The scariest moments in horror films aren’t the jump-scares that make audiences jump at loud noises or sudden lights, but rather the quiet moments that lurch all the more. The tension builds slowly and, when the disturbance finally happens, it all comes down to those few seconds, which are deeply scary. Today we are going to look at common themes we see across classic horror movies that scare the pants off of us.
- Every horror movie has some kind of mystery.
The suspense builds with a mystery that the audience is constantly trying to solve. Not only does it keep them on edge, but it’s also something they want to know the answer to, especially when they realize that their worst suspicions are right. These mysteries are pivotal in creating tension and fear, which is what makes the jump scares so effective.
- Every horror movie tells its own story.
The horror film genre is not just about jumping scares, but also building tension in a story that actually has a plot. This could be as simple as missing a shirt or a pair of shoes. The fear comes from realizing that there is some kind of unseen danger, which only makes the situations worse for the characters.
- There are many unexpected twists and turns.
The jump scares aren’t always the only thing that can leave your audience terrified, but are just a way to create tension. The real fear comes from the unpredictable nature of unanticipated twists and turns, often at the most random of scenes. You don’t know what to expect, which means you can never be too safe. This is where fear comes in and leaves you on edge as your imagination goes wild.
- A horror movie is not ‘supposed to be’ scary.
A horror film is about something scary, but not every scary movie needs jump scares. The idea of a deadly creature is often enough to scare people, so it’s not always about going overboard with the scary situations. A good writer can create a terrifying situation that is entirely believable.
- The ending has to be shocking and unexpected.
If you’ve seen one horror movie, you’ve almost certainly seen them all. Or at least most of them. The ending of a great horror film is where the scariest moments come from, which is why the ending has to be unexpected. The audience doesn’t know what direction the story will take next, so it’s terrifying when it does. If a movie has a predictable end, then it can be boring and dull for viewers who can predict how it will end.
- The characters must be relatable.
In order to create empathy with viewers, the characters must be relatable, or at least have a backstory that makes them likeable. It’s important to develop a character before dropping them into danger, so that the audience can hang their hats on something to make it easier for them to connect with the story. The more developed the character, then the more emotional investment they will have in their survival.
- The bad guy should be terrifying and appear suddenly without warning.
The bad guy is the force of evil, giving more fear than anything else in the story. They are the villain and they must be terrifying, because they have to be frightening enough to make someone do something terrible. It’s hard to build tension without someone who is going to cause trouble. This bad guy has to appear suddenly out of nowhere and scare everyone around him, which is where jump scares come in handy.
- The monsters should be terrifying, but not gory or sexual.
Sometimes horror movies use graphic violence and sexy monsters. While these can be terrifying, the reality is that most people want to feel scared, but not grossed out or turned on. The scariest parts are the moments when the monster attacks, making it appear as if it’s coming out of nowhere.
- The audience must be able to relate to at least one of the characters.
Even though the horror film is mostly about jump scares, it can still create an effective story if the characters are relatable. If people can relate to their situation, then it creates an emotional connection with them and makes them worry more about their characters’ safety and survival.
- There has to be a goal for the character to achieve.
Every character in a horror movie, whether it’s the main character or a side character needs a goal. Failure for the main character is to be killed off, and the goal for side characters is to figure out a way to survive. It’s important that these goals are believable and something that an audience could relate to.
- You have to show characters’ states of fear.
The horror genre requires that viewers can see what the characters are feeling through body language, facial expressions and voice tones. The audience can feel frightened if they see their character’s fear, since they know what they are scared of.
- The music should be eerie and completely unpredictable.
The music needs to be able to change on a dime, creating as much tension as possible. It should have an eeriness that makes the audience uneasy, which is something that even classical music can do. The best horror films use music to build tension before something horrible happens so viewers can feel scared without actually seeing anything yet. The music and sound design should be perfect, because it has to be terrifying.
- Every jump scare has to be completely unpredictable, but still totally believable.
Jump scares are not easy to pull off when you are trying to create tension and comedy at the same time. While a strong movie will still make viewers jump in their seats even while they know they will survive the terrifying moment, it’s a lot harder when the audience realizes that something is coming up and they can’t handle it. This is the reason the biggest jump scares are usually saved for the end of the movie and not sprinkled throughout.
- The movie has to be more than just a series of jumpscares.
A good horror film is not just about jump scares, it’s about building tension and having a story that’s interesting enough for people who aren’t interested in horror movies to actually like them. The genre requires that the characters’ stories are compelling enough for the audience to be invested in them, which is something that isn’t easily done without jump scares.
- The horror film must be scary, unsentimental and unpredictable.
A good horror movie is realistic and believable, but it’s also unpredictable and time-stopping terrifying. If you want to make a scary movie, then you need to show a realistic story that can really affect viewers and create fear.
Realistically, horror films have a variety of ways of scaring us. They create suspense and anxiety through the unknown and the feeling that something is about to happen. They use jump scares to make audiences jump out of their seats, which is why it’s important to mix things up with unexpected turns. The best horror films have some combination of these elements that cause viewers to be on the edge of their seats, feeling a range of emotions from terror to suspense to empathy. While most horror films are based on jump scares, which are intended to scare viewers without actually showing anything too scary, sometimes a film builds tension by using only scenes that are scary but don’t show anything. This is what makes horror movies both terrifying and effective.