The horror genre has been around for centuries, captivating audiences with its ability to produce fear, anxiety, and terror. Before beginning this project, my perception of horror was very limited. I’d seen various horror movies as entertainment but never dug deeper into the genre and hidden messages. During this project, I went deep into analyzing the horror genre’s various tropes and themes, and how horror continues to captivate and terrify audiences around the world today.

The goal of all of our learning was to create a horror film as a class that is intertwined with a message surrounding our society. For the project, our driving question was “Why is horror an effective way to reflect and comment on our society?” The final movie is meant to help us answer this driving question.

One of our first activities was watching the 1978 film Halloween. The film is influential to the horror genre as it paved the way for slasher horror films. It’s a classic horror film that uses suspense, tension, and a psycho villain to create a sense of fear for the audience. From analyzing the film and participating in the Socratic seminar, my biggest takeaway was the importance of the fear of the unknown in horror. In the movie, Michael Myers is a mysterious being that is driven by unknown motives. The fact that his motivations and actions were for the most part unexplained adds to the mystery and uncertainty surrounding him making him much more frightening.

The fear of the unknown can be used to create a sense of terror and unease in the audience. I noticed after watching this movie that almost all horror movies rely on this fear of the unknown to create a scare. It’s a great way to further tap into the audience’s fears, as I believe almost everyone’s fears link back to the unknown. This was useful to know as we could shape our horror movie around the fear of the unknown to easily build suspense and tension which is essential to create a scary movie.

Our field study in Seattle was our first large step in the right direction in answering our driving question. While we were there, we took a look at the Museum of Pop Culture and had the opportunity to experience their horror exhibit. The exhibit held everything from classic horror film costumes to modern film props used in the shooting of the movie.

One part of the exhibit that stood out to me as I entered was the writing on the wall when you walk in. It defined the word fear in the horror genre. The wall had many insights into the root of horror and why we feel what we feel. It says simply that “fear is the anticipation that something is about to occur”. Before my understanding was simply that fear gives us an adrenaline rush and that’s why people enjoy horror films. After reading this, I learned more about how fear is what keeps us alive and is a survival instinct. Fear is a survival mechanism that helps people avoid danger and protect themselves. As a result of this, we are naturally inclined to fear things that threaten our physical safety or the safety of others.  To scare someone, you have to tap into this survival instinct.  I enjoyed the rest of the exhibit, as it opened my eyes to the characteristics that make a great horror film. Connecting to the audience through characters while also tugging on certain fear that the audience has. With all of this learning completed in the field study, I felt much more confident in creating a horror film.

The next step was putting together an idea for our film and starting production. After going out to Seattle to complete deeper learning about the horror genre, as well as watching and analyzing a variety of horror films, we started brainstorming ideas for our movie. Our final movie idea that we came up with surrounded the social commentary cancel culture.  For the movie, my production role was the editor. I have lots of experience editing and I did a major amount of editing for our Macbeth movie last year so I thought that I would be a fit for the role.

I found that the greatest horror of the project was being handed a USB drive full of unsorted movie clips. At that moment, I truly learned the importance of organization. With past editing, I just expected as the editor that all the clips would be organized for me to begin editing. I started by creating folders for each scene and subfolders for each shot within each scene. This process of organizing took some time, but after hours of sorting, it ended up paying off. It made the editing process much smoother and more efficient as I was able to quickly locate the clips I needed.

After all the sorting, I realized that organization is essential for any task, and it’s worth taking the time to find a system that works for you. Without organization, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of the task at hand. By being organized, I was able to stay focused, work more efficiently, and achieve better results.

“A good editor can take good clips and produce a good movie, but an amazing editor can take mediocre clips and produce a masterpiece.”

– Anders Bergman

Before beginning the editing process, I did some research into how editing can amplify the scare factor in horror films. If you’d like to read more on that, click here. I learned that the most important part of editing a horror movie is the tone and atmosphere that is created. In a horror movie, the editor must work to build suspense and create a sense of fear in the audience. This is often achieved through the use of music, sound effects, and careful pacing of the action on screen. With this new knowledge learned, I was able to make positive editing decisions to help amplify the scare of our movie and can continue to develop my editing skills for future film projects.

With everything I’ve learned from this project, I’m able to answer the driving question of “Why is horror an effective way to reflect and comment on our society“? After creating our horror film, I’ve realized that horror allows people to explore controversial topics in a way that is often more acceptable to audiences. I especially found this effective in the way that Jordan Peele presented the message in his film Get Out. He was able to convey an important message about a controversial topic to an audience through horror and filmmaking. By displaying these topics within a horror context, you can create a sense of distance and remove some of the potential discomforts that may come from discussing societal issues directly.