The Loss of Horror
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October has come and gone, and with it a whole month dedicated to horror. But what exactly is horror? I ask because something that I’ve noticed about the horror genre these days is that there isn’t any real horror anymore. It’s all just blood, guts, and violence, which isn’t horror.
True horror is when something is able to frighten you without having to rely on absurd amounts of violence. So what’s truly frightening, you might ask? It’s not about what you see, it’s about what you don’t see.
Take Jaws, for example. The shark is hardly in the movie at all. Instead there are several scenes that imply the shark’s presence. So you just end up waiting for it to finally strike (dum dum…dum dum).
Filmmakers also used time to develop the characters like in the Indianapolis monologue. That way you feel something when the characters are on the verge of being eaten.
For example, take the original Halloween, not the terrible Rob Zombie remake. What the movie lacks in budget it makes up for in mood and atmosphere. There’s hardly any violence because the movie doesn’t need it. It’s frightening because the audience knows that any moment something bad is going to happen. Sadly, this skill is something that the increasingly violent sequels and remakes seem to have forgotten.
Alien, the title creature probably only has about five to ten minutes of screen time. You see very little of it and what it’s doing. The chest burster scene is actually pretty violent, but it still counts.
“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it,” famed director Alfred Hitchcock said. The terror of the scene isn’t the end result. It’s the slow buildup as the audience watches helplessly at what’s happening.
What modern storytellers seem to forget is that violence in itself isn’t scary. It may be disturbing for a couple minutes, but what’s terrifying is the anticipation of violence. Build up atmosphere and mood. Use time to actually develop characters and not just bodies waiting to be ripped apart. If you wish to make a living in storytelling and horror, remember what’s actually scary.The Loss of Horror,