Now that we’re in single digits in our countdown to the greatest day of the year — Halloween, if you’re new here — it’s only proper to acknowledge the definitive granddaddy of all seasonal horror series. Always important to any project is the marketing, and theatrical trailers have become a staple of anticipation, no matter the genre, as they are the first introduction to the characters and the world of the film. Sometimes the hype is better than the final product, but that’s the art of a good theatrical trailer. I’ve reviewed theatrical trailers for the entire Halloween series and ranked them, starting with the least effective. This article is purely subjective, but I trust some of you out there will agree.
10. Halloween II (1981)
Ironically, my favorite entry in the franchise actually ranks least in the trailer department. It starts with a bang and keeps the momentum going — complete with the more gothic version of the theme. However, it seems too choppy, and when we reach the closing moments of Michael Myers chasing Laurie Strode, they employ the same formula as the original trailer. It works, but this trailer should have felt larger than the original, and it didn’t happen.
9. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Some consider Halloween: Resurrection to be the worst film in the franchise, but it certainly has its moments — and the trailer rings true to the hype of being greater than the film. It establishes the story, and offers something fresh and modern to the millennium while making sure it gives credit to the franchise history. The payoff is seeing Laurie ready to take on Michael once more. The downfall? It begins to risk giving away too much and, sigh, shows Busta Rhymes kicking Michael out the window. Boo!
8. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
I love that the trailer for Halloween 5 gets right to business, and the narration does the trick that the Halloween II trailer didn’t: pack the pace and make it clear that this film is going to be a thrill ride with higher stakes. But, like many trailers, it just reveals too much and runs too long to make it the magic that it could’ve been.
7. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
The opening to this trailer for Halloween 4 immediately brings any viewer who knew the original two entries to the immediate realization that it’s a Halloween film returning to its roots. While it does seem choppy at the time, it shows that Michael is strong, that a child is in danger and that fan favorite Dr. Loomis is back on the hunt. Donald Pleasance’s delivery of the dialogue carries this trailer from start to finish.
6. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
One of the greatest things of the series is Mrs. Blankenship’s monologue explaining why we celebrate Halloween. It’s chilling and intriguing at the same time. We are Danny, sitting and listening as she combines the sincere and the sinister. It’s only fitting, then, that Dimension Films used this moment to carry the entire trailer and give us a glimpse into where Michael is now and what these characters are going to face — and it feels like the Halloween season. Nothing is spoiled! It leaves eyebrows raised, pleasantly wondering what is in store.
5. Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007)
Is it a sequel? No. Is it a remake? Let’s call it a “re-imagining.” Is it Halloween 1978? Hell, no! This trailer is edited so crisp and uses the fantastic tableau shot that Zombie incorporated into a key crime scene moment to send a chill into the audience. This is going to be like nothing seen before while giving us more of Michael, for better or worse, and bringing the horror to the extreme.
4. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
It’s 20 years later. The scene is established. The mood is set. Jamie Lee Curtis is back, and is Michael the predator or the prey? The late ’90s setting is apparent. We know Laurie is haunted, we know she’s been in hiding, and when that moment comes, we know that she’s going to stop running and confront Michael in an all-out war. That’s something worth 20 years of waiting. The trailer is also capped off by a light-hearted but welcome moment between Curtis and real-life Mom Janet Leigh, giving a respected nod to the original in the process.
3. Halloween (1978)
Part of the corruption of innocence, the unexplained phenomena of psychopathology, was an inspiration behind young Michael Myers, and never had the audience seen something where the child was directly responsible for some kind of brutal murder (Village of the Damned aside). What was to be a shocker to the audience is actually revealed when Myer’s parents pull the clown mask off and we see the kid in full view. This is the classic film that sets the benchmark, and while the trailer does a fantastic job in setting up the narrative and the suspense, including the cliffhanging moment of Michael chasing Laurie, it exposes certain moments that should have remained out of it — and that’s why it just can’t rank #1 in my book.
2. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
What the hell am I thinking? This is a weird trailer because the teaser is tacked on at the top. If it really played like that, then it’s just off-setting from the beginning. Similar to Mrs. Blankenship, Dan O’Herlihy’s fantastic monolog about the dark roots and rich heritage of the Halloween season sets the tone that none of the other trailers possibly could. Because this is a Halloween film, even Myers-less, it has to establish the season. Masks, murder, children in danger, robots and science fiction? This is just something incredibly creepy, and we aren’t given any insight into how this film will play out. They even worked in the closing moment of the film without viewers realizing it. Clever!
1. Rob Zombie’s H2 [Halloween II] (2009)
You can love it or hate it — whichever way you want — but this trailer is beautifully strung together. The scenes transition nicely. It does not hide the violence. Any clip of Michael is fast and kept to the bare minimal so as to not overexpose his signature masked look or the new unmasked jacket version. The scene of Annie (Danielle Harris) looking in the bathroom mirror only to see Michael is back haunts me to this day; I still turn when looking in my mirror. It’s a great scene, and its placement in this trailer segues nicely into something even more bizarre: the haunting resurrection of Sheri Moon’s Deborah Myers in spirit form cueing Michael during his murders. It’s bizarre, it’s some seriously fucked-up, hardcore shit, and it’s coming at us as fast as Michael himself. Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) says it best… Michael is more evolved. This is everything I want to see in a theatrical trailer, to the point where I may just go and watch the movie again right now.
There you have it, everyone. Making any ranking list, especially on one’s favorite series of all time, is not an easy task, and sometimes I was bouncing the numbers around just by one spot. I also wanted to be as honest with you, the reader, as I could. I couldn’t just put the original trailer in the #1 spot — just couldn’t. It would seem like a sell-out.
In closing, I simply say, no matter the rank you might give each trailer, I only wish you one thing — and that’s “Happy Halloween.”