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Learn Horror Genre Basics to Make Your Own Scary Movie

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    We show you the ins and outs of the Horror film genre. Everything from the history, to how to shoot it, to the unique dark silhouette lighting style. We teach you how to make your own horror film.

    Video Transcript

    [Movie clip playing]

    We’re now gonna take a look at the horror genre. Now utilizing some simple steps, you too can create your own horror films from the comfort of your own home. The first thing we’re gonna do is define the actual horror genre itself. After that we’re gonna take a look at how we stylize it. Then we’re gonna take a look at shooting it, and lastly we’re gonna take a look at how to edit it.

    A horror film is a movie that attempts to drive emotions of fear, panic, and terror from viewers while captivating and entertaining them. Dating back to as early as the 1890s, horror films have been around since the birth of the motion picture camera.

    There are many different types of subgenres when it comes to horror films that combine elements of other genres such as science fiction, documentary, and comedies. Now no matter what the take on the genre is, the one constant here is that we are working with elements of pain, intense fear, dread, and dismay.

    In looking at the style of horror films, we can see that they’re generally very dark and the big theory here is to work with the shadows. You are essentially creating elements of fear by only exposing certain images to the viewer. So the trick here is you tell the story with what you hide. Knowing this, the key is to light specific areas in the frame, but not everything in the frame. Allow enough light so the dark stands out. Allow characters to walk through areas of light and shadow. The main trick here is to set up a light that hangs overhead that is powerful enough to directly shine down everything below it.

    Now one of the common traits of horror is the use of the camera angles to evoke fear and throw off the viewer. One of the ways this is done is by creating shaky shots or crooked angles. Shaky, quick, cut-together shots give off a feeling of uncertainty and chaos. Crooked angles feel jarring and give off an uncomfortable undertone, making it feel as if a character’s equilibrium has been thrown off.

    Now let’s go over a couple of the unique composition aspects as it regards to the horror genre. Number one: lead room. Lead room or nose room is something that is used as a means to gather suspense or trick the viewer by throwing off their focal point in a specific scene. Now what does this mean? It means that when there is room in front of the subject’s face, the audience tends to look ahead, when in reality since the background was cut off, when the subject turns around, since we don’t see what is there and we are still focused on the room in front of the nose, whatever shows up behind that cutoff point can surprise us.

    Another key aspect to the horror genre is the idea of not overexposing the antagonist to build to a climax, or the idea of building a scene visually, only providing enough onscreen information to create an element of surprise and curiosity. Here is an example of this.

    [Movie clip playing]

    Since we didn’t show you who these people actually were and only utilized short, quick cuts, the element of suspense went up during the scene because now the focus is on who or what is after the subject.

    Editing-wise, one of the most important elements is to evoke emotion. They key to doing this is known as thematic editing. This is where a group of clips are placed together to convey the emotion rather than tell a story that moves from point A to point B. The idea is to tell the story with the emotions conveyed. The use of quick cutting to the beat of a soundtrack is a good example of this. We don’t see everything, but what we do see leaves us with a certain feeling that in turn is going to help carry that story along.

    Lastly, remember sometimes audio is more important than video when it comes to selling the scene or building an emotion. It is extremely effective to use the audio to help tell the story and give off the element of fear. Take a look at this example.

    [Movie clip playing]

    Now let’s take a look at the same example with the proper audio placed behind it.

    [Movie clip playing]

    Understanding how these elements tie together can help all of us to define and create very scary and very intense-looking horror video.

    [End of Audio]