I absolutely despised horror films when I was younger. I simply could not fathom why anyone would want to watch a movie that shook them to their core and caused them to live in constant paranoia for days after, however my perspective of the horror genre changed when I started university. I am unsure of why; perhaps university turned me into a darker human being.
Just kidding. I really did begin watching horror films in university, though, and I continue to do so to this day. In fact, horror movies are my preferred film genre, and watching many of these films over the past couple of years has allowed me to recognize the specific criteria required to compose a successful horror film.
I would argue that music, filmography and suspense are the three key components to creating a strong horror film. Granted, you could say the same for any film genre, but I find these three categories to be the most flawed when it comes to corny horror flicks.
Music is absolutely essential in horror films, and by music I mean the limited presence of it or no music at all. One of the scariest films I have ever seen has absolutely zero music in it (The Blair Witch Project), and a thriller that comes to mind when conversing the power of music is Shutter Island. Music has to be so precise and specific in horror films, and using too much or the wrong type will undoubtedly throw off the feel of the film.
Camera angles are an additional force behind successful horror films. Mentioning The Blair Witch Project again, the use of the camera and the way the film is captured is absolutely enthralling and furthermore terrifying. Horror films require a specific approach to the camera that emphasizes small, subtle details, for example a figure looming in the darkness in the corner of a shot, and the way a horror movie is filmed is a tremendous component in whether or not is is believable and convincing.
Suspense is inevitable in horror movies, however the type of suspense that is depicted is what truly matters. Films that build suspense over the course of their duration at a slow and steady pace are the ones that typically most terrifying, and having too much suspense at once can ruin a film by portraying its climax too early on.
What are some of your favourite horror flicks? I am always on the hunt for a new thriller.