And so it begins. Halloween here at the Oracle of Film. Tomorrow, we have my review of Paranormal Activity, joined up with [.REC] over at What About the Twinkie (depending on how well his organisational skills are – touch wood!) But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because what would Halloween be without the scariest, creepiest people on the internet, combined into one article about horror movies. Forget Stalker Saturdays; we have just entered the domain of Stalker Sundays, people!
The question is as follows: What thing you would add to a horror movie to make it a perfect horror? This could be a phobia you want to see exploited. What movie monster would reduce you to a whimpering mess? It could be a director that hits the mark every time he attempts a horror movie. Or maybe it is a stock character that you think makes a horror movie instantly more enjoyable? It could even be something you haven’t seen in a horror movie before. Maybe you want to use this article to tell the world you think Insidious Chapter 3 needs more Jar Jar Binks! And the tag-on question is simply an opinion on Peter Capaldi as the latest Doctor Who. That apparently no one watches, making almost everyone’s answers impossibly vague.
ORACLE OF FILM – SPIDERS
I don’t know if this would make a horror movie my ideal premise for a Halloween movie night, but it would definitely be the easy way to drive me to a quivering wreck from behind the sofa. I hate spiders. I can’t stand them. I recently was on a movie set, populated by the little buggers, and I use the term little lightly. I hit one with a shoe and the fucker didn’t even flinch. It just happily took the blow and moved along. When one of them appears on a television programme or movie (Doctor Who kind of did it recently, just to tag it into the follow-up question), I have an irrational fear that one spider is actually right behind me at that current moment (I just subconsciously checked my back, while writing about them!). If your horror movie monster is a spider, you don’t even have to try hard to make it creepy. As long as the director nails that movement and speed, then I am guaranteed to be horrified at every appearance from their arachnid villains.
Yet, I am also mesmerised. My favourite scene in Lord of the Rings is Shelob’s battle. There is just something that fascinates me about how scared they make me. I know that spiders don’t want to hurt me. That spider that survived a whack by me didn’t maliciously come up with a counter attack in the middle of the night. I have actually been bitten by a spider before and I was surprisingly blasé about the whole incident. I just looked down, saw a bite mark, shrugged and went about my day (well, almost… I had to try activating my spidey sense the following day, but who wouldn’t?). The worse possible scenario of me coming face to face with a spider is something that doesn’t bother me. Then why do they still creep the hell out of me? I keep telling myself that there is nothing to be scared of, but stick a spider in a horror movie and I am guaranteed to become a terrified mess once again. And that is something that thrills me.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Yes. Matt Smith is still my favourite, but the writers have nailed Capaldi’s interpretation.
SILVER SCREEN SERENADE – JUST ONE OR TWO SMALL TWEAKS
The perfect horror, eh? Gees that’s a lot to think about. Let me try to break this down in pieces. I think the perfect horror…
1) Needs characters you can root for. I think a lot of modern horrors have really let this fall by the wayside. Horror characters today are often so bland that you either couldn’t care less what happened to them, or you cannot wait for them to bite it because they’re annoying and stupid as hell. You think I care what happened to that couple in Annabelle? Nope. Because they had literally no distinguishing personality traits. Give me a raging badass, a charming comedian, an exceedingly brave and/or clever good guy–anything I can latch on to and appreciate.
2) Needs to rely less on gore and more on scares. Here’s the thing: I want to WANT to watch a movie. Does that make sense? If someone is getting an eye or a fingernail or some intestines ripped out in an up-close, lingering shot that is as realistic as possible, I will not be looking at the screen. But not because I’m scared–because I’m grossed out. That’s disappointing to me. I go to a movie to be scared, not to throw up. I’d much rather be on the edge of my seat, tense and rapt and eagerly waiting for the next spook to pop up.
3) Needs to have a balanced mix of jump scares and slow-building horrors. Admittedly, this is a fine line. Too many jump scares can make a film seem cheap and unpolished, yet relying entirely on the slow-building horrors can make a film somewhat boring. An effective mix of both can make for a really memorable (and thoroughly creepy) experience.
4) Needs to keep the main entity/monster/serial killer largely a mystery. When a film takes the time to explain exactly what or who something or someone scary is, I think it takes a lot of terror out of it. I always think of the Paranormal Activity movies when it comes to this. In the first movie, so much of what’s scary about the entity is that we have no idea what the motivation is behind it–it’s just causing trouble to cause trouble, and that’s weird and unsettling. But then the other films explain the thing’s history and its every little motivation, and it becomes not only less scary but predictable. I don’t dig it.
5) Can include any of the following for extra points: clowns, twins, antique toys, creepy and/or possessed children, eerie masks, and uniquely horrifying monsters.
Phew! So there’s what I think about that.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Yes. But he’s no Tennant or Smith (sorry, bro).
CINEMA PARROT DISCO – THE SUPERNATURAL
Oh man… I could go on & on about this one, Luke! I have such a love/hate relationship with horror movies. The (very few) good ones are amazing but the bad ones are soooo unbelievably crap and, unfortunately, the horror genre seems to have a massively higher percentage of bad films than good films.
For me, I’m not sure if there’s any one element that makes for my ideal horror movie. I could be extremely vague and say it has to be “creepy”. It has to set the right mood and, ideally, I want it to make me think twice about turning the lights out when I go to bed after watching it. I’ve always found movies that deal with the supernatural (ghosts, the devil, etc) far more disturbing than those with real life threats, such as slashers (with killers that can actually be killed) or home invasion movies. You can lock your doors at night to try to keep murderers out but a locked door won’t save you from supernatural forces that are beyond your control. Or, just as scary, are movies which deal with the madness of the mind and make you feel like you, too, could one day lose your grip on sanity. The one movie for me that comes closest to being THE perfect horror movie is The Shining. A creepy as hell hotel, madness of the mind, supernatural forces, and isolation. The Omen (the original, of course) is another favorite. You can’t escape… SATAN! (I said Satan in the Church Lady voice in my head – you kids won’t know what I mean by that). 😉
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: I don’t hate him but I’d have to say “no”. At least he’s better than Matt Smith. I think they need to work on the writing lately more than anything.
WHAT ABOUT THE TWINKIE – HUMOUR
From a personal standpoint, I love Halloween, and more to the point I love horror films. Horror has turned into one of my favourite genres to watch, and I find myself able to watch all sorts of horror films, even the bad ones. But what what makes them special? I’m not much of a fan of torture porn, like the Saw and Hostel films. I like supernatural horror, as I find it the most likely to make me jump and want to look away from the screen, but oddly enough I think the most important element of a horror film, is a sense of humour. Yes, I admit, this is something of an odd request for a horror film, but when I look at my favourites in the genre, then more often than not they are deeply funny.
Granted films like Halloween and Friday the 13th are severely lacking in the laughs department, but my other favourites like Evil Dead 2 and The Cabin in the Woods are, at times, hilarious. There are moments in both that make me laugh harder than some comedy films. Don’t get me wrong here though, they are not making me laugh through poor acting or bad special effects, but because they are genuinely funny. Whether that be from a clever one liner, or a unique character moment, these films have made me laugh even after multiple viewings and they wouldn’t be the same without their knowing sense of humour.
Oh, and boobs, horror films need boobs.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Well I don’t watch Doctor Who, say I will say no. Because the role has taken him away from one of my favourite shows, The Musketeers, and that is unforgivable.
MOVIE ROB – WHAT’S A HORROR MOVIE?
Actually I don’t really have much of an answer for either of your questions this movie since I hate horror movies and have never ever seen anything featuring Doctor Who. I guess the one thing that I’d change about horror movie would be the scare factor, but that would basically change the genre, so my idea become a moot point.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: As long as the fans like him, I guess I’ll approve, if not, then no!
SPORADIC CHRONICLES OF A BEGINNER BLOGGER – ATMOSPHERE
For me, a great horror is about setting up a damn fine atmosphere. That speaks more to me about the film than the monster. Also, I am a fan of old school horror movies, so I love makeup and regular special effects, not movies that get lost under and drowned out by CGI. That is an instant killer for me. I like the music to complement the film, the plot to be tight (even if it has a little sketchy logic – we know how horror movies are like that), moving along briskly, nice camerawork and preferably some semi-decent acting. Like I’ve said, I like a lot of old school… maybe that’s because they usually have just a dash of cheese to offset everything with. I am also not really a fan of something that takes itself so seriously that it sort of forgets the point…
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Not relevantly qualified to answer the question.
TIM THE FILM GUY – ISOLATION
Most of my favourite horror films are set in environments that secludes its characters from the protection society provides. For example The Thing: hundreds of miles from anything helpful. Alien: totally isolated in the vast emptiness of space. The Descent: trapped under the earth in a system of tunnels, you won’t be heard when you scream and no one will run to your aid. If I see a scenario in which getting in a car and driving away is a really simple option to escape and they choose not to, then that’s a film I am routing for the villain.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: I don’t watch too much of Doctor Who. I used to but not for a while. I do like Peter Capaldi, he’s a good actor and I’d like to see an aged doctor.
DIGITAL SHORTBREAD – ORIGINALITY
Although I don’t find myself tuning in to horror all that much, it’s a good question that I should ask myself more often lol.
I think for me, it has a lot to do with how original the conception of the story is. That sounds like a cop-out answer, I know, since that basically means I avoid a lot of movies if it’s another Amityville Horror remake or the umpteenth take on Leatherface (both examples are reasons why I try to avoid the genre so much, actually lol). But I like movies that have a refreshing spin on things. If it insists on revisiting a popular sub-genre, like zombies for example, I go for things like World War Z (blockbuster); Shawn of the Dead (amazing comedy), etc.
So the story and strong writing have to be there for me. A cast always helps but not always a requirement for me. I knew (at the time of watching) no one in the cast of the original Nightmare on Elm Street (save a young Johnny Depp), and that has become one of my favourite movies. That was so successful because the scares were so effective and the narrative (about dying in your dreams) just spooked me to the core.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Who cares about Doctor Who?? Hahahah. (I’m also semi-aware of how alone I am on that one. . . But seriously, yawn.)
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE – STOP BEING SO SCARY!!!
I have to admit that I don’t watch a lot of horror movies. I am a bit of a baby so I either find them terrifying, which I don’t enjoy or they’re so dumb I actually can’t sit through them. I suppose for a horror to be worth it for me it’s got to have an intriguing story line that doesn’t require such suspension of disbelief that I have to leave my brain at the door, characters that I actually want to root for and preferably a little bit of black humour to stop it from becoming so relentlessly dark that I get depressed by it. I suspect the IPC’s answer is just going to be “boobs”.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Peter Capaldi – yes. Steven Moffat – NO!
THE IPC – BOOBS!
This is easy –> Tits. I mean, don’t you think more people would have liked Oculus if Amy Pond got her shirt off??
But seriously, you know what freaks me out in movies? People lurking in the background. I think that’s why all of the Halloween movies worked for me in general, because The Shape was always there, right behind you, in the dark. Kind of like you, Luke.
Peter Capaldi – Yes or No?: Yes BUT – I can barely understand him half the time. I need a Babel Fish.
Isolation and BOOBS!!!!
Lots of great answers again! 🙂 Thanks, Luke – I always enjoy participating in these & reading all the answers. Btw, I watched Caravan Of Courage – An Ewok Adventure the other day & there’s a pretty scary spider monster so you may want to avoid that one!
Lol! I looove your answer, Cara. I was worried I’d be the one to appear to picky… 😉 That’s good, though! We SHOULD be picky about our horror movies! Not enough people are and that’s why they make so many shitty ones. Amen, sister!
Isolation is a great answer too, Tim! The Shining, The Thing & Alien are terrifying… And, Tom – I’d give anything for horror films with some originality for a change! Ugh.
Caravan of Courage does sound particularly horrific. Those pesky Ewoks know how to get under my skin!
Mutant, THANK YOU!! I just know what I like!! Lol. To be fair though, I enjoy plenty of horror movies that don’t meet every single one of these qualifications. I’m not ENTIRELY impossible to please…hahaha.
Thanks Mutey, thanks for siding with me there. It’s a difficult fight to get behind, because Hollywood loves repetition, almost as much as it loves its dollar bills. 🙂 I understand why the industry churns out so many remakes and truly unoriginal stories, but I just. . .ugh. It needs to stop!!!
I’m pretty much with you 100% on the love/hate relationship just because of the far-and-wide searching one has to do to get compelling horror.
TOM! Watch The Babadook….. ! 🙂
Cool. Have added it to the list. Plus, that’s just a really really odd title. 😉
It’s an excellent film. 🙂 Believe it’s going straight to on demand in America at the end of November…
Great post with awesome answers. The setting and suspense matters most to me. I thought Saw I and Hostel I were perfect horror films. Setting, originality, gore, suspense — surely there were boobs, too?
It’s why I always go to the IPC’s site for information. There is a handy #Boobs or #NoBoobs tucked away in the tags.
I’m not that curious. 😉
Love ALL of this. So many good answers! Can we bring all of the horror directors/screenwriters right here so they can understand what’s up? Also, I love how Abbi totally predicted Eric’s answer. Clearly, we all know him very well.
P.S. Luke, that pic at the very top is perfection. NOOOOvember is gonna kick ass this year. 🙂
I thought you would enjoy it. Besides, I had to squeeze the Alien in this article somewhere.
Cara and Abbi!
We know you too well!
Reblogged this on Silver Screen Serenade and commented:
What makes a horror movie particular awesome? A bunch of us over at Oracle of Film mused on that very topic, and you should probably go have a look.
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Totally agree with Tim, isolation is awesome. That feeling of nowhere to run or hide. But I love the point of when we don’t get to see to much of the antagonist so when we do we really get our butts scared. And of course have so to agree with IPC on Oculus, he needs to direct number 2 🙂
Sign me up!!!
Reblogged this on and commented:
A bunch of us answered Luke monthly question (well, not me really) 🙂 abt what we think is missing from the horror genre, see what everyone had to say. Thanks Luke
“Peter Capaldi – yes. Steven Moffat – NO!”
I completely agree Abbi!
I’m so over Moffat and his ridiculous story arcs!
Reblogged this on The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger and commented:
Hey everyone! Question of the Month time again, and Luke picked a great Halloween themed question! Head on over to check it out!
Ah, absolutely excellent answers here, all round. Boobs seem popular for a decent horror…
And that pic? EXACTLY what I mean! 🙂
Most Adored IJB,
HAHAHAHA Luke – this turned out great! What a great feature you have going on here!
Reblogged this on digitalshortbread and commented:
Question of the month is here again!!! This time, the Halloween version! Check out all of our responses!
Excellent explanations everyone!!!!
Luke, thanks for having me once again, kind sir.
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Lol! I love the idea of spiders. And humor. And Matt Smith is my favorite Doctor, although Capaldi ain’t so bad.
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So sad I missed this… next month my friend!
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