Horror Movies – What Makes Them Properly Scary?
On the way to school this morning Alexander was asking me what makes the Blair Witch Project a scary horror movie. He hasn’t seen Blair Witch, but he has read the article on the sequel in the current Empire magazine. Ever since he has been obsessed about knowing how the Blair Witch Project went.
Horror or Splatter?
One of the things we talked about was whether or not you really need lots of blood and gore in a horror movie.
There’s certainly a visceral horror in seeing injured or dismembered people. But it is quite hard to get it right. We’re good at understanding that it isn’t real. If we don’t think it is real then we cannot be truly terrified.
Gore in a horror movie is like slapstick in a comedy. It can be fun to watch, but the effect is only on the surface. Also, gore has an impact on the certificate of a movie. Too much and you cut off a chunk of the audience.
Fear of the Unknown
People have a fear of the unknown. Horror can tap into that, as Blair Witch does. Not knowing what is going on also builds suspense. It’s like sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, or outside the headteacher’s office. Something is going to happen, and our imagination has time to stew over it and develop our worst fears into apocalyptic nightmares.
In a horror movie this makes it scarier. All the more so if there are sometimes false dawns. Letting us down gently once or twice helps reset the adrenaline and allows a bigger shock when the axe (monster, whatever) does fall.
Off screen misadventures for disappearing cast also helps with this.
Where did John go?
Let’s call him.
I can hear his phone round the corner.
Look! There it is up that tree, how did it get up there?
You get the drift…
What makes a horror movie scary for you?