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My Thoughts on Alien: Covenant

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Shooting Alien: Covenant
The poster art for Alien: Covenant
The poster art for Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant: A sad lesson for storytellers

I love the original Alien, it’s one of my favourite films ever, in my top three. It’s a great movie on so many levels, from the practical effects, to the sound design, to the acting, but most of all, the story. It’s such a simple idea, and one thing I’ve noticed with every great film is that they all have nice, clean, simple ideas. Alien can be described with so few words: An alien gets onto a spaceship. Alien: Covenant on the other hand…

Predator, maybe my favourite film ever, is a great film for lots of reasons, but again, I believe it’s great because it’s a nice, simple concept: a crew of the deadliest mercenaries are hunted by an alien hunter.

When these movies came out, the ideas were fresh. Now, there have been a thousand alien slips onto spaceship movies. Just a few weeks before Alien: Covenant came out, a film with the same exact plot as the original Alien was released.

Aliens did something different with the idea. I’m not the biggest Aliens fanboy, but I have a lot of respect for the film. Again, it was different and the idea was fresh. It was what a sequel should be. Likewise with Terminator 2, the film was taken in a different direction and it felt like its own movie, not stuck in the shadow of its predecessor.

Shooting Alien: Covenant
Shooting Alien: Covenant

Progressive decline

Alien: Covenant is a film that is stuck in the shadow of the shadow of the shadow of Alien. There’s nothing fresh in the film. The same old plot lines were revisited, with nothing new added to the mix — plot lines from Alien, from Aliens, and from Prometheus. Even the main character was really just a re-hash of the lead girl in Prometheus, who was a re-hash of Ripley from Alien.

The big problem with the film, and I’m starting to think that it’s the problem with modern-day Ridley Scott, is that the film is reaching too far. There seems to be this idea that bigger is better, that the film will be better if the world is bigger, the themes are bigger, the effects are bigger, the everything is bigger. I’m trying to think of how to describe the film’s plot in a single sentence, but I can’t even think of how to describe the film in a single paragraph. There’s so much happening in the worst way possible.

I love aliens, I love spaceships, and I love horror, so this film really didn’t have to do a lot to impress me. I just wanted a good story, but it wasn’t there. The plot was terribly convoluted and it got more and more unbelievable as the film dragged on. But this post isn’t supposed to be a review, so I’ll leave it at that.

The original Alien, infinitely better than Alien: Covenant
The original Alien, infinitely better than Alien: Covenant

Originality and simplicity

There’s a lesson to learn from the Alien franchise, which has been crashing harder and harder since 1992. As the plots get more outlandish, the films get worse. The same lesson can be learned from other franchises, like Predator or Jaws. As the plots take longer to describe, the movies get shittier. There are six Alien films, and each one is worse than the last. If you’re setting out to make a film, make sure your idea is nice and simple. A single sentence should be more than enough. And in my opinion, the film should be just as interesting on a $50,000 budget as a $5 million budget.

Originality and simplicity: the best part about them is that they’re free.

Top 10 Horror Fan Posters

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Top 10 Horror Fan Posters

If you follow my Twitter, you know I have a soft spot for fan art, especially horror fan posters. I’ve gone back and picked my top 10 horror fan posters. As a bonus, most of the posters in this top 10 horror fan posters also happen to be of my favourite horror movies. Do you have favourite horror fan art? Leave it in the comments, I’d love to see it.

10. The Exorcist Minimalist Poster

Poster by Javier Lainez.

Top 10 horror fan posters the exorcist

9. The Fly Minimalist Poster

Artist is a DesignCrowd user named dbdesign999.

Top 10 horror fan posters the fly

8. Black Mountain Side Comic-Style Poster

Maybe a biased pick! Poster is by Lokhaan.

Top 10 horror fan posters black mountain side

7. Aliens Fan Poster

Poster is by Oliver Barrett.

Top 10 horror fan posters aliens

6. Re-Animator Green Comic-Style Poster

Poster by Dan Mumford.

Top 10 horror fan posters re-animator

5. The Terminator Poster

Poster is by Gabz.

Top 10 horror fan posters the terminator

4. Predator Poster

Poster is by Gabz.

Top 10 horror fan posters predator

3. Evil Dead 2 Poster

Poster is by Randy Ortiz.

Top 10 horror fan posters evil dead 2

2. 2001: A Space Odyssey Poster

Poster by Kilian Eng.

 

Top 10 horror fan posters 2001 a space odyssey

1. The Silence of the Lambs Skull Poster

Poster is by Gabz.

Top 10 horror fan posters the silence of the lambs

Top 10 Horror Movies List

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My top 10 ten horror movies

top 10 horror movies black mountain side
An honourable mention to my own film, Black Mountain Side

There are thousands of top 10 horror movies lists floating around out there, but over the past few years I’ve been asked for my list countless times. So I decided to finally make it. Warning: It’s not the most original list.

I didn’t try to include lesser-known films to show you how hip and cool I am or any super old films in some attempt to make you think I’m super intelligent, and I didn’t include a bunch of foreign films to make you think I’m some cultured savant. I just picked the films I enjoy the most, and uninterestingly, they all turned out to be American films from 1970-1999, almost all of which most people tend to agree are some of the best horror films of all time. Regardless, I present my list!

10. Misery

top 10 horror movies list misery
A cool overhead behind the scenes shot, shooting Misery

Number 10 on my top 10 horror movies list is Misery. Misery isn’t the only Stephen King adaptation to make the list, ironic because I don’t actually like King’s writing. Luckily, other filmmakers do like King’s writing and they see the value in it and they’re able to bring that value out in a way that I can appreciate. I have a lot of respect for King. He’s a writer with an incredible work ethic. I just think he should start making his protagonists something other than writers!

Misery is a great horror film with lots of unexpected twists and plenty of crippling tension. The older I’m getting, the more I’m loving “real” horror films, and the less I’m enjoying the supernatural alternative. A recent horror/thriller I really loved was The Gift (2015), which had a lot of similar tension building as Misery. But Misery combined a lot of elements I love about horror: great characters, an isolated setting, and a reserved use of gore and jump scares.

9. Carrie

Number 9 on my top 10 horror movies list is Carrie. It’s also another King adaptation. It’s not a terrifying movie, if that’s what you’re looking for, but it is a great movie that happens to be a horror. The cinematography is great, the acting is superb, the overall direction is excellent. Though I think the poster sucks, which is why it took me so long to get around to watching the film.

Carrie does an excellent job building characters, which I believe is more important than anything in horror filmmaking. As a result, you find yourself totally invested in the film. When that blood drops, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

8. The Fly

top 10 horror movies the fly
Applying the special makeup effects on Jeff Goldblum for The Fly

Number 8 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg. Like Carrie, I don’t believe the film is that scary personally, but again, it’s a great film. The acting is spot on, the writing is great, and the direction is solid. But best of all, the special effects are phenomenal. If you go into the film not knowing what to expect, the film is shocking (as you would expect from a director like Cronenberg).

And once again, the characters are fantastic. Seth Brundle is a captivating character that you can’t not love, and Jeff Goldblum is the only human on the planet who could pull that character off. So many horror movies rely on boring archetypes or worse, the everyman, to lead their plot. The Fly doesn’t fall for that trap.

7. The Exorcist

top 10 horror movies the exorcist
Linda Blair, behind the scenes shooting The Exorcist

Number 7 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Exorcist. If you found this page looking for a scary movie recommendation, The Exorcist is it. A lot of people might be put off by the fact it’s the oldest film on my list, but don’t be discouraged by its age. The Exorcist holds up. This film has scared the living hell out of so many people since its release, and I think it will continue doing so for a very long time. And most hardcore horror fans would agree.

The Exorcist backs up a lot of my horror theories. There are very few jump scares, the characters are great and relatable, and the filmmakers focus on the story rather than just trying to make the film scary. As a result, you are more invested in the material, you care more for the fate of the characters, and you’re more vulnerable to the fear and dread that the film orchestrates masterfully.

6. Eyes Wide Shut

eyes wide shut top 10 horror movies
Cruise, Kubrick, and Pollack on the set of Eyes Wide Shut

Number 6 on my top 10 horror movies list is Eyes Wide Shut. Eyes Wide Shut gets a lot of bad press from film fans, mostly because people love to hate Tom Cruise (Tom Cruise is the best, by the way). There’s some silly theory that Tom Cruise and the studio took the film away from Stanley Kubrick and had it cut his own way and Kubrick could do nothing about it because, well, he was dead. Warner Bros insists Kubrick submitted the final cut before his death. Either way, the film is great. It’s a film that forces you to watch closely, sometimes with multiple viewings, to realize what’s going on. It’s like a puzzle you have to assemble, and every time you get a piece, you get closer to the very terrifying final image.

There is so much happening in the background in Eyes Wide Shut–so many little clues hidden in the frame. In the middle of the film, Cruise finds himself in a secret world that he wasn’t supposed to find. And then the next thing he knows, that world is gone. But it’s never really gone. It continues to exist in the background. The secret world becomes an invisible entity that you, as the viewer, can always feel is around, meddling in plot.

What makes the film even more terrifying are all of the conspiracies surrounding it. Some people suggest that Kubrick was trying to point people towards a very real secret society filled with sex slaves, much like the one in the film. Since the film’s release, there’s been an overwhelming number of testimonies suggesting such a society actually exists. Yikes!

5. Predator

top 10 horror movies predator
The original creature used in filming Predator. They only shot a few scenes with this guy before scrapping him.

Number 5 on my top 10 horror movies list is Predator. Predator is the most entertaining film ever made. It’s got insane action and special effects, incredible stunt-work, an original and fun plot, good characters and performances, and so on and so on. It’s impossible to doze off while watching this movie.

The filmmakers really cared about this film, but they really didn’t have to. They could have shot it on a backlot in Hollywood, gotten some safe, seasoned director, and they could have just made a quick buck. But they didn’t do that. They hired a new director who they thought was a great new talent, they put the script through numerous rewrites, and they shipped the cast and crew off to Mexico to shoot the thing. The first creature they had looked kind of silly, and they could have settled with it, but instead they froze production and had a whole new creature built. An incredible amount of thought went into every shot in the film, and the work payed off because I truly believe the film is absolutely timeless. In 500 years someone will be able to watch it and it will stand up.

4. The Evil Dead

top 10 horror movies evil dead
One of my favourite BTS shots. Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi shooting The Evil Dead, looking so young

Number 4 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Evil Dead (the original, of course). The Evil Dead holds a special place in my heart because it’s part of the reason I went into filmmaking, and it’s the one reason I went into horror. Reading about the production, seeing pictures from set, I was able to see myself doing the same thing. It never seemed like something I couldn’t achieve, unlike other films I loved at the time like The Thing, with incredible production value and stunt work and so on. The Evil Dead was just a small crew of buddies in a cabin with a super simple script.

Does it hold up today? I think so, but not in the same way Predator or The Exorcist holds up. It’s got a special charm to it. You can feel the love and ambition that went into it. I love any indie film that feels completely genuine, but they’re very rare.

I watched The Evil Dead for the first time when I was 13 years old, on my laptop in my dark bedroom, with headphones on. It scared the hell out of me. I had to pause it multiple times to build up the courage to continue. Despite the film’s low budget, it still has good characters, a good plot, great atmosphere, great cinematography. It’s proof you don’t need a massive budget to make a great movie.

3. The Thing

top ten horror movies the thing
Original concept art for the film, The Thing (1982)

Number 3 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Thing (the original, of course). If you’ve seen my film, Black Mountain Side, you probably saw this pick coming. Black Mountain Side has been tirelessly compared to The Thing, but I don’t really mind, seeing as The Thing is commonly considered one of the greatest horror films ever made.

The Thing has amazing cinematography, special effects, and a captivating setting and story. But best of all, it has amazing characters. None of the characters are dull or boring. Watching the film, you feel like there’s life in every one of them, and you care for all of them when shit starts to hit the fan.

Carpenter made some seriously awesome films in his early days, though if I’m going to be honest, he kind of loses me shortly after The Thing. I actually don’t like In The Mouth of Madness, I think They Live is pretty corny, Big Trouble in Little China didn’t do much for me. I think The Thing and Escape From New York were the films he was born to make.

2. The Shining

the shining top ten horror movies list
The Shining also has some of the best behind the scenes photos of any movie

Number 2 on my top 10 horror movies list is The Shining. The Shining is one of those films that you just have to see to understand. Whenever I hear people saying it’s too long and too boring, my mind is blown. I wish the film was longer. I wish it was twelve hours long. And boring? That I can’t understand.

The acting is Oscar-worthy. The production value is perfect. The setting is awesome. But what takes the cake is the tone. From the opening frame right ’till the end of the film, there’s an intense sense of dread that never goes away and continues to grow and grow and grow. Watching the film, you really feel like you’re in that empty hotel. It’s a truly surreal feeling that really can’t be described.

Stephen King supposedly hates the film because it isn’t faithful to his source material (which I’ve read, and it’s true, it’s not very faithful). But I really do believe Kubrick took the source material and made it better. All of Jack Torrance’s backstory that Kubrick cut out from the book is still there, in Jack Nicholson’s performance. After I read the book, I understood his character so much better, but I think I ruined it somewhat. The power of that performance is that you can see the man is tortured but you don’t really know why. It’s more interesting when it’s left mysterious, and it allows the audience’s imagination to fill the gaps.

1. Alien

alien top ten horror films the best
The miniature sets in Alien are breathtaking.

Number 1 on my top 10 horror movies list is Alien.

I don’t like the sequels (sorry, but I don’t really like Aliens) or the spinoffs, and to be honest, I almost wish they didn’t exist, because they try all to explain things that are better left unexplained. The Blair Witch Project (original) is a great film, until you go and watch the putrid sequel, which attempts to explain everything that happened in the original. It ruins it. It takes away the mystery and then there’s nothing left.

Alien is still a good movie, despite the existence of its sequels. It’s got everything: isolated setting, great production value, cinematography, acting, characters, special effects, and so on and so on. In fact, I am willing to suggest that the film has no flaws whatsoever. There isn’t a single line delivery that doesn’t sound authentic, there isn’t a single set piece that looks fake, there isn’t a single shot that feels out of place or unnecessary. Technically, it’s a perfect film.

Ridley Scott’s tension building is phenomenal. He increases the tension in perfect amounts and gives the audience small, perfectly timed breaks to keep us from being overstimulated. He uses his jump scares sparingly and they’re always unexpected (sometimes even to the actors). Alien is the perfect example of a team of filmmakers working at the top of their game, pushing the boundaries of filmmaking.

 

Orchestrating the Perfect Jump Scare

in Filmmaking/Horror/Writing by

The jump scare: cliche or useful tool?

jump scare mirror evil dead
A take on the mirror gag

If you’ve seen Black Mountain Side, then you know I’m not a big fan of jump scares. In fact, there isn’t a single jump scare in the whole film. That was intentional. When making that film, I was totally convinced that jump scares lessened the value of a horror film, and that the state of modern horror was in ruins solely because of the overused gimmick.

Was I right? Maybe to an extent, but I’ve since come to believe that jump scares can, and do, have a very important role in horror films. A successful jump scare is more complex than you might think.

Why do we need jump scares?

alien jump scare chestburster
No one saw this one coming. Not even the actors.

What is the point of a jump scare? It’s not simply, to make your audience jump. The goal of a horror filmmaker should be to leave the audience with a lasting sense of dread and, of course, fear. Yelling “Boo!” and making someone jump will get a rise, but it’s not enough to leave a lasting impression. If you rely on jump scares as the only form of horror in your film, you will undoubtably end up with a bad product. Feel free to read my article on “scary storytelling”, which may echo a lot of what I’m going to say here.

Jump scares serve a single purpose: to break through your audience’s defences. It makes them pay close attention, it makes them fear what is going to come around every corner, what is going to be in every reflection, and so on. People don’t like being jolted into jumping (which is why films that rely heavily on the jump scare aren’t so good), so they’re going to do their best to try to see the jump scares coming. A good jump scare makes them vulnerable to the real horror–the content of your story. This audience vulnerability will allow you to unravel the real goodies, unnoticed, so that you can hit them with a real surprise later on.

The importance of character

the shining jump scare
Jack Torrance is strangely relatable in The Shining.

A jump scare will never work if we don’t care about your characters. Again, I touched on this in my piece on scary storytelling. There is nothing more important in storytelling than strong characters. As soon as an audience begins your film, they will subconsciously begin the process of trying to relate to the characters. They will decide quickly who they like and who they’re rooting for.

And when I say they will attempt to relate, that doesn’t mean make your characters as relatable as possible. Make your characters interesting and unique and people will relate to them more than if you make them boring and standard. No one actually sees themselves as boring and standard.

Jump scares should be natural

When you sit down to write your script, don’t write it around those wicked jump scares you have in your mind. You should be focussing on your story, on your characters, on your plot–on good writing. If you end up with a great horror script without a single jump scare, great! Don’t go and add one in for the sake of having one.

jump scare it follows gimmick
The beach scene in It Follows

Jump scares should only end up in your script if they serve the story. Interjected scares will stick out like a sore thumb and take your audience right out of their trace. Because that’s what it’s all about: the trance. Horror is a unique genre in that you need to keep your audiences on the tension train, constantly rising them up and lowering them down, within your control. If they fall off the train, it’s almost impossible to get them back on.

I liked the movie It Follows up until the scene where the invisible monster starts throwing the kids around. To me, the scene felt forced, as if the filmmakers felt they needed to up the ante. They had a great tension going, and then they lost it, and I just couldn’t get back into the film after that. I started noticing little flaws here and there because I was no longer absorbed into the plot.

Don’t be cheap

jump scares japanese horror
After the Japanese got into the game, it became the game of jump scares.

You know that scene in that movie where the guy hears something outside, so he looks out the window, leans closer and closer, and then a bird slams into the window? It’s not just in that one movie, it’s in hundreds of them, and it’s cheap. Its intentions are good–the filmmakers are trying to lower your defences and get you nice and vulnerable early on. But what are they trying to achieve? Are they trying to make you fear stray animals flying into windows?

These failed attempts are actually working against the filmmaker. They’re conditioning the audience into knowing when to expect the jump scare. They’re giving away the music cue, the buildup, the timing, everything. Now the audience knows when to cover their eyes. The whole point of a jump scare is to surprise the audience. Now you’ve lost it.

Use your jump scares sparingly

jump scare the gift 2015
The Gift (2015) is highly recommended

One of my favourite horror films in the last five years has only one jump scare in it. I won’t spoil it, but the film I’m talking about is The Gift (2015), with Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton. There’s only one jump scare, right in the middle of the film, but its affects are tremendous. After the scare, you can’t help but sink back into your chair every time someone turns a corner, every time someone looks out the window. The tension, at times, in unbearable.

When you hit the audience over the head, over and over and over, with your jump scares, you lose the potential power of the jump scare altogether. You only need one well-placed, well-timed scare, and you’ll have your audience on the edge of their seat.

Not too early

One big mistake many modern horror films make is they blow their scary load too early. If it’s ten minuted into the film and we’ve had three birds, a cat, and the jokester buddy fly at us with sharp music cues, we’re going to be numb. When the real content comes our way, it will have little affect. Contemporary moviegoers know what to expect. They know about the music cue that is followed by the long silence, which is followed by the sharp sound. Make an effort to bring the audience into your story, so they can forget about their programming.

The music cue, silence, sharp noise gimmick

Jump Scare modern king James Wan horror 2015
Director James Wan and his creature on the set of The Conjuring

Some people like these kinds of movies. There are reasons dozens of them get stuffed into theatres every year, and people continue to pay big money to sit through them. There are two kinds of horror fans: the ones who like to be afraid, and the ones who like to be thrilled. There’s nothing wrong with either group. But there’s no reason your film can’t appeal to both crowds.

If you’re interesting in making that kind of fast-paced horror movie, then it’s important to know how to orchestrate your jump scare. It’s important to wait until your audience is drawn into the story, invested in the characters, and they aren’t expecting it. Your first scare is the most important. It needs to take them by surprise. If you insist on including a “false scare” (a cat in the closet), then don’t give it all away. Include the rising music cue, the long silence, but don’t throw in the sharp noise. Save that for when you really want to make an impact. Don’t let your audience be expecting it when it really matters.

Don’t rely on the formula. Have a few scenes where you take your audience by surprise completely, without the music cue and the long silence. Go straight for the sharp noise and the jump scare. It’s important you vary it up so your audience doesn’t start to predict your hand.

 

Focus on the horror, not on the gimmick

Predator jump scare horror action
Scary or not, Predator is just an awesome film.

In the end, content is king. Think about those haunted house attractions at amusement parks. Do you really think a long hallway with lots of turns and lots of people waiting around each one, yelling “Boo!” is going to leave much of an impression? Sure, it may make you jump a few times, but it won’t be a memorable experience. A horror film is no different.

Now picture this: you walk into a haunted house and there are little hints suggesting that there is someone following you, but you keep turning the corner to see nothing, except maybe little clues as to who is in the house with you, what he might do to you. You keep looking back, but there’s no one behind you. Little noises keep you on edge.You hear an inhuman gurgling noise and your imagination starts to create an image of the fiend. Finally, you turn a corner and there he is, inches from your face. That will have an impact.

Horror Filmmaking: Reasons You Should And Reasons You Shouldn’t Dive In

in Filmmaking/Horror by
Bruce Campbell, shooting The Evil Dead

Horror filmmaking is a great path into the industry of movie making. Plenty of today’s top filmmakers got their start in horror, including Sam Raimi, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and so on and so on. It’s arguably the most accessible genre, with a large, hungry audience that never seems to be satisfied with the quantity of films that gets put out. But just because it’s convenient for your hopeful horror-creating career, doesn’t mean you should dive in head first. Here are some reasons you should, and some reasons you shouldn’t create horror films.

No One Wants to Watch Your Boring Melodramatic Movie

The Babadook is melodramatic horror filmmaking
The Babadook was a pretty melodramatic movie

Why are beginning filmmakers always so melodramatic? In film school, everyone wrote these ridiculously melodramatic screenplays about dysfunctional families and drug addict fathers and everyone cries and sobs and says very deep things and there’s always a note in the script about the timing of a very somber piano piece that should be included. I recorded sound for one project about a woman in an abusive relationship, and it was just five minutes of a guy beating his girlfriend and another five of her crying and then black frames with “A film by so and so”.

Who cares? No one wants to watch that crap–especially a feature-length version of that crap. There’s a reason that all of those movies that go to Sundance don’t end up in theatres or even on DVD half of the time. Sure, some of them are good films with something interesting to say, but even still, it’s not entertaining. There’s no effort to create something entertaining. The filmmaker’s goal, nine times out of ten, is to make the viewer feel like they watched something intelligent and sensitive. Who cares? A movie should be entertaining. I have using the word film when referring to my own movies because it reminds me of all those melodramatic filmmakers that wear scarves and say the word “film”.

So instead of making that melodramatic crap, consider a career in horror filmmaking.

Horror Sells

The Asylum is terrible horror filmmaking
The losers over at The Asylum make their living exploiting horror fans

Horror has a very large and passionate audience. Distributors are always looking for horror flicks to fill up their rosters. Just look up a few random distributors and then look into their film catalogue. I can almost guarantee it is loaded with horror films–maybe even more than half. There’s a reason distributors stack their catalogues with horror. Because they sell. Unfortunately, they even sell when the quality is terrible and the budget is next to non-existent. I’m not advocating making terrible movies, but it helps back up my argument.

Last year I was approached by a company looking for directors to attach to a slate of projects they hoped to shoot in 2016. After meeting with them, I discovered this small production company shot about ten feature films every year. I asked how long their shoots were and what kind of budgets they dealt with. Each film had a budget of $10,000 each, with a three-day shoot. Can you believe that? I turned the offer down for a number of reasons, but that company is still going strong, and all of their movies sell.

You Don’t Need Name Actors With Horror Filmmaking

horror filmmaking without name actors
The actors from the original Paranormal Activity are still no-names!

Dramas don’t sell unless you have A-list actors. Comedies don’t sell unless you have at least B-listers. Science fiction will sell if the production value is very high, which means you need a good budget. The same goes for fantasy and action.

I suppose with comedy, you might be able to get away with having no big names if you have an incredibly funny screenplay. But you don’t. I’ve read so many unfunny comedy screenplays by writers who are convinced their work is the crux of hilarity. Half of the comedies that make it to theatres don’t even have hilarious scripts, but they do have the comedy talent to make the film work. For example, I read the script for Funny People (Judd Apatow) before it was produced. It wasn’t very funny. I think there were maybe a dozen mediocre jokes and the plot was mediocre.

The film, however, was hilarious, because it had the comedy talent to bring it to life. As you set out to make your first or second or third indie film, you don’t have the comedic genius that Apatow has at his disposal, so do yourself a favour and put your comedy on the back-burner for when you have the money/resources to do it properly.

Good horror filmmaking, on the other hand, is a combination of concept, plot, characters, and an array of editing/filming techniques used to create suspense. Those things, while hard to master, are available to anyone who wants to make a film. There’s no price on a solid concept (unless you’re not writing your own script, in which case there is a price on a solid concept), and there’s no price on good characters. But hey, if your characters, concept, and plot all suck, there’s (unfortunately) still a good chance your horror movie will sell (see above).

If You Don’t Love and Respect Horror, Don’t Waste Your Time

More bad horror filmmaking in The Last Exorcism Part II
The Last Exorcism Part II: More cliches and more garbage. Written by a guy who didn’t want to be writing horror (He went on to write Whiplash)

There are enough losers trying to exploit the genre and the fanbase. We really don’t need one more jumping in on the action. If you’re looking for a quick buck, consider a career in finance or look up courses offered by your local trade schools. A real frustration has been growing inside of film fans over the past decade as more and more crap is being squirted into their faces. Lazy filmmakers see vets like Sam Raimi and Spielberg and thing, “Hey, that’s how he did it, so that’s how I should do it!”. These idiots don’t realize that Raimi and Spielberg and Scott and all the others loved the horror genre when they were starting out (and I can only image they still do, Raimi especially).

They will watch anything, but they’re a tough crowd

Sure, you can fake your way through some pile of garbage that will probably sell to one of the many distributors looking to snatch up anything remotely horror-related, but it won’t do anything for your career. At the end of the day, the horror fans who go out of their way to give your film a chance have eyes and ears and they’re actually really good at telling the difference between what’s genuine and what’s crap. They can see through you’re guise and they won’t give you another chance–and neither will the investors and distributors who end up losing out on your bid.

Apparently, Horror Filmmaking Is Just Too Convenient To Pass Up

horror filmmaking the witch robert eggers hates horror
Don’t get me wrong, The Witch looked stunning and had a great score, but if you ask me, Eggers should have stayed away from horror filmmaking.

I was really disappointed recently when I heard that Robert Eggers, the fellow who directed The Witch, said he didn’t like the horror genre. He only made a horror because no one wanted to make what he called his “genre-less” movies. In other words, he wanted to create pretentious crap and no one cared so he decided to make a horror movie. Like I said, this disappointed me, but it really didn’t surprise me. I wasn’t a fan of The Witch. As someone who went to film school and subsequently worked at a film school helping film hundreds of student films, I couldn’t help but see a pretentious student film trapped in a big budget feature’s body, another film student who wanted to give Andrei Tarkovsky a blowjob. Eggers even said that he’s glad now that the film is out because it means he never has to watch it again.

Maybe it’s my big ego, but I love watching my own work, even the not-so-good stuff (sorry Kankered). I’m able to find elements I like about everything I’ve ever done and watching my old work fills me with pride.

Horror Forces You To Understand And Learn The Art Of Filmmaking

the evil dead horror filmmaking at its finest
The original Evil Dead scared the living hell out of people

Big-league Hollywood producers only look for one thing when deciding whether a filmmaker will make the cut: can he coherently tell a story? It sounds so simple, but it’s really not so simple. How to coherently tell a story is a topic for another post (another slew of posts, really) so I won’t get into it here.

Your goal with horror filmmaking is to scare your audience (and no, that doesn’t mean making them jump). In order to effectively scare your audience, you need to utilize filming and editing techniques that force your audience to focus on the right things at the right time, playing with their expectations, stripping down their defences. You need to create tension and you need to build tension and you need to maintain tension and you also need to release tension so that you can build it up again, even higher.

It Requires Practice

There is a science to it, but it’s also an art, which takes lots and lots of practice and careful analysis to get right. You need to understand editing and pacing and your actors need to be believable in order for the audience to sympathize and care about them.

Horror is a genre that completely relies on your audience’s state of mind, their emotions, their feelings, and their expectations. All of those famous filmmakers I mentioned earlier didn’t just use horror as an easy door into their filmmaking careers. The reason they’re so good at what they do now is because they honed their skills in what might just be the most technically demanding genre.

Hammer of the Gods Behind The Scenes Gallery

in Filmmaking/Horror by

Hammer of the Gods Behind The Scenes

An image gallery full of behind the scenes photos, taken from the sets of Hammer of the Gods. Lots more coming soon!

[SPOILERS] Black Mountain Side Behind The Scenes Gallery

in Filmmaking/Horror by

Black Mountain Side Behind The Scenes

An image gallery full of behind the scenes photos, taken from the set of Black Mountain Side.

The Future of Horror

in Horror by

The future of horror, as seen from the past

You may be thinking that the two things are unrelated– or at least, their relation is irrelevant. The points I’m about to make may come across as pessimism, and even notions of hopelessness towards a beloved medium and a beloved genre. That isn’t my intention, and I strongly urge you to consider what I’m saying constructively. The point I’m setting forward to make here is not that horror film is a dying genre, but that it needs to evolve in order to remain culturally relevant. It’s not like horror writing was abolished by the advent of horror film. But any worthwhile writer, or literary historian, will tell you that the art of horror writing (as in novels, non-fiction and poems) responded to the breakthrough and evolution of the film medium in order to remain relevant, and become what it is today. So what is the future of horror?

I hope that this film, The Witch, is a glimpse into the future of horror.

My goal, as a horror filmmaker, is to see the genre from point A to point B. Right now, in my honest opinion, we’ve been stuck at point A for quite a long time, and the much needed evolution is being held back by a number of factors–one being the state of the film industry.

Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself a purist. I’m a very stubborn person with a lot of pre-programmed Ukrainian pride in me. I insisted throughout the entire filmmaking process on Black Mountain Side that everything be done practically. I insisted on having a life-sized puppet made instead of the easier CGI route for our monster. Instead of using simple and common background replacement methods, I insisted that we shoot in the mountains, where the film takes place.

Excuse me while I establish some history.

Horror’s Golden Era

I will honestly admit that the best horror films came out between 1973-1984, and that I don’t care for contemporary horror–possibly (and almost definitely) to my own disservice.

But I am humble enough to understand why horror films are the way that they are today. It’s because of money. Distributors, filmmakers, and writers have figured out a formula that profits 100% of the time. Sure, there may be other ideas floating around out there that would make better stories, scarier movies and more money, but in order to find that out requires experimentation. And experimentation means gambling. It’s the classic conundrum, “You can have the brand new car… Or you can see what’s behind door number one!”

Cronenberg directing “The Fly”

The reason that I love the 70s and early 80s is because it was a time of experimentation. The people in charge–the people with the money wanted to push the limits. There was no “comfort zone”, or “simple winning formula”, so gambling was the only real option.

There were other things at play than just experimentation. During that Golden Era of Horror, independent filmmaking was not just becoming more accessible, but it was in demand. Independent films naturally had an uphill battle to fight in order to reach the same heights that established filmmakers were at. The battle was ultimately fought with experimentation. Some attempts were failures, but others were explosive hits (The Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre). People were fascinated by the films’ grit and the unrefined style. Established filmmakers were forced, in order to remain relevant, to find out what it was about these new films that was so fascinating to people.

Furthermore, between 1973-1984, there was a large leap in film technology. Experimentation saw a slew of “psychological discoveries”, but technology was also pushing the boundaries of what was possible. What could be accomplished in the 60s was nothing compared to what could be done in the 70s. Special effects materials were greatly refined and monsters/effects became exponentially more realistic.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (which is the definition of a horror movie in my opinion) was greatly responsible for raising the bar of production design and attention to detail.

Filming the iconic scene from “Night of the Living Dead”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was busy redefining the core foundations of horror–adding a never before seen grit and realism to a genre that was totally unfamiliar with gore. It seems silly to think of Night of the Living Dead as a “gory” or “shockingly real” film by today’s standards, but there was nothing like it back when it came out.

The problem the future of horror film faces today

A quote I heard thrown around a lot when I was in film school was:

Film is the ultimate art form. It is the only art form, which combines performance, photographic, motion, literary, and even musical arts together.

While this may have been true in the early eighties, and even into the nineties, it just isn’t true today. There’s another player that meets that same criteria: Video Games. (Full disclosure: I am not a gamer. I very rarely play video games and I suck ass at them)

Video games—especially modern video games, contain all of the arts that film boasts. A lot of games these days even have celebrity voice performances–and sometimes even physical motion captured performances. Games still practice composition and other photographic skills. They have complex written scripts and lore–some of which is so immense that it dwarfs any film we have today (World of Warcraft comes to mind). More so, video games take musical composition to another level, making it respond intuitively with the unique user experience. And video games have something that no film has: Immersion.

Does the future of horror lie in video games?

Some people may even argue that video games employ something called “Computer arts”, which is the art of programming and computer science. As far as I’m concerned, if it can be admired and appreciated, it is an art. So, if the criteria for being the ultimate art form is how many other art forms you can employ, then film is not the ultimate art form.

Like I said before, I am a self-proclaimed purist. I don’t like video games and I admittedly don’t like “gamers”. That being said, it takes a lot for me to admit that there is any significance to gaming in the world of film.

And I don’t really believe that gaming does have any significance in film in general. But I do strongly believe that horror specifically may be ushering in a new go-to medium.

Where is this notion coming from?

The horror film audience is a unique audience to film, in that it is generally an audience of thrill-seekers. Thrill-seekers, by nature, are always looking to match or out-do their most intense experience. It’s why people jump out of planes and ride roller-coasters. I mean–just look at roller coasters and how intense they’ve gotten!

An old Alien video game

And that’s nothing compared to what you can find in some theme parks these days. At the Stampede, they have this enormous elastic band thing that throws you to what must be over 100 feet in the air. They aptly call it The Slingshot.

Let’s get back to film. When you talk about art, there’s no limit on what can be done. There’s always going to be more to be said. There is no cap on expression. It’s silly to imagine a scenario where an artists releases his work to the world and everyone goes, “Yep–That’s it. Art’s been done now.” It’s a ludicrous notion.

But as crazy a notion as that is, there are limits that inherently exist in different art forms. There may never be a definitive ballet, but dancer can only leap so high. A horror film can only be as “scary” as its parameters. Some of those parameters are intrinsic. You have a two dimensional screen, for example. Or, people will always be watching the film from either a warm theatre seat, or the cozy comfort of their home. Although we can cheat those parameters sometimes with things like forced-perspective 3D, or rumbling seats, the reality is the same. Another ingrained parameter is the fact that the experience isn’t intuitive with the audience. There will always be the frustration when the gang of teenagers decides to split up to look for the missing friend.

Consider The Parameters

Then, there are the parameters that we’ve created. There’s the budget–You can really only do so much. While some filmmakers are fortunate enough to bypass this parameter for the most part (James Cameron), more than most cannot. We’ve created a time restriction of roughly 140 minutes. You might be saying “I’ve seen longer movies!”, but the reality is, distributors won’t touch your epic-length horror movie, and audiences today simply don’t have that kind of patience.

A horror game is free from most of the aforementioned barriers. Sure, budget still applies, and we’re still dealing with a two dimensional screen, but even those aren’t actually totally valid parameters. I mean, without even jumping to things like Oculus and Virtual Reality, there is technology to bring the gaming experience out from the screen. Just look at the gun-controllers they have these days, and the Wii Remote controller.

A horror game generally moves at your pace. There is no “first act timeframe” in which a game needs to establish its setting, tone and characters. It lets you take your time, absorbing everything.

Five Nights at Freddy’s

I’ve mentioned it before: For a scare to be effective, the audience has to connect with the victim. It’s an unfortunate reality that, no matter how strong your characters, some people just won’t relate to them. Some people simply won’t care for them. It’s an inherent downside of subjectivity. But in a video game? That’s not even an issue worth mentioning, because you are the victim. You’ve already had an entire lifetime of character development.

Immersion is the secret–the key–the everything when it comes to horror. If people aren’t submersed in your world and your characters, then everything is in vein. The potential for submersion is unmatched in horror gaming. Just by picking up a controller, you are already partially submersed into a game. It doesn’t take much more to bring you all the way in.

There is a lot of tension when a character slowly approaches a door that could have a monster on the other end. If the filmmaker has done a good job, and made us truly care for that character, the tension is even greater. If the threat has been well-established, even better. But imagine the level of tension when it is you that has to approach the door. When you have to open it, not knowing what’s there. Imagine it being your decision to open that door, and not the fictional character’s decision–all of the responsibility, and the gamble.

The reality is–film has never and won’t ever be able to match gaming’s immersion. Call me a pessimist, but I really don’t see it happening with what exists today. The immediate future of horror films is seemingly safe.

Still a sceptic?

Just play a horror game and you will see what I am saying. By no means has horror gaming come far enough to challenge horror film in a storytelling perspective. So far, from a literary perspective horror gaming’s originality has been lacklustre at best. While graphics are becoming more impressive, film as a visual art is still greatly superior, and if you admire a strong performance like I do, you won’t find it in a game just yet.

But the fear–the potential for tension in gaming is absolutely astonishing. What a game is capable of doing to your heart rate is astounding–possibly even dangerous. Just watch as this fellow’s heart rate increases a whopping 40%.

Is the threat imminent?

No, probably not. The future of horror isn’t quite that bleak yet.

Horror video games still have a long way to go before horror film lovers jump ship. While modern graphics are impressive, they still aren’t “real”, and realism is one of the keys to successful horror. Even the best graphics today aren’t good enough to be “compared to reality”. I mean, just think about how many films were ruined by CGI. Let’s face it, the artificialness of CGI will pull any horror buff out of any movie.

Another issue gaming still has to resolve is accessibility. Anyone who knows how to operate a DVD player, or an Apple TV, or even their cable remote can sit down and watch a film. A lot of people (maybe even most people) can’t boot up and play a game, for a number of different reasons. One–there are system requirements that aren’t easily met for most of the general public. Two– There is a learning curve that programmers take for granted.

This absurd stock image is beyond unrealistic.

I can pick up a controller and figure out the controls of any game fairly easily. The same can’t be said for my mother. Even if it is just a simple matter of “walking around”, gaming requires a coordination that gamers have developed over years of playing. It’s just a fact– most people who didn’t grow up during the dawn of gaming don’t have the hand-eye coordination to play most games, and it takes away from the intended experience when you are not skilled enough to actually complete the game. As a matter of fact, it is downright frustrating. And while my mother has gotten pretty good at Bejewelled over the past few years, she just isn’t ready for the level of coordination and muscle memory necessary for today’s games. Does that mean, as the Baby Boomers pass the torch to us Gen-X and Gen-Y babies, things will change? Who’s to say, really? But for the sake of film, I optimistically doubt it. That being said, if Virtual Reality works out its flaws and kinks, a whole new world of horror would be imminent.

Fans of psychology may be aware of something called “The Cuddle Effect”. The Cuddle Effect suggests that, part of the horror film allure has to do with the satisfaction of fulfilling sociologically determined gender roles. Studies were done by pairing a man with a woman (I believe they were strangers) and showing them a horror film. After the movie ended, they were asked to rate the film. Men actually rated the experience higher when their female counterpart showed more intense signs of fear. Likewise, the women preferred the film when the man was braver. The results suggested that at least part of the enjoyment of horror films was to do with the satisfaction of fulfilling sociologically determined gender roles.

Feminists may not like the idea, but it at least helps to explain why horror films are popular choices among couples and groups–and why the horror watching experience is almost always better with an audience.

Moving Forward

As a screenwriter, or a filmmaker, you shouldn’t be jumping ship to game design just yet. Nor should you be dismissing this article as horror blasphemy. Challenge yourself, as I am myself, to look objectively at this relatively new medium of horror gaming, and figure out what we can learn from it. What can we take away from it? What does it tell us about human psychology? What does it tell us about where the genre is headed, what the future of horror has in store?

I can’t tell you what the answer is, but I can at the very least tell you what it isn’t. I guarantee that there will be at least a few people who read this article and think, “Of course! It’s the first person view!” Believe me when I say that isn’t the answer. I guarantee there will even be some people who go, “It’s the Slenderman!” There will always be people who can’t see past the surface. Just look at all of the independent Slenderman movies and Slenderman knockoffs that people are trying to make.

It’s going to take some seriously creative thinking to tap into that well of terror that is horror gaming. And as much as I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, maybe trying would be a waste of time.

My ideology on the future of horror

The evolution of things is out of our control. I think that no matter what we do in the world, nature has its way of eventually landing on its feet. In my opinion, horror is in the Horror Dark Ages right now. Between the constant revisiting of old ideas, the downright dumb reliance on tired gimmicks and the gallons and gallons of fake blood trying to compensate for the absence of any genuine fear, horror needs a complete overhaul if its going to survive the twenty-first century. It’s only a matter of time before audiences are completely over the “creepy kid”, the black CGI demon eyes, and the burlap mask.

I say let gaming take the thrill-seeking reins. Once the technology is ready, let that be where we go to get our fear-fix. I can’t wait for the day where I can experience John Carpenter’s The Thing from an entirely immersed perspective. I can’t wait to re-experience The Evil Dead from inside of that cabin, or The Shining from inside of the Overlook.

No idea if this Evil Dead game is real or not.

Take the burden of “being scary” away from horror film. Let the genre mature and become something more respectable than it is currently becoming. Let it go back to that experimentation stage where it can find itself all over again. I would be more than happy to see the emphasis of a horror film shift to achieving incredible performances and beautiful and haunting photography. I would love for horror to be about how directors and actors face a subject like death from a more mature perspective than just how many you can squeeze into one film, or how bloody it can be. I would love to explore concepts that are terrifying at a deeper level than our fight-or-flight response. I want to see an artist’s haunting observations on mortality or existence, without the pressure of “making it scary”.

I want horror to become like expensive wine or scotch. I want to revel in a horror film’s complexity and appreciate all of its subtleties. Like a sommelier who picks out all the intricate tastes on her tongue, I want to admire everything that goes into a horror film–not just count and rate the gags and scares–Appreciate the performances, the direction, the cinematography, the writing, the soundscapes and the music.

The next master of terror could be a game maker, and not a filmmaker at all. I’m okay with that. Just maybe it will be the kick in the butt that horror needs to mature. Personally, I think there is room for books, movies, and video games in the future of horror, but maybe I’m old fashioned that way. Younger generations may not agree.

Avoiding Clichés

in Filmmaking/Horror/Writing by

Avoiding Cliches — What just isn’t scary anymore

Like I said before about crafting a genuinely scary script, horror should be inherently scary, and you shouldn’t “chase the scares” when you write. The scariest things here on our planet are scary because of what they are–what they represent, not because of what they look like. That being said, something can look unsettling, disturbing or even disgusting. That isn’t “scary”. A scare is an emotion. It’s something you feel. Sharks are scary because of what they represent–a giant creature capable of ripping you to shreds, which could be just inches below your feet at any given moment. Freddy Kruger is scary because of what he represents, not because of how he looks, how he sounds or how many times he jumps from around corners. Sure, all of those other things add certain elements to it, but Freddy is genuinely scary because of what he represents–a sense of helpless vulnerability. When you sleep–when you are your most vulnerable, he strikes, and you can’t do anything about it. Want to write a good horror script? Avoiding cliches is the first step.

Horror as a film genre has been evolving rather quickly over the past century. In that time, a lot of trends have come and gone. Today, in the twenty-first century, the art is evolving so fast, that it’s more important than ever to avoid those trends. By the time your script is picked up by a production company, filmed and distributed, those trends will be long gone.

A Farewell To Kings Entertainment Company has a script submissions inbox, which gets lots of scripts every week. It’s sad to see that most of the horrors that come through are glorified Paranormal Activity rip-offs. That movie came out about 8 years ago, and the endless sea of rip offs has sadly reduced it to cliché. If we look back a couple of decades, trends held on much longer.

I said that you shouldn’t chase the scares, but at the same time it’s unfortunately important to be marketable. The name of the game is still fear, after all. And although I still think that the best fear comes naturally and effortlessly though the fiction, the characters, and the world of your script, you still have an audience to cater to. Whether it be producers, distributors, investors or theatres full of people waiting for their cheap thrills, you need to deliver. And as you may remember, I don’t have a lot of faith in the film industry today, I still think you can still be “scary” on a contemporary level, without stooping to painfully overused cliches, like the “creepy” long haired child, or the burlap-sac mask.

Creepy Child

Avoiding cliches like creepy kids
A kid is incapable of hurting a grown human with an ounce of common sense, so why do we keep pushing this trend?

Enough is enough.

Unless you intend to bring something new to the game, kids just aren’t scary. I’m so sick and tired of the ghost or the demon turning out to be some “creepy” kid (mind the quotation marks around the word creepy).

It just isn’t scary anymore. When it first hit the main-stage in The Ring, sure–it was pretty scary. But that was a long time ago, and since then, there has been a “creepy” kid in every second Hollywood horror movie–and far too many indies as well. Let’s put it to rest already.

In case you need another reason to write that little ghost kid out of your script, consider this–In horror, your antagonist is your brand. Regardless of how prominently featured they are (or aren’t) in the movie, they will become your film’s brand. Distributors will use your antagonist to leverage your film. And while there are distributors out there looking to cash in on dying tropes, with the creepy kid as the face of your film, at best your film will be lost in a sea of creepy child movies, forgotten outright by even the most hardcore horror audiences.

The Old Lady

Avoiding cliches like creepy old ladies
Yes, when the Shining did it, it was scary… almost 40 years ago.

Same as the creepy kids, they just aren’t scary. Between the late nineties and the early teens (Let’s say 1998-2011), there was some strange fascination with horror filmmakers and things that were the complete opposite of harmful or menacing. People loved to turn convention onto its head in order to take people by surprise. And that was fine, but now its commonplace. And now that its commonplace, its counterintuitive. It’s no longer a surprise when the old lady turns out to be violent and disturbing, because its been done in a hundred different movies in the past decade.

So now that there isn’t the “playing with your preconception” angle, what is still making old ladies scary? Nothing.

Taking something harmless and making it into something to be feared isn’t new by any means. As a matter of fact, the most effective movies in the history of horror did just that. Before It (and John Wayne Gacy), clowns were no more than joyful entertainers. Horror writers and filmmakers used the clowns’ innocence and harmlessness to their advantage, in order to create something memorable and unique. Likewise, Chucky did the same thing to dolls. Turning something inherently innocent into a symbol of terror is part of the game.

Horror movies are unique for a number of reasons. One of which is that people tend to remember them because of their scenes, more than their plots (with some notable exceptions). People remember things that are unique. People are keener to remember the maiden voyage, than the subsequent voyages. For instance, I bet you can name more members of the first crew to land on the moon than you can of any subsequent Apollo mission. If you want to make a memorable film–a memorable script, you need to find that next clown. That next doll. That next old lady. The first person to turn a clown into a symbol of terror wasn’t sitting there thinking “I need something scary. What is something scary?”. No–He/she took the clown and made it scary.

The Burlap Sac Face

Think: The Orphanage

Avoiding cliches like burlap sac faces
Not scary.

I just don’t understand why anyone would want to redo something that’s been done one million times before. Just do something different for crying out loud! I understand why the burlap thing was so hot for a while. It has a lot of creepy properties. Like any mask, it hides any emotion. It adds anonymity and, going back to my rules to a scary script, it leaves plenty to the imagination, letting the audience’s mind create something more terrifying than any prosthetic face you could possibly create. The burlap adds a grunge and distortion, which can be creepy…

But it’s been done so many god damned times over!

There is nothing left to add to the burlap sac mask.

Just let it die. Enough is enough already. Time to start avoiding these cliches.

The Bad Guy Being… Creepy

Avoiding cliches like guys standing stupidly for no reason
What exactly is he trying to accomplish by standing there, in a perfect spot of light? Enough already.

I’m so sick of seeing this in movies–The hero walks out into the hallway, or into the empty park at night, and the antagonist is simply standing there, being creepy. Whether they are just standing straight, or in some weird pose–what are they doing? What are they trying to accomplish just standing there? Why is the antagonist putting so much effort into being creepy? Is it because he knows that he/she alone isn’t actually inherently creepy?

Even worse is when the hero completely doesn’t see the static enemy. Like when the protagonist walks across the hall, completely oblivious to the killer standing in the doorway. What did the killer just accomplish? Should we feel bad for his missed attempt at being scary?

Don’t get me wrong I understand the gimmick. I understand that there is a scare when the audience realizes they aren’t alone in the house. If you insist on using the “Killer in the house” gimmick, at least give the killer purpose. Have them doing something productive–Cutting the wires in the breaker box, smelling the hero’s panties, or… I don’t know—HIDING for Christ sakes. You want your audience to respect your antagonist, not question his/her common sense and ability to hide in a dark house.

Just use common sense

I mean, I could go on for hours listing more dumb and annoying tropes that will ruin your horror script, but all it really comes down to is common sense. Are you relying on jump scare gimmicks because your subject matter is weak? Does your story not stand-alone without cashing in on popular trends?

Just ask yourself “Has this been done before?” If so, “Am I bringing anything new and special to it?”

And then take a look through your scenes and ask yourself “What is the motivation behind this? Or did I just include it because it is scary?” Take a look at that scene where your hero closes the mirror and sees a man standing at the end of the hall–Now question that scene the way your audience is going to: “Why is he just standing there? Is he doing something?”

And while you’re at it, ask yourself “Has this mirror gag not been done to death already? What am I really adding to it? Or am I just too lazy to think of my own scare gags that I need to reuse this one?”

Black Mountain Side Trailer

in Horror by

The official trailer for Black Mountain Side, starring Shane Twerdun, Michael Dickson, Carl Toftfelt, Marc Anthony Williams, Timothy Lyle, and Steve Bradley. Black Mountain Side was directed, written, and produced by Nick Szostakiwskyj.

You can buy or rent Black Mountain Side on Amazon or iTunes by clicking the links below.

Buy Black Mountain Side on Amazon

Buy Black Mountain Side on iTunes

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