Sunday, January 27, 2013

Horror Film Writing, Beyond Props

Horror Film Writing, Beyond Props

Hitchcock when asked about horror films said that he did not make them (maybe the Birds). He said that all they really amounted to were movies about walking props.

The Frankenstein monster was just a prop and the history of horror movies is mostly dependent upon them.

Jason is just a walking machete.

Michael Myers a walking kitchen knife.

Freddy is a walking glove that cracks jokes.

These films in their original forms were not all prop and no content. I would argue that Michael Myers in the
original film was more than a knife. The character represented a total lack of humanity that in is own way made him a compelling creation. In the Rob Zombie remake (the only remake worth talking about) the character represents aggression and rage. A kind of overwhelming rage that is triggered all to easily by people in the world around him.

Freddy when he was first introduced represented our own inner demons. Our worst nightmares come to life. Then the character began a franchise and soon after he became little more than comic relief.

When sitting down to write a screenplay we all to often go for the cheap scare. Creating characters who’s sole purpose is to die in as gruesome a way as possible. Is this the best that we can do?

Can you name any of the character who went out like that?

I can name Heather from the Freddie films because she is the only real character in those movies. She fought, she struggled, she tried to survive as any of us would do.

I know that Ripley was the star of the Alien films that were good.

I remember Sam and Juno from the Descent.

Can you name one single character from any of the Final destination films? Who were they? You do not know because you were never asked to care.

It is the character first and not the situation that makes for great horror films. Far too many horror movie scripts are written with situation in mind. When writing a horror screenplay it is easy to think up a place where character will find themselves trapped and then butchered by another character who is nothing more than a prop. Look at the movie Saw. It could have been just another slasher film and that is the problem with its sequels, but the first one does a great job of getting you inside the heads and lives of the two guys we meet chained in that filthy bathroom.

Writing about characters that you know and like will be one of the easier things that you ever do. Can you imagine being Sam Raimi and partner sitting down to write more dialogue for Ash in one of the Evil Dead movies. That trash talking character has become loved by millions of fans because he was first loved by the person who created him.

Create good characters and the story will take care of itself.

Or create Props and they will lumber around like the dead weight that they are.

No one ever said that screen writing was going to be easy. It is fun at times, but rarely easy. None of us really consider ourselves masters of this craft. We have good weeks and bad weeks. There are times when pages will flow and then there will be weeks when you will not be able to write more than a sentence or two. Just try to do one thing when ever you sit down in front of that blank screen, try to do your very best. Try to create characters that are more than blocks of wood.

Okay that is it for today. Please take a moment to share this post with a friend.

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