Identifying What Horror Is

To start off I will say I have never been a fan of horror. In general I have never really enjoyed being scared by movies, but I found that during our last project and field studies I found that knowing more about what makes the horror aspect scary helped me appreciate the movies more. Through this project we examined how horror reflects ideas in our own society, and to get a better understanding we even took a trip over to Seattle to get first hand knowledge on what horror is. Our final product was creating a class horror movie using what we learned from our field study and previous knowledge. There is quite a lot to go over, and I am also going to be focusing on one specific aspect of horror which I found interesting, so here’s my post.

As mentioned I probably won’t be able to fit everything into this post, so I have decided to focus on one aspect of horror and horror movies which I thought provoked the most interesting reactions. That aspect is the fear of what is around the corner, more specifically the fear of what we can see yet. After visiting MoPop and watching some movies I thought it was interesting how effective this trope is and how it always provokes a reaction. Everything in this post will build up this idea and by the end hopefully I have a solid explanation of what makes this trope effective and how it has evolved through time.

Straight from the beginning of the project we jumped right into what horror is as a genre. We learned that in the beginning, and even now, people view horror as a cheap and maybe less creative form of the arts because the content is crude and vulgar. I can see where these ideas come from because of how the first horror movies where different from anything made during that time, and of course in comparison to other movies they may seem simple, but I would disagree with the idea that that are lesser than other types of movies or arts. On the contrary I think it takes a special type of mind to utilize the fear we have in order to entertain an audience. The techniques and tropes used take advantage of our fears and leave these scenes in our minds even after the movie is over, which is ultimately what true horror is.

To understand the process and ideas behind horror movies our class took a trip down to Seattle in order to visit the Museum of Pop Culture. I found their section on horror very helpful as I was able to go through different examples of movies and pick out certain aspects which I found scary, and then identity why I was scared by them. I believe being able to figure out why I was scared was crucial in my understanding to techniques were used in order to provoke that reaction. The second important of this visit was learning about how what horror truly represents. We learned that horror reflects the fears of our society, and this is for multiple reasons but the one I think is the main reasons is because when we see our fears come true whether it is one screen on in real life, thats when we truly experience horror. By showing psycho killers we see something that could happen in our own lives, and that leaves a different feeling than seeing a monster. 

Looping back to my original question of why people are scared of the unknown lurking in the darkness or behind a corner, I think from this experience I had better idea of where that fear originates from. I got this idea actually sitting in my room with the lights off, and I realized I started to picture all the possibilities of what could be in the dark, and from this I came to me that imagination plays a huge role in the fear factor. I believe that because of the society we are brought up in we naturally fear the dark as it has been labeled a place of danger, and writers took advantage of this fact to bring out the greatest reaction from their audience. I think the modern fear of the dark or unknown is greatly boosted by the horror films as they create images or in simple terms, monsters which our minds can build off of to create images which in reality don’t exist.

After some research I learned that another reason darkness or camera shots that don’t capture entire scenes are so effective is because as humans we rely on vision as our primary tools for interpreting information and then deciding whether it is a threat or not. By not being able to fully identify what is going on in scenes we feel unsure or unsafe because we can’t determine what’s going on. Another aspect of this plays back into the imagination part I mentioned before. When horror tropes are active ( music, sound effects, camera) and we aren’t able to tell exactly what is going on, that’s when the mind starts filling in the image for us, which leads to more of a scare than what actually appears in the movies. No Film School had a really good example of using darkness in the movie “Lights Out”. They explain how the opening scene using the light switch creates a situation where we have enough light to understand the situation, but because we don’t fully see everything, we can’t quite make out what threat is approaching and how fast. The movement in between the lights going on and off is what creates the horror aspect as we know the situation is dangerous but we can’t fully judge what is going on. Below is the scene I was referencing.

Another interesting quote I got from another video was “ when you can’t fill in exactly what is going on then your imagination kicks in, and that is much scarier because your imagination knows what your scared of and creates images tailored to who you are”.

In conclusion to this part of the post I found that the fear of the unknown trope in horror movies is not used in every move just because everyone is scared of the dark, but in fact it is mainly used to stir individuals imagination in order to enhance the effectiveness of the film. 

After the trip down to Seattle we had to go straight into planning the movie and then right into filming. We had about two weeks before heading out once again to Loon Lake, at which we would be doing all the filming for our movie. The goals was to use the new information we got from Seattle and incorporate with our own views on what we think society fears and then produce a movie based on those. In order to prepare for our filming at loon lake we split everyone in the class into different roles, and one I took up was that of Key grip and also head of the sound department. I realized that we did not have enough people to fill all of the key roles in production, so I applied for both head of Grip as well as head of the Sound department. I know I was strong in both these roles, and if I wanted to impact the movie this is the best way I could do it.

The next main event in our horror movie project was the Loon Lake shoot. This is when I realized that adaption to roles is key in being efficient in filming, mostly because the sound and grip role was minimal until the last two days of the trip. I believe I was to stuck in my role for the first day, and because of this I did nothing for half a day. If I had been more adaptive to different roles I could have probably played more of an impact in the initial filming. As the trip moved on we picked up speed and got more and more of our filming done, and I was able to do on set sound and also look at post filming sound as well. 

This is where I am going to end this post as the movie is not quite complete yet, but when it is finally complete I will most likely do a separate post dedicated to just talking about the movie. Overall in the main part of the projects I felt I could have had a bigger impact in the initial filming and I regret not putting myself out there more. At the same time however I don’t regret the role I signed up for and I had a really great time learning about different aspects of horror movies which directors and writers use to take advantage or create fears we didn’t even know we had.

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