If you’re looking to make your own horror film and elicit fear and revulsion in your audience, it’s essential to understand the different sub-genres of horror. To help, let’s explore the different types of horror films and provide tips on how to make a successful horror film.
We can trace the roots of horror films back to the French filmmaker George Méliès and his 1896 short film Le Manoir du Diable (The House of the Devil). Méliès’ film was an early example of limited locations and re-using shots, which is a key filmmaking tip. Japanese filmmakers were also quick to join the horror genre with two 1898 films, Shinin No Sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse) and Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook). As we move into the modern day, horror films are often associated with indie and DIY filmmaking and offer an opportunity for creative exploration. Thus it is important to have a basic understanding of genre theory when making your own horror film. With this knowledge, you can then go on to experiment with different horror sub-genres, such as psychological horror, paranormal horror, and monster horror, to create your own unique horror experience.
Slasher horror is one of the most well-known and beloved genres of horror. It is often considered to have started with John Carpenter‘s Halloween in 1978, and experienced a major revival in the 1980s and 1990s with the mainstream success of The Silence of the Lambs. Today, the slasher genre is still alive and well, though it often has a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek aspect to it. Writing a slasher film is relatively straightforward, as it usually follows the same pattern of an unknown assailant hunting a group of people or an individual. Although slashers usually take place outside, there is nothing stopping filmmakers from shooting them in an indoor setting. If you’d like to include special effects such as slashing, it may be necessary to have a budget and the technical skills to make it look realistic. Otherwise, a simple shadow or blood splatter can still be effective. If you’re looking for some inspiration, be sure to check out classics such as Psycho, Scream, Halloween, Black Christmas, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Behind the Mask, When A Stranger Calls, and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
The zombie horror genre is one of the most recognizable sub-genres of horror films, with George A. Romero‘s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead setting the tone for the decades of zombie films that have followed. From the classic zombie horror of Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead to the comedic Shaun of the Dead and the hyper-realized 28 Days Later, zombie films have become a popular choice for aspiring filmmakers. A zombie horror film can be made almost anywhere, as long as it looks run-down and remote. However, with the massive success of The Walking Dead and other properties, some may argue that the zombie genre has been done to death. Yet, the short film Cargo, which was later adapted into a feature with Martin Freeman, shows that the zombie genre can still be used in a unique way. If you’re looking for a great zombie film to watch, check out Dawn of The Dead, Day of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Shaun of The Dead, Train to Busan, Night of the Living Dead, and Zombie Flesh Eaters.
Folk horror is a unique sub-genre of horror that has captivated viewers for decades. It brings together the fear of the unknown and the terror of nature in a way that has not been seen in other forms of horror. Films like Children of the Corn, Midsommar and The Witch have all been widely acclaimed for their exploration of folk horror. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker looking to make a folk horror film, the best thing you can do is find a suitable location that you can use to its fullest potential. A vast expanse of fields and forests or a rustic barn can be the perfect backdrop for your story. And if you really want to capture the essence of folk horror, you could even get your cast to sing a song like “Ring Around the Rosie” while holding hands. In addition to finding a great location, it can also be helpful to read up on the basics of folk horror. For any aspiring folk horror filmmakers, here are some essential films to watch: Kuroneko, Kwaidan, The Wicker Man, The VVitch, Midsommar, Children of The Stones and A Warning To The Curious. All of these films will give you a good idea of what to expect when making your own folk horror production.
Body horror is an incredibly effective way to shock and frighten audiences by delving into the darker side of our own human biology. Films like Scanners, Videodrome, and The Fly have been critically acclaimed for their ability to explore the possibilities of what our bodies can become. To make a successful body horror short, a filmmaker needs more than just camera angles, props, and VFX. Realistic reactions from a talented cast are essential, as is a location that perfectly complements the story. Though the cost of creating jaw-dropping VFX may be high, it can be well worth it to deliver a powerful shock to viewers. While a project may not have the budget of a full-length feature film, there are still ways to make an impactful short with the right knowledge and resources. Some of the greatest body horror films of all time include The Thing, Alien, Rosemary’s Baby, Possession, Aliens, Black Swan, The Fly, Carrie, and Under The Skin. Each of these films has become classic for their capability of challenging audiences and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with body horror.
Found-footage horror has become one of the most surprising successes in horror films over the past few decades. This has been a great boon for filmmakers with limited budgets and those who prefer DIY production. Found-footage horror has combined modern technologies such as video recording, home video, and smartphones with classic horror fears found in slasher, folk horror and zombie films. The Blair Witch Project, released in 1999 with a budget of only $60,000, earned over $200 million. Other big franchises and films such as Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and V/H/S have continued to thrive in the found-footage genre. DIY filmmakers on a small budget should consider found-footage horror when creating their own horror shorts. With found-footage, filmmakers can rely solely on themselves and their camcorder to create a spooky and effective film. They have total control over what they say, where they film, and when they take breaks. However, the writing and performance of the film need to be engaging in order to leave the audience in suspense. If you’re looking for some found-footage horror to watch this weekend, check out Noroi, REC, Troll Hunter, The Blair Witch Project, The Taking of Deborah Logan and V/H/S.
In conclusion, horror films have a long and rich history and offer a great opportunity for creative expression. There are many different sub-genres of horror, such as slasher, zombie, folk, body, and found-footage, each offering its own unique elements and opportunities. To make a successful horror film, it’s important to understand genre theory and to have a basic knowledge of the different types of horror. With this knowledge, you can then go on to experiment with different horror sub-genres to create your own unique horror experience.