Monday, 31 October 2011

Oh, the Horror!

October means horror. But, as I’m sure you know, there is a lot of rubbish out there. For every well crafted horror film there are ten films set in a forest with way too much nudity and gore. Believe it or not, horror is fairly easy to write, at least the horror parts are, anyway. The shocks come from simply recreating the fear you might have felt when realising you’re about to zip up your jeans without making sure everything’s tucked in. Or when you wake up and realise somebody’s on the computer and you haven’t cleared your browsing history. And, if that is what it was all about, the Saw franchise and The Human Centipede would be perfect horrors. But there’s more to really scaring people than guys jumping out of places and nasty violence. And horror comics are a little more difficult. Writers can’t rely on guys jumping out of places, since we can see it coming. So why do books like 30 Days of Night and Welcome to Hoxford send a chill down your spine? Why are they able to make you afraid? In my opinion there are hundreds of different things you need to focus on when writing horror but o three core ones really stand out. You may have a different opinion and that’s fine. You’re just wrong. Setting The setting is very important in horror. It needs to be somewhere that the protagonist can’t escape. He or she should not be in their element, at least, not until the end if you want the protagonist to live. 30 Days of Night has one of the best settings in horror, in my opinion. Snowy dark places aren’t anything new but Steve Niles came up with the idea of sticking vampires in there. It’s dark for a month and the residents of Barrow cannot escape. It’s claustrophobic, it’s dark and Templesmith’s art makes it creepy and dirty, in a goody way. Small town horrors are often my favourite but there are plenty of other setting to use effectively. Some horrors are set in a street while some are set all across a country. All you need to do is prevent your characters from leaving alive. The Protagonist We’ve all sat and watched a horror flick where a bunch of generic, half naked teens get killed and the only one who lives was just a bit nicer than the others. But do we care about them? Short shocks work fine but to create a real sense of fear and urgency, you need to create a character that your audience cares about. Great characters like Mac from The Thing, Eben from 30 Days of Night and so on are great examples of characters that make us care. We want them to survive so our hearts beat in our throats and our hair stands up on end when they’re in trouble. The Thing Copyright © Universal Pictures The Antagonist The big nasty! I’m sure you’ve heard that the less you see, the scarier the bad guy is, right? That’s due to man’s basic fear of the unknown. But let’s not hide everything; it’s nice to see big monsters tearing people apart. As long as the very idea and design of the monster preys on basic human fears. The Thing preys on our paranoia while Alien is supposed to represent a penis or something. But it looks freaky and cool. The cloverfield monsters were a letdown, remember? It was hyped all over the internet and we expected something incredible and when we saw them in all their “glory” it wasn’t so scary. So be creative. So, there we have it! Horror isn’t all about the mess and jumping. There are lots of ways to make people fill their pants.

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