When I was a kid, my older brothers used to take me to the drive-in with them. Most of the time we’d see a Steve McQueen movie or a Clint Eastwood movie but even at those flicks, we’d often get trailers for horror movies. A lot of the time, those trailers scared me so badly, I couldn’t even imagine being able to make it through the movies themselves. Here are a few that really scared the living hell out of me.
It’s Alive (1974), directed by Larry Cohen and starring the late, great John Ryan. Featuring a killer mutant baby designed by Rick Baker. Despite my near pants-wetting reaction to the trailer, my brother and his wife took me to see this movie (at Albuquerque’s Silver Dollar Drive-In) and I didn’t sleep for about 17 weeks afterwards. As goofy as it can be at times, this flick still creeps me out. The 2008 remake is nearly unwatchable, by the way. This is actually a TV spot for the movie, but I think it’s more unsettling than the theatrical trailer.
Beyond the Door (1974) I finally saw this Italian ripoff of The Exorcist earlier this year and it’s nowhere near as scary as the trailer, although it definitely has moments. Actually, the creepiest thing in it is the little girl who acts all mature and hippie-like. Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (whose last name sounds like a rather unpleasant illness) and starring Juliet Mills (sister of Hayley Mills). Also featuring Richard Johnson, who would later play Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombie (a.k.a Zombi 2, 1979).
And finally, one more from 1974 — the big daddy of ’em all, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper and starring Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface. I can assure you, nothing scared me worse than the trailer for this movie, except maybe the TV spots, because those would just show up on TV late at night out of the freakin’ blue and send me scurrying to make sure the doors were locked. When I was hiding on the floor of the backseat of my brother’s car during this trailer, I certainly never would’ve imagined I’d one day be hanging around with Gunnar Hansen, let alone directing him in a movie (which I had the pleasure of doing in 2006). He’s a great guy and hardly scares me at all these days. Hardly…
For more funky movie stuff, check out my book Unsafe On Any Screen:
And you might enjoy my collection of short stories, Tales of Misery and Imagination: