My understanding of the horror genre

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but deliver us from evil."

The Lord's Prayer provides an apt theme for the horror genre. But there will be no deliverance from evil for the heroes of these tales; they have already been judged, and it is time to be punished for their sins. There are many ways, and a whole slew of monsters, with which the horror screenwriter can choose to punish their protagonists. The modern horror movie may be about frightening audiences, but they are the evolution of age-old cautionary tales. They remind us that there are consequences for committing sins. As someone who both loves and is afraid of the horror genre, I like to know why I want to scare people just as much as how.  

As a screenwriter I am interested in writing horror stories with human or animal monsters and so I find inspiration in movies like Scream, Psycho, Rogue, and The Shallows because I love stories about survival; and a dark comedy horror like Lake Placid suits my tastes even better. My understanding of horror movies comes from screenwriting guru Blake Snyder who labels it the "Monster in the House" genre. The monsters come to punish the heroes for a sin they have committed. For teens, sex is often the sin (Scream). For adults, it might be putting career before family (The Ring) or adultery (Fatal Attraction). For a town or city, this might be corporate greed over ethics (Jaws, Congo, Godzilla). The rules of the horror story need this transgression to create the loophole through which 'Evil' can enter. And though these films may seem unrelated they all possess similar patterns and characters.

Blake Snyder posits there are three components to a horror movie: (1) a powerful monster that is evil at its core, (2) an enclosed space the characters cannot escape, and (3) the hero must be guilty of some transgression that has opened the door and allowed the monster to enter. There is usually a character that shows up with clues about the monster, having survived and come away scarred. Blake Snyder calls this the ‘half man.’ The ‘half man’ pops up to reveal the myth of the monster.

The monster must be truly evil. There is something a little more than normal that powers these monsters. They should not be defeated by splashing water on them, Mr. Shyamalan.

The story must take place in an environment where the characters cannot easily run away from the monster. Yes, it is scary to come across a snake in the bush, but to come across a snake on a motherfucking plane?

Finally, it is 'sin' that makes all horror movies work. It is one thing to be stalked by a mental woman, but to be stalked by a mental woman because you ended an affair with her makes for a more compelling story.

The Use of the Parrallel Shot in 'Sunsrise A Song of Two Humans' (1927)

Director F.W. Murnau has chosen to use parallel shots as a technique to cue the audience to anticipate action, feel sympathy and other emotions; to read greater meaning from the shot. Murnau achieves this by controlling the function of lighting, composition, and performance to direct attention to elements of mise-en-scene. O'Brien's performance is stylised but retains a sense of realism even 80 years after the film was released; his loss is felt by the audience who know what choices he's made. The shot is constructed to show a turning point in the plot and the character's development. At the start of the narrative he desired to be free of his wife (by drowning her) and at the end of the narrative his wish came true, despite his best efforts to prevent it. In the one shot my understanding of what 'Sunrise' is about is visually conveyed by the image of 'The Man' kneeling before the shadow of the cross cast on his wife's bed; a symbol of her goodness, and a bitter reminder that he did not cherish what he had until it was gone.

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Laura Dance Festival Highlight Video

Every two years in mid-June almost all of the 17 Aboriginal communities in the Cape York Peninsula of Far North Queensland gather on a sacred dance ground - a bora ring - located on Western Yalanji country. 

The primary purpose of the festival is for the different First Nations to duke it out in a three day dance competition, at the end of which one community will take home the prized shield. This year the shield was won by the dancers from Lockhart River. 

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