1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Horror: When your imagination must work, what does it bring home?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Mallory, Dec 12, 2011.

    Hey guys,

    I had this idea for a question I'd like to discuss. I wasn't sure which forum to post in on, but I figured it's plot-related enough to go here - mods, please feel free to move it if your discretion urges you to do so.

    I've mentioned many times before, and so have others, that the horror genre is far scarier when the reader/viewer is forced to use his/her imagination. Shadows in the darkness, unnatural muffled sounds, strange POVs etc can be terrifying, but CGI-generated monsters are not. This is why movies like "Blair Witch Project" and its kind have stood out. I do not want this thread to turn into a debate about whether or not Blair Witch is scary, because everyone has their own opinion. The bigger point here is that leaving stuff unsaid holds a lot of power (when done right and not a cop-out) because what the individual mind finds more terrifying is far more scary than what a writer or director can explicitly spell out.

    Here's the question. When faced with a movie/book that uses this type of technique -- in a good way, not in a cop-out way or otherwise non-scary manner -- what does your imagination come up with to fill in the blanks?

    I realize that, of course, it will vary from story to story, and that no guess will ever apply everywhere. But let's just say it's your standard run-of-the-mill horror film or scary book: people are out camping, or in an isolated house, etc., and something unnatural is out there but you don't know what it is...to you, what is it?
     
  2. Dandroid
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    Dandroid Senior Member

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    something with some level of intelligence and purpose, yet without human form....incidentally...the concept of undescribed monster worked really well in house of leaves
     
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  3. blandmanblind
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    blandmanblind Member

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    To me, the scariest TV ever got was with the Fiji-Mermaid episode of X-Files. Something about a baby-sized, disfigured monster sneaking around is so terrifyingly cringe-worthy. I guess my idea of what could be out there would be smaller than me, very quiet, horrific melted-looking hairless flesh, pronounced bulldog-like jaws and teeth, very fast, and fishhook claws to make it impossible to pull off you. The best color for it is that wet, sickly, pinkish hue that just makes you go eww.

    And now, I probably am going to have a nightmare about this tonight.
     
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  4. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I seldom find any story scary. I'm a fan of horror stories partly because I'm not easy to scare with a story (I don't like being scared). But I do agree that leaving some things unanswered can make the story more interesting, because it makes me speculate about it and engage my mind.

    For example, in Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni, the second season was a bit of a let-down. In the first season, a time loop is happening where people keep going insane and killing their friends - a different main character each time goes nuts. And then just when everything's gone to hell, suddenly it's several months earlier and everyone is fine and happy again. No one, not even the protagonist, seems to remember what happened.

    In the second season, they switched to the one character who did remember all those shifts, and eventually revealed exactly what was going on. And it was kind of neat, but a bit disappointing to finally get the answer to this mystery.
     
  5. RobinWriter
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    RobinWriter New Member

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    For me it's usually some twisted form of humanity; something with enough intelligence to sit at home (cave, cellar, etc) and mutters hateful things, sharpens weapons, work on gruesome masks. Animal-monsters would just sit at home cleaning the bones out of their teeth so that's no fun, and creatures from out-of-space need to be done very well or just come off comical.
     
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  6. ScreamsfromtheCrematory
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    ScreamsfromtheCrematory Member

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    The most horrifying thing to me would be forced to dealing with something just so removed from any human sort of archetypical thinking/structuring/familiarity, something that just seems so alien and foreign to our conventions of what something should be. Vague I know but I tend to visualize this as a sort of post-Lovecraftian shapeless alien horror, something that isn't necessarily "evil" but is guided by a mind not meant to be understood by our human consciousness and who is not necessarily bound to the laws that govern our world.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    No books or movies scare me. Some did when I was a kid, though.

    But recently, there were a few scenes that were freaky. One is the scene in the novel The Shinning, when the boy is walking up the stairs and the fire hose comes to life, or he imagines it does. I can't recall. That scene gave me a freaky feeling while reading it.
     
  8. Monosmith
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    Monosmith Member

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    I loved the movie Alien and its sequel, Aliens. The thing about these movies is that they use every elements that a traditional horror film ought to. Claustrophobia, sex, darkness, goo, spiders, parasites, having something around your neck, pain, being alone, descending into a basement, fire, and water, and betrayal. These are all things that you're guaranteed to scare at least someone with all of these in a horror story. Then, even though you saw the monsters, they were scary because of how well they could camoflauge themselves and how Giger cleverly designed them so that their imagery struck deep subconscious chords. Asides from the subtle sexuality of the xenomorphs, they were also designed so that they had no eyes and therefore the direction of their gaze was unknown. Also, the alien facehuggers crept into Ripley's sentimental moment with Newt.

    So all in all, it definitely played upon the fear of the unknown. Especially since Ellen Ripley found them in a far off corner of space where no one could hear them scream.

    I had a discussion with my mother about this. We both agreed that Silence of the Lambs is a terrific movie, although I said it was a thriller, not a true horror. I wanted something that would truly give me nightmares. In that case, she assured me, the only true horror was the supernatural.

    Underneath that category happens to be Alien, but there are also ghost stories and anything else spectral. Basically, I believe that anything that plays on human superstitions is the groundwork for true horror. From this is derived stories such as the ghostly sound of footsteps down a staircase intruding into the room and haunted mantions. I think that part of what makes ghosts and vampires scarier is not only how they are so unknown, but because of their malevolence, their desire to get you. The most basic instinct for fear instilled in humans is the fear of predators. Alien xenomorphs, ghosts,and vampires are all frightening because not only are they unknown, but they are out to get you.

    Monosmith
     
  9. TheeJoeyGirl
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    TheeJoeyGirl New Member

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    There's this one scene in Paranormal Activity where the boyfriend sprinkles powder on the floor before he goes to bed. When the couple wakes up, they see these footprints unlike any normal human or animal. It was just enough of a hint to say that whatever is in their house is not of this world, without showing the actual thing to the audience. Scared me so bad!

    In films such as the Paranormal movies and Blair Witch, my imagination conjures up something that looks almost like a person, but not quite, and much smarter than the people on camera. Something that could kill the characters in a second with minimal effort, but prefers to mess with their heads for a while before they do it. Like a cat and a mouse.
     

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