Horror has always been an odd fascination for me. Odd because my usual taste in movies is nothing like it. Romcoms, Disney movies and an occasional action-thriller would be my go-to on weekend rather than a horror movie. I never really liked it because I don’t like being scared and I’m a big fan of being able to sleep through the night!
Yet the entire genre of horror holds a distinct allure. Starting right from the black background of the Creepypasta page to the eerie music in movies right before you see the monster (or ghost, or psycho you get the picture), it has its own ways of drawing you in.
So this quarantine, I took the time to run an experiment. In my defence, people do lots of dumb things when they’re bored. Watching a whole string of horror movies and short films and scaring myself to death was just my way to go about it! This was just to see what is so lovable yet detestable about the whole genre.
Protagonists being Dumb
Slasher movies are a wildly popular genre of horror films. Nothing better than a murderous psycho after a group of friends to get your adrenaline up and running. While this is fun to watch, this genre also gave birth to the trope of dumb horror characters who make the worst possible decisions and get themselves killed. And there are just too many of these characters!
Child’s Play features Chucky, the creepy little doll, which could have actually been destroyed if it had been thrown into the fire when Karen had the chance in the first movie. But did that happen? Nope. Which is why he has 6 movies, a TV series and 2 short films since.
And we have The Ring. This has to be the worst decision made in a horror movie. Because you need to watch the tape for anything to happen, and there is a fair warning that you will die 7 days from watching it. And yet every time, the characters watch it.
But at this point, it wouldn’t be a slasher movie if you don’t see the characters making dumb decisions. And you wouldn’t have a movie franchise without these decisions. I can’t deny that it is fun to throw popcorn at the screen, or boo when you see something like this!
The Suspense Build
Every horror film’s most important feature. The Suspense Build is what draws you into the story. Most horror films start with an innocuous setting. A normal neighbourhood, a group of teenagers just having fun, and many more. They have you relate and put yourself in the situation, and then slowly make it more and more unsettling. In the best cases, so unsettling that you want something to happen just to make the creepy music stop.
One of the best suspense builds I’ve seen so far, is from the movie Get Out. They artfully use the racial tensions between Chris and Rose’s family to establish the unsettling feeling. Along with the behaviours of the other black people, this feeling only rises, and the payoff is incredible!
Short films have a unique way of building tension just because they have only a short time to achieve the same level of tension. They use it to their advantage and build up to a one-off scare. This is what makes films like, Lights Out very popular, even though its feature length version wasn’t as popular.
When the tension builds, and the monster appears suddenly! It’s a Jump Scare. It either has you screaming or gives you a mild heart attack. Either way, this is how most suspense builds in horror usually ends.
And personally, I hate it. As a person who watches Coco, Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, even the lamest of jump scare spook me a lot.
He Dies at The End is a good short film alright. Spoiler alert again, the jump scare is extremely bad and yet this was the one that scared me the most out of all the films I’ve seen!
The Nun’s jumpscares are said to be the worst in the Conjuring series, but they still get me every single time.
Fear vs. Terror
Jump scares scare us. They instil a sense of fear in us. But the best horror movies are the ones that inspire terror. Fear is momentary. It comes in the minute the monster jumps out at you and lets you go. But terror is what stays in a corner of your mind. Terror is what makes every window creak, every thud you hear creepier than before you watched the movie. Terror is what has been hounding me since I started with this experiment.
Every horror movie has its hold on you in the night until you fall asleep. A Nightmare on Elm’s Street makes you afraid of even that. A good watch if you want to properly terrified by a slasher movie.
The Blair Witch Project creates reality through the documentary footage of 3 students. The terrifying part is how real they make it seem, from the shaky camera angles to the voices in the woods, you see the protagonists scared of the unknown and you are right there with them!
Horror as a genre has given us many night terrors but it is also thrilling to experience such unnatural things through film! While I will definitely go back to my usual collection of feel-good movies, and calm myself for the next few days, I’ve grown to love it for what it is. A thrilling genre to tells stories in. And sometimes you get a surprisingly deep meaning from it. Everything from the 70s slashers to the modern psychological horrors will have a place in my watch list now!