Scary movies - Discussion

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Alex Spindler, Jun 29, 2003.

  1. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    As an offshoot to the 28 Days Later thread, I thought it might be a good exercise to discuss scary movies. No so much which movies are scary to you (or perhaps that none are), but what it is that makes them scary.

    I was giving this some thought because the feedback from some was that the film wasn't scary. I recall similar discussion and feedback from a number of releases like The Ring.

    Now, it would seem to me that there are some portion of the audience that would never be scared by a movie. Perhaps its just that they're immune to any manipulation on the part of a director or screenwriter or that they're jaded by other films they've seen, but they would never proclaim a film scary.

    There are others who may likely be scared by anything. Any trick in the book is effective for them and some have sworn off of horror movies and thrillers for just that reason.

    For the rest of us, somewhere in the middle, I would expect that there are some things that work and some that don't. I would be interested in hearing what makes a film scary for you. Or, if you're one of the former category, the reason why you don't think it works or if you think you would ever be scared by a film.

    For me, I don't find myself as susceptible to jump scares as I used to. For me, a scary movie is one that makes me tense up and feel like I've been through a wringer the whole film. This is almost always done because the environments of the film feel dangerous. Any time when the film has cranked up the tension and the characters are dropped in a place where anything could happen, I would call that an excellent scary scene. Example include heading into the house in The Blair Witch Project, walking into Reagan's bedroom for the showdown in The Exorcist, or dropping down into the Well in The Ring.

    What are your thoughts? Can films be frightening? Do you think its possible that the current generation is inoculated against being afraid any more outside of a few well placed jump scares? What would you consider "scary" in a film?
     
  2. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    It seems that the use of jump inducing moments has taken over the horror genre. Rather than making something scary (disturbing, unsettling, etc), screenwriters and directors go for quick scares. I haven't been very scared by anything since I was little (specifically Halloween), but I have found many recent movies disturbing. Ring (and it's American brother The Ring) both left me pretty disturbed, as did 28 Days Later. If anything has scared me recently, it's undoubtedly May. I had a hard time sleeping after that.

    I find that I can go back and watch older flicks and still get scared. Examples would be Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, Halloweeen, and some others...but not to many movies are made that way anymore.
     
  3. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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  4. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

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    As a seasoned horror fanatic, I'm not the easiest person to scare, but certain things do scare me. The one thing that gets me every time is the terrifying unknown. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is the scariest film I have ever seen because it uses the fear of the unknown to tremendous effect, and the film is so bleak and unnerving because of it. I have honestly never been so truly terrified by a film, so this one really did a number on me. From the horrifying occurances that occur at night to the more subtle dread causing effects (like the fact that when they first enter the woods, you can hear all sorts of animals, but the deeper into the woods they get, everything is dead silent and there are no animals in sight), I was scared shitless. I still have a hard time rewatching the film to this day.

    Another film that scared me by using the unknown was the fantastic BLACK CHRISTMAS. The killer's truly disturbed rantings over the phone never fail to scare the shit out of me, as they prove how disturbed this psycho is. The fact that we never see the killer or find out his identity makes matters all the more frightening.
    Its just a masterful film, and is easily the scariest and best slasher film ever made.

    PRINCE OF DARKNESS is another film that frightens me greatly throughout. The film is just so perfectly done by Carpenter, and the atmosphere and the creepy as hell plot its self really get under my skin.

    Several other films have scared me on a good number of occasions as well in different ways. I agree with Holadem about the first half of IDENTITY, as I was very unnerved for the exact reason he was. The freaky ghost in the dog suit from THE SHINING creeps the hell out of me as well, as do several scenes in JAWS, THE HITCHER, THE THING, and so many others. Simply put, certain things really get to me, while lots of things don't at all.
     
  5. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    Real Name:
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    Holadem wrote (post #3):

     
  6. BertFalasco

    BertFalasco Supporting Actor

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    Glitter.

    Scared the shite out of me from beginning to end..even the credits..considering I have never seen it.
     
  7. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    I agree with Holadem about Scream. I found it to work well as a horror comedy (obviously with plenty of good self-referential stuff), but also as a very good horror movie. I was watching it the other night, and it still disturbs me to see Billy and Stu stabbing themselves at the end. The brutal lengths that these guys are willing to go is pretty horrifying.
     
  8. Raymond_H

    Raymond_H Stunt Coordinator

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    For me personally, I don't want to be scared.

    I don't think I would find it enjoyable if something frightens me while watching a movie. Though, I have never experienced that emotion while watching a movie.

    I think the right word for me in describing these situations is tense moments. I love tense moments. These may include a pivotal character in peril, an event where something happens to a character. These to me is what I like in "Scary Movies".

    A good example is Hitchcock's Psycho, throughout the whole movie I was intrigued. And during the shower scene, I wasn't scared, I was on the edge of my seat so to speak with peak interest.

    I find situations the best in these type of movies.


    Raymond
     
  9. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    Signs had me shaking throughout the second half.
     
  10. DanielM

    DanielM Stunt Coordinator

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    I think that it depends on so many things how a movie effects you..to actually scare it has to be believable and while I love horror and scary movies not too many qualify..
    with that said I dig movies with dark creepy foreboding
    helpless atmosphere like TCM and NotLD..The first time I saw BWP I thought it was fantastic however I dont feel it warrants repeat viewing because it loses impact somehow
    same with the Sixth Sense
     
  11. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Great thread, Alex. As a lifelong horror animal you knew I'd drop in for a chat.

    Perhaps it's just the overuse of the word "scary". I found a few moments of 28 Days Later pretty shocking. Sections of The Ring are very unsettling. The Others? Creepy thanks to atmosphere.

    Then of course there's "scary" as in "gross and disgusting" (one of my favorites [​IMG] ), "emotionally disturbing" or just plain old "horrifying". I feel no shame in admitting that the last few minutes of The Blair Witch Project gave me an ice-cold feeling up my spine. It was just the nightmarish vagueness of it that spooked me. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is scary because it looks like an actual documentary. Frailty is scary because the lunatic slowly starts to make sense! May is scary because we've all felt lonely and abandoned and needy. Cabin Fever is scary because it's unapologetically gooey and you really don't know what physically repugnant thing is going to happen next. (A scene involving a girl shaving her legs is the stuff of Gorehound delight.)

    As far as "cheap scares" go (cats jumping through windows, dead bodies tumbling out of the trees, etc.) I'm pretty much totally immune. Maybe it's because I've seen so many horror movies or maybe it's because I'm a cynical old fart nowadays, but a movie has to really set a tone before I can feel scared. Though all three are entertaining in their own right, not one of the Scream movies scared me in any way.

    And then there's the sort of scary that comes outside the realm of horror. The Day After, Testament and When the Wind Blows scared the hell out of me once upon a time. Several sequences in A Clockwork Orange are fairly disturbing. And forgive me for sounding over-sensitive, but Bowling for Columbine is pretty damn scary for what it has to say.

    Short answer: yes, I'm happy to say that I can still be scared by a movie. Not only that, but it's one of my most favorite occurences in the world. But the filmmakers have to earn it; those cheap jolts generally earn my disdain, but a movie that creeps me out from tone and emotion and astmosphere...well that's a movie I'll probably freaking love.
     
  12. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    From a pure horror standpoint, it does seem funny that what works for one film often fails for another. I don't think you can really plug in a formula.

    Certainly characters going into a dark room, outside at night, etc. is going to be a little troubling, although sometimes I become more imune when the characters are behaving stupidly - as in the only reason that character would go wherever they are going is because the writer wrote it...you can almost here the character saying "I'm going to do what? Fuck that." [​IMG]

    That "going into danger" scare works in much of The Others (the piano room got me good) and in the well-scene of The Ring.

    I think leaving plenty up to the imagination is a big key too, though that is hardly a groundbreaking statement.

    I also find it disturbing to see distorted versions of the human body. When Freddie's arms stretched across the alley in Nightmare 1, that scared me. A slightly different version of this is the captured zombie in 28 Days Later.

    And I find it more scary when characters behave logically, sometimes even systematically, and they still cannot escape the terror. That adds a certain realism to it for me and allows me to more easily fit into their place. Blair Witch and Prince of Darkness both get me on that account. Lots of people were not disturbed by the children's attack on the tent in Blair Witch...I guess because they are used to having their tent assulted out in the middle of nowhere. [​IMG] IMO, those people need to sit down and watch Deliverence again. [​IMG]

    PoDarkness had so many good scientific moments like the ending image (the dream communication method). Those allow me to say "if something crazy like this were to happen, it probably would be a lot like this".

    In that way the first Omen really got me too.

    Also, TCM has that "this might be how it would go" thing going for it that makes it very disturbing and scary.


    I think jump scares are now used to break tension more than to scare the audience.



    Oh, since Hitch has been mentioned he has scared me on a number of occassions, though rarely in a horror sense. I found it truly frightening when Burr realizes that Stewart is watching him in Rear Window. In fact I also found it horrorfying when Stewart was unable to help Grace Kelly when she went over to Burr's place. And I do think the image of a person coming up behind the shower curtain is a pretty scary one in Psycho. But more often than not his images are thrills more than chills, and he was the master of those thrills.
     
  13. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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  14. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I’m in complete agreement with a film like A Clockwork Orange, Scott. That film disturbs me every time I see it.

    There are a lot of others in the same category. It is not so much just being scared by something jumping out from behind something, but rather the thought that certain things could really happen (as in ‘Clockwork Orange’).
     
  15. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

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    Thanks for all the participation guys. I'm glad to see we're not all jaded to the point we can't enjoy a good scary movie.


    I'll definitely agree about the tent scene from The Blair Witch Project. It was, IMO of course, a brilliant use of so many tried and true methods for scaring people. The unsettling darkness where you truly can't see anything (anyone who has camped can attest to the disquiet you get when there is almost no light anywhere compared to the city where it is hard to find true darkness), the creepy laughter of children where there should be no children, the attack itself which is unfocused and disorienting, and the run for safety (but where to run to). Actually, the run is probably the most brilliant part because you even get Heather screaming, "what is that? What the fuck is that?!?" to convince you even more that something is there.


    In reading some of the responses, perhaps the real problem is that the term "scary" is used in a way that most would not think of. In real life, many situations can be scary, such as being at great heights, or under threat from something.

    In my thinking, "scary" in a film sense refers to the ability of a film to place its characters in situations where I fear for their safety and I can relate well enough that it would trigger the flight response. When Micheal Myers appears in shadow in the doorway behind someone, I tense up and the urge to run (by way of wanting the character to run) is brought forth. That makes it scary.

    Now, when a character puts themselves in danger almost intentionally ("you two stay here with the weapons while I go down in the basement to check the blown fuses with nothing but a soggy bunch of matches"), I don't have near the sympathy for the character and get angry at them instead. When they get what is coming to them, there isn't much tension because they brought it on themselves. Maybe Seth nailed it on the head that the worst/best of horror comes from people doing the right things and still being in danger. Who wouldn't feel scared if trying to outthink a dangerous situation still leaves you out of control and in reach of some fatal danger.

    I'm reminded of the "testing" scene from The Thing. The characters take an extremely logical approach to this by testing carefully and using logic to try and deduce who was "it" and using the test to prove it. Even with this effort, they still have casualties because the threat comes out of nowhere. It also helps that the director had the tension dialed up to 11 and make the end result scary and ugly. I know I was squirming in my seat when the whole bench starts to vibrate.


    On a related note, do you think it is possible that more of the audience is unscarable (is that even a word)? I think to the people/A-holes ([​IMG]) in an audience who laugh during genuine attempts to disturb the audience, the spoofing and ham-handed attempts to scare them through the 80's and 90's has programmed them to react to it with only laughter. It wouldn't be so bad if they simply missed out on the experience of a scary movie, but they unintentionally release the tension in the audience and possibly damage the experience for them as well.

    Of course, during my view of 28 Days Later, one guy laughed at When Jim found his mother and father dead at home
    . But he was totally quiet when Jim, almost acting with as much rage as an infected himself, drives his thumbs into the soldier's eyes.

    I am, of course, only half kidding about the A-Holes comment. For some, unintentional laughter is a possible response. This is more for the people who actively try to laugh during such scenes.
     
  16. Hunter P

    Hunter P Screenwriter

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    Children are freaking scary.

    You got The Omen, The Exorcist, Children of the Corn, et al.

    Make it a little girl in a dress an I'm even more freaked (especially if they have an English accent.) For example:

    --Sixth Sense When the boy's tent falls apart and the little girl appears right in front of him.

    --The Others "But I am your daughter."

    --The Shining The Twins at the end of the hall.

    --The Ring Samara, natch. But the little boy with the raccoon eyes was creepy too.[​IMG]


    Filmmakers are becoming more aware of the scare power of little girls in dresses. Most recently the movie Ghost Ship tried to harness this power but without success. If they would have made the little girl the killer then I am sure it would have been scary as all hell![​IMG]
     
  17. Andy Sheets

    Andy Sheets Cinematographer

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  18. Matt Stone

    Matt Stone Lead Actor

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    I had forgotten about the testing scene in The Thing...that definitely scared me. Even though it's a relatively short scene, with the tension level so high, it feels like it goes on for hours.

    I agree with real characters in real situations being scary. That's definitely why Halloween scared me so much. To a lesser extent, Halloween 2 was able to create some of this terror as well. Most of the killings are pretty lame in the movie, but the thought of being in a deserted hospital with a killer lurking around has always horrified me. The shots of Michael walking down the hallways always creeps me out.

    I was thinking more about the Scream movies, and the Drew Barrymore killing really works well at the beginning of the first film. Now that I've seen the movie countless times, it doesn't shock me, but the first time I watched it, the unflinching sadism really got to me. Another bit of good tension, IMO, is in Scream 2 when the killer is on the phone with Sarah Michelle Geller. It ends with a typical jump scare, but the shot of the killer sneaking in the door behind the two girls always gets me.
     
  19. Andy Olivera

    Andy Olivera Screenwriter

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    The whole problem with BWP is that, while going through such an experience would no doubt be scary, watching it is not. It may just be me, but not for a moment was I ever drawn into the film, thanks primarily to the faux-documentary style and being involved is essential to a film's effectiveness.
     
  20. Dan M

    Dan M Second Unit

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    I think horror films have gotten a little better here lately.

    It seems horror took somewhat of a downside in the 90's compared to the 80's.

    But for me the most unsettling, truest sense of dread I've experienced was Blair Witch. I had trouble sleeping for days after that one.

    Interesting though about Blair Witch. This is a film you either love or you hate. I know people who thought it wasn't scary at all. Some folks need to see the cause of the horror in a film a guess. Not seeing it makes it that much more scary and believable I think.

    I like the THE OTHERS a lot also. Best ghost story I've seen in a long time.

    I also can't say enough good things about SESSION 9. Great atmosphere and filmed on location at the abandoned Danvers Mental Institute. How would you like to prowl the hallways in that place after dark?

    What makes a film truly scary to me has to be a sense of dread throughout.

    Looking forward to MAY
     

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