Some people hide their eyes during horror films. It’s understandable; things can get pretty frightful when it comes to watching such a gruesome genre. These films can chill to to your core. Disgust you beyond belief. Even haunt you for days, if not weeks, after watching.
But then there’s another group of people. A group that doesn’t hide their eyes. A bunch of horror fans so rabid to consume more blood, guts and gore that they keep themselves pressed up against the screen like the girl from Poltergeist, desperate to take in every ghastly detail.
With the new Insidious film having hit cinemas, and with the Helen Mirren-starring Winchester making it’s way to screens soon; we asked some of our writers, who just so happen to be that very brand of horror fan, what their favourite aspects of horror films are, and why:
When they subvert expectations – Angeline Trevena
We all know how horror movies go: happy-happy, first death, gore-blood-screams, killer caught or killed, happy-happy. You can almost set your watch by it. But sometimes a film comes along that breaks all that. For example, Wolf Creek, where that initial happy-happy lasts forever. And it’s tense and terrifying even though nothing’s happening. Because we know it’s overdue. The movie plays with us, messes with our expectations. And we can’t trust it anymore. We can’t trust that things will return to happy-happy because it’s not following the convention for that. It’s like when a character closes a bathroom cabinet and there’s not a face in the mirror. We lose the security of familiarity, and it’s all the scarier for it.
When it maintains the mystery – Colin Oxford
Horror writers take heed and repeat after me: ‘The Less You Reveal, The More People Wonder’. Recite it before you sleep at night, chant it to yourself in the bath, tattoo it to your face.
Never disclose the beast too soon. All our deepest fears have potential; the dark attic, under the bed, the unfamiliar clang downstairs at midnight. Sure, seeing a masked maniac at your kitchen window is going to give you the wobbles, but where does your fear go from there? It’s plateaued. Signs, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Predator, Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project, Get Out, even Alien knew how to do this. Look what happens when you do reveal the monster too early – Blair Witch (2017), Jason X and Alien: Covenant. Now repeat after me….
When it shows you something eerily familiar – Sam Haxwell
In a genre where horrific looking monsters and ghosts are used as an easy tactic to scare their audience, some even having supernatural powers, nothing scares me more than the eerie familiarity of knowing the villain is someone you could pass on the street (see: Eden Lake, 1 Hour Photo, The Frozen Ground).
Hannibal Lector, for me, is the ultimate movie psychopath; someone who sends chills down your spine as he stares intently into the camera. As you watch Silence of the Lambs you can feel uneasy during and after watching, knowing that this isn’t a monster you can shrug off and say “It’s just a movie” – these people exist in real life and could be your doctor, friend, or even relative. It’s a smart move to make when writing a script, because the characters live inside your head forever and never leave.
When the monster has a deeper meaning – Rai Jayne Hearse
I find it fascinating when monsters are used within horror and the Gothic to signify “the other”, as it is not too difficult then to recognise these monsters as queer in every sense of the word. Throughout the 20th Century (and sometimes still today) homosexuals, much like our well-known movie monsters, have been forced to live out their lives hidden away in ‘shadowy closets’ and when or if they dare to ‘come out’ into the daylight they tend to incite panic and fear within their societies. The idea of the ‘Queer Monster’ can be read in countless horror films but none more so than the tale of Frankenstein and his Monster. James Whale’s seminal Frankenstein (1931), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and even Edward Scissorhands (1990), to name a few, all feature eroticised birthing scenes, often followed by the disgust, shame, rejection or abandonment of the creation and ends with destruction of both monster and creator – is this a warning from society about the dangers of living outside the heteronormative ideal? You decide.
When it mind-fucks you – Tim Birkbeck
When people think of horror films they jump to the blood, guts and gore. But for me what really makes a good horror film isn’t monsters or ghouls, but rather the fear that can be instilled in someone by a simple action or sentence. Having the feeling of being psychologically challenged in what can be mundane everyday situations.
For me, its not the element of being scared that makes a good horror film, it is digging your finger nails into your chair being petrified of what might happen to the protagonist on the screen.
Two modern day examples of this done incredibly well are Hush and Get Out. In Hush, the fact the narrative is driven by the lack of sound and is isolated in one area, is for me the perfect film which made my whole body tense up. As for Get Out, the racial undertones are one thing, but the desire to literally shout “Get Out” at the screen shows that director Jordan Peele knows how to get into his audience’s head.