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Techniques for Independent Production
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Old January 15th, 2007, 04:09 PM   #16
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There's gross-out, then there's torture. Scanners was great, but these movies...eh...In the mid- to late-1990s, it was self-aware/ironic humor horror films, a la SCREAM, etc., and it's impersonators. Not sure what I dislike more (I liked SCREAM, not the rest).

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Old January 15th, 2007, 05:27 PM   #17
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I can tell you how much I hated the movie "Pulse" if you really want to hear it.....
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Old June 17th, 2007, 02:39 AM   #18
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What you DON'T see is often scarier (because your imagination starts racing)

In the first half of the movie "Signs" it's creepy because we only glimpse the aliens, but in the second half we get to see an alien in clear view (and it's not scary at all)
So..keep the bad guys hidden. Let us glimpse a monster hand, or an eye..(much more effective)

My 2 cents
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Old May 24th, 2008, 02:57 PM   #19
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Wow keep the techniques flowing guys, I'd love to hear more.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 06:25 PM   #20
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When making your film utilize music and SFX as much as possible w/o over doing it. When your character enters that eerie, dark room looking for the monster, you should be playing eerie music; music with out many chops from overdone percussion. Chains rattling in the background make a perfect sound effect. Be sure to have subtle things like that playing behind the music. Remember that the idea is not to show the audience what happened, it is to make them think they saw what happened. I don't necessary mean to "kill" a person and then bring them back but rather make them imagine their death. Play the audience through the camera, if they are
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Old July 21st, 2009, 06:28 PM   #21
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If they are on the edge of their seat, your goal should be to knock them right off. Let them feel safe, there is no one out that window, the audience will sigh a sigh of relief but when the person turns around, without hesitation or a chance to brace your self, the murderer kills the person. Bam, the shock will startle the person and ignite more suspense if the music kicks up and the friend is the next shot. Hope this helps.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 08:01 PM   #22
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While making our Feature horror Bio-Dead (Premieres on August 6th on Time Warner Cable, Charter and Brighthouse V.O.D. service - shameless pitch) we used many techniques to create suspense. I won't rehash what many have said but think of creative ways to build suspense, use your environment and write an feasible story. Many indies go for something not realistic for their budget limitations.

Also, to reinforce something said many times, solid sound is quintessential - I'd even put it higher than story for low budget film making.

Good Luck,
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Old July 25th, 2009, 11:37 AM   #23
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Random thoughts

As already said-you cant underestimate the power of sound(or no sound) to create fear. I cant imagine Jaws would have been nearly as creepy if the music wasnt that du du du du du du du...
Or that death rattle sound in the Shining.

The POV killer shot can also be effective when its sped up--like in Army of Darkness when you see the camera whipping through the woods with a weird choral voice.

Another technique that I sometimes see-its the opposite of the POV killer shot. The killer is seen from a great distance--as in Halloween 78 when he is stalking around the house with a body in his arms, and in the Hal Holbrook movie Rituals you see the killer watching from atop a distant hill.
Slither(which i didnt care for) has a shot of the creature moving through a field--I found that creepy.

Another is a bait and switch, especially a prolonged one.
In Dont Look Now-for the whole movie you see this hooded figure of a girl crying, and at the end it isnt what you expect. They dont hit you over the head with it--the weirdness of it is just so shocking and disturbing.

The Ring had the very creepy scene of the girl coming out of the tv. I was squirming in my chair while watching that(ok it didnt help that someone had sent me the videotape in the mail marked ringu and I now knew I had a week to get rid of it heh). I havent seen the US version but I hear they cut away from the girl coming out of the tv--I dont think that would be as effective as that one long shot from the (japenese?) version. Its just weird and creepy-the way the girl movies, the fact that you cant see her face.

Devil movies are interesting in that often the Devil wins something if not completely. True of Rosemary's Baby, the Exorcist(he gets the priests), Race with the Devil, the Omen, Spellbinder, the Seventh Sign, Devil's Advocate(maybe), even Arnold had to give up the ghost in End of Days.

Rosemary's Baby, the Exorcist and the Omen make the innocent(babies, children) the embodiment of evil , which is disturbing in and of itself.
Same when you have innocuous objects like dolls, masks or puppets(in the Wiz there is a scene with this strange bobbing puppet that emerges from a subway--that thing creeps me out).

Sometimes good/weird character design goes a long way. No doubt ALIEN wouldnt have been nearly as unsettling if they didnt have the face hugger and the adult alien design. Imagine if it looked like a 1950s bug eyed monster.

Or Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre(one thing I found rather creepy in the remake was the scene where the killer puts on a mask of the boyfriend).

I have seen a million vampire movies but the makeup design in 30 Days of Night was really effective I thought. Nosferatu is still the creepiest vampire look to me. Some of the vampires in Salem's Lot 79 and Evil Ed from Fright Night are somewhat scary to me.

I never found Saw very scary-but the doll figure was creepy. I read that they had approached fx experts to make it but in the end they jsut used their original prototype.

The scariest scene in the Shining to me was when the wife sees the two guys in the room and one of them is wearing a bear costume.

Halloween 78--the look of the killer was creepy. A pale William Shatner mask on a tall skinny guy wearing grey overalls? Who knew that could be so creepy? They originally thought about using a clown mask--I think that would have been weird and disturbing too.

I dont think torture porn is scary-although torture can be very disturbing or horrifying.
Marathon Man for example, or the burning on the ladder sequence in Conqueror Worm(maybe it was all the more disturbing since you assume that sort of thing really happened).

I thought Blood on Satan's Claw was a very spooky movie that doesnt rely on the usual elements-like jump scares. The atmosphere is creepy, the weird music--the weirdness of the way the devil takes over.

I never felt the Thing was terrifying as much as it was horrifying. Most of the time it was an amusing gross out with one great jump scare during the blood test. The most disturbing shot for me is when you see Blair dragging Gary's body by his face-which has merged with his hand.

Or the use of mundane objects...like in Halloween 78 when the killer puts the sheet and glasses on. Or Nightmare on Elm Street when you see Freddy's silhouette through the wall.
Or when photos or paintings contain creepy elements.

Its interesting to read about how audiences at a particular time responded to a movie. I was listening to this podcast on Hammer Films and apparently one of the most disturbing things was the disintegration of Dracula sequence from the Horror of Dracula.

Obviously if you see it after having watched many other horror movies that does something similar it doesnt have much of an impact, but back in the late 1950s...
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Old July 28th, 2009, 12:03 PM   #24
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Kubrik said fear is not in the think of it but the feel of it.
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Old August 2nd, 2009, 09:11 PM   #25
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This is all great stuff guys, but I was wondering whether anyone thought there is an issue going for a jump scare (the window scenario that everyone is talking about) compared to a scare similar to those in the Exorcist (the one that sticks in my mind is when they rush in to her room to find her violently distorting while crying for help).

The jump scare would be easier to pull off over a psychological scare (just an assumption, please correct me if I am wrong) so could a jump scare be considered cheap?

I am curious to see what other people think.

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Old August 3rd, 2009, 09:38 AM   #26
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I dont think a jump scare is "cheap" in the genre unless it is done a few times, or handled lazily, or particularly unoriginal (guy diving under boat and finds shark victim sticking out of hull).

A particularly great jump scare just came to mind. The Woman in Black UK tv movie.

If you see it, you'll know what I am referring to.

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Old August 3rd, 2009, 11:12 AM   #27
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I like to think back to when even with an 18 certificate there were things you couldn't see. Hammer Horror is a great example of how you really don't need the gore to scare you. If you watch these now, the lack of graphic detail is so obvious, and perhaps dates them, but the techniques they used to scrare you without real substance are quite clever.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 02:02 PM   #28
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I'm not a major horror fan but there are a few movies that I've enjoyed over the years that to me have overcome the banality that plagues many of the genre.

Going back to the original post, I find the "bad guy wooshes through foreground unnoticed by protaganist" really overused and stale at this point. It's creepy and effective but a full-on cliche.

One thing that I find fascinating is the psychological effect of something nasty happening as seen from a distance. We relate this, I think, to a sort of detached reality as an observer which makes it far more realistic and disturbing, and less like a movie. Case in point: not a horror film, but the "curbing" scene in "American History X" is something that few who saw that film even when it came out 12 years ago can ever forget--and the actual act is seen in a wide shot from some distance (perhaps the sound effect of jaw breaking on a concrete curb is what does it)!

Along these lines, using minimal cuts and reducing the cinematic aspect of a violent act can make it that much more horrifying, memorable and real. Again, not a horror film but consider the scene in "Zodiac" where the murderer stabs the couple in the park; it's somehow far more horrifying than any of the hundreds/thousands of stabbings we've seen in horror films that were far more graphic.

I'll throw out two moments in an old, generally overlooked film: Exorcist 3. While the second sequel was wretched, the third one managed some truly creepy moments worthy of the (appropriately celebrated) original. One is the women in the insane asylum scuttling along the ceiling, the other is the hooded nasty in the hospital hallway. Taken out of context these lose some impact of course...and if you haven't seen the movie, it will sort of spoil what I think are the two best moments in a pretty good if somewhat dated film.
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Old August 3rd, 2009, 03:23 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Luke McMillian View Post

I'm going to take a stab at doing a good horror movie, (mind the pun)and just thought I'd ask some opinions on classic horror movie production techniques to utilize.
I don't have a formula for you to follow, but I do have one piece of advice: avoid tired clichés.

I went to see a horror movie with a friend last week, and we both knew exactly what would happen about 15 minutes into the movie. We're not geniuses, it's just that the filmmakers took every predictable road possible and never strayed from it.

After the movie I asked my friend: if you spent $25 millions and a year of your life on making a movie, then why on God's green earth would you waste it all on the same old crap that people have seen countless times before?

The question is even more relevant if you only have $100,000.

Look at the classics and see what they did; then look at the innovators (like Blair Witch Project, in spite of its detractors), and try thinking of what others have NOT done.

Avoid cats leaping out of nowhere. Likewise for the friend of the heroine suddenly creeping up from behind and putting his hand on her shoulder (who the hell does that?). Don't substitute sudden loud noises for true fright. Remember that what you CAN'T see is often scarier than what you can.

Lay off the latex and fake blood. Gore porn is on its way out.

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Old August 3rd, 2009, 10:32 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Kelly Goden View Post
I dont think a jump scare is "cheap" in the genre unless it is done a few times, or handled lazily, or particularly unoriginal (guy diving under boat and finds shark victim sticking out of hull).
I agree, one or two jump scares add to the tension (I'm thinking of in the Ring when the loud bang occurs when he closes the filing cabinet right after they cut from outside, scared me half to death!) but what about when a film is nothing but jump scares.

An example I'm thinking of was earlier this year I went and saw The Unborn around the same time I saw The Uninvited. The Unborn was just one jump scare after another and the story was quite disappointing. I think they relied on loud noises and quick cuts to get some thrills. While The Uninvited was based around an awesome story and yes there were a few jumpy moments but the story built up a lot of the tension and fear and was so much more enjoyable.

What I'm saying is that I felt cheated by The Unborn because of the poor story and clever filming techniques, while The Uninvited kept me hooked with its story and didn't go for the quick and easy LOUD NOISE!

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