Breaking the mold: Longlegs avoids mistakes of recent horror trends in marketing

Osgood Perkins' upcoming horror film, Longlegs, has used a unique marketing campaign that avoids the mistakes so many films make in revealing too much.
Comic Con "Significant Other" World Premiere Screening, Panel & Reception
Comic Con "Significant Other" World Premiere Screening, Panel & Reception / Eugene Gologursky/GettyImages

Movie trailers have long been integral to the film industry and the movie-going experience. For many, sitting down to view the plethora of trailers before the start of a film is one of their favorite parts of going to the movies. The goal of a trailer is to attract an audience to a film. A one-to-two-minute trailer is meant to encourage and excite an audience to see a movie and draw them into watching it when it is released in theaters. 

Yet, over the last few years, trailers have become something fans tend to avoid rather than anticipate. This is particularly true in the horror genre, where trailers have been known to give away too much. Trailers have become short summarizations of films, at times revealing intimate details in the plot, displaying various important kills, giving away jump sacres, spoiling twists, and, worst of all, ruining endings. 

For this reason, this summer's anticipated horror film, Longlegs, from director Osgood Perkins, has separated itself from its contemporaries. Longlegs has used a marketing campaign filled with leading breadcrumb-style teaser trailers that hold a sense of mystery and lack of information, capturing a strange and sinister mood. 

Longlegs will follow an FBI agent as she attempts to solve the case of a serial killer. The film stars Maika Monroe and Nicolas Cage and will be the fourth directorial effort by Perkins, whose previous work includes The Blackcoat's Daughter, I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, and Gretel & Hansel

Rather than going the typical route of having a two-to-three-minute trailer that does more revealing than enticing viewers to watch the movie, Longlegs has utilized a slow-burn style of marketing, using short teasers with a disturbing and eerie aura only hinting at the events to come in the film. North American film distributor Neon has succeeded in garnering more attention to Longlegs while also endearing its less is more approach to horror fans. 

In January, teaser clips were released for Longlegs in weekly succession, slowly unpacking the film's potentially unsettling nature. Each teaser is cryptic, unraveling small puzzle pieces about the film, with more being released in April. Each clip is titled with some connection to the film. The first three, in particular, titled "Every Year There Is Another, " " Remember To Say Your Prayers, " and "We've Been  Waiting For Her, " each highlight what could be a vital hint for the movie. Or it could be misdirection. The added unknown factor of these teasers only provides more intrigue in the anticipation for Longlegs. 

A more extended dialogue-free trailer further showcases all the symbols and iconography that will be featured in the movie, which was released in February, along with a more traditional trailer in May. Yet, even while acquiescing to a more conventional style trailer, it still manages to keep Longlegs events a mystery. 

Over the last ten years, numerous examples of recent horror film trailers revealing too much have been spotlighted. Earlier this year, film directing team Radio Silence's newest film, Abigail, saw trailers showing the titular character's reveal as a vampire. The 2019 remake of Pet Sematary divulged a character's highly critical death, underlining how it differs from the original. The trailer for 2009's Last House on the Left remake essentially showcased the film from start to finish, showing plot twists and the ending. 

Even critical darlings like Ari Aster's Hereditary and Jordan Peele's Get Out fell victim to overexposure from trailers. Hereditiary's trailer displayed some of the film's most frightening moments in the third act and cut the teaser in a way that made the slow-burn psychological tale seem like a generic possession film. Get Out's trailer spoiled the film's twist, presenting the antagonists front and center. In the case of these two films, the trailers spoiling the plot did not impact how the movie performed critically or commercially. However, it shows that directors don't have control over every aspect of the marketing of their films. 

Divisive director David Gordon Green, who directed The Exorcist: Believer and the most recent Halloween trilogy, ran into issues with the trailers for 2021's Halloween Kills, which showed many of the kills and exposed too much of Michael Myers. 

"My obsessive impulse is to be very protective of how we see The Shape," Green stated in an interview with Total Film Magazine in August 2021.  "So less is more - and yeah, I don't always win those battles, but I'm always fighting them! 

Based on the number of trailers in today's film landscape, the troublesome nature of trailers overexposing films is amplified. However, trailers in the past have also spoiled the twists and endings of films. 

Most famously, James Cameron's sci-fi action sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day exposed the twist of Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 being the film's hero rather than a villain. 1980's Friday the 13th was marketed with a countdown in the trailer showing each death in the movie, including that of Pamela Voorhees. Brian De Palma's now classic Stephen King film adaptation, Carrie, had a trailer that exhibited all the vital moments of the film's third act at the prom. 

With Longlegs avoiding many recent and past mistakes in marketing a horror film, it will be one of the year's most anticipated horror films. Longlegs is set for release on July 12.

dark. Next. 7 seasons of American Horror Story to watch (and 5 you can skip). 7 seasons of American Horror Story to watch (and 5 you can skip)