Five Creative Opening Title Sequences in Horror
An Artsy Ghoul Blog
Opening Title Sequences
Watching films and television throughout my life, I’ve always appreciated a good opening title sequence, especially in the horror genre. Opening title sequences are much more common in television series, but we have had our fair share of iconic openings in film, such as the spooky pumpkin slow zoom of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). My personal taste in opening title sequences are those that are super artsy, acting as a fun little micro short film that gives audiences a slice of what the film or show has in store for them. Here is a list of five of my favorite creative opening title sequences in horror.
Dead Silence (2007)
One of James Wan’s more underrated films, Dead Silence, introduced yet another creepy doll into the world of horror, a ventriloquist dummy named Billy. The opening title sequence of the film begins with the old 1930s Universal Pictures logo, establishing a grungy, vintage style that instantly makes the film feel haunted. Throughout the sequence, we get to observe the creation of the Billy doll by the hands of its owner, ventriloquist Mary Shaw. We see a variety of early concept sketches and designs for Billy, along with clips of Mary sculpting the doll and painting its facial features. The dark and gritty imagery is brought together by Charlie Clouser’s iconic score, intensifying the creep factor. It is so strong that whenever I hear the theme music playing at a horror event, the imagery from the title sequence immediately pops into my head. Dead Silence proves that opening title sequences that are separate from the rest of the film can do so much for set up and are not a waste of a film’s runtime.
Final Destination 3 (2006)
Final Destination 3 starts with an opening title sequence that instantly makes the film stand out among all of the others in the franchise. FD3 is my favorite of the franchise because of the way it expertly builds tension, leading to its big rollercoaster accident moment. This tension starts to develop as soon as the title sequence begins and we see unsettling shots of amusement park attractions, some sped up into a time lapse that gives the rides a distorted appearance. There are also shots of classic carnival artwork and fortune teller imagery throughout the sequence. It almost feels like a nightmare that someone would have about going to an amusement park. All of these elements combined do a fantastic job making the audience feel like they are in the presence of death itself, while also establishing the setting of the film’s opening scene. I also really appreciate the decision to use a unique font throughout the sequence, as most title sequences tend to use generic fonts for all the credits because they are the easiest to read. If the goal of this opening title sequence was to make people think twice before going to an amusement park, then goal accomplished.
American Horror Story: Coven (2013)
American Horror Story is known for its creepy opening title sequences that change along with the show’s themes each year. They are often the scariest part of the show, and fans of the hit anthology series look forward to seeing just how bizarre and horrific the title sequences will be every time a new season drops. I’ve seen every season of AHS so far, and Coven’s title sequence in season 3 is still the one I love the most. Instead of the usual montage of filmed horror imagery that we got with “Murder House” and “Asylum”, Coven shook things up a bit by giving us a more stylized look. The black and white film, illustrated title cards, witchcraft, and voodoo imagery are edited together so well. It is all around disturbing, and I think a big part of why it appeals to me is the “found footage” feeling it radiates with its grainy film clips. The illustrations and artwork also draw in some of the historical aspects of witchcraft, laying a foundation for the concepts Coven explores throughout its season.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
The popular cult classic Trick ‘r Treat has an opening title sequence full of amazing artwork that gives a little sneak peak at all of its Halloween greatness. We see graphic novel style artwork from the different horror tales that make up the film, very reminiscent of other horror anthologies like “Tales from the Crypt” and “Creepshow”. Much of the artwork focuses on the lovable character of Sam, who has grown into a big horror icon over the years since the film’s release. Outside of all of the comic style artwork in the title sequence, there are also some glimpses of director Michael Dougherty’s original animation work from his short film “Season’s Greetings”, which was the inspiration behind Trick ‘r Treat. Dougherty is a fantastic artist, and his decision to include pieces of the film’s history in the opening makes it feel extra special. The entire title sequence is eye candy for any Halloween lover, a perfect mixture of artwork, pumpkins, and candy united by an autumn color scheme.
Doom Patrol (2019-Present)
Yes, I know, Doom Patrol isn’t a horror show. However, this DC Comics adaptation has enough horror references and themes to be included on this list. Doom Patrol’s opening title sequence is probably my favorite opening title sequence in any series ever. Think classic Universal Monsters with a modern twist, the title sequence is a showcase of gorgeous 3D renders featuring brains, spiderwebbed laboratory scenery, and rustic objects. The dark horror imagery phenomenally captures how deeply poetic the show is underneath all of its weird and chaotic humor. The show makes fun of itself in one of the episode recaps, having the narrator (also the show’s main villain) call the title sequence “pretentious”. It is true, but a show as well written and flawlessly crafted as Doom Patrol deserves a pretentious title sequence. The visuals are absolutely beautiful, and the sequence as a whole is quite mesmerizing. Every shot is a work of art that I would gladly frame and display inside my home.
What is your favorite opening title sequence on this list? Do you wish more horror films utilized them? Let me know on Twitter @Artsy_Ghoul!