Horror Movie Techniques at DVinfo.net

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old January 3rd, 2007, 01:10 AM   #1
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 62
Horror Movie Techniques

Hey,

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.

Now I think everyone knows about the classic P.O.V shot of the murderer or monster watching people behind a bush with heavy breathing sometimes used or what not. But what about techniques that are more subtle but used a lot, like the shock cut -
Usually the main character is looking for clues or looking to see if a monster is in behind a door etc and then we hear the big sound effect of the monster and a fast close up cut.
Or how about you establish that there is a monster lurking in the shadows of a big room and a man is walking around slowly looking for the monster, and you see a quick flash across the camera in the extreme foreground of the monster running by, followed by a big sound effect, and then a close up of the reaction of the main character. I see that one in a lot more recent horror films.

I know lighting and sound and story all play a huge role in horror, but what about the actual shot by shot montage techniques that can be used? Any others you can think of? That are classic and induce the scares or newer techniques?

Luke
Luke McMillian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 3rd, 2007, 06:21 AM   #2
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Albany Oregon
Posts: 173
I haven't (intentionally, anyway) tried that genre; but one suggestion I'd make is to watch the Blair Witch Project - then, don't EVER do anything like that :=)

I used to hang out at the local movie theater (back when carbon arcs were still used for projection) and the projectionist showed me this stripe along the side of the film with big, wide blobs on it - he said this was what got played thru the system just before Dracula came into the room. It was subaudible in frequency, but he said that was part of why the speakers in that theater were 30 inch electrostatics - the low frequency (felt, not heard) gives you a sense of foreboding, and "presets" the stage for the entrance of the monster...

'bout all I got, I do mostly industrial safety/corporate stuff... Steve
Steve Leverich is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 3rd, 2007, 08:44 AM   #3
Trustee
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Sauk Rapids, MN, USA
Posts: 1,675
Anything that will let the audience know bad things are going to happen that the character doesn't know will put the audience on edge (assuming you've sold us on the character already).

Showing a monster/bad thing in a house, then having the character try to get in...

Show an empty doorway in a frame, the main character passes it and the monster crosses when their back is turned...

Anything to build that antici........pation.
__________________
Web Youtube Facebook
Cole McDonald is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 3rd, 2007, 02:03 PM   #4
Major Player
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Ridley Park, PA, USA
Posts: 269
Hitchcock's rule

Decide if you want to go for shock or suspense. Hitch said that if two people are sitting at a table talking and a bomb goes off, that's shock. However, if you the viewer knows that there is a ticking time bomb in a breifcase under the table, that's suspense.

Remember to always consider what your audience knows at any given time in order to maximize the impact of that scene.
Michael Pulcinella is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 3rd, 2007, 03:57 PM   #5
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: MS Gulf Coast
Posts: 146
Don't hit them all at once, but "spoonfeed" with your structural descent into the story.
__________________
There's no reason to stop learning.
www.crystaleyemedia.com
Scott Ellifritt is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 4th, 2007, 10:09 PM   #6
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 62
hey Steve Leverich,

Very cool story! I love stuff like that, it's those little things that make the big difference. Any other techniques any of you guys know of? I knew the hitchcock time bomb theory, and suspense. There must be other techniques they use to evoke the fear that is not noticed by most people, I will keep digging and post any findings, there must be a horror buff out there somewhere! haha

Luke
Luke McMillian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 8th, 2007, 08:53 AM   #7
Major Player
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Ridley Park, PA, USA
Posts: 269
Like Steve Leverich said....SOUND, man!

Scary, subliminal sounds really add to the tension. There's a grumbly sound used in the movie The Grudge that makes the appearance of a dark spirit (or whatever is was!) 10 times scarier than it is while watched with the sound off. I know because I tried watching it with the sound turned down just to see how much of a factor it was.

By the way, for what it was Blair Witch was very well done, IMO. I was fortunate enough to see it before it was overhyped. By the time most people saw it their expectations had been raised way too high for a no-budget indie film with no SFX. It is a good example of what can be done with innuendo and suggestion. It is the movie equivalent of telling scary stories by the campfire with a flashlight under your chin.
Michael Pulcinella is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 8th, 2007, 10:05 AM   #8
Trustee
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Sauk Rapids, MN, USA
Posts: 1,675
I really like "the Village" for nonFX psychological horror. It's really the least effected movie I've seen in the last 10 years. I think the only piece they did was a wire removal for a safety wire when the girl fell in the pit.

And that opening shot is creepy as hell with the surround sound on...just a pan of trees that could be light and fluffy happy with cheery bird sounds and happy music...but they went with creaking wood and wind...very bleak and freaky.
__________________
Web Youtube Facebook
Cole McDonald is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 8th, 2007, 01:58 PM   #9
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
Posts: 85
What scares me is this type of setup:

Girl alone in a dark room thinks someone else is in the room. After a long, tense search, it turns out to be something simple like the cat scratching at the door or something like that. After she calms down, the unexpected happens... the killer with the machete is hanging on to the ceiling patiently right above her... and she doesn't know it. He doesn't move, and you're now the tense one waiting for him to drop down on the victim.

That's good stuff.
__________________
Robert M Yannetta, Loud Orange Cat Productions
http://LoudOrangeCat.com
Rob Yannetta is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 8th, 2007, 11:14 PM   #10
New Boot
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 21
Your can also create tension with your framing. Give your character far too little nose room. This will create an unbalanced frame that causes subliminal
tension. It also creates a large hole in composition directly behind the character. The viewer subconciously expects this hole to be filled (by the killer/ monster) so the frame can be balanced again. The longer you persist in not filling this hole(within reason) the greater the anxiety grows. It's just like in music, a tension without resolution. If after the noise turns out to be the cat you return to a balanced framing the viewer will subconciously relax a little. A balanced frame means alls right in the universe. Hit them with the scare after you balance the frame and your shock effect will be maximized.
Hunter Sandison is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 9th, 2007, 02:07 PM   #11
Trustee
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,063
Pick your favorite horror movie, then steal some of its techniques.

There are very few pure horror films IMHO - most are some blend of horror, suspense, and action.

When I'm making a horror movie (I'm in pre-pro right now for my third), I always try to get it straight in my head what exact-type of movie am I making. Pure horror is very tough. I'd say, BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, THE SHINING, THE EXORCIST, and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD are all examples of films that tried to be "pure" horror films. They swung for the fences and tried to scare the hell out of you. Maybe they failed, but they did try.

Something like JAWS or ALIEN are nearly pure horror, but the "escape" element of these stories adds a level of suspence and action that the former movies have in a much less degree - although the characters want to escape from the condition they're in, the is no real on camera action - they're either stuck in the woods (PROJECT), stuck in their own body (EXORCIST), or stuck in a house (DEAD). They can't leave the situation. In most horror films, it comes down to the last few characters running away from the monster - scary, but more in an action/suspence type of way.

One other aspect that I think's vital - can the heroes escape via any reasonable means? Horror comes when the characters, even when acting in totally reasonably ways, still can't escape. John Capenter's THE THING is a great example of this - they're doing the best they can, but often make mistakes - mistakes that even the audience doesn't know are mistakes - until it's far too late. It takes several viewings of the THE THING to know who's who and at what point - and even then, you're not sure what the good guys could really do to change the situation.

That's one of the problems w/JAWS as a pure horror film (great as it is) - all they have to do is stay on land and PRESTO! They're safe. In ALIEN, just don't go down to the planet, don't let the thing on board, keep him in stasis, stay together, etc. and they'd be safe.

The little girl in the EXORCIST can't escape from the thing inside her, and her mother can't leave her. This is central reason why many people consider this the be the most scary movie of all time - the monster is right there in front of you the whole time and they have no idea how to kill it without killing her. The fact that they are rich, beautiful Americans makes this even more potent.

Also remember this - no one cares if a teenager dies.

Good luck,
john
evilgeniusentertainment.com
John Vincent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 11th, 2007, 07:46 AM   #12
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 36
I think one of the scariest things in a horror film isn't what you see, but rather what you don't see. What your mind is left to work out yourself.

I have never found myself scared by conventional horror movies. I know a lot of people didn't find it scary, but after seeing Signs, I was afraid to look out my car window on the way home. The whole time the only images you are given are alien sillhouettes or feet dissapearing into a corn field.

We've all seen aliens in movies before. Alien (no brainer), Independance day etc....knowing what an alien is and what is is doing isn't scary.

Not knowing what's crawling around in your cornfield? Very scary.

Notice how at the end of the film, in that rather banal standoff, the alien is no longer scary. Why? Because we know what it is, and why it is there.

It is fear of the unknown that makes a great horror movie.

I'll say this too, while I'm ranting (sorry everyone) that Mr. Sandison has it dead on about visual balance. Imagine a character in a house, at night, while noises are heard outside.
As the character listens next to a window that has closed curtains, a very tight shot frames only them and the curtains, very close with no backgroudn objects that may provide a subconcious visual escape route. Linger on this, and visually it gets very claustraphobic. It almost feels like we have been blinfolded. We naturally want to see further than 1 foot, but due to the very tight framing, we can't. When the curtains open and nothing is there, that tension gets released, and for a moment, the audience has their guard down...

Atmospheric imagery, good editing skills and above all, creativity will be your best friends here. Good luck!

P.S that was my first post in these forums.....hope it wasn't too long winded!

Love light and peace -Jon
Jon Palmer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 14th, 2007, 09:07 PM   #13
MPS Digital Studios
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Palm Beach County, Florida
Posts: 8,531
Three words of advice (or at least my opinion): No more torture. I can't stand those films.

heath
__________________
My Final Cut Pro X blog
Heath McKnight is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 15th, 2007, 01:01 AM   #14
Regular Crew
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heath McKnight
Three words of advice (or at least my opinion): No more torture. I can't stand those films.

heath
Ugh, amen to that.

I rented out Hostel the other week.....was the most un-entertaining experience of my life. It really amazes me that scripts like that can get funded but others can't.
__________________
I had a handle on life but it broke.
Jon Palmer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old January 15th, 2007, 04:04 PM   #15
Trustee
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,063
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heath McKnight
Three words of advice (or at least my opinion): No more torture. I can't stand those films.

heath


Yup - torture porn, if there ever was a place for it in films - has long run it's course. Nothing scary about these flicks at all - suspencefull, perhaps. But how hard is it really to get some suspence when you're tearing someone's eye out with a fork?

Stephen King said he'd always try to scare the hell out of you, but if that failed, to go for the gross-out. He has a point. Sometimes gore is needed. Hell, I like SCANNERS as much as the next guy. But these new movies don't try at all to achieve real fear for one minute - they just go for the gross-out. Enough of that.

john
evilgeniusentertainment.com
John Vincent is offline   Reply
Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Z.G.C.
(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Techniques for Independent Production

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

 



Google
 

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:11 PM.


DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network