I love horror movies. I feel like horror movies combine the best and worst of film making – the best thing about movies is how much they can affect you emotionally, and horror movies provide that in spades. The worst thing about movies is that there are so many cheap ways to provoke a reaction in the audience – a reaction that isn’t earned. Horror films are constantly guilty of this.
The thing is, even the worst horror films can be scary in parts. Human beings are programmed by evolution to react with fear in certain situations. Surprise a person with a sudden loud noise or sudden movement, and it’s in their DNA to respond with fear – that’s why we have the term ‘Fight-or-flight’. This type of fear is cheap, and the horror films that use jump scares are often complete trash from a filmmaking perspective.
The very best horror movies are those that linger with you for days afterwards – the ones that make you think. If a movie can ‘incept’ itself into your head – that’s when I think a horror movie has been successful. To me, it’s easy to get people scared in the cinema. The difference between a run-of-the-mill horror film and a good horror film is that the good horror film keeps you up at night, or makes you leave the lights on when you go to bed.
There have only been a handful of half decent horror films in the past couple of years. One movie that garnered a lot of attention was The Babadook – and while I enjoyed that film, I honestly didn’t think it was that scary.
I think Hollywood should draw inspiration from the hugely popular ‘creepypastas’ that are floating around the internet these days. For those of you who don’t know, a creepypasta is basically a viral horror short story. They get started on places like 4chan or reddit, and then they the successful ones tend to spread rapidly and within a couple of months everybody who uses the internet knows about the story. Ever heard of slender man? That was originally a creepypasta.
The thing that these stories do really well is they’re unsettling. It’s not really possible to produce cheap jump-scares in the written form, so you actually have to craft a genuinely creepy and sinister narrative. This is probably how a lot of scary urban legends got started as well – things like the Bloody Mary game or the idea of a Oujia Board – these were essentially stories that went viral pre-internet.
I’m not saying that Hollywood should just take these stories and make movies out of them – I’m suggesting that the film industry should draw inspiration from the tone and narrative style of these kinds of viral horror short stories. Forget the cheap thrills – horror films should strike at the core of a person, and linger in their thoughts for at least a couple of nights afterwards.
Anyways, that’s all from me. If you want to read a whole bunch of these creepypastas, go to reddit’s no sleep subreddit. If you want to read more about urban legends, one of my favorite horror sites, Play With Death, recently did a rundown of the 10 scariest urban legends. They also have reasonably good reviews of horror films/video games (and books, but I don’t really read horror books).