After watching the brutal Rob Zombie remake of Halloween 2 (a film that had far too little Angela Trimbur for my taste), I was struck out how un-terrifying the film actually was. Despite its extravogent gore levels and vicious kills, I found the whole thing rather… uninspired.

Frankly… it just wasn’t SCARY. But why? Unfortunately like most great chefs, Rob Zombie fell victim to the cardinal sin of falling in love with one ingredient instead of utilizing all six essential genre categories.

FEAR
This is the simplest and most obvious. Create a situation/enviornment for an audience to dread. Small isolated towns. Emergency situations. Captivity. Fear is essentially created by one’s lack of control. Couple that with an iconic, unstoppable “boogeyman” and the uphill battle your hero is about to undertake will be quite daunting.

TENSION
Now that you’ve built your setting, you actually need to know how to use it EFFECTIVELY.Tension is about understand your stakes and stretching them to the limit. You have to know how to use STILLNESS and TIME as a weapon. Don’t be afraid to WAIT. It’s a balancing act, but if you pull it off… your film will be better for it. There is a world of difference between “Event Horizon” and “Alien”.

BRUTALITY
If you’ve done your job correctly, a violent act will illustrate the power of your antagonist, the consequences of failure and tap into an audiences’ empathy. But too much of a good thing can be simply numbing. (Yes. I’m looking at you, Mr. Zombie.) 

GORE
This ingredient is perhaps the most artistic element at your disposal. Depending on the desired tone, it can be used to terrify, entertain, or even sicken. But it can also be used as a vital comedic tool. A few drops of blood. Terrifying. But rivers of blood can be hilarious.

HUMOR
It takes a lot out of an audience to sit in a dark room
for two hours and watch horrorific event after horrific event. So even the most depressing, vial, sordid,
blood-gushing horror epic needs a breather once in awhile. It provides for the natural rythmn and release, forges valuable audience relationships, and the “sweet” always makes the “sour” that much more satisfying.

SEXUALITY

Like it or not, movies are as much a service industry as they are an
art form. And the horror boom began as an explotation genre. For
example, imagine a kung-fu film with no “kicking”. Could it work? Sure.
But it’s not utilizing all of its potential. When
used effectively, sexuality can reveal character, further the plot and
even create tension. Although most
suxuality is simply shoehorned in to please the hormone-driven
masses… pandering to your audience isn’t always a bad thing.

Any ordinary movie can satisfy one of these elements and a decent film can utilize two or three, but in order to make a horror film that satisfies audience across the board, you MUST at least address all of this criteria… and hopefully in moderation.

Hit me back. Until next time…