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How to Make a Scary Movie

6 May

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Making the Perfect Villain

21 Dec

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Hollywood and network television have introduced many criminally insane and completely evil men to the public. From Captain Hook to Hannibal Lecter, audiences have been terrified by a multifarious group of indiscriminate gangsters, thieves, and killers. Villains hurt people and destroy lives, but more so, they terrify their victims, which in turn, scares and disgusts their audience. Great villains carry the storyline of great movies, and the perfect villain could be pieced together by taking the best parts of great villains.

1. The Intellect and Habits of Dr. Hannibal Lecter – Hannibal Lecter was so perceptive, brilliant, and sociopathic that he coerced other inmates into suicide and epileptic seizures by simply talking to them. He profiled several of the doctors and FBI agents that were supposed to be profiling him, and insulted and confused them for fun. He also was a cannibal. He killed then ate some victims and severed pieces of the others and ate them while they were still alive. He orchestrated his murders, leading his victims to where he wanted them before killing them. This man was calculated, meticulous, and batshit crazy. He had a taste for fine culture and a flare for the dramatic. He gutted and hung a prefect officer in the same manner that one of his famous ancestors was persecuted. Dr. Lecter ate pieces of a man’s brain and fed them to him while they sat at the dinner table. Nothing is more horrifying to a person than the realization that they are about to be eaten by another human being, and very few things are more terrifying than a man like Hannibal Lecter.

2. The Knowledge of Killing of Bill the Butcher – Billing the Butcher cultivated his talents in the meat shops of the Five Points neighborhood in New York City. He knew the difference between a murderous wound and an injuring blow. He could deliver instant death or a gradual, painful one. Bill was adept in hand to hand combat and could throw any bladed weapon with pinpoint accuracy up to fifteen feet. He was a killing machine and more so, he enjoyed killing.

3. The Mystery and Drive of the Joker – The most alarming character trait of the joker of the Dark Knight series of movies, is his genuine love of chaos and destruction. He had no normal motives like money, love, or drugs. His only motivation was to bring pain and confusion. He was completely unreasonable because he used no reason. The Joker killed mercilessly to create panic throughout Gotham City which is why his motivation (or lack thereof) are perfect for a true villain.

4. The Indifference of Little Bill – Though Little Bill became the Sheriff of his town, he started as an outlaw. And, he brought the same heavy-handed oppression that he used with his criminal posse to the townspeople of his precinct. If someone stole from him, he shot them. If they questioned his authority, he shot them. If any person did anything that Little Bill did not like, Little Bill shot them. He even killed his own son in a shooting contest because he challenged him. Bill was feared within his town because killed without provocation, and that ability to be indiscriminate with force and punishment shapes the perfect bad guy.

5. The Focus and Pure Insanity of Annie Wilkes – Annie Wilkes loved reading the books of her favorite author. She loved it so much that she forced him to finish writing the sequel to one of his other novels in her attic. When he tried to escape she broke his ankles with a two-by-four and a sledgehammer. She was so determined to read that novel that she kidnapped and crippled a man. Her obsession with his literature blinded her to her loss of normality, and she committed atrocious acts because of it.
6. The Hatred and Random Acts of Terror of Amon Goeth – Goeth was a scarier character than the rest of the villains because he was a real person. He had the same indifference about murder as Little Bill, but coupled that with a stern, militarized disposition and a genuine disdain for Jewish people. He would randomly shoot workers for infractions or sometimes just because he needed a target on which he could test the accuracy of his rifle.
7. The Will of Keyser Soze – Keyser Soze was a devious and calculated killer. He came home to find his wife and children raped and beaten by rival drug dealers. Instead of attacking the men there, Soze shot each member of his family in the head as the drug dealers watched and let them leave peaceably. He then hunted down each one of them, killed them, killed their families, and killed anyone connected with them. In order to finish a different drug deal, Soze impersonated a crippled man, and orchestrated a coup that gave him millions of dollars and left no witnesses.


8. The Creepy Ritual of Dexter – Though Dexter is the protagonist of his self-titled television series, he is also a serial killer. And, he ritually kills his victims by taping them to a table, cutting them with a scalpel and collecting a sample of their blood, stabbing them in the chest cavity, and finally, sawing them into pieces to dispose of their bodies. Displaying the ritualistic behavior of a villain exposes the deviance and compulsion of the killer.

No More PG-13

16 Nov

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Everyone and everything feels the effects of a failing economy, and the art industry is no exception.The music and fine arts suffer almost as much as the poor during these difficult, persistent recessions. But no industry suffers as much as the movie industry. Leisure activities are among the first eliminated when the economy predicates that civilians save money more fervently. The increase in ticket prices despite the state of the economy and less original movie ideas are causing Americans to stay home. The rise of illegal downloading and the decline of culture in America has also created an enormous deficit between the amount of movies put out and the quality of those movies. In harsh economic times, movies are stripped of their most important components to save money and to appeal to the largest crowd possible. The result is the PG-13 movie. The genius idea behind this is to put enough adult content in a movie – violence and sexual situations – for adults to want to see it, but leave out enough – nudity, rampant swearing – so that kids can see it. The product is a sanguine, flaccid under-developed waste of an hour and a half. In 82 years, only 7 PG-13 movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, because most of these movies suffer from forced, subversive editing and poor character development. PG-13 movies are a waste of film, resources, talent, time, and energy.

When studio money is short, instead of the constant editing and re-shooting that movies normally receive which ultimately reproduces a better product, they are either haphazardly pushed out at the cost of art and the consumer or grotesquely trimmed to meet regulation standards so that the most possible paying customers can watch the film. Scenes that are not well characterized by the actors are removed from the movie altogether instead of being re-shot, sometimes despite their importance to the continuity of the story. Lines are re-written to meet the limitation of curse words set by the movie’s proposed rating. Though seemingly harmless, these decisions directly affect the cohesion and drama of a film. A movie that shows great intellect and that was founded in complex ideals gets lost in the poorly articulated discourse. The movie fails because the message is lost.

PG-13 movies also flounder for other more technical reasons. They can rarely deliver great characters due to time constraints meant to please the average movie-goer. The average movie takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes; just long enough to convey a message, but short enough to keep the attention of most audiences. The average Oscar winning film lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes. In order for the audience to connect with the characters, proper development over the course of the movie is necessary. Better directors show a person’s character through distinct circumstances in a movie. The best directors give audiences glimpses of each person’s makeup through various situations that reveal themselves slowly throughout scenes of the film. Time is essential to skillfully display complex character; PG-13 movies do not allow for that development.

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Though it sounds cliche, movies at their best are art imitating life. In a good movie, you forget that you are in a theater and just relate to the characters and the moment. What’s the difference between Gladiator and Robin Hood (2010)? Both had the same lead, Russell Crowe, and they hired good supporting casts. There were great, distinct characters in both movies. They both took place in a similar time period, so prejudice for or against movie settings was not a factor. The difference was the darkness and violence of Gladiator. The grit necessary to evoke emotion can not exist in most PG-13 movies. They are toothless renderings of real moments. When Crowe realized the fate of his family in Gladiator, the audience felt the raw emotion, the crippling pain, that he did. When he fought mercilessly against other gladiators, the audience felt his rage. Robin Hood could not produce those moments because it was bound by the rating system. The cinematography suffered because of the director’s pandering to a larger audience and limiting bloodshed. Medieval era fights were gruesome and gory, but that type of vile carnage was not relayed onto the big screen. Subsequently, the crowd could not connect with the film. The R-rating is necessary. What would Crying Game be with out the revelation to the audience at a little over an hour in the film? What would Pulp Fiction be without the swearing, drugs, and violence? Those movies would be dull, lifeless attempts at cinema. They would be PG-13, and they would be horrible.

The PG-13 rating was invented as a way to keep children away from subject matter that they are not emotionally ready to handle, but it is being used as a tool to make big pictures available to an audience that they were not created to accommodate. This practice manipulates avid movie-goers, it is irresponsible to children, and disgraceful to the work of talented film makers. No one benefits from PG-13 movies except the studios. And, that type of greed is killing art and cinema. People have stopped going to the movies, because studios have stopped producing movies worth spending hard-earned dollars to watch. And, if those studios continue to release watered down PG-13 versions of potentially great movies, then ultimately big studios desire to capitalize on underwhelming work will be their own undoing.

Pick a New Director!

4 Nov

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Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960) – In general, you do not mess with the classics. Kubrick’s Spartacus, with Kirk Douglas as the movie’s namesake, is the quintessential film of ancient Rome. Kubrick is a great storyteller and Douglas is brooding, stoic, and somehow still emoting. Peter Jackson possesses the skill of writing, the artistic detailing, and the type of vision that would do the preceding film justice. He has choreographed beautiful fight scenes in previous movies like The Lord of the Rings and has a firm grasp medieval times which should translate well to Spartacus. He could modernize the action of the movie, give it the spectacular scenery of his other movies, and install a visual grit and darkness that matches the original while not sacrificing the authenticity of the film.

Constantine (Francis Laurence, 2005) – Constantine was an entertaining movie lead by big stars. Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton, and Djimon Hounsou all play significant roles in this screenplay adapted from a comic book. The movie is dark, but suffers from bad comic book dialogue. Guillermo Del Toro has adapted Hell Boy, another comic book, into a regaling, lucrative movie series. Del Toro excels with dark material and makes intriguing, genuine, visually stunning movies when given humble scripts. His dialogue always matches mood and he never kills mood with ill-timed jokes.

Blindness (Fernando Meirelles, 2008) – Blindness had the appropriate amount of darkness to deliver a chilling look into the psyche of people when all convention breaks down. It had a strong protagonist and an evil antagonist. The acting was stellar in the movie, however the movie never climaxed. Meirelles built tension extraordinarily well in the movie, but the crescendo never reached the heights that it could have because there were tiny holes in the logic of the people involved in the conflict. Darren Aronofsky would be the perfect director to take this movie to a fitting crescendo. His work in movies like Pi, The Wrestler, and even Requiem for a Dream show that he has the depth of content and story building to finish this movie in a way that belies the original premise.

I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004) – Steven Spielberg could take a movie that was overrun with awkward computer generated images and turn it into a breath-taking display of cinematic images. His eye for detail in action and landscapes would deliver a realism to an abstract, futuristic idea. And, Spielberg’s gift of vivid storytelling would provide clarity in the storyline and build tension throughout the plot. There was a great premise behind the movie I, Robot. The idea that being too dependent on the advancement of technology can ultimately ruin mankind is an applicable moral in day to day life, not just the movies. But, the original film fell short of driving home the point because the movie was not believable visually.

Robin Hood (Ridley Scott, 2010) – The plot was there. The actors were talented. But somehow, this movie had no teeth. This movie was advertised to be the second coming of Gladiator. It had the same lead and was set in a similar age where people used swords and bows and arrows as their main weapons. On paper, it should have been a blockbuster. Instead it was a disaster. The producers pushed for a PG-13 rating, which handicapped the director. Instead of well-choreographed, gory fights, there were underwhelming conflicts lacking the amount of grit to make the scenes credible throughout the film. Jean-Jacques Annaud, the director of The Name of the Rose, is adept at building a complex story without showing too much gore. His characters and costumes are consistent to the era in which the movie is set,, and he portrays the darkness and desperation of medieval times accurately to historical references. Annaud’s movies always have purposeful dialogue and thus well defined characters, which Robin Hood did not have.

Alexander (Oliver Stone, 2004) – Oliver Stone missed in a few places with his vision of Alexander. He picked a protagonist that could not carry the weight of the movie (Colin Farrell), his dialogue was awkward at times, the costumes did not look authentic, and there was a discontinuity between the cast. Stone’s vision of the general Alexander was a passionate man who happened to lead one of the greatest armies ever assembled. He attempted to show the other side of Alexander too, a lover, a son, and most importantly a king. What he put on the screen was a weakling that cried insistently at every juncture of the movie for any reason. Because his Alexander was so weak as a character, Alexander’s mother and father looked like caricatures rather than characters that connected with the audience. They seemed phony because of bad makeup and wardrobe, and over-acting to compensate for Alexander’s shortcomings. Brian DePalma makes compelling protagonists. From Carrie to Scarface, his leading person always causes a reaction in the audience. DePalma also has a gift for slowly revealing plot throughout the movie which fits such a long movie well. He is adept at both visual gore and implied violence which has a bigger impact on the viewer. DePalma could succeed where Oliver Stone failed with Alexander.

Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010) – Martin Scorsese always has great character development in his movies which is a sign that he uses dialogue well. However, he rushed the pace of the movie, and gave several obvious hints through dreams and character flaws that eventually spoiled the conclusion of the movie. In addition to this, instead of a deliberate unfurling of the plot, he just regurgitates it onto the screen in a monologue at the end of the film. Telling the audience what happened in a movie instead of revealing it, devalues the build-up of emotion that has progressed through the time in the theater. Alejandro Amenabar, the director of The Others, has an almost plodding delivery of plot. But, the reward of his methodical, calculated directing, is concise characterizations and overwhelming tension build up. He takes the necessary time to engage the viewer with his plot and lets them draw their own conclusions rather than shoving it at them at the close of the movie.

Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002) – The two movies that preceded Red Dragon were excellent films. Though Clarice Starling changed from Jodie Foster to Julianne Moore, and the director changed from Johnathon Demme to Ridley Scott from the first movie to the second, the level of acting by the cast and the storytelling of directors remained high. The plot and conflict of Red Dragon, however, got lost in the flashbacks of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s childhood. It was a muddled mess that tried to explain how Hannibal Lecter became the person that he was. Cameron Crowe specializes in expressing the interactions between characters in various situations, and he told an entire story as a dream in Vanilla Sky. He could hypothetically direct this movie to be as abstract as Vanilla Sky or easier to follow like Jerry Maguire with darker content.

The Golden Child (Micheal Ritchie, 1986) – Guillermo Del Toro is the only director to appear twice on this list. The Golden Child was just dark enough to be believable and just light enough to appeal to most people. However, most great movies do not appeal to the younger audiences, and Del Toro is capable of making this movie even darker and more fantastical. He excels with fairytale movies and has a credibility that has been unmatched since Star Wars. Where the original Golden Child is almost unwatchable near the end of the movie because of bad special effects, the revised version could be incomparable with the right effects. The only problem would be finding a star who was as captivating as Eddie Murphy in the starring role.

Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004) – The premise of the movie Troy was dynamic. The movie had good actors, an enormous amount of action, and an intriguing, and familiar story. But, it also had a confused plot, too many storylines, and poorly choreographed fight scenes. The plot of Troy was unclear, because there were too many side stories. Ultimately, the biggest star and the most engaging one, Brad Pitt, ended up being an intentional and ill-conceived tangent from the real plot of the film. The movie showed Achilles (Pitt’s character) to be the protagonist, but the story was really about conflict between Menelaus and Paris over the beautiful Helen. Muddled into this mess is Agamemnon’s desire to rule Troy and the conflict between Hector and Achilles. Ang Lee, the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is perfect for this movie. His fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are some of the most aesthetically beautiful scenes in cinematic history. His movies are poignant, but still entertaining.

Hopefully, the studios can take these suggestions, cut through the necessary red-tape, and get some of these concepts into production. There or so many great ideas for movies that never come to fruition for a plethora of reasons. But, movies are form of expression and artistry that will never be matched in the entertainment field and any idea to better the industry should be considered.