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How to Make a Scary Movie

6 May

Scary movies are often terrible for a myriad of reasons. Because we love a good horror flick more than the average guy does, has put together the outline of a good scary movie.

scary movie

Rule #1: You Must Build Suspense

Suspense is built through good story lines. It is not enough for the audience to know that there is a scary monster or a complete psychopath on the loose in a movie. They must also understand why the monster or psychopath is killing. The back story not only makes the film interesting, but it also makes the fantastical idea of an imaginary creature attacking real people credible. More importantly though, the story must be brought along slowly, revealing key information at critical junctures in the movie. Slow revelation builds suspense.

Rule #2: No Cheap Thrills

Most movies have moments that are very suspenseful where the villain jumps out at the victim as a loud drum plays in the background, the classic cheap thrill. Good movies build the same tension and move between harmless situations and attacking violently with the bad guy of the movie seamlessly. However, the best scary movies do not use paltry tricks and slowly reveal the impending danger of the villain in the vicinity of the hero. Great horror film directors almost never resort to blunt trickery to entertain their audience. They use subtlety and cinematography to lead their audiences into their worst fears.

Rule #3: Understand What is Scary

There are common things that scare most people. Most people are afraid of drowning or suffocating to death. Most people know that walking down dark alleys is a bad idea. Good movies use the things that naturally frighten people to terrify them.

scary movie - terrifying

Rule #4: Never Reveal the Monster

The best directors can make a terrifying monster without ever actually showing it. They can imply horrific acts without actually filming any violence onscreen. For instance, rather than showing a monster literally tearing apart a victim using bad special effects or computer generated imaging, great directors would allude to the monster’s presence through the use of sound and shadows. The viewer knows that the monster has reached his victim when a shadow completely overruns them. The coup de grace is then showing blood running into a nearby gutter or the gory remains of a victim. This permits the audience to fill in their own idea of what the terrifying monster looks like and what the monster did to their victims with their imagination, making it much more excruciating than if the director simply gave his interpretation of the beast and the act. Great directors use their audiences’ imagination against them.

Rule #5: If You Break Rule #4, It Better Be Scary

Finally, if a director chooses to break Rule #4, then the monster has to be so frightening that any audience member would be scared stiff. There have been many offenders to this rule and each one has been totally detrimental to the movie, but the most recent offender was the recent adaptation of “The Wolfman.” The movie was both paralyzingly suspenseful and creepy until they showed the creature for the first time. The wolfman looked like a muppet and the movie was ruined. The same thing has happened when the alien was revealed in the movie Signs, it happened when the bat creature from Jeepers Creepers made his first appearance, and when several other movies showed their monstrous villains. If the monster ever shows its face, it needs to be terrifying.


After the wolfman was shown, the movie lost credibility. This guy looks like a Jim Henson-created caricature of a dark-skinned Mexican man with a Jheri-curl.

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