesome ghosts and tense jump-scares, you would walk away from the movie terribly disappointed.
Cabin in the Woods (2011)
The trailer for Cabin in the Woods may not be exactly bad, but it does lean into making you think you’re getting a fairly predictable horror movie. It does manage to capture the essence of the tropes on display in the trailer, but by being in on the joke, the movie manages to twist the tropes in unexpected ways. What follows is a story that is fun with authentically scary moments that happen frequently at the same time. It’s refreshing and enjoyable, which you wouldn’t expect based on the trailer alone.
Scream is a fun horror movie that makes fun of the genre while delivering fantastic horror moments, but the trailer makes the entire movie feel like a cheesy over-the-top film that isn’t even trying. There’s a lot of screaming, a lot of jumping and flailing, and a lot of bad narration. Everything in the promo feels expected when the movie singlehandedly rejuvenated the genre by being so unexpected. Luckily, the trailer didn’t deter people from watching and loving the film, leading to a successful franchise that’s lasted over two decades.
28 Days Later (2002)
The trailer for 28 Days Later feels more like a teaser than a trailer. Black screens with flashes of blurred footage mixed in, giving us a barebones glimpse into what we might expect. But it's muddled and confusing, with no clear direction over what the story is actually going to be. It’s impossible to tell in that brief promo how inventive this movie actually is. For a movie that ended up redefining and giving new life to a very tired zombie trope, the trailer makes you think all you’re going to get is more of the same.