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Movie Making: 5 musts for a creepy horror movie

Updated on May 23, 2013

Slasher movies should not be termed as 'Horror'

I know 'Slasher Movies', no matter how much panned by critics and masses, are loved by teens for the gore action and titillating stuff it carries. But i personally feel that it would be wrong to term them as 'Horror Movies'.

I've always associated the word 'Horror' with supernatural thrillers filled with mystery, ghosts and spirits. And that is the kind of movies our A-list actors are doing these days (except Brad Pitt who is doing a Zombie action thriller - World War Z. I loved its trailers) - be it Patrick Wilson (Insidious), Ethan Hawke (Sinister), Robert De Niro (Hide and Seek), and Jessica Chastin (Mama).

Still of Patrick Wilson from Insidious

5 musts in a Horror Movie

So being a horror movies fan, and after watching countless horror movies, I have come up with the elements that a horror movie should have to create a desired impact. You might not like some of them, but if you are into movie making (or script writing), you might find them useful. Here they are:

1. Perfect Setting - The setting of a movie (its location, production design and overall atmosphere) should be creepy. For example - The use of Haunted House in 'The Woman in Black' or the use of camera filters in 'The Ring', or the perfect use of forest in 'The Blair Witch Project'. These small detailing can give 'Horror Movies' a great high. In addition to this, the production values should be top-notch (if possible).

This creepy haunted house was the real star of the movie 'The Woman in Black'.
This creepy haunted house was the real star of the movie 'The Woman in Black'.

On the other hand, Go Goa Gone had been shot as a romantic movie, with beautiful locations as backdrop (i understand it was a comedy horror, but still).

2. Mystery - Horror movies is not just about ghosts and jump-out-of-your-seats moments. , Idealist horror movies are generally slow paced (for better character and story development). So, its very important that you keep the interest of a viewer alive by inducing mystery in the story.

Like in the case of 'Ring', we all wanted to know the story behind the tape (and what actually happens after 7 days).

In case of Session 9, we didn't know what was actually happening in the hospital. Or in case of 'The Blair Witch Project', we were eagerly waiting for the force to unleash itself.

Even in 'Ek thi Daayan', the viewers really wanted to know if there actually was a daayan or Emraan Hashmi's mind was playing with him.

By keeping the mystery (or the suspense factor alive), you can elevate the effect of your movie.

3. Evil Force - For me, there is no place of Good Spirits or Ghosts (not that i don't believe in them), in a Horror Movie. Horror Movie is meant to scare you. Its ok to make an emotional movie with ghosts (and spirits) as a backdrop, but if you are making a horror movie you have to make sure that there is an evil (deadly) force that can't be defeated easily.

For example - Insidious was all about nasty evil force who would not leave the child alone (no matter how much you change the house). Even 'Sinister' followed the same route (although, i didn't like the kids). On the other hand, 'Haunting in Connecticut' had a good spirit helping the boy, making it more of an emotional movie then a horror one.

4. Minimal use of CGI - The real horror in a movie comes from the fears of the audience. And that is what a horror movie should aim to elevate. There are many movies that capitalize on the principle of not showing the actual ghost (a creepy figure with a white makeup on - looked good only on Heath Ledger portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight), and let your fears draw the shape of the monster. This not just scares the shit out of your audience, but also lets them enjoy the movie (way better).

Insidious lost its charm the moment 'The Old Lady' was shown repetitively. The old version of Haunting House and The Thing were much better than their remakes (thanks to less use of CGI) and more use of writer's brain.

5. No jerky cameras please - Its been more than 13 years, now come out of the hangover of jerky found footage movies. You can create a found footage movie with a still camera, can't you? Only 'The Blair Witch Project' couldn't have been made without the handheld camera. But, even if you are making a movie with a handheld camera - make sure that you don't blast the eyes of your audience with so many camera 'jerks' (making yourself a one). After all, we all waste a lot of money to buy the tickets to see shaky camera angles destroying the overall experience of watching a movie. Keep it simple stupid.

A still from Grave Encounters 2: Shaky camera scenes in the movie gave me headaches
A still from Grave Encounters 2: Shaky camera scenes in the movie gave me headaches

The cinematography of 'The Woman in Black' and 'The Sinister' were outstanding. Learn from them.

That's all folks. I am sure all the horror movie fans would agree with me on these points. If you have anything to add to it, please feel free to comment.


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