renee-zellweger-new-face-2013Renee Zellweger?

Horror has a certain power over me that I can’t explain. So primal is my need to be scared that I will watch every studio horror film released. It’s why I went to see Annabelle. It’s why I’m going to see Ouija this weekend. Do I think Ouija is going to be a good film? Hmmm. Will Renee Zellweger ever look like herself again? The answer to both questions is, of course, no. But if I can get just a couple of scares out of the viewing, I’ll be happy.

Having said that, deep down, I’m always hoping that this is going to be “the one,” that rare horror movie that doesn’t just titillate, but resonates. After reading the awesome “February” yesterday, I asked myself, “What is it that makes a good horror script?” How do you achieve that rare feat of going beyond the scares and giving the reader a fully-rounded experience, like how one feels after watching “The Exorcist” or “The Sixth Sense?”

I don’t know. But looking back at the horror films/shows/scripts I’ve liked recently (The Walking Dead, Mama, Honeymoon) and comparing them to the ones I hated (Annabelle, Oculus), there do seem to be some consistent threads in each. So I wanted to highlight those so you horror writers can give this thing a proper go. This shouldn’t be considered a final list. I’m far from a horror aficionado. But these should give you a baseline on how to get horror right.

Honeymoon_web_1Honeymoon

Go in with higher expectations – One of the problems plaguing horror is it’s the genre with the lowest expectations. People see horror mostly as a vehicle to throw cheap scares and gore at the screen. Writers pick up on this and, as a result, set the bar low for themselves. Once you’ve done this, you’ve basically guaranteed your script will be bad. Treat horror just like you would a drama. Aim high and deep. I don’t care if you’re “only” writing a slasher movie. Try to make it the best slasher movie ever. There are few things as depressing as reading a lazily written horror script.

Deep characters – Remember this simple rule. If we don’t care about the characters (love’em or hate’em), we won’t care what happens when they’re put in danger. You cannot illicit fear from apathy. The reader must have a strong feeling about the characters one way or the other. So before you write your horror script, spend a LOT of time building your characters. Figure out their backstories, their fears, their flaws, their broken relationships. What is it they need to overcome in this journey? The more you build into your character, the more likely we’ll care about them.

Tie the scares to the characters – The horror and the scares in your screenplay should not be mutually exclusive. They should be designed around one another. In other words, try to connect your character’s fear to the horror at hand. In Mama, the step-mother’s fear is love, is getting close to these children. The scares in the movie then, surround this ghost mother who wants the girls back. The step-mother will have to learn to love the girls in order to save them. The closer you can connect the scares and the character’s own issues, the more impact the scares will have.

AE_Mama_blogspotcom

Original scares – Cliché scares are one of the most abused practices in horror writing. And this goes back to the first tip. Expectations need to be higher. If you’ve seen the scare before, DON’T USE IT. Or, at the very least, find a way to update it. One of the things that really annoyed me about Annabelle was the old-timey record player that kept turning on. Give. Me. A break. This is pure laziness. The Walking Dead is really good at spinning old cliches. We’ve all seen the scene where our characters have to pick up supplies at the supermarket but zombies are lurking about. Well, two seasons ago, they had a scene where the ceiling crashed in and all the zombies on the roof dropped down, trapping our heroes. Or this season, they had a scene where they had to get the food in a flooded storage basement, adding a unique challenge (walking in waste-high water) and type of zombie (a “floatie”).  It’s never easy to sit down and challenge yourself for hours to come up with something new and original. You feel like you should be writing instead, and that you’re wasting time. But when you put in that extra effort and DO find an original scare or a new spin on an old scare, it makes your script so much better.

Be truthful – Don’t force illogical truths into your story just to get scares. When you do that, you’re being dishonest and bending the rules of reality to fit your plot. Instead, you should always try and be truthful, to offer reality. The more realistic the world you create is, the more we’re going to suspend our disbelief. One of the biggest problems with Annabelle was that the doll was the creepiest fucking doll in the universe. It looked like the picture-perfect version of a what a movie possessed doll would look like (and nothing like the actual doll it was based on). If that was it, I’d say fine.  But where you’re being dishonest is having the mother character want it in the first place.  Who in their right mind would want a doll like this?  “Hey hubby? Can you grab me the creepiest fucking doll you can find for my collection?” Yeah right. There was nothing truthful about this plot point, and if you lie like this to the audience too many times, they call you on your bullshit and check out.

Atmosphere – You saw me talking about this yesterday with “February.” Horror is about atmosphere. It’s never just about walking into a room. It’s about the mood in the room. It’s about what’s creating that mood. Are the heating pipes banging obnoxiously behind the walls? Are there ice crystals forming on the window due to the -12 degree temperatures outside? Is your hero scratching at that annoying rash on his arm that won’t go away? Don’t be afraid to show those dead flakes of skin falling to the ground either. Atmosphere can be your best friend in a horror script when done right.

Loss of control – One of the scariest feelings for most people is a complete loss of control. Prey on this fear. As your story maneuvers through its plot, your characters should have less and less control over the situation. And at some point, they should have no control at all. They should feel completely helpless. Look at movies like The Exorcist, Human Centipede, and the little known Aussie film, The Loved Ones. Our fear is based almost exclusively on the helplessness of the main characters.

950-M-Loved-OnesThe Loved Ones

Build – Horror movies never seem to work when you jump into the scares right away. They need to be groomed and raised. They need to grow up over the course of the film. In other words, you want to BUILD UP to the scares. Look at Paranormal Activity, one of the most successful horror films of all time. That movie goes about three-quarters of its running time before a genuine scare occurs. Before that, it’s mainly a series of small building scares.  As a general rule, try to design the first 60-70% of your movie as creepy and the last 30-40% as scary.

The prelude to the scare is often more scary than the scare itself (aka “Milkage”) – A good solid scare is wonderful. But if that’s all there is, you’ve entertained your audience for all of one second. The real key to scaring is chronicling what happens BEFORE the scare. That’s where the gold is, as you can draw the feeling of fear out. As such, you should be designing scares that have a great lead-up, a period of “milkage” if you will. One of my favorite script scares is still in the original draft of The Conjuring, which they ended up cutting. In it, our main character is inside the wall crawlspace, and has found a hole that goes into the basement. There’s a rope coming out of the hole. She starts pulling it. And pulling it. And pulling it. Our imagination is so wrapped up in what’s at the end of that rope, we don’t realize that it’s the prelude to this reveal that’s really scaring us. Of course, a great reveal at the end doesn’t hurt either (in this case, the noose around the witch’s head).

An impending sense of doom – We should feel like bad things are coming for our characters in the future. This should stress us out. We should never feel comfortable in a horror film, like things are going to be okay. We should always feel like it’s going to get worse, that doom is just around the corner.

Plenty of you out there eat, sleep, and breathe horror. And I’m interested to hear your thoughts on my list. Beyond what I’ve noted, what do you think makes a good horror film? Share your tips with the rest of us.

  • Ryan Sasinowski

    I would also refer to something Roger Corman said during “Dinner for Five”: (and I’m paraphrasing) “The audience will always be more scared of something they don’t see than what you show them.”

    I’ve always taken this to mean, that creaking you hear outside at night is going to be a thousand times more terrifying if you don’t have a flashlight to shine towards the sound and discover it to be harmless.

    I think that idea works well when combined with how that sensation can be brought to the screen/page best showcased in “February.” Especially with that refrigerator starting up. I can’t count how many times a common noise has sounded far more eerie in the dark.

    • carsonreeves1

      This is a great one. I’m surprised I forgot it!

    • Altius

      One of the most brilliant, original scary scenes in The Conjuring: when one of the daughters is yanked awake, only to stare at the dark corner behind the door, transfixed by horror. Her parents come running in…everyone asking what’s wrong, she’s sobbing, unable to tear her eyes away from the dark space. She starts describing the awfulness that she’s seeing/hearing, and as the camera cuts back and forth, pushing in on the blackness, building…building…we keep expecting that the thing she’s seeing will suddenly flash onto the screen like a horrible vision…

      It never does.

      Fantastic choice.

  • ff

    Can anyone recommend something they truly think is a good horror film? I watch every horror film that comes out from all over the world (as you said Carson I just love the genre), and honestly I don’t think I’ve seen more than maybe 1 or 2 decent ones in the last 15 years.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      Do you have a preferred genre ?
      I’m a horror aficionado myself and watch everything that comes out as well. This past decade has seen a few masterpieces like THE DEVIL’S REJECTS and more than a few crapfests like the SAW saga and its copycats. Atmospheric or psychological horror is getting harder to come by these days, they don’t make’em like they did in the sixties/seventies anymore :) Those are my two favorite genres and there have been a couple of good ones lately, such as LORDS OF SALEM or SINISTER but today, horror mostly caters to a younger audience or the producers’ deep pockets…
      I’m sure others will chime in with a few ideas :)

      • rickhester

        ‘they don’t make’em like they did in the sixties/seventies anymore :)’

        The steadicam shots in EVIL DEAD 2 still scare the shit out of me. Nothing comes close to that today.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          You’re right, there was some good horror in the eighties (as in the nineties, 2000’s and any other decade before that…) and the EVIL DEAD series is among my favorite :) The first two horror movies i ever saw were EVIL DEAD and ZOMBIE. Needless to say, they left an indelible imprint… But I do have a certain preference for what I call “subtle 70’s atmospheres”.

      • Nick Morris

        We might be in the minority on it, but I liked LORDS OF SALEM too! I think Rob Zombie is one of the most interesting and visionary writer/directors working in horror today. And he takes a lot of fanboy crap that he doesn’t deserve over HALLOWEEN, imho.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          I like both his HALLOWEEN with a clear preference for the second one (the director’s cut) :) The first one is a pure Rob Zombie film but I didn’t feel the need to know anything about Michael Myers’ childhood. It’s well done but completely demystifies what, to me, should have remained the perfect bogeyman. As for LORDS, wow ! It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate – I can understand how it could leave someone standing by the road, not getting aboard at all. But I was completely hooked from A to Z. And I completely agree with your assessment about Zombie the director :)

    • Bifferspice

      my favourite horror films probably aren’t even horror films. either way, i’m fairly sure you’ll have seen “don’t look now” and “psycho”! i found a couple of the asian horror wave pretty good (tale of two sisters, particularly, but also dark water and, for a couple of the scares alone, the eye). have to say though, i think the dark horror comedy has plenty of potential, a la american werewolf in london. seems so ripe for more films, but people always seem to go the standard “what was that noise? is that the monster? oh it was the cat”. turn around “argh it’s the monster!” slasher way. including yesterday’s february script. boring.

    • Erica

      I always liked The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). I haven’t seen it in years but I remember it being scary for the time. It’s more of a thriller I believe.

    • the french guy

      The thing and The descent are not listed here. IMO some very solid structured scripts, strong characters, originality in the scares, and in the main set (isolated places). The first sequence of the Carpenter’s Thing is brilliant : people in an helicopter hunting a dog (man’s best friend) running in the snow creates a lot of exciting “Why?” For an original point of view (or way to tell the story) Lake Mungo must also be seen (It ended up first on Carson’s best scripts of 2010).

      • petghost

        The Descent. Yes. Definitely the most scared I’ve ever been watching a movie.

    • klmn

      With your limit of 15 years, eXinstenZ qualifies.

      • brenkilco

        Very underrated. But would most consider it a horror film?

        • klmn

          Yeah, I would. Cronenberg really knows how to push my buttons. Spoilers ahead.

          Around that time, there was a lot of talk about “portals”, usually pertaining to communications. Cronenberg created the deliciously creepy idea of a video game portal that folks would have implanted into their spines. So he’s working on the fear of surgery. Then to get an illegal device installed, the protagonist has to go to the filthiest gas station there is… So he brings in the aversion to filth.

          Then there’s the slimy stuff at the trout farm. I won’t write any more because it’s been some time since I saw it, but he’s an absolute master at playing with folks’ inhibitions.

          • brenkilco

            Thanks for reminding me of those mutant fish. Yech. Cronenberg is the best at exploiting our fears of bodily penetration, decay and eruption. That vhs tape going into the wound like orifice in James Wood’s stomach in Videodrome. Jeez, what goes on in this guy’s head?

      • pmlove

        A favourite.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          I love early Cronenberg (and also some of his recent work)… Tere’s something cold and cynical about those films, as if they were made by someone who doesn’t know how to use his emotions correctly. It’s all there but completely distorted (and that’s a compliment, Mr C…).

    • Poe_Serling

      Here’s my recommendation:

      Whistle and I’ll Come to You

      I just recently discovered this creepy gem. You can watch it on youtube if you’re interested.

      It’s a BBC production from the late ’60s and based on M.R. James’ tale “Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come To You, My Lad.”

      “The story tells the tale of an introverted academic who happens upon a strange whistle while exploring a Knights Templar cemetery on the East Anglian coast. When blown, the whistle unleashes a supernatural force that terrorises its discoverer.”

    • Levres de Sang

      16 years old now, but RINGU is fantastic for both story and atmosphere. And the videotape sequence with Sadako endlessly brushing her hair is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen…

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        Hey :)
        I can’t help but notice your avatar – it’s Jess Franco, right ? Are you a fan ? I just translated a book from French into English, scheduled for release in early 2015. It was written by French journalist Alain Petit who was a personal friend of Jess’ and also co-wrote a couple of scripts as well as acted in some of his films. 550 pages (incl. the commented filmography). I know there are already several books out there – I haven’t read any of them, though, I’m not really a fan :) But this one is very complete and easy to read (= not full of boring analyses)… :)

        • Levres de Sang

          Hi… Yes, it is Jess Franco! And yes I’m something of a fan (the Soledad Miranda films and VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD in particular); but there’s an awful lot I haven’t seen…

          Amazing coincidence that you are the translator of this new book! Huge congratulations for being involved in something so fascinating. I had noticed it was scheduled — and will almost definitely purchase as it will be great to finally make sense of his uber-confusing filmography.

          I’m certainly interested to hear that M. Petit co-wrote some scripts with old Jess because I’d imagined that most of his films were improvised from short synopses. He was also a jazz lover, of course.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad to know that you’d already heard about it :) The publisher will be happy to know that, too.
            Well, a lot of movies were improvised but some of them also had real scripts ^^ Mr Petit mostly wrote the dialogue as well as expanding a bit on a few synopses.
            The filmography section is very complete and sheds light on some very understandable confusions :)

          • Levres de Sang

            I just happened to check Amazon as I’d been thinking about his frankly bewildering filmography. I believe there was another book listed, but it seems little more than a collection of photos — whereas the one you’ve been involved with sounds definitive.

            I’m looking forward to it already!

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the article, Carson! A really solid list…

    >>Develop an engaging story and compelling characters with a flaw or two – check.
    >>Eliminate the cliches. As studio head Sam Goldwyn once told his stable of writers, ““Let’s have some new cliches.” – check.
    >>Don’t forget atmosphere/mood/tone – check.
    >>Build suspense – check.
    >>Create a sense of dread/doom – check

    My only addition to the list: Setting.

    Find a location(s) that becomes an obstacle or limits your main character in some way. Make it difficult for them to escape from the horror.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I like atypical horror settings, as well :) Instead of setting a ghost story in a secluded gothic mansion, it may be set in a modern style home, for instance – if the house is full of new technology like voice control and such, that would create its own set of problems, too, as in upping the get-away ante (“Door! Open, damnit!”). It’s all about turning audience expectations on their head.
      I started writing the first draft of my DEMON script yesterday. Only two pages in but I’m slaving over each sentence and paragraph to get the atmosphere just right from p1. Not much fun being a perfectionist but it makes for a better read… hopefully :)

      • andyjaxfl

        Congrats on starting the new script!

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Thanks :)
          Despite the title, there’s nothing supernatural about my story – the demon of the title is my protag’s inner demon which materialises as a humanoid creature all covered in black goo… It represents her past and present suffering due to maternal incest. It’s psychological horror, a sort of revenge-on-the-past type story. Dark times ahead :)

      • Poe_Serling

        “Instead of setting a ghost story in a secluded gothic mansion, it may be set in a modern style home, for instance…”

        Great point. Try to avoid the overused horror location.

        The one redeeming aspect of the recent ‘When a Stranger Calls’ remake for me – the Mandrakis house.

        Isolated, of course. But also ultra modern and brimming with high-tech security gadgets, which often hindered the protag in her fight against the Stranger.

        Fun fact: Mandrakis residence was just a movie set.

        • Randy Williams

          That was an amazing residence. Didn’t know it was a set.

          Those modern houses in horror movies often have all that glass that plays into our fears of being watched and also giving us no place to hide. I think we also, as the lower classes like seeing rich people’s houses windows broken. :)

      • brenkilco

        I was thinking that the most atypical setting would be daylight. Is there a genuinely creepy, dread inducing horror film that avoids darkness? Can’t think of one offhand.

        • Randy Williams

          Alfred Hitchcock films come to mind especially The Birds.

          Hard to make out birds in the dark.

          • brenkilco

            Good one. Though the climactic siege of the house and scene in the attic do occur at night.

          • Nick Morris

            Also, sharks. JAWS was pretty much all day time too.

        • Nick Morris

          Yeah, I love when horror movies can deliver the dread during the daylight hours. Most of THE HILLS HAVE EYES takes place during the day. The best parts of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE are in broad daylight too.

          • Poe_Serling

            I kinda remember The Wicker Man (1973) being mostly a daylight film too.

          • Nick Morris

            Nice. The original DAWN OF THE DEAD is mostly day, albeit inside. Same with DAY OF THE DEAD, but I guess that stands to reason.

          • brenkilco

            Re The Wicker Man, when does a thriller become a horror movie and what are the fundamental differences?

          • Poe_Serling

            ‘…when does a thriller become a horror movie and what are the fundamental differences?’

            A short time back, I ran across an interesting article that tried to answer that very question.

            Unfortunately, I can’t find it. ;-(

            One aspect I really enjoyed about The Wicker Man was Edward Woodward as Sgt. Howie. His character was the perfect example of Carson’s key ingredient of creating a DEEP CHARACTER for your horror piece.

            During the entire course of the serpentine investigation for the missing girl, Sgt. Howie’s uptight persona is constantly at odds with the seemingly carefree and sexually uninhibited residents of the island.

          • brenkilco

            Woodward was great. As he was in Breaker Morant. Funny he never got the great movie character parts you would have thought he was due.

        • Levres de Sang

          Argento’s TENEBRAE. Even the night scenes are lit by a glaring fluorescence.

          NB. I did even wonder if Tenebrae may have influenced February a little: the ‘cheat’ of the double killer and the scream at the end…

        • Magga

          most of “The Shining”

    • Acarl

      Isolation is the #1 factor in successful horror IMO.

  • klmn

    I think a good horror movie works on the primitive part of the brain, the r-complex.

  • Midnight Luck

    “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
    ― Alfred Hitchcock

    • Bifferspice

      yeah, bomb on the bus. different genre, but tarantino’s a king at drawing out the suspense of a scene. he lets you know what trap lies in wait (or at least lets you know that a trap has been set), then lets you watch the hero/heroine fall into it. whereas most either don’t let you know a trap’s coming, so they surprise you with it, rush into the action because it’s the set piece they’re excited about, or try and draw things out and just make it boring, tarantino toys with you effortlessly for as long as he likes. it’s film/script gold, that feeling you know something’s coming, and it’s going to be bad. THAT’s when he drops in the tarantino dialogue. everyone who copies him just has characters talking about burgers or whatever, thinking they’re doing a tarantino, but there’s nothing underneath it. with tarantino, the way he does it, we know what’s coming, so the characters don’t need to talk about that. we can follow what they’re saying, but what we’re thinking about is his equivalent of hitchcock’s bomb on the bus…

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Music: gotta have creepy music. Strangely enough I think the horror genre NEEDS good/creepy music to set the tone/set the audience up for suspense. Greatest horror movie of all-time: “Halloween” (1978: John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis). Why was it so scarey: best camera work EVER in horror movie. Showing Michael Myers in the background, where the audience sees him and the focal character in the scene doesn’t is used repeatedly in this movie–and it works every time! 2nd scarest movie of all-time, “28 Days Later”. Why was it so scary? Once again GREAT creepy music, hopelessness mixed in with brewing trouble. Great set-up: show “infection” in the first major sequence, THEN let the audiecne’s mind fill in the blanks how things got so bad, AND figure to continue to be bad for whoever remains in London. Great horror leaves some lattidude for the audience to think how things got that bad and what damage the monster can do.

    • Casper Chris

      No music in screenwriting.

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        That’s b.s. I use music in screenwriting ALL. THE. TIME. Why? It sets the mood.

        • Casper Chris

          At best, you use references to music. You can’t be sure the reader knows the track or will bother look it up.

    • scriptfeels

      I’m not really a big horror fan, but Halloween is one of my favorite films for the cinematography and character development on Michael Myers. I also love the opening scene from the kids perspective. Very creepy. Any blair witch project fans out there?

      • http://soundcloud.com/the-colonel-mc The Colonel

        Absolutely. I was lucky to see Blair Witch on sneak preview, and went in cold. My gf at the time left half-way through, and I was shitting my pants on the back half.

        The ending didn’t quite deliver, but until that point the movie was completely terrifying. (Though I swear if I’m ever in the same situation I will BURN THAT FOREST TO THE GROUND.)

    • walker

      Screenwriter and director John Carpenter is also an accomplished composer, and he did the scores for many of his films, including Halloween.

      • walker

        Here, for Poe Serling and Ken Kleeman, is an interesting anecdote related to that. I used to work as a studio musician and in 2007 was in a recording studio in Idaho. The owner of the studio had a great bank of vintage keyboards which included the actual Mini-Moog synthesizer formerly owned by John Carpenter and used on the soundtrack for Halloween. It still had some of the famous patches stored. Later that studio went bust and when they liquidated the inventory the Mini-Moog (along with a great original Hohner Clavinet) was purchased by former starlet Mandy Moore.

        • Poe_Serling

          Hey Walker-

          Thanks for sharing the JC story. Here’s Carpenter rocking out:

          • walker

            Proving that there are endless varieties of horror.

    • klmn

      “Greatest horror movie of all-time: “Halloween” (1978: John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis)…

      My vote would go to Alien.

      • Casper Chris

        As would mine.

      • brenkilco

        There are a lot of candidates. If we’re talking quality of the music no score can match the incredibly varied orchestral pieces Waxman composed for Bride of Frankenstein. Bernard Herman’s shrieking strings for Psycho and the use of Tubular Bells in The Exorcist also iconic.Ditto those creepy gregorian chants in The Omen. And if it counts as horror I’ve always been partial to the slightly drunken danse Macabre John Williams composed for The Fury.

        • Bifferspice

          and the williams “jaws” theme. jaws is technically a horror, i guess.

    • brenkilco

      There are a lot of candidates for best score. If we’re talking quality of the music no score can match the incredibly varied orchestral pieces Waxman composed for Bride of Frankenstein. Bernard Herman’s shrieking strings for Psycho and the use of Tubular Bells in The Exorcist also iconic.Ditto those creepy gregorian chants in The Omen. And if it counts as horror I’ve always been partial to the slightly drunken danse Macabre John Williams composed for The Fury.

  • Matthew Garry

    “Treat horror just like you would a drama.”

    I would extend this point and even postulate that horror (or any other) genre isn’t a thing by itself as much as “drama” isn’t a genre by itself but simply the base default in absence of predominant traits of a story. So that what is usually called a “comedy” is really a comedic drama, or “horror” a drama that horrifies.

    As such, all the different genre’s should in theory be more difficult to write than a drama, because, on top of needing all qualities a solid drama would need, it also needs to work on its genre specific level.

    So, mentally strip away all the humour or horror, and see if you have anything resembling a decent story with compelling characters left. And try not to wallpaper over specific shortcomings of a story by applying genre-specific elements, but try and use them only to augment what is already there.

    • brenkilco

      Basically why I’m not a horror guy. In most cases the movie exists simply as an engine to provide scares. The underlying story is feeble or nonexistent. Another problem is that few horror films are logically accountable. The dimensions of the evil are not defined. Just watched the Conjuring. Why does the spirit spend half the movie knocking pictures off the wall when it is capable of possessing people and making them commit murder? Because we want the thing to have a dramatic shape and a climax, that’s why.

      • Linkthis83

        I feel this way regarding superhero movies.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      Yes, Yes and Yes. 100x this.

  • fd

    Evil Dead is the only film that ever actually really scared me sh@tless, with Rosemarie’s Baby and The Exorcist coming in second and third, but as for more recent efforts, I thought Blair Witch Project was very frightening, especially considering the budget and that it was essentially a shaggy dog story.

  • fd

    Oh sorry, that was meant as a reply to ff

  • Jim Dandy

    Anyone who wants to understand horror needs to read Stephen King’s book “Danse Macabre.” He goes to great lengths to identify how horror works on different levels. His main observation is that great horror is really just a reflection of contemporary societal fears. The Exorcist was actually about parental fear of teenage rebellion and promiscuity that emerged in the late 1960s. The Walking Dead is really about our fear of terrorism and the fact that it doesn’t ever seem to stop, no matter how many of the “Bad Guys” we kill.

    • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

      William Peter Blatty discusses The Exorcist being about faith here: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/10/28/exorcists-secret-message/

    • brenkilco

      Not to mention all those giant, radioactive, insect fear films from the fifties that were seriously zeitgeist driven.

      • walker

        You were discussing it down the thread, but The Birds fits this paradigm too.

        • brenkilco

          But what a difference a decade makes. In the fifties these movies reflected our fear of nuclear annihilation and the encroaching threat of communism. Which I guess is how we would have read the Birds if it had been made then. But coming in the early sixties it seems to reflect a sense of impending social disintegration.

    • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

      The Theme-Monster is pleased with this comment.

      The number one thing is have something to say. Period. (not moral or message, but theme, conflict, life.)

  • Randy Williams

    First of all, don’t dissuade actors from going under the plastic surgery knife. It makes them spend enormous amounts of time recuperating in bed under pain killers which is a perfect time to slip them a script to read. Trust me, I know.

    To add to your list…

    Sex and all the insecurities associated with it.

    I had several posters here, among others, read something I was working on. Everyone who read it pointed out the same scene that they loved or blew them away.

    That scene started off with a young couple in love as they became amorous, progressing from kissing to falling in bed and tearing at their clothes. Things get heated. Suddenly the mood is broken when the male becomes violently ill, starts throwing up, rushes to the kitchen where he downs a quart of spoiled milk from the refrigerator, then takes a butcher knife and starts slicing off his fingers.

    I wonder if it was a male slicing off one of his appendages that did it.

    Or was it the spoiled milk?

    • klmn

      I don’t think drinking spoiled milk was it. The aliens in Alien Nation loved that stuff and it wasn’t that big a deal.

  • drifting in space

    This is all verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry interesting. Perfect timing on the article.

  • OddScience

    All four pictures for this article are of females. I guess we know what scares Carson ;)

    • brenkilco

      Renee Zellweger’s brand new face kinda scares me.

      • Midnight Luck

        brand new plastic faces scare me too

  • mulesandmud

    Horror is one of the trickiest genres to pin down because what frightens us evolves so quickly; today’s jump scare is tomorrow’s eye roll. Comedy has the same problem – it’s damn near impossible to craft a joke that’s timeless.

    I like horror very much, but I don’t think I qualify as a traditional horror fan. My favorite horror film of the last decade is probably LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, which yes features well-executed scares and gore-fests, but is far more interested in building a unique story, and makes sure that its genre atmosphere exists in service of its characters and ideas (the American remake, LET ME IN, is inferior but not embarrassing).

    Lots of great filmmakers got their start in horror. I think that’s because so much attention gets paid to the mechanical elements, leaving a filmmaker room to find lots of freedom in terms of content (also they like to give the cheap movies to the new kids).

    I’m always interested to see filmmakers find new ways to disturb an audience, and to see exactly how far an audience’s masochism can be pushed. THE DESCENT – exciting! BUG – sure. AUDITION – yeesh. HUMAN CENTIPEDE – huh? ANTICHRIST – ugh.

    And not all horror films need be about scares and gore. I think Coppola’s BRAM’S STOKERS DRACULA is criminally underrated: a smart, thoughtful, stylistically innovative return to the roots of the genre. JASON X was a sci-fi infused retrospective/parody on the slasher film, and is probably the best of the series. And THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, while not a movie I recommend, is actually sort of interesting in the way it takes a self-conscious look at our demented love of horror movies (for those who don’t know, the film centers on a mentally disabled dude whose favorite film is THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, which he tries to recreate using his own limited resources, with disastrous results – and no, it’s not a comedy).

    • Nick Morris

      “I think Coppola’s BRAM’S STOKERS DRACULA is criminally underrated: a smart, stylistically innovative return to the roots of the genre. JASON X was a sci-fi infused retrospective/parody of the slasher film, and is probably the best of the series.”

      Hell yes. I’ve always loved Coppola’s DRACULA and JASON X (despite some truly insufferable performances) is a blast to watch if you allow it to be.

      • brenkilco

        Dracula has its charms but Hopkins is way over the top. And Coppola’s insistence on shooting the whole thing on sound stages and his obsession with vintage, special effects techniques ultimately turn it into a curiosity. Whatever happened to Sadie Frost?

        • Nick Morris

          I guess Hopkins’ scenery-chewing and the stages are part of its charm for me. Seriously re: Sadie Frost! She was an awesome Lucy. Probably the best!

    • Nicholas J

      Jump scares only become eye rolls because after someone does something new, everyone else copies it and beats it to death.

      In the first Halloween, when Michael Myers jumps out of the backseat of the car for a kill, I’m not positive, but I have a suspicion that was the first time it was done? Now how many times have you seen that same bit?

      So if you go back and watch an innovative classic like that, it’s cliche because we’ve seen it all 1000x since, even though it’s what started the cliches.

  • Casper Chris

    OT:

    Finally! The hoverboard from Back To The Future is a reality:
    http://consequenceofsound.net/2014/10/california-startup-invents-first-real-life-hoverboard/

    • Casper Chris

      Love the final shot where she’s sitting on the hovering hoverboard, playing her guitar. That should be in a movie.

    • Scott Strybos

      On Kickstarter there is a campaign to fund a real “hoverboard”. I put hoverboard into quotations because it only works over a specialized surface: “the surface needs to be a non-ferromagnetic conductor. Right now we use commonly available metals in simple sheets, but we are working on new compounds and new configurations to maximize our technology and minimize costs.”

      But it is a start!

      The company is Hendo Hoverboards.

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/142464853/hendo-hoverboards-worlds-first-real-hoverboard

      • Casper Chris

        That’s the one I posted.

        • Scott Strybos

          Whoops, I didn’t realize you posted two links, that the joke one, the video we can see, isn’t the same as the link above it

          • Casper Chris

            Yea, I can see how that might’ve been confusing.

  • Ambrose*

    I know that a lot, if not most, people consider ‘The Shining’ a classic but I found the movie good though not great.
    I guess I was spoiled by reading the novel first.
    One thing that creeped me out and really brought a sense of foreboding and apprehension was the sound of the topiary as they changed position.
    Granted, it’s well past thirty years since I read the book so my memory might be foggy, but the one element of King’s story that really resonated with me was his use of the animal shapes that were carved into the hedges.
    And how they moved ever so slightly, and not just the physical movement but the sound of that movement. How strange and eerie that was.
    Stanley Kubrick couldn’t – or didn’t want to – use the topiary with the technology he had back in those days so instead he changed the ending and he gave us the maze, which to me was a complete letdown.
    It had nowhere near the same power and sense of danger as topiary-come-to-life hellbent on claiming a victim.
    Now that would have been scary.
    As I said, it’s been a long time since I read the novel so maybe someone who’s read it more recently can comment on those bushes from hell.

    • Bifferspice

      the shining was beautiful to look at, and filled with lovely scary moments (that kid riding round the empty corridors on his trike, the sound changing as the trike alternated between riding on carpet and bare floor. every corner he went round, our mind would race at the possibilities.

      however, it’s flawed as a film. the whole story is the descent of one man into insanity. and yet in this, he was insane from the start. just look at him! left him, and the film, nowhere to go except his overactors anonymous meeting.

      having said that, kubrick was right to go with the maze over the topiary animals. however scary that was in the book, it would have been utterly abysmal in the film. i mean, seriously, how dangerous is a moving bush?

      • walker

        I remember thinking it was a little bit of a stretch that the character played by Scatman Crothers was so sensitive to things that he would travel from his vacation back to the hotel, but when his ax-wielding murderer is hiding just a few feet away from him, he walks right into it.

        • Bifferspice

          that was a long old journey back for no reason!! works out differently for him in the book

          • pmlove

            I think his part works well. Gives the viewer a source of hope – this is their last salvation. When he dies, it makes their situation seem ever more desperate.

      • Ambrose*

        Judging from your comments I’m guessing you’ve never read the book.
        The topiary were not just at the end of the story where the maze is in Kubrick’s film adaptation. They showed signs of life earlier, so you get a gradual build up of tension before the much scarier ending involving the topiary come-to-life.
        Reading my words here, of course it doesn’t sound scary.
        But reading Stephen King’s description of them and their actions and, again, the sound, and it’s a whole other ballgame.
        Today with CGI it would be a no-brainer to use the topiary rather than the maze, which in my opinion, was completely ineffectual.
        But what else would Kubrick have come up with using the technology of his day? Probably not a lot of choices.
        Even today, so much of the CGI in movies and TV looks really fake (the Hulk in the first ‘Hulk’ movie looked like a cartoon character) while some of it (‘Boardwalk Empire’) looks amazingly real.
        I sometimes think that special effects haven’t really advanced that far from the early days of movies when you think of the amount of time that’s passed and the computing power we have today.
        Looking back at the original ‘King Kong’ and the technology moviemakers had in those days, it still stands up against well against today’s movies when you consider the tools each generation possessed.

        • brenkilco

          The Shining was released the same year as The Empire Strikes back. Kubrick wouldn’t have had any great difficulty bringing the topiary to life if he’d wanted. The concept just didn’t appeal to him.

          • Ambrose*

            Yes, there was CGI technology in those days that other filmmakers like George Lucas used to their advantage.
            But Kubrick, maybe because he seemed to be such a perfectionist (ask Tom Cruise about the endless takes on ‘Eyes Wide Shut’), perhaps didn’t think that technology would be up to the task – and his standards – of bringing the topiary to life.
            Whatever the reason, I think the movie suffers from the substitution of the maze for the inanimate objects brought to life.
            The maze was cold and lifeless. The topiary creatures took on a life of their own. With evil intent.
            And if you blithely ask, what harm can a mere bush cause? then you haven’t imagined someone being engulfed and strangled/crushed by the branches of a living thing with evil designs.
            Stephen King has, and with great affect.

          • brenkilco

            Whatever other claims you can make for it, I don’t think the Shining is particularly successful as a horror film. Clearly I’m in the minority.

          • Bifferspice

            i think ambrose agrees with you, as do i. it’s effective in isolated moments, and is filmed beautifully. but it’s a beautiful husk.

          • Bifferspice

            absolutely the maze was cold and lifeless. exactly what kubrick had in mind, i think.

        • Bifferspice

          i have read the book, and loved it, and didn’t like the film, as the characters were not remotely developed like they are in the book.

          i still don’t think kubrick would use the topiary thing, even if he were alive to remake it today. sometimes what works in a book doesn’t work at all in a film. it’s a problem most people looking to adapt king’s work have faced.

          • Casper Chris

            Agreed. Big bush animals would’ve looked silly on screen and ruined the tone of the movie.

          • Ambrose*

            I’ll try one more time. Disqus ate my last two attempts at replying.

            It seems we’re just of two different minds on this issue.
            I think the sentient topiary, if done right, would have upped the dramatic tension for both the characters and the audience.
            It raises an important question: If the hotel was able to animate the topiary what other powers for good or evil did it also possess?
            And to what end would it go to drive out or destroy this family?

        • Kirk Diggler

          “But reading Stephen King’s description of them and their actions and, again, the sound, and it’s a whole other ballgame.”

          Which you couldn’t put in a film, so it wouldn’t matter. Steven King directed his own version of ‘The Shining’ because he was not a fan of Kubrick’s version. Nobody remembers that one. Except for maybe the guy from “Wings”.

          • drifting in space

            Wings was an amazing show.

          • Ambrose*

            Au contraire.
            Sound is one of the key elements of any good horror film.
            Try watching any thriller or horror film with the sound turned off.
            If the movie is well made you would lose a lot of the elements of dramatic tension without the sound.
            And I’m not talking about the score.
            I’m talking about the drip, drip, drip of water. The creaking of a floorboard: is the killer approaching? The slam of a shutter in the wind. The elevated breathing of the person in danger. The list goes on and on.
            Without good sound design a horror film can just lay there.
            And it would have been no problem to add the slow creaking of the branches as a piece of the topiary, we’ll say a lion for example, slowly turned his head to stare at a character. Maybe starting to reach out its paw toward a young child.
            People easily discount sound as an element because movies are by definition moving pictures.
            But sounds can make the mind wander into some pretty dark and scary places without any visual assistance.

          • Kirk Diggler

            Yes, of course sound is important. Can’t argue that. But King can do powerful things with prose that would not directly translate to film. Describing a bush that looks like and animal and leaving it to the reader’s imagination is probably more effective than static shots of a topiary or worse, a poor FX shot (circa 1980).

          • Ambrose*

            That’s why I said previously that Stanley Kubrick may have used the maze instead of the topiary, because he thought he couldn’t do it convincingly. Not necessarily that he thought it was a better artistic decision.
            Other directors might have disagreed and done the film with the topiary, to whatever result.
            In the film it wouldn’t have been static shots of the topiary if done right.

    • Midnight Luck

      Book: Amazing
      Movie: Ehh, ok. (without Jack, less than ok)

      • Acarl

        Kubrick’s ending was better than the book. Yep, I said it.

  • brenkilco

    And even the finished film has a lot of script weaknesses. The detective hangs around the whole film and never does anything. There’s a church desecration at the beginning and we never find out who did it. The creepy servants are introduced and then forgotten about. Always thought the scariest things in the whole movie were those medical tests. Blair being shaken around on some primitive cat scan table and shrieking, and huge needles being injected into her throat. Yeech.

  • OddScience

    If anyone’s interested in reading a Horror TV pilot I’ve written (almost written, I’ve got 2-3 pages left) I’d love some feedback.

    It’s called “Nightmare.” A doctor’s figured out a new way to treat people suffering from, you guessed it, Nightmares.

    It’s kind of a “Nightmare On Elm Street” meets “The Matrix.”

    If interested, please email me: dogbarks@live.com
    I’ll send it out as soon as I’m finished.

    Thanks

    PS, to show you I’m serious about writing, I just had 2 of my scripts make the first cut in Final Draft’s Big Break Contest. http://store.finaldraft.com/big-break-contest.html#currentwinners

    Feature: Action/Adventure – “The Coven’s Revenge” and TV: Hour Pilots – “Stimulant” (which also just made it all the way to the finals in Creative World Awards).

    Thanks again.

    • pmlove

      lovepeterm at gmail – send her over.

      • OddScience

        Thanks, I appreciate it.

        I’ll send it out in @ 2 weeks.

    • Midnight Luck

      interested

      m {at} blackluck d[o]t com

      • OddScience

        Thanks, I appreciate it.

        I’ll send it out in @ 2 weeks…

    • Midnight Luck

      love A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

      best Horror flick EVER!

    • drifting in space

      driftinginscripts at gmail dot com

      I’m interested because I had a very similar idea and am curious where you went with it!

      • OddScience

        Thanks, I appreciate it.

        I’ll send it out in @ 2 weeks..

    • Linkthis83

      linkthis83 at yahoo dot com

      • OddScience

        Thanks, I appreciate it.

        I’ll send it out in @ 2 weeks.

        • klmn

          kenklmn at yahoo dot com

          • OddScience

            Awesome, thanks.

            In a couple weeks.

  • Nick Morris

    Couldn’t agree more. The movies that I find myself revisiting over and over again are the ones that know how to have fun with the audience and don’t necessarily take themselves too seriously. So much modern horror (especially indie stuff) makes the mistake of being so incredibly dour and bleak that they fail to really entertain and I haven’t got any interest in watching them more than once.

    • Nicholas J

      Different strokes. Blood and gore and fun isn’t for me. Give me substance and make me hate walking around my own house for a week. Don’t let me sleep well. Disturb me. That’s what I want in a horror movie. Although the best are the ones that can do both. The Descent, for example.

      • Nick Morris

        Yeah, I like that too. But for me there’s just something irresistible about the fun, 80’s type of stuff. The EVIL DEADs, the REANIMATORs, the HALLOWEENs, etc. I simply can NOT flip past a FRIDAY THE 13th movie on tv, no matter how many dozen times I’ve seen it. Even the butchered versions on AMC, lol!

  • klmn

    There’s a lot of humor in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My favorite scene – the family trying to put the hammer in grandpa’s hand.

  • Nicholas J

    If you want to be like 95% of today’s horror movies and have scares but no substance, all you need is 1) a dark hallway 2) a steadicam 3) silence.

    If you want something real, put your character’s darkest fear around the corner.

    It’s a lesson I learned from the movie I’ll watch every time I see it on TV, no matter what I’m doing. The Fugitive.

    The scene where US Marshal Gerard leads his team into that house where the second fugitive (that big dude, not Harrison Ford) is hiding. Gerard is creeping around corners, gun at the ready, looking for the fugitive. Now here’s where any other movie would have the fugitive around the next corner, maybe shoot at Gerard or take him hostage. But instead, they make the brilliant choice of the fugitive taking one of Gerard’s men hostage. This shit just got real.

    Why is this choice brilliant? Because if the fugitive took Gerard hostage, we know there is no real danger. Gerard has to survive until the end of the movie to face off against Kimble, or else there is no movie. He has plot armor. Putting his life at risk is fake danger. So instead, knowing how protective Gerard is of his team, we tap into his fears of losing one of his men. As soon as Newman is taken hostage, we have no idea how the scene is going to end. His brains could easily end up splattered on the walls. And the scene is tense, because we are siding with Gerard in the scene, and his fears have been realized. We’ve tapped into his character in order to make the scene more tense, or, “scary.”

    So if we can tap into our characters, and relate the scares to what goes on in their head, we can make something truly scary. Paranormal Activity, when she finds the burnt photograph in the attic. The Sixth Sense and the bumblebee pendant scene. All of Pet Semetary. JAWS. The Exorcist. Rosemary’s Baby. The Blair Witch Project. These movies have done this to great effect. It’s no wonder they’re horror classics.

    • brenkilco

      Relate the scares to the psychology of the characters and also exploit the primal fears and desires that exist in the audience. Rosemary’s Baby takes the natural anxiety of pregnancy, another being growing inside you, and cubes it. Pet Sematary- probably King’s best excursion into horror- takes the most natural and human of emotions, grief at the death of a loved one, and turns it on its head, making it morbid and a source of evil. Jaws plays on our most basic terror of total physical, vulnerability in an environment we can’t control . The most resonant horror movies are the ones that know where we live.

  • Casper Chris

    This scene from Mulholland Drive is a good example of what Carson calls “milkage”:

    • Randy Williams

      Tried to view it, it says, “This video is not available in your country”

      The fact that it knows where I live scares me.

      • klmn

        It knows, and is coming for you.

        • Midnight Luck

          Wait. Is it a scene from The Ring?

  • Midnight Luck

    Religious movies, faith based movies, movies about God, anything in that realm that is supposed to be Horror, doesn’t scare me*. They just seem kind of corny, and completely.

    *unless they are crazy religious freaks and / or burning people at the stake. I guess crazy religious freakiness DOES scare me.

  • Midnight Luck

    As I said below:

    love A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

    best Horror flick EVER!

    • charliesb

      Definitely in my top 5, and first horror film that had me in tears at bedtime the night I saw it. After seeing it many more times as I got older, I really began to appreciate the many layers to this film. Neglect, child abuse, vigilantism, paranoia. It’s truly a classic.

  • Midnight Luck

    Even though I am a film lover to my core,

    there is absolutely something amazing to be said about Radio in that, it leaves everything to our imagination. The brilliance we can create in our minds eye cannot be beat by whatever wizardry is then created by Hollywood. We have all the goods in our brains that CGI cannot compete with.

    The War of the Worlds (radio drama) – would have been so cool to hear, back in the day. (done correctly today, a pseudo nonfiction show could work as well. Thought it would have to be about a Contagion like scare, or a Terrorist attack most likely. Not sure that an Alien invasion would be as believable On Air anymore like it was back then.)

    I also take issue with the widespread use of CGI effects on display now in Horror movies as the architect for creating fear. I do not believe it works. No matter how good our present CGI work gets, to our brain, it still recognizes it as fake, and therefore, UNREAL. So the brain can instantly spot a fake.

    At it’s heart, Horror needs to be honest, and humanized to be terrifying. It needs to get to the core of our Lizard brain and activate that in order to be truly horrific.

    I do not think any CGI of any day and age can do that.

    Hubcaps on wires way back when, to human like skin of today, none of it competes with what we can create inside our own heads.

    Tap into that, and tap into REAL terror.

    • Kirk Diggler

      “No matter how good our present CGI work gets, to our brain, it still recognizes it as fake, and therefore, UNREAL. So the brain can instantly spot a fake.”

      So true. My thoughts exactly. It was horrible films like the remake of “The Haunting” with Catherine Zeta-Jones that started this non-scary trend.

      • andyjaxfl

        Right on with The Haunting (1999) being the trend setter for CGI scares. According to IMDB, that movie cost $80 million to make, yet it pales in comparison to the original.

    • Scott Strybos

      I needed a second read to realize that when you wrote “Radio” you meant the device that transmits, receives, and plays electromagnetic waves and not the Cuba Gooding Jr film. (I think it was the uppercase ‘R’ that put me on the wrong track.)

      • Midnight Luck

        Yes “Radio” was such an amazing, magical film that left everything to our imagination, and made people terrified it was really happening.

        That is funny.
        Guess I should have specific I meant that Talky Box thing, not the Cuba film.

      • brenkilco

        That’s Cuba ‘theatre of the mind ‘ Gooding Jr. to you.

    • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

      It’s why Old Time Radio is considered “the theater of the mind”. I love listening to the old programs. In fact, here’s a treat: a listing of the top nine scariest OTR programs. I’ve heard a few of them which are favorites (The House in Cypress Canyon from Suspense! and The Thing on the Fourble Board from Quiet Please – these can probably be found on youtube, by the way.)

      http://www.old-time.com/misc/bstwrst.html#scary

  • Brainiac138

    One thing that I really think is great in horror is when you have a protagonist who really knows what they are doing, think most of the guys in Jaws or the cave explorers in The Descent, and the monsters or whatever it may be completely takes them out of the control, forcing them to adapt and evolve over the course of a film. I am not quite sure how to articulate this, but I think it is related to deep characters and a sense of empathy from the audience that their actions create.

  • pmlove

    Primal fears, especially when safety is very close but insurmountably far. Eg: Descent (stuck underground), the idea of spinning off into space I find terrifying (Gravity, albeit not a horror).

    Paranoia, can’t be sure who to trust. Just have to look at my vote for greatest horror – The Thing (’82). But also works in films like 1965’s The Nanny – constantly playing you off against the ‘evil child’ vs the ‘evil nanny’.

    Also a big fan of the preordained ending, where the protagonist fights against a foretelling. Classic example being Macbeth, but used well in films like The Omen, or to an extent Drag Me To Hell.

  • pmlove

    I always enjoyed the 80s British series ‘Hammer House of Horror’. A bit of fun, a bit silly at times but still disturbing in the same way as the Twilight Zone.

    Here’s a good episode on youtube – The House That Bled.

  • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

    Think you can tell a terrifying story in just two sentences? These people did:

    http://canyouactually.com/9-of-the-most-terrifying-two-sentence-horror-stories-ever-told/

    • Midnight Luck

      Wow that was really cool. Thanks for that.

      I like #6

      “My sister says that mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don’t have a sister.”

      It is amazing how many of these have to do with Dreams, going to bed, sleep, anything surrounding our fear and fascination with death, dreams, nightmares, the act of falling asleep and the dark, quiet, emptiness of a bedroom at bedtime.

      Our fear of sleep and dying being so closely related is incredibly pervasive.

    • Poe_Serling

      No. 2.

      ‘The last thing I saw was my alarm clock flashing 12:07 before she pushed
      her long rotting nails through my chest, her other hand muffling my
      screams. I sat bolt upright, relieved it was only a dream, but as I saw
      my alarm clock read 12:06, I heard my closet door creak open.’

      • drifting in space

        That’s the one that got me, too. #1 was pretty good as well.

    • rickhester

      The picture of those creepy trick-or-treaters will probably stay with me longer than I’d like.

      • Midnight Luck

        yeah, i liked that one too.

        “daddy, there’s someone in my bed”

        creepy. especially if the boy was wearing one of those masks in the picture, while he’s hiding under the bed…

      • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

        It was featured in this listing with a bunch of others that are pretty creepy:

        http://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/19-horrifying-vintage-halloween-costumes

        • Midnight Luck

          that was incredibly creepy. what is up with the EWOK HELL and NOPE? And why were so many people making weird deformed Donald Ducks?

          I have this locally made T-shirt from a skateboard company, it is odd and strangely fitting for this time of year, and for some reason seems kind of like many of these old time photos the site highlights.

          • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

            That kid’s reaction is what makes that photo!

          • Midnight Luck

            doesn’t it? Just great.

        • rickhester

          Wow. Those pictures redefine creepy. And raise a lot of questions. Thanks Jim.

          I think. :)

          • rickhester

            And I’m gonna wait to Halloween to share them with friends.

    • mulesandmud

      Reminds me of that classic six-word story sometimes attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

      “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

    • Matthew Garry

      Neat! #8 would be my favourite too.

      The young boy’s voice replied, “I can see in this darkness because I have no eyes. You, and those around you.”

    • Kirk Diggler

      Been made into a short.

  • rickhester

    Descent is one of my favorite horror movies. I always liked how the title reflected both the physical descent into the cave but also Sarah’s own personal descent into hell. And that last twist – SPOILER – where we think she’s escaped, but is instead very much still trapped in the cave, hallucinating a birthday party with her daughter, for me anyway, was heartbreaking.

    • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

      Yes, that original, darker ending worked much better than the one Hollywood gave it. They really believe in the happy ending syndrome too much sometimes.

  • NajlaAnn

    Excellent article.

  • hickeyyy

    I’m personally a huge fan of Trick R Treat. Horror anthology. Lots of good actors in it, including Dylan Baker and Brian Cox. Not much in the way of making you care about the characters, but it definitely fits the mold of fun, in my opinion. Check it out if you haven’t!

  • brenkilco

    Didn’t know it. By the director of the the Dr. Phibes movies and the writers of the best Avengers episodes. Will definitely check it out.

  • Levres de Sang

    Fantastic call. And rural France was the perfect setting.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    Yes, I’ve seen it but contrary to most, I wasn’t impressed at all :/ I thought it was very non scary and completely predictable, as well as being badly made. It did well on the festival circuit, just like the terrible YOU’RE NEXT. Maybe the audiences are in a different mood set at film festivals…

  • peisley

    Kinda crappy to put Renee’s photo in a horror review.

  • Thefind

    Great article. Thank you.