The DOs and DON’Ts of Horror Filmmaking – By Danielle Deering

As a loyal, long-time horror movie enthusiast, I felt that I possessed the appropriate authority to submit these demands to todays (and tomorrow’s) horror movie makers. Now before you read any further, let me first acknowledge the mavericks out there like Ti West, James Wan, Leigh Whannell and the folks at Night Walker cinema who are already doing REAL justice to the genre and whipping us fans up into a horrifying frenzy.              It’s sincerely appreciated. Nonetheless, I do feel that some of you could use a nudge in the right direction, and who better to provide that nudge than a dedicated horror-loving fiend? I submit to you these humble demands, with love.

  • DO be original. Please stop spoon-feeding me sloppy, uninspired sequels as I have NO desire to see Paranormal Activity 9.5, Saw 103, or Final Destination 27.  Speaking of the Final Destination series, it became painfully obvious that those folks didn’t really understand the concept of “final” after the second or third installment. I get it already! Don’t punish me for liking your first movie by remaking it a dozen times.

 

  • DO keep your grubby paws off the classics! Here’s the deal; if it was good then, and it’s just as good now then it’s a classic and you need to leave it alone. Yeah you heard me, Michael Bay.  As talented of a filmmaker as you may be, please don’t waste both my time and yours trying to remake a flick that had zero room for improvement (think Pet Semetary, The Thing, or Hellraiser). C’mon folks – get creative, take some risks and show us something we’ve never seen before. We DARE you to terrify us in new and exciting ways.

 

  • DON’T make horror films that pander to a specific demographic (I submit to evidence I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend and House of Wax). I kept some distance from horror for nearly a decade because of these shenanigans. Sure, it might make you a quick buck, but please understand that you’re sacrificing art and alienating dozens of real fans along the way. If you do the genre justice, you’ll have tapped into a massive, loyal fan base.

 

  • DO think less is more (in horror movies, not necessarily in life…calm down, fellas). This is particularly true with the psychological thriller, the supernatural and creature subgenres. This is why I’m such a huge fan of what the folks over at Night Walker Cinema are doing. They demonstrate a mastery of this concept; distilling horror down its most basic components and then executing their vision with passion, integrity and precision. Real horror movie masters understand that fear can be evoked with a few musical notes or with a shadow and a whisper. Don’t bother trying to impress me with CGI or A-list actors, because it only distracts me and reveals that you don’t understand horror.

 

  • DON’T over-use the “cheap” scare. The scene is quiet, the music is reaching a crescendo, and just when you feel that scream forming in the back of your throat, a damn cat jumps out of the closet. Inappropriate. Now I acknowledge that this tactic has its place, which is why I’m simply requesting that you don’t over-use it.  It’s the comedy equivalent of a good dick joke…effective every time, but anyone could do it.  (Editor’s note- David Wong is the MASTER of combining dick jokes and intelligent Horror.)

So in summary, pay your homage to and respect the horror classics that came before, but don’t regurgitate them with modern CGI and think you’re doing anyone any favors. Take the time to understand what made the horror greats so effective, and by all means add those tools to your movie making tool belt. And finally, DO be the savior of the modern horror genre, because we, the fans, are waiting for you. In bloody droves.

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Danielle Deering is an American writer and can be found on twitter!

@deeringDE

From Horror Beginnings by Jack Kain

 

My entrance into the world of Horror films officially began with a child and a dream. The dream was about a man with a burnt face and knives for fingers who stalked his victims in their sleep. The child was named Tina and it was her death scene that ushered me into a world filled with nightmare killers; machete wielding dead campers, a family of cannibals and a homicidal man-child in a white mask.

In all honesty, I do believe that I actually wore out a tape from Blockbuster because of how many times I rewound and watched that scene. Not that I was fascinated with her death per se, but more that in my young mind I realized that this scene was something iconic; something special.  I realized that there was a horrible magic involved in the production of a great horror classic and even though I did sleep with a night light on for the next week, I understood that this was the desired effect of the film makers.

So why then, as I left the advanced showing of the Evil Dead remake, did I not feel that same magic?

Nothing against the Producers, Director and actors, but I left the theatre more nostalgic than terrified. Yes, nostalgic. Yearning for a much simpler time in horror cinema. A time when the film was grainy, the acting enjoyably bad and more emphasis was put on decently written plots and stronger characters than over the top gore and CGI to scare their audience.

Granted, horror movies have always had their fair share of blood and guts but when the amount of blood becomes ridiculously unrealistic, it is harder for the audience to suspend their disbelief. The scary part of films is the “this scenario is at least somewhat plausible” angle. That is what makes things really frightening, the possibility that at some point in time you could find yourself in this situation. Who amongst us hasn’t had the recurring thought after a night of our favorite scary movie of: “Can I really die in my dreams”, “Maybe my neighbor really is a vampire” or even “Should I really sleep with the female counsellor across the lake…OK, I will but I’m locking the door”.

The mainstream horror films that I have seen recently ( and believe me I am not knocking on new horror, I have seen too many well done indies ) have never made me think any of those thoughts or even the classic feelings of : “This could happen to me” or “ I really don’t want to walk down that dark alley alone”. They just entertain me and send me home to an empty house and a good night’s sleep.

Maybe I am getting old. Maybe I just do not get the edginess and direction of the new school of horror film makers  Perhaps it just feels like I have seen it all before. Where are the George A Romeros, who create timeless classics? Where are the Wes Cravens and John Carpenters that changed the face of horror forever? Will we ever see the rise of another horror villain into icon status? When will Sam Raimi come back to us, I mean REALLY come back to us? All questions that I would love answers to. For now I would just be content to have another sleepless night filled with coffee and night lights.

Making of a Horror Fan – Danica Deering

Lions, Tigers and Bears (oh my), Things that go bump in the night, the Monster under the bed…

I’ve often wondered: what is it about me that CRAVES horror, and relishes the opportunity to get scared out of my mind? Is there a “profile” of a horror movie fan? And what is it that truly SCARES you? Do you sometimes enjoy your horror seasoned with a sprinkling of humor or a full-blown camp-fest?

My horror “seasoning” began at a young age, with classics such as Pet Sematary, Hellraiser, Silver Bullet, Poltergeist, Pumpkinhead, and a never-ending list of Friday night B movies and cult classics that aired on the USA Up All Night program. (Side note: Can we get that program back? And I have NO idea why I was allowed to watch these films as a child, but I was, and I LOVED every minute of it).

I have gone back and watched most of these films, and many of the scares still hold-up to this day (yep, Zelda is just as scary now as she was then). Others don’t, as it’s hard to get past some of the horrendous acting and effects, but it’s still fun to look back and see what got my goat as a kid.

So, what gets my goat today?

For me (and many others), I guess some of the things that are the scariest are the situations that could actually happen.

Take for example The Strangers; I thought I could maybe give living in the country a go until I saw that movie. Now? Not so much. Yes, I realize deranged serial killers in masks could also wreak havoc in the city, but the isolation of that location is what made it so effective.

Then we have the supernatural. I have heard some people say that because they don’t believe in ghosts, ghost movies don’t scare them. I personally LOVE a good ghost tale, and I’m not afraid to admit that some scare the hell outta me (See: my new favorite supernatural film, Lake Mungo).

And what about tales of the possessed and demonic? Do you have to be a God-fearing fellow for this stuff to scare you? I don’t know, but anytime contortionism and speaking in foreign tongues fits into the equation, I’m sold. (See: Exorcism of Emily Rose)

What about a good creature flick? (See: The Descent/Fire in the Sky) Whether it be monster, alien, or the like, IF handled properly this has to be my favorite kind of scare. I guess this goes back to a fear of the unknown (ok, maybe there ARE monsters under the bed), and the knowledge that we have only scratched the surface of what exists on our own planet and beyond. Throw in the claustrophobia/no escape element and you’re in for a cover-your-eyes thrill ride.

Does humor belong in horror? Absolutely- at least in my opinion. I think that you can’t truly appreciate the glory of the genre unless you can poke fun at it too. Sometimes you’re just in the mood to sit back and watch an over the top gore fest, gratuitous zombie sex, or just plain hilarious effects and dialogue (see: Dead Alive, Slither).

Taking into account what scares us and why, do we as horror fans fit a certain “profile” that makes us LOVE this stuff? What would that profile look like?

This of course is just a small sampling of the types of horror out there. Feel free to add what scares YOU to the comments!

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Effective Villains- The Moral Event Horizon

Greetings all,

Today I am going to deal with my absolute favorite trope- “The Moral Event Horizon”.

A Moral Event Horizon is an act committed by a character that plummets our opinion of them so far away from “good” that it would be impossible for them to recover. This act does not need to be committed by a villain (who is already passed the “good line”) and can be incredibly effective in completely turning a previously well centred, good character over the deep end.

There are unfortunately easy ways for us to use this technique; rape has always been a sure-fire way to completely kill off reader or viewer sympathy with a character, but unless you have the necessary writing and character crafting skills, it comes off as not only cheap and forced, but also in incredibly bad taste.

An effective way of establishing a good moral event horizon is to use it on a character who toes the line between “good” and “bad”.  The ambiguous nature of the character will allow for a greater transition to “irredeemably evil” than if it is used on a character that is previously established as evil. It is also generally ineffective to have a character who is noble and good suddenly fall into the Moral Event Horizon. These turns rarely seem genuine and most readers and watchers will have a hard time believing that this character will stay evil.

If you want a character that your readers or viewers can unanimously root against, the moral event horizon is an incredibly effective way to ensure that nobody is rooting for their redemption.

Just remember, when it comes to villains, make the act that pushes them over the edge meaningful. Don’t waste it on things that lessen the story that you are trying tell.

That’s all for now

-Shawn

 

 

Welcome and my introduction to horror!

Greetings all,

This is the inaugural post in the horror-writers.net blog, something we will be updating often .

We will hopefully have some guest bloggers and contests here as well, so please check us out regularly.

I would now like to take this opportunity to talk about my introduction to the horror genre.

As a child, I was lucky enough to have parents who allowed me to watch movies that not only contained some severe language, but some violence as well. I am appreciative of my parents because they always took the time to sit me down and explain that the violence or language that I was about to see in a movie was simply just that; “Violence and Language in a movie”.

They instilled in me an understanding that the things that existed in the worlds of film and television were meant to stay there. I always appreciated that because it fostered in me accountability for my own actions at an early age.

If I saw something violent and acted it out, I was the one who made the decision to act that way, and seeing it in a movie would not be an acceptable excuse, as I had been lectured at length that what I saw in movies was supposed to stay there.

All of that being said, they never really allowed me to watch horror. My father was a giant fan of the Fulci and Argento films so in retrospect keeping me away from things that disturbing was probably a good choice. Growing up in a house where I was allowed to watch pretty much anything except horror only made me want to watch horror that much more.

Every attempt I made to watch a horror film was thwarted until roughly the age of 10 when I stumbled upon a show called Tales From The Crypt on television. I was immediately blown away at the mix of terrifyingly dark stories and genuinely laugh out loud campiness of The Crypt Keeper (I’ve always had a morbid sense of humor). From the very first episode the show I was absolutely hooked on horror and would find any and every opportunity to watch it.

After several months of watching the show without my parents knowing about it, I finally confessed. As much as I enjoyed watching the show, I didn’t feel good about lying to my parents (I didn’t have a lot of rules, so breaking the few that I had made me feel awful.)

My father finally gave in to my repeated requests to watch a horror movie by allowing me to watch “The Evil Dead” on the condition that I didn’t

A) Have Nightmares or

B) Turn it off halfway through.

I can happily say that I didn’t have nightmares after watching The Evil Dead (my first horror related nightmare would come at the hands of Dolls) and was then allowed to move on to the Nightmare On Elm Street movies.

I’d like to think that I would have gravitated towards horror anyway, as it is something that I do enjoy very much, but there was something about having it as “the last taboo” that made it absolutely irresistible to me. I will also say again that I was lucky enough to have parents that took the time to talk to me about the movies and t.v. shows that I watched. Without them instilling a strong understanding that “it’s only a movie” in me at a young age, who knows how I would have turned out (I assume I’d be boring and like romantic comedies or something).

Anyway, this will conclude the first posting on The Horror Blog, if you or anybody you know would be interested in writing a piece for us, please contact me at

info@horror-writers.net

Thank you for reading and do take care

-Shawn