Tim Curry in IT
A child playing, sees the clown at the same time we do. Hey, we think. This clown is weird. This clown is creepy. We feel frightened as the child does. We are expecting something horrible to happen!
It is what I call expectation of horror!.
So what is it? It is I think, the essential ingredient in all outstanding horror films and in horror fiction too.
It is the build up of tension, the expectaton of what we are going to see or read. It is the possibility that we will be so frightened we might gasp or palipitate or giggle (from the tension).
I mean I was at a showing of the Exorcist and as the lights dimmed a girl screamed! This was before the movie even started.
The scene in Psycho where Vera miles, looking for her sister Marion (Janet Leigh), goes into the creepy house at the motel--Norman Bates' house is a great example.
We're frightened for her as she slowly walks up the steps--onto the porch and reaches for the door. We don't know what's in there! Now, we heard his mother earlier on and we know what we saw in the shower!
CAREFUL, LYLA! PLEASE WATCH OUT!
But she carries on, and we are sweating it out. After all we've seen things--the detective walking up the stairs--and then being stabbed in the head.
She goes upstairs and we're dying, and then she comes down and notices the cellar stairs. Oh boy! We haven't seen this part of the house yet.
She goes down there. An old lady is sitting in a chair with her back to Lyla and to us. "Mrs. Bates?"
Now! As she reaches out to touch the old woman, before we see what the shock is, we stop breathing because this is the most disturbing EXPECTATION OF HORROR there is!
This goes right off the SCARE-DO-METER!
And then the chair turns and--!
Vera Miles in Psycho
She screams, we scream and best of all there is the satisfaction that the master (Hitchcock) did not let us down!
He didn't build it up to have it waffle out and be nothing other than ARGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!
Expectation of horror is great when used well. It is the center point of every single memorable horror film and book we've ever seen or read.
It is knowing that Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a psychotic timebomb waiting to explode in The Shining. "Oh, Wendy!"
|Jack Nicholson in The Shining|
Tippi Hedren in The Birds
Sure! There is Tippi and we know these birds are acting weird. We see one and two land in back of her and then Hitchcock distracts us and pans away from the monkey bars. But then--!
Then, we see them and it seems as if every bleeding bird on the planet has converged onto those bars!
Tippi's charcter sees it too and she rises, knowing she's got to get out of there, but if she starts to run--!
EXPECTATION OF HORROR!
It's from the film, Seven (1999) which starred Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. They are cops on the trail of a lunatic serial killer.
The scene above is the best example of the EXPECTATION of horror there is I think. It's at the end when they have the murderer cornered in the desert and all of a sudden a delivery truck appears.
WHAT'S THAT DOING THERE?
We finally see there is a parcel of some kind delivered by a frightened delivery man.
Morgan Freeman is handed a box.
We don't like the box. We're tense and it's getting worse.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
We want him to open it and we don't.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
We don't because we're afraid...
He does eventually open it and it's horrible.
But it's the scene leading up to that horror, the expectation of what could be in the box that has us so tense.
I don't happen to believe that expectation of horror, that tension building owes much to gore.
I think it has little to do with it. That isn't to say that there can't be some, heck that's what horror is about too!
But for the most part, I happen to think tension and the probability of something horrible happening, something we can hardly bear thinking about is what makes horror, HORROR!
|Max Schreck in Nosferatu |
So at night, when suddenly you sit up in bed wondering if you double or triple locked the door 'because you think you heard something,' just remember, it's only your expectation of something horrible that is causing you to feel TERRIFIED!