10 Awesome Tips For Filmmakers From Horror Heavyweights

Thursday 25 October 2018

With the awesome success of the Halloween sequel recently released - on top of horror hits such as Get Out, Happy Death Day and Hereditary - Horror is a genre BURSTING with emerging talent and new concepts demanding to be recognised. 

Obviously as a horror enthusiast, fan and writer - I think this is great news! 

So, let's turn to the OG's of the horror genre and learn the top 10 tips they have to share:

'For me, what usually makes a horror sequence scary is the journey not the destination.' James Wan

It's true! The gory death just won't satisfy audiences with the pay off it deserves - WITHOUT engaging them first. Audiences are SO on the ball with what they like, what they expect and what they KNOW will happen! 

'A lot of life is dealing with your curse, dealing with the cards you were given that aren't so nice. Does it make you into a monster, or can you temper it in some way, or accept it and go in some other direction?' Wes Craven

Exactly this! Remember the old saying, write what you know? Well you can still do that - but translate this into your story in a way that is exciting and VISUAL for an audience. 

A great horror often gives the audience a concept that while played out in unfamiliar territory - ie. being stalked by a serial killer - is still a familiar  and relatable fear or threat. 

We ALL have fears, a primal instinct to run, hide or fight for survival. 

Play with these ideas and have fun with coming up with what you're going to scare your audience with!

'Natural disasters are terrifying - that loss of control, this feeling that something is just going to randomly end your life for absolutely no reason is terrifying. But, what scares me is the human reaction to it and how people behave when the rules of civility and society are obliterated.' Eli Roth

Look to what it is about your story that has HUMAN elements which the audience can connect with. What's the emotional hook and how are you going to maximise the fears through these relationships in the story arc? 

'If you are still thinking about a script after five or ten years, that's a sign that it's good - not that it's stale. And the opposite is true - if everyone wants to make your movie, that's a sign that it probably sucks. ' Jason Blum

Timing is everything in this industry - and sometimes that great idea is worth hanging onto if you really can't bear parting with it!

BUT do you research and make sure your project is relevant to the gap in the market before you pitch. Like any genre, what's marketable is always changing so stay in the know!

Think about the type of horror film you'd like to make - and If you're not totally sure on whether your project is a Thriller or Horror then I'd definitely suggest checking out Bang2Write's fab article HERE!

'I like something where I can really use my imagination and be an active participant in the construction of the monster and usually that's in the world of the supernatural or the world of the fantastic, so that's why those kinds of stories about demons and the supernatural appeal to me or maybe I'm really interested in that subject.' Sam Raimi

What are you passionate about? WHY do you want to write this horror film?  WHAT message do you have to say or give the audience? Take this all into consideration when writing your horror project. 

'There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.' Alfred Hitchcock

Take it from the pro! The build-up to the big kill or reveal has SO much potential to play with when it comes to really drawing out the suspense and amping up the tension. Let it sizzle, enjoy the anticipation and hit the audience where it really hurts - when they LEAST expect it! 

I say 'spectacle' rather than 'story' because in the end, it isn't the intricacies of narrative that draw us to horror films. When it's there, I'm grateful for the director's skill at telling an exquisitely nuanced tale filled with psychological insight, but it is the spectacles that I take home with me. Clive Barker

SCREENwriting - it's all about the VISUALS! When you think back to your favourite horror film - what really stood out to you? That memorable death scene? When Samara climbed out of the TV set? EXACTLY! It stays with you! 

Think of some of your own scenes that you can create, that not only SERVES the narrative and characters but also lingers with the audience long after they've finished watching. 

Make them DREAD what could be lurking in the dark...

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