How to Create a False Sense of Security

There is no doubt that if you are making a horror movie you want it to scare people, in fact if it doesn’t achieve this, then is it really horror?

Today we are going to talk about how to land a good scare, though rather than focusing on shock factor we’re going to talk about doing it through casual scene setting, relatable situations and heartfelt characters.

First of all, let’s stop calling it a horror movie for a moment and concentrate on a scary story. Every part of the filmmaking process is important, that being said you must always remember that when brought down to its bare bones, it’s simply another way to tell stories. You might have some gruesome scenes in mind but without a good story people simply won’t be impressed.

To be afraid of something we need to be able to relate to it, it needs to touch on genuine fears that people have or things that put us all out of our comfort zone. Often it can be as simple as asking yourself what makes you feel this way? Perhaps there is something that you’ve read or seen on the news that has shocked you in some way? Though it doesn’t have to be realistic, most people have been afraid of something lurking in the dark at some point in their lives. The point is to convince the viewer that the situation is believable within the confines of the story, that way they’ll forget it’s just a movie and really buy into the scares.

No matter what the premise of your story is, try to ground the beginning in as comfortable a situation as possible. This is really where you want to lure you’re audience into a false sense of security, the best way to hit a high note is to start off with a low key. Think about who is in the situation, a family? Someone alone? A couple? How are they acting in the situation? Relate yourself, think about how you would act normally and let the dialog and directions reflect this. Let your audience get to know the characters, it’ll give them more reason to be afraid, now that they’re fond of these people and won’t want to see them get hurt.

As an example, let’s look at Jaws. Most people have visited a beach in their life and, as shown in the film, a lot of families do it all the time. The movie begins with children playing on the beach, having fun, straight away we can relate – everyone has been a kid, and many are now parents. Then a shark rolls in and takes a bite out of someone, a fear that anyone that’s been in the sea has had, the crowd is screaming and all of sudden nobody in the audience wants to go the beach again. It’s a very simple example that has become one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.

Jaws is just one example, there are many more, in fact almost every horror movie does the same thing. Next time you watch one try and notice it for yourself to better understand it and start thinking about your story and how you can make it relatable to everyone watching. Happy Scaring!