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7 Ways to Spoil a Scary movie
#7 Bad Monster Noises
The one way to really ruin a monster movie is to give the monster some dumb noise to make. In the film The Babadook, the build up to the monster is phenomenal, and it's genuinely terrifying for a majority of the film. Right up until the end. That's where they ruin it, the monster goes from making bug scuttling noises and his famous "Ba-Ba-Dook-Dook-DOOK" to making "generic dinosaur noises". Nothing ruins the mood of a scary movie more than going from this to freaking Jurassic Park.
#6 Not-So-Scary Monsters
Good movies these days have a bit of a build up until the climax. The heroes slowly learn about the monster and catch glimpses of it before the final reveal. And until then, the psychological horror of the beast is usually a lot greater than the monster itself. Movies like Insidious and Stephen King's The Langoliers, are infamous for this. In Insidious, when the demon/monster is finally revealed it turns out he looks eerily similar to another character most Star Wars fans are familiar with, Darth Maul. Nothing makes a movie lose it's edge quite like recognizable characters. Similarly, in the Langoliers, the 3 hour movie builds up to a monster that looked like a glorified cotton ball with teeth. Movies that end with a monster reveal can be very well done, using psychological horror to let your mind fill in the blanks, creating a monster that is usually scarrier than anything they could make. But this tactic can easily backfire when your monster simply isn't scary.
Movies nowadays rely on computer imaging and special effects to enhance the experience. In fact, the effects now are way beyond what could have even been imagined years ago, and looking back it makes earlier movies effects look cheap and silly. But one of the worst things a movie can do to itself is not have a proper budget. There are innumerable examples of movies that bomb because they had no budget, but what's even worse is when the film is terrible and had a large budget. My favorite example of this is the recently popularized style of "found footage," style, showcased in Paranormal Activity, which typically involves the characters within the film being the ones who are filming it. Theoretically it is possible for this style to work, giving the audience an increased sense of immersion, but typically it just leads to very poor filmography and frustration. The only thing worse than a film having no budget, is one with a large budget, trying to look like the opposite.
#4 Reliance upon Jumpscares
As far as horror goes, jump scares are the worst. They're a cheap trick to make an ordinarily not-that-scary situation into one that is scary. It relies totally on shock value and without anything else to add to it, jump scares on their own aren't that scary. If a movie had nothing but jump scares, after about the first 10 minutes it'd stop being scary, even if the monster itself is genuinely terrifying. That's because the shock value is lost, once you can anticipate it, it becomes significantly less terrifying. The best example of this is actually in the video game 5 Nights at Freddy's, a game that relies almost exclusively on jump scares. But unlike many horror films that do the same thing, the atmosphere, your limited resources and your race against the clock are what make the game scary.
#3 Unlikable Characters
My friends and I enjoy the occasional B-movie, especially when their scary movies. So one night we decided to watch the film, Hayride 2. This film did nearly everything wrong you could possibly do, the plot was ridiculous, it expected the viewers to have watched the first one and remembered the characters and events of it, the characters were incredibly stupid and many died simply to remind us that the psycho killer, is infact a psycho killer. But ultimately the worst part about it was that the main characters and everyone around them were shallow and uninteresting. This makes the film bad for 3 reasons: it cheapens their deaths, makes the plot very boring and predictable, and finally, it separates the viewer from the experience. A good film helps you to develop an emotional attachment for the characters to the point where you actively hope for their success, but when the characters are awful, you actually hope they die so you don't have to listen to them or even see them again.
The purpose of a film, or a book, or even a video game is to tell a story. One that hopefully the audience will enjoy. Unfortunately sometimes the plan that the director/author had in mind doesn't quite translate to their medium. It may come out in the form of an underdeveloped plot, or one filled with many plot holes and unexplained events. Or it may take the opposite route and spend too long with ham-fisted exposition, killing the tension with unnecessary dialogue. Worse yet, the characters do things that simply don't make sense and you as the audience are left scratching your head thinking to yourself, "why didn't they just do X? They had the means to and it was a much more reasonable option." Like in The Lord of the Rings, everyone asks why they didn't simply just get the eagles to fly them to Mt. Doom instead of taking the much more dangerous, and impractical route of walking the ring there. A plot is vital to the success of a movie, no amount of special effects, or gore, or hiring famous actors can save a film if it simply doesn't make sense.
Nothing is worse than when a film starts with a group of teenage kids. Especially when right off the bat, you can tell who is who and who is going to die first. The overused plot is often that a group of 5 or 6 kids go into a family cabin in the woods for a weekend retreat. The group is composed of: The Douche, The Nerd, The Hottie, The Hottie's friend, The Stoner and The Black Guy. Some supernatural force starts killing off all the kids in the cabin, and in the end the Hottie lives and defeats the monster, who frequently turns out to be the Nerd, if it's not a supernatural creature. Barring scary movies that follow that plot exactly, a films worst mistake is to telegraph their punches. When one person goes off on their own in a poorly lit hallway, it's not surprising when they get killed by the bad guy. A jump scare is not scary when a character walks around a corner and neither the audience nor her can see what's there, while scary music is playing. I know that it's difficult to come up with a completely original movie and scare people in ways that have never been done before, but when you know what's going to happen before the opening credits are over, it stops being scary and stops being worth your time.