Horror What makes good horror?

Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Thorn Cylenchar, Aug 24, 2020.

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  1. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Anticipation of bad things happening.

    Horrific doesn't make a good horror. Fear does.
     
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  2. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    I kind of disagree with this, in the sense that good horror movies are a mental game with the audience. The best way to have the audience get scared is to scare themselves by building up anticipation of what could happen based on the clues and cues. What's really hiding in the dark. Less is more. Bad horror films just show you everything. The great one's let the audience create the horror within their own minds the same way a book does.
     
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  3. Dalantri

    Dalantri Member

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    These are some really good points in these posts. I enjoy a little ‘horror’ as we get near Halloween, but everyone’s posts reminds me that what I’m looking for are the ‘scary movies’. As kids we used to like the ‘scary movie’ because it made us react. These movies could actually be thrillers or suspense movies since as a child anything that made us lose ourselves in the danger a character was about to encounter met this description. As we get older, we move these stories into a larger group of categories. Many movies/stories are still categorized or seen as horror but many are actually thrillers or suspense stories. I also agree that when stories are changed into movies, the focus tends to be on timing and immediately shock as opposed to the slow edging danger that seems certain to overwhelm a character.

    I think some of the aspects that separates thrillers from horror is impending harm (add mental stimulus for suspense) versus visual anathema for horror.

    Movies by Alfred Hitchcock were a mix of suspense and thrilling events that made you see how the characters would (if they did) survive. The Omen (1 and 2) were thrillers with the horror element of ‘gone with the threat of return’. I think today’s movies capitalize on that last aspect by having the MC survive the story, but create the sense of ‘but will the next person’ just to make another movie.

    Gore has its place, but visual stimuli is the ‘sugar’ of movies: you can get good reactions, but to instill an ‘idea of fear’ in a person will last longer than a few hours in the audience.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Ambiguity is a good one. Also atmosphere can really shape things nicely.
    Works far better than relying on shock value and mass quantities of blood
    and gore.
    So, I would say an indirect approach would be best, most of the time. Cause
    the monster (or what not) isn't going to be as scary once we can see it clearly,
    and know/understand how it works. Though if it can speak or communicate
    in some form, then it can be manipulative and lure in the unsuspecting.

    Build up of anticipation and the unknown. Cause once things become too clear
    then even the craziest spook loses a bit of edge to it.
     
  5. DarkWoods

    DarkWoods Member

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    When I was a young teenager, I was really into the slasher kind of movies (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm street ...). I also read novels in this genre.

    Today, I am way more interested in novels and movies that deal with psychology horror. The kind of horror that builds up slowly, one step at a time. The kind of horror that deals with madness and crazy stuff real people can do like murders, rape. This is the kind of horror that freaks me out today. If we can add a little bit of supernatural, but not too much.

    I don't like monsters, haunted house and slasher movies. I prefer to go into the minds of serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer ... This kind of horror is very creepy.

    I also like stories like the movie "28 days later" and the novel and movie "Invasion of the body snatchers". In those stories, the main characters need to escape from lots of people that behave weird.
     
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  6. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

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    I think the reason horror films generally suck now is because the genre has become so predictable: you expect a jump-scare, or a subversion of that expectation; it’s so formulaic that the genre has succumbed to cliché.

    To me, horror needs to give place to terror, which is a much more nuanced kind of fear. A film that utilizes terror will not fall for the same sort of overused tropes that horror is known for, and it will be a more potent experience as a result.

    Paranormal Activity utilizes both terror and horror; I think that if a PA film were made that focused almost solely on terror, its fear-factor would be through the roof.

    There was an episode of Agents of Shield where a woman with apparent telekinesis was taken into shield custody, but it turned out that she was being haunted by something invisible and violent. When she was locked in a safe room aboard the Shield plane, the agents knew that whatever was haunting the woman was also on the plane.

    If that episode never revealed the identity and story of the entity, it would have been one of the most terrifying episodes on television, ever. Imagine being trapped on a plane with something you can’t see, or understand: something that has demonstrated extreme violence, and it’s your job to try and protect the person haunted by this entity, and you know that you’re, essentially, the only thing standing between her, and it. You know that there is no defense for you should it attack: you’re completely vulnerable and helpless, in spite of all your specialized training.

    Anyone in such a scenario would be out of their mind with terror, and that is what made the first half of that episode far more scary than most horror films today. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
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  7. montecarlo

    montecarlo Active Member

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    This thread was resurrected at a good time.

    I’m editing a short I recently wrote, a slasher/thriller set on a spaceship. The story is pretty flat and lifeless, and I think injecting some horror elements described here (helplessness, despair, terror) will add a bit of life.

    - MC
     
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  8. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    That's why I prefer creep-scares to jump-scares. Jump-scares are harder to do in writing, but creep-scares, which are built from atmosphere, are entirely possible.

    Creep-scare:
    In Salem's Lot, there is a scene where the gravedigger is filling in the grave of a recently deceased child. All the while, he has this horrible feeling of someone watching him, and he imagines that the corpse's eyes are open and staring (lifelessly) at him. He notices that the coffin has a lock on it, and he wonders what the hell it's for, to keep someone from getting in, or something from getting out.

    Eventually, he gives into his feelings, jumps into the grave and breaks the lock. Opening the coffin, he finds that the corpse's eyes are indeed open. Just as he's sitting there, the sun's last rays disappear beneath the horizon and the scene ends there.

    In the TV movie, this was turned into a jump-scare - the corpse suddenly sits up and fangs him. I remember it well, beacuse it scared the bejeezus out of me more than 35 years ago.

    IMO, they both work for different reasons, but the latter would be much harder to pull off, unless you're going to include illustrations.
     
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  9. DarkWoods

    DarkWoods Member

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    I agree completely with you about the terror we should use more often.

    One scene I really liked in a movie was the opening scene to Scream I when a man calls a young woman and eventually she discovers that he is at her home. This scene was very well done but the rest of the movie was more into comedy.

    Another good scene I remember is at the end of Blair Witch Project movie. The two students are in the woods in the middle of the night and hear their friend being tortured. They decided to go help him and discover an old house. You see the camera moving very fast from one direction to the other and you try to see what is happening. I found this scene one of the most scary. And we never saw the witch.

    I think a lot of movies and novels should not always show or describe the enemy in horror stories. I think it will increase the terror when we don't know who is it.

    I also prefer creep scare.

    If you just watch those movies, there is always a creep atmosphere: The Omen, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, REC, Tchernobyl Diaries.
     
  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Probably a bit hard to adapt to the written page, but the intro to this vid
    sure sent a good chill up my spine. :bigeek:

    I think if you can describe the voice and portray the
    giddy insanity in it, then that would pretty much
    freak anyone out in any given captive scenario.
     
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  11. Le gribouilleur

    Le gribouilleur Member

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    One of the things that I noticed about horror genres is that things don't go well, or when the protagonist tries to accomplish something with great difficulty, especially when it's a matter of life or death. Once that goes away, so does the fear. I noticed this with horror games like the Resident Evil series and Alien: Isolation. It becomes a walk in the park when becoming good at these games.
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2020
  12. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    That's the difference between Resident Evil and Silent Hill. In the former, once you get the grenade launcher, there's no more fear. It's hard to be afraid, even in a haunted house, when you're running around with a big-ass bazooka.

    Whereas in the latter, you're just an ordinary guy with no military training (except in Silent Hill: Homecoming, where it turns out the protagonist only thinks he's a soldier) and with weapons no better than you might find in your average American small town. The protagonist can't even run around for too long without getting out of breath. There's never any sense that you are safe from the danger that lurks in the darkness.
     
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  13. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

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    :bigeek:
     
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  14. Gareth Jones

    Gareth Jones New Member

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    I think it's whatever is in the persons deepest, darkest fears that, even if it is only the imagination, brings them to the surface. As a writer, that's what I'm trying to aim for. Are you into reading new (ish) horror authors at all?
     
  15. Bobby Burrows

    Bobby Burrows Banned Contributor

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    I don't want to be cliché but, vampires and titties usually do it unless we're talking Van Helsing.
     
  16. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Is that both together or is it either/or?
     
  17. Bobby Burrows

    Bobby Burrows Banned Contributor

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    Monsters can usually be broken down into simple human emotions.


    Vampires
    Lust
    Fulfilment/Decadence

    Ghosts
    Sorrow
    Anger

    Werewolves
    Absence or Deference (transforming, not knowing what you did last night).
    A sense of being powerless (against becoming an all powerful being lest they get out a silver bullet).

    Zombies
    Single minded can't be reasoned with
    Half awake/peaceful carnage

    Dr. Frankenstein's Monster
    Rejection anger/father issues
    society issues
    should be dead
    rudely woken up
    etc

    Godzilla
    Perhaps the fear of our industrial nuclear effect on nature?
    A riot smash with the 'Nukes are bad!' message anger/lesson lash out against modern civilisation.

    ect...
    To understand what human emotion is fuelling your monster, you can feed off of those fears, enjoy some deep and maybe dark realms with a monster and create a good horror.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2020
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  18. Bobby Burrows

    Bobby Burrows Banned Contributor

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    You can't lose (unless you OTT it).
    Look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we all wanted to see those, but we never.
    Have fun with it.
     
  19. Bobby Burrows

    Bobby Burrows Banned Contributor

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    Someone should write
    Lara Croft the Vampire Hunter
    Now that would sell *nods
     
  20. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Writing horror is basically the same as writing romance: Establish a tone, make your readers anticipate (and wish for) certain outcomes, add a ton of tension and uncertainty, then give them what they wanted all along. Horror and romance alike are very emotional genres that appeal to some of our oldest, deepest instincts. The exact details aren't terribly important.
     

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