I was pretty normal kid. Granted, at 6 my mother took me to the theater to see Friday The 13th in 1980, completely traumatizing me and ensuring I never spend the night in the woods again, but I digress. More than trips to the theater or watching slasher movies on Beta during a sleep-over, what really did it for me were those sinister, evil voiceovers that accompanied movie trailers or sometimes even TV spots for horror films. Those voices, and there were many of them, were filled with such resonance and horror that turning away and covering your eyes was never enough. I was haunted by those inflections, those slightly-English-sounding adjectives, the way they would draw you in and leave you utterly frightened after the first sentence. Those voices are as indelible as the trailers, and while there were many, I have to reflect on MY ‘big 3’:
1) DAN LaFONTAINE – This is the guy we all know and love. “In a world where” he spoke on the airways, we were truly freaked out. True, his voice and style became a bit TOO mainstream and recognizable towards the end of his life, he was pretty much “the voice” of Paramount Pictures in the late 70’s-early 80’s and his voice is clearly recognizable in gems like My Bloody Valentine (1981), Dressed To Kill, The Fly (1986), Scream, and he needs only to count to freak us out in the original Friday the 13th (1980) trailer:
2) ADOLPH CAESAR – Caesar was an accomplished black actor, with roles in A Soldier’s Story, The Color Purple, and other films, but he really left his true mark in FREAKING ME OUT in the late 70’s and early 80’s. An amazing, deep, and resonant voice, he could make just about anything sound scary, and usually did. You’ll most certainly recognize the damage he did to you when you hear him voice the trailers from Deep Red, Blacula, A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Sleepaway Camp, Last House On the Left (the “It’s only a movie” trailer), Creepshow, and probably his most famous – Dawn Of the Dead (1977):
3) PERCY RODRIGUEZ – Probably the most notable of my ‘big 3’ voiceover artists, because his voice was deeper and more sinister, and along with the films he voiced, he really packed a lot of punch and undoubtedly scarred many of us in the process–‘normal’ people included. His films are epic, and he could scare your grandma talking about what he did on Labor Day. His voice will be indelibly linked with some of the terrifying moments he set up in films like Dracula (1979), Madman, The Omen, The Amityville Horror (1979), The Exorcist, and his piece-de-resistance: Jaws:
Thanks to Dan, Adolph, and Percy for giving me an entire horror movie’s worth of chills in about 90 seconds. nYou truly traumatized my youth, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Like I said, there are many amazing voice artists out there that voiced many, trauma inducing trailers. One honorable mention from my list has to be ROSCOE LEE BROWNE, a Shakespearean actor and cast-member of the TV Show “Soap”. Often confused with Adolph Caesar, he leant a similar inflection of voice to terrifying trailers like The Prowler:
I find his voice not to be quite as deep or resonant as Caesar‘s, but that delivery, that pacing, that almost-English-like-inflection on certain words still freaks me OUT.
The next time you sit down to watch an old horror movie trailer, take a good listen. It might very well be one of these guys. Now, I have to go and turn on some more lights….