Horror has been one of the most popular movie genres for decades, with films spanning a wide range of subgenres including body horror, psychological horror, and paranormal horror.
Effective horror trailers rely on captivating voice actors who can give viewers a sense of the movie’s tone and style.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most terrifying voiceovers we’ve seen in movie trailers over the years.
1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre trailer is a visual and auditory masterpiece, expertly pairing quick cuts with the foreboding tone of a Twilight Zone-style voice actor.
While the trailer shows enough to give viewers an idea of the full movie, it leaves enough to the imagination to leave us wanting more at the end of the video.
At nearly 50 years old, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a great window back into the history of horror movies as well as horror movie trailers.
The creators obviously didn’t have the same tools to work with that we take for granted today, but they used what they had to develop a uniquely captivating atmosphere in both the trailer and the full film.
2. The Exorcist
The Exorcist is another classic horror movie that debuted just one year before the release of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The trailer’s voice actor uses an unnerving, eerie style that hints at the dark mystery at the heart of the film.
His voice is coupled with quick cuts and jarring music to produce a disturbing impression that invites the viewer to continue watching and learn more.
This trailer leverages the philosophy of “less is more” to catch the audience’s attention without giving away any details, plot points, or other spoilers.
The Exorcist ended up becoming one of the most successful horror movie franchises of all time, and the initial installment was the first movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
There are now two direct sequels to the original film as well as several other movies in the Exorcist universe, and a new installment is set to release in 2023.
The original Jaws trailer uses the world-famous theme song in combination with a neutral, monotone speaker who lets the content speak for itself.
While the shark itself rests at the center of the movie, it doesn’t require much screen time to control the tone of the entire film.
The contrast between the horror of the shark and the carefree atmosphere of the beach creates a tense atmosphere while making the film more relatable to the average viewer.
Jaws ended up becoming another one of the most famous horror films in American pop culture, even becoming the highest grossing movie at the time of its release.
Like The Exorcist, the success of the first Jaws movie led to several sequels including Jaws 2, Jaws 3D, and Jaws: The Revenge.
Despite casting Michael Caine, Jaws: The Revenge ended up being recognized as one of the worst films in American history—even earning a rare 0% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
4. Night of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead predates every other film on this list and was a pivotal movie in the history of the horror genre.
Incredibly, the entire film was produced on a budget of just over $100,000—very little to work with, even at the time the film was released in 1967.
Despite the team’s limited resources, they managed to put together a disturbing trailer with an evocative voice actor who outlines the movie’s premise.
Night of the Living Dead was also a key contributor to the rise of zombies as a unique form of monsters in horror movies, books, and TV shows.
Similar to other leading horror movies, the success of the first film gave director George Romero the resources he needed to make several sequels throughout his illustrious career.
Romero returned to direct Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead along with a variety of other films before his death in 2017.
Halloween, released in 1978, is another classic horror movie and one of the best examples of the slasher genre.
The original trailer switches off between music, voice over, and clips from the movie itself to build up an atmosphere without revealing too much of the film’s content.
The voice actor periodically returns to provide a break between different sections of the trailer and emphasize Halloween’s hopeless, morbid style.
In fact, the voice over itself contains surprisingly few words, mostly repeating the title of the movie while providing basic context and hinting at the underlying story.
Halloween ended up becoming an even more successful franchise than many of the other films we’ve listed.
The first sequel came out three years after the original film and was followed by three more numbered sequels between 1982 and 1989.
While subsequent films are no longer numbered, a total of six more films were released from 1995 to 2018.
Halloween (2018), the most recent instalment, still didn’t bring the series to a conclusion.
A new sequel called Halloween Kills is expected to be released on October 15th, 2021 after being shown at the Venice Film Festival in September 2021.
From there, Halloween Ends is scheduled for a release in October 2022—of course, we wouldn’t bet on that film actually taking the series to a close.
6. Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th came out in 1980, shortly after the success of several horror movies in the 1970s including Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Jaws, and The Exorcist.
Rather than offering a description of the action, the trailer’s voice over artist simply numbers the killer’s victims as they appear on-screen.
In between each number, the trailer shows a short snippet of the corresponding character’s death without providing any shots of the mysterious killer.
After reaching the number twelve, the artist continues “Friday the 13th—you may only see it once, but that will be enough.”
The first film was quickly followed by a second and third installment along with a fourth movie called Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter which was released in 1984.
Unsurprisingly, the series continued after that film with Friday the 13th: A New Beginning just one year later in 1985.
Several new versions of the Friday the 13th story were developed later on, culminating in the release of Jason X in 2001.
This was the last standalone Friday the 13th film in the original run, but the series’ villain also appeared in Freddy vs. Jason (2003).
The series itself was rebooted in 2009 with the release of Friday the 13th.
While rumors of another entry persist, it has now been more than ten years since the last movie in this classic horror series.
Horror movies rely on jump scares, special effects, acting, set design, costume design, and numerous other elements, but they also depend on a tense atmosphere that puts viewers on the edge of their seats.
These classic horror trailers are incredible demonstrations of the power of voice over work when combined with the other aspects of a successful horror movie.