Wednesday morning and a beautiful sunny day ahead of us. I was going to do this yesterday but got diverted so will start again.
The three scary elements in a horror movie: Suspense, first of all. Suspense is agonizing to me and I react very strongly to it. Music or sounds also contribute greatly to the suspense. Since I don't watch or go to many gory horror movies, I can't say about that aspect. Some of the present horror movies like the Saw series seem to be more about how much torture, blood and gore can be spilled. The idea of Elm Street series was so scary to me I didn't watch them. But the Audition was terrifying and very suspenseful and full of mystery. Psycho was so scary, the suspense, the terrifying image in our heads of some wild, murderous maniacal insane old woman was overwhelming but there was mystery too.
The shower scene was terrifying and shocking at the time, but I also was terrified when the private detective walked up the stairs toward the partially open door to the (what we thought was the insane mother). The suspense was overwhelming and sure enough, it finished with our wildest fears. So by the time the sister started down to the basement where we knew the old woman was, fear and suspense were rampant. The music or sounds used in this film were perfect to the horror and suspense. Alien created almost monumental suspense with darkness, horror of the unknown monster, and the isolation of the people in the space ship. Dawn of the Dead created horror and suspense by people trapped in a world of man eating zombies. All these and more created huge suspense, which is a primal element of horror movies.
Next, I would say our human fear of the unknown element. Scraping noises, unknown sounds, images of shadows, thumping noises, the suggestion of painful death, the unknown animal or alien lurking about, all contribute to horror. The unknown is very scary. But it has to be done right, sometimes it works, sometimes not. I remember "The Haunting". Very very terrifying book but several movies did not capture this on film. Then "The Turning of the Screw". Terrifying. Why the difference, I'm not sure. Maybe because in the Screw, the children are killed and we don't expect that in a movie by spirits, etc. The build up by words, stories, and warnings contribute much to our build up of suspense and fear. This can be seen in movies that are not even "horror" movies. The Inglorious Bastards build up of the guy with the bat. We, like the intended victim, sees nothing but a dark tunnel and hears this clanging noise approaching and it was a great gimmick. The fear built up by the noise and the unknown approaching. When people talk about fearful things, they make a powerful suggestion to our fears, which are fed and increased by the talk.
I also love a killer or villain who doesn't give you clues along the way that they are the killer. The surprise element is great if it is done right. Or at least for some portion on the movie. After you realize who the baddie is, then there is the fear for all innocents who fall in their path. Audition kept the killer as a secret for a while. You knew someone was going to be really bad but you weren't sure who. Then when you did know, you dreaded who the next victim would be. No Country for Old Men didn't keep the bad guy a secret but it worked anyway. The dread of what soul would accidentally meet with this robot like killer was awful. And they added suspense by the killer giving the possible victim a quarter throwing chance to avoid death.
What I don't like is dummies who when they realize they are faced with a maniac then start screaming "You're crazy!!". Just the kind of remark to drive nutso right over the edge. Also when everyone is terrified in the story about killer, monster, ogre, alien, or whatever, and trying to band together to survive. Then some bimbo either wanders off or while everyone else is asleep, hears a noise and goes to investigate!!!! Sure, dummy, open that door and see what is on the other side!!!
Will think about this and probably add some other ideas later.
Just a fan of movies and tv,