“What’s A Single Shot From A Film That Will Haunt You Forever?”: 30 People Reveal The Scariest Single Shots In Films They Will Never Be Able To Shake Off
Oftentimes, a horror movie is nothing but a bunch of cheap jumpscares. You know how it goes, the character is slowly walking into a quiet dim room, then they look at the mirror and bam, a loud, jarring sound blasts from the speakers as a ghost suddenly appears in the reflection. It's an effective technique if you want to spook the audience for a second.
But to truly traumatize them, to plant a nightmarish seed into their mind, filmmakers need to craft a tension that lasts for the entire script, chilling set design, costumes, and make-up as well as plenty of other details. It's difficult and expensive, but every now and then we get such a gem.
Interested in which productions have frightened people the most, actor Elijah Wood recently tweeted a question, asking everyone to share stills from the screen that continue to terrify them long after seeing the credits. Here are some of the replies he has received.
Image credits: elijahwood
But have you wondered that what makes horror movies scary might be... us?
"We are the monster," said James Kendrick, Ph.D., associate professor of film and digital media in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. Kendrick has authored three books: Darkness in the Bliss-Out: A Reconsideration of the Films of Steven Spielberg; Hollywood Bloodshed: Violence in the 1980s American Cinema; and Film Violence: History, Ideology, Genre.
He believes that the themes of horror films have changed and developed over the years to capture the zeitgeist and adapt to societal fears.
"Character and story, atmosphere and the monster. That’s all you really need," Kendrick said.
"Interesting, engaging characters in an effective setting pitted against some kind of monstrosity. That is the core of the genre, and anything and everything else grows from and functions to support those three elements."
The audience must be able to relate to characters and empathize with them. The atmosphere must engage the audience and provide an effective platform for fear.
According to the professor, the 2017 film “Get Out,” written and directed by Jordan Peele, is a good example.
“The film intelligently mixes its various horror conventions, including stalk-and-slash scares, fears about secret cults and medical horror, with both comedy and social satire to make a point about troubled race relations in our ‘post-racial’ nation,” Kendrick explained.
"The protagonist is an African-American who finds himself increasingly concerned about the intentions of all the white people around him. In effect, polite, wealthy white society becomes the film’s raging monster."
In the same way that characters and settings have developed throughout history, so has the monster. Kendrick pointed out that a great monster will capitalize on the existing fears of society and use these for a greater scare factor.
"The monsters are more often than not simply an extension or elaboration of what we fear due to our mortal condition. At the heart of horror is always the fear of death – physical or spiritual."
Fear is so effective because it is able to play with human empathy, Kendrick said. By using current trends, directors and producers are able to generate characters and settings that their audience can relate to.
"The best films, the ones that really stand out in our memory, are the ones that we connect with emotionally through characters and that we sense have a deeper purpose than just causing anxiety," Kendrick said.
Consider the 2014 film 'The Babadook.'
"‘It is grounded in real, recognizable human emotions, which makes it as dramatically compelling as it is scary," Kendrick said. "The film is not so much about a shadowy supernatural figure lurking in the corner as it is about very real parental fears about inadequacy and conflicted love."
Also, despite the few successes in recent years, Kendrick believes today’s horror films are often dull and one-dimensional, relying on an increasingly tired set of visual and audio clichés.
According to him, they lack connection to the characters, the circumstances in which those characters find themselves, and any sense of social or cultural meaning.
Note: this post originally had 52 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.
"If you don’t care for or identify with the characters whose mortality is at stake, it is just a hollow exercise in style," Kendrick said.
"We all fear death and are aware of our human mortality, and the best horror films engage that fear in complex and challenging and – yes – artful ways."