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.


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


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