We watch a lot of movie trailers here at ScreenCrave, and, as we inch closer to summer with its ever-increasing torrent of new films, we’re seeing more and more previews with each passing day. As we do so, we can’t help but notice some similarities, repetitions, and clichés among them. Here at Trailer Park, we’ll be offering a rundown of those clichés, where they come from, and which trailers share them. For our first installment, we’ll be breaking down one of summer’s most ever-present previews: The Horror Movie Trailer.

Like the movies they preview, horror trailers are loaded with clichés. The worst part about them is that they are unavoidable because they’re inevitably there, playing before the non-horror movie we paid $12 to see. Horror trailers resort to the cheapest of tricks and scares to get you all panicky and squirmy; and they make movies seem a lot scarier than they normally are. Truth is, horror trailer clichés are endless, but here are a our top 10 to look out for.

10. The Mirror Scare

Used in: The Omen (2006), Prom Night (2008), Mirrors (2008), The Others (2000), Candyman (1992), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), Urban Legend (1998), The Shining (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Silent House (2012), Carrie (1976)

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the worst cliché of them all? It’s got to be this one. The Mirror Scare is a classic cliché used in nearly all horror movies and their trailers. It might’ve been cool at some point, but the poor thing has been played out one too many times now.

As Seen In: The Omen


9. Single-Word Title Cards

Used In: Everywhere

We’ve discussed these in previous Trailer Park posts: It’s when text is used to describe what is going on in the images that are already allowing us to see what’s going on. It distracts from the purpose of the trailer which is to show as many scene bits as possible in a frame of a minute and thirty seconds. Title cards aren’t helpful, they’re lazy.

As Seen In: 28 Days Later


8. The Static

Used in: The Thing (1982), Saw (2004), Saw II (2004), [REC] (2007), The Ring (2002)

I don’t know about you but static is only scary when I’m trying to watch TV and can’t because the signal’s lost. The worst part about this cliche is when it’s used without an actual TV or radio in sight, leaving us to wonder where the noise may be coming from.

As Seen In: Saw


7. The Creepy Reveal

Used in: The Woman In Black (2012), Silent House (2012), The Innkeepers (2012), The Descent (2005), Drag Me To Hell (2009), Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (2011), The Thing (2011), Child’s Play 3 (1991), Hellraiser (1987)

It’s cowardly to attack your victims from the back, don’t you think? They have no time to defend themselves. You know this cliché, it’s similar to ‘The Mirror Scare’ and often used to replace it in trailers; it’s when we see the main character looking for the killer/ghost/alien/whatever is trying to kill it and it appears right behind them.

As Seen In: The Woman In Black

6. The White Flash

Used in: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2005), Silent House (2012), The Innkeepers (2012), Shaun of the Dead (2004), The Others (2000), The Grudge (2004), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Devil’s Rejects (2005), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Shining (1980)

What is it with white flashes and horror movie trailers? The black fade out is replaced by white flashes in the horror movie trailer, and it’s always accompanied by the sound of camera flash.

As Seen In: The Sixth Sense


5. Suspenseful Music (That Builds Up Rapidly)

Used In: The Devil Inside (2012), House at the End of the Street (2012), Saw (2004), The Grudge (2004), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), My Bloody Valentine (2009), The Mist (2007), Misery (1990), The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Shining (1980)

This cliché is usually accompanied by a montage of people screaming, running, falling, crying and dying, then followed by a loud clash, then silence over a black screen. It’s used to play with our emotions, building up our panic. Little do they (trailer editors) know that we’re use to seeing this kind of thing.

As Heard In: The Mist


4. The Moment Of Silence

Used In: Silent House (2012), The Innkeepers (2012), [REC] (2007), 28 Days Later (2002), The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

‘The Moment of Silence’ is either preceded by that suspenseful-music-people-running-montage (cliché No. 5), or it’s that moment when there’s no music and we just hear the actor’s heavy breathing like in The Innkeepers trailer. Either way it’s annoying because we know a scare is coming at the end of that silence or something scary is going to pop up.

As Seen In: The Innkeepers


3. ‘Based On The True Story’

Used In: The Amityville Horror (2005), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), An American Haunting (2006), The Rite (2001)

This is nothing more than self-proclaiming. Adding that the movie is ‘Based On The True Story’ isn’t doing it’s job because in reality, the movie that is being advertised couldn’t be farther away from the truth. If you want to frighten people more by adding ‘truth’ to the story, show true to life horror. And again, it’s about showing, not telling.

As Seen/Heard In: The Amityville Horror


2. The Final Scare

Used In: The Cabin In The Woods (2012), Silent House (2012), Jeepers Creepers (2001), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Prom Night (2008)

Movie titles usually mark the end of a movie trailer, but not here. Always beware of the ‘Final Scare’; this is the trick that follows the movie title card. Word of advice: it’s usually a girl screaming or the killer making a final appearance.

As Seen In: The Cabin In The Woods


1. The Scream

Used In: The Devil Inside (2012), The Cabin In The Woods (2012), Silent House (2012), The Innkeepers (2012), The Others (2000), Drag Me To Hell (2009), The Grudge (2004), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Scream (1997)

Alright so this is obvious, it’s a horror movie trailer after all, but it’s incredibly annoying. It’s always that really high-pitch scream that requires head-shaking and popped out eyes. And the screams always, always come from women as if they were the only ones who screamed.

As Seen In: Scream

And there’s a lot more where this came from.

What are some of the clichés you see? And which do you think should disappear?

Similar: Best Fight Movies