Part 1: The Horror Genre
The horror genre often aims to create fear or terror in the viewers. A common film element used in horror movies is the “jumpscare.” The jumpscare often has the background sound quieted as to create suspense then appear to shock the viewer. Often, jumpscares are close-ups of the frightening item, image, or thing.
Although jumpscares are effective, a good horror film isn’t just crammed with jumpscares since that’ll cheapen the film. Instead, the atmosphere of horror films is often moody and dark creating the right mood. Horror movies also often have less dialogue in favor of more action. An example of this is “A Quiet Place”, a movie with little dialogue but was still received well by the audience. This was accomplished by having the main antagonist(s) hunt using sound. Since the director carried this theme throughout the entire film, whenever there was a sound louder than a whisper, it would have caused suspense for the audience.
Lighting is also a very important aspect of horror films. Many scenes in horror films often have underexposed lighting which adds to the fear aspect. Sometimes lighting is used to obscure an image or character, causing suspense and unease. Silhouettes are also used often in horror movies, such as when the antagonist creeps up on the protagonist and we can only see the silhouette of them.
Sound design also plays a big part in horror movies. Often, loud and sudden sounds will accompany jumpscares to make it more convincing. Suspenseful music can build up to something large and it sets the tone. If the sound design is off, it will become very apparent to the viewer. For example, if something falls to the ground, the sound should reflect that and not sound like a bell ringing (unless a bell fell).
Since horror films aim to be scary, they may choose to use less conventional camera angles, such as the Dutch Tilt. Non-conventional angles can create an unsettling theme which helps. Another film technique used is the dark voyeur in which we see from the perspective of the antagonist or “stalker”. This technique is used to show the vulnerability of the victim. When watching a horror film, viewers expect scary scenes or maybe even some violence. If a film classified as horror doesn’t scare or shock or evoke some type of fear from the audience, it doesn’t really do its job.
Some requirements of a short horror film are that there can’t be too much exposition, if your dialogue lasts for too long, you won’t have enough time to set up something and pay it off. You can’t waste time filming something that won’t play a bit part in the plot. Because of how short the film is, the smaller choices affect the film a lot more. Things such as sound and lighting play a bigger part and should add to the scenes and not take away.
Part 2: Horror in Context
Horror is often different in different parts of the world, with different stories being shared. Horror in the west more often leans toward a more obvious slasher type of horror. However, western horror also takes influence from literature with many horror books written by Stephen king adapted into films. Some examples are “The Shining” and “IT”. In western horror, there is a mix of the supernatural and just plain murderers. Although western horror films may have a more relatable background and setting, they are also less tactful in how they scare, often relying on “shock horror”. They use many jumpscares and a fast and loud orchestral score to scare. They also may contain gruesome deaths. However not every western horror film relies on the same strategies as movies like “A Quiet Place” rely on psychological horror more than physical.
Eastern horror from countries such as Korea and Japan on the other hand is more subtle without much of the “in your face” jumpscares. Eastern horror puts atmosphere first and sets up for a big pay off. An example of this is “The Ring” where the girl crawls out of the TV is set up.
Horror may also be influenced by the cultural and historical contexts of the region. Films may be influenced by stories passed down through time. However, whether these films are successful is up to the execution. For example, a film may take from mythology and include creepy monsters but if the viewers don’t know or recognize it, then they won’t be scared.
Although my cultural background is from China, I grew up in Canada which caused me to view horror as a genre filled with jumpscares and gore. I used to believe that movies like “Nightmare On Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th” were the pinnacle of the horror genre. Since those films had jumpscares and had a slasher plot. Now that I’ve done the research, I realize that many horror films aren’t all like that.
Part 3: Inspiration for my Film
Since for this project, we should not have violence, I’m thinking about creating a psychological horror. Something made with creative use of lighting might be good. For specific fears, a standard “something is following” is always good but maybe something more creative and innovative would be better. Some techniques that could be used are lighting and unique camera angles. Silhouettes and fade to black could create a sense of mystery and maybe a red herring could work. For example, you see a scary shadow but it turns out to be just a plant or something similar. Maybe you could see an outline and then the lights dim and it disappears. The short film can also have a dual perspective, where it cuts to the “stalker” for a while after a set period. This will allow us to use the “dark voyeur” technique and make it seem more like horror. This idea, however, may become annoying if we use it too much so maybe use it sparingly. I’ll try to keep dialogue to a minimum because too much exposition may cheapen the scare factor. Loud sounds may be added as a jumpscare since that’s what I mainly know from horror films. Maybe even sound could be kept to a minimum because “A Quiet Place” was successful and that film was pretty silent.