Horror films are a genre of film that is unique to any other. It entertains people through the feeling of fear and the anticipation that something is about to occur. Our bodies react to this fear by increasing our adrenaline. This spur of thrill from scary films increases the release of dopamine and leaves you with a good feeling.
This feeling can’t be created solely by an enticing story and relatable characters. While that does help the audience connect to the movie and retains their attention, the real scare comes from the editing. Horror films only work because of the editor’s choices. The harmony between fast-cut clips, eerie music, loud stings, and so much more. My question is how can editing be used to amplify the scare factor in horror films?
You can’t have a horror movie that scares you without gradually building up tension. A video editor can use a series of properly timed clips to create suspense throughout the film. The duration and length of the clips help leave a tense impression on the audience.
Building anticipation and tension through the pacing of clips can vary depending on the editor’s decisions. A burst of fast-sorted clips helps to capture the audience’s attention, while also leaving them confused. A series of quick cuts leaves an audience feeling like everything is happening fast, which gives off a sense of urgency. This best works with close-up shots where there’s more than one perspective are filmed, especially when you want an action-packed scene.
An editor can also choose to do the opposite of this to help build tension. Instead of editing quick cuts, shots held on screen for a bit longer than necessary leave the audience in discomfort and anxiety. The greater the discomfort, the bigger the anticipation. This strategy for building tension is a difficult technique because you don’t want to lose the attention of your audience with a drawn-out scene. You want to use a drawn-out shot after the tension has been built to grip the audience.
Making a film scary isn’t just about what the audience sees, but also what they hear. Suspense can be built from music, as well as sound effects. The music chosen for each scene is connected to the pacing of a video edit. Music beats, stings, and rhythms can be timed to clips to surprise the audience add more depth to the video and give the audience a more powerful scare.
Sound effects are a great way to help shape the environment of the scene. Examples of sound you can use to do this is natural sounds like rain, wind, or maybe an animal cry. Sound effects help build anxiety and fear around something they know is there, but can’t see. It’s a way to build unseen tension. Using realistic random sounds can make the audience jump. Erie sounds like creaking floors or eerie winds play a role in what builds up a spooky atmosphere.
What makes a horror movie scary is the build-up and the release of tension. To answer my question from the start, editors can increase the scare factor of the movie by increasing the build-up of tension through a variety of editing techniques. A balance of well paced clips, matched with realistic and sudden audio queues makes for a perfectly scary horror film.