Today's Great Horror Movie Trailer: The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror classic, based on (and changed a good deal from) Stephen King's novel.
The Best Thing About It: It's a general rule that the shorter and more vague a trailer is, the better chance it has at being an artistic triumph. Whether it's a marketing triumph is a concern for other people, I would imagine, and the trend of so many movie trailers towards formula and giving away the farm, plot-wise, puts these kind of extremely teaser-y trailer at a premium. The great thing about this Shining trailer is that it likely worked just as well as marketing as it did as an artistic statement, as the only things you really needed to sell this movie, at the time, were King and Kubrick's names, and those certainly get prime placement here, as the audience waits and simmers in the sinister music, anticipating whatever awful thing is about to come out of those elevators.
Contributing Factors: THAT BLOOD. Taking its cues from a scene within the movie, the elevators gush forth an ocean of blood, covering the floor and ultimately splashing up across the camera lens, leaving what is essentially a red filter on the final images. No characters. No plot description. Just utter dread and the promise of blood (in truth, much more blood than the movie provides, but a bit of sleight-of-hand never really hurt a trailer that much).
Better Or Worse Than The Movie It Advertises?: Probably not as good. The Shining is a masterpiece of horror from a master director. It's tough to live up to that standard. But a good teaser can stand up on its own, almost an independent document, and this trailer I basically a master class in short-form suspense.
Final Assessment: Any trailer that's iconic enough to spawn an homage thirty-plus years later, as happened when the Room 237 documentary was looking to entice superfans of The Shining to their film, certainly did something right. Check out the trailer's legacy at work: