It's the Booze Talkin'; Bring back the scary voice-over in horror trailers!

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Do you remember the first horror trailer that ever grabbed your attention? While PSYCHO was well before my time, I do remember seeing that brilliant bit of advertising around Halloween time, perhaps on cable with Turner Movie Classics or somewhere else. Instead of an over abundance of quick edits and scenes from the film, genius filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock told us the story while showing us exactly where the madness would take place. I loved it, and it made me an instant fan of all those creepy horror trailers, especially those from the late Seventies to the early Eighties. In fact, I remember being terrified by a number of them, especially the original HALLOWEEN and the original PHANTASM.I still love watching horror trailers in advance. While oftentimes I’d prefer to go in cold, there is something cool about a creepy couple minute preview to the terror about to arrive. However, there is one thing that I miss when I sit down and check out all the upcoming flicks that the cinema or DTV has to offer… and that is that terrifying voice telling us all about the frights on display. “Halloween night. A small American town, fifteen years ago…” Casting the perfect voice actor to give life to some of the scariest trailers ever made was an an art form unto itself. From THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE to THE EXORCIST all the way up to SCREAM decades later, the creepy narration nearly always made the movie look far more terrifying than it actually was. Today’s genre trailers - as well as previews in general - have gone yet another route. Instead, they push the dialogue, the music and just clip scenes together with appropriately scary music in the background. This can certainly be effective if you look at the recent spots for HALLOWEEN (2018), HEREDITARY, A QUIET PLACE and many others. Albeit going back to some of the old classics - a few of my favorites are included here - I can’t help but wonder why the voice over actor isn’t utilized more when it comes to selling a scary movie. There is something quite chilling about hearing this deep growling voice tell you of the darkness that you are about to descend into. Frankly, I miss this when it comes to the coming attractions. So what happened over the years and why has it become such a rare art?This change is not only noticeable to movie fans, people in the industry are well aware of how the voice-over actors role has shifted. Paul Wintner, owner of Wintner Artists Talent Development, and the hardest working manager in the trailer voice business is most assuredly aware of the new direction - and he also happens to be one of the most enthusiastic movie fans around so he is familiar with the trends. I was curious about getting his thoughts on the change, and how it was affecting his own clients. This he had this to say…

“Those old school narration driven horror trailers have become a thing of the past. Kind of a lost art. These days the trailers pretty much use the film dialogue to tell the story, with sound effects and visuals creating the scare moments. The narrator usually doesn’t show up until the title and rating at the end…and it’s become more and more of a trend to use a lighter or quirkier voice for that title, instead of that big deep scary voice. I guess it makes it feel more weird and unsettling, rather than on the more scary, traditional deep guy.” 

One of the most surprising things about this is the current love for all things Eighties. From Stranger Things to IT, as well as the amazing work that Scream Factory does, horror fans are more in love with the past than ever. And when it comes to loving the past, remember when Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released the double bill GRINDHOUSE? Many fans were more in love with the faux old school style trailers from Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright and Eli Roth than the two films themselves. And frankly, the voice-over work included in all of them was perfection.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but bring back the scary voice-over in horror trailers! Look, I loved the new HALLOWEEN trailer. But I’d love to see a modern film take this classic approach with advertising. Frankly, some of the trailers that stand out for this movie lover included all that goofy dialogue with that deep voiced actor trying to scare the crap out of you. With our current infatuation with nostalgia, it is shocking to me that it hasn’t already returned. Perhaps one day soon, we will once again be warned that we are all doomed by a mysterious voice, one claiming that whatever we are witnessing will be the scariest horror film ever! That is one genre trend that needs to come back.

Source: AITH



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