Monday, December 24, 2007

And now for a blog entry beyond your imagination!





I always groan when a film is advertised as being "beyond your
imagination." I'm a creative guy, and these advertisers don't know me,
and what they're really trying to impress upon me is merely that the
filmmakers have a broader imagination than me. I take some small
amount of offence, since often the film is very much within the bounds
of my imagination.

There's an interesting bit of folklore regarding the audience's
imagination. In horror movies, it's said that showing less of a
monster is more effective, because "what the audience thinks might be
there is more scary than anything you can show them." Though I think
this subtlety is effective, I think this is not the reason.

For one thing, most of us have not experienced horror directly. Have
any of you been hunted by a fanged monster, or chased by a psychopath
trying to kill you? Most of our ideas about what's horrific come from
the media to begin with. So when we don't know what's out there, out
imagination grabs onto these bits from movies and newspaper
stories. So what they imagine is stuff they've seen before which was
scary enought to dredge up again. So if nobody showed us anything
horrific, our imaginations wouldn't have much material with which to
make us scared.

This reminds me of when I was a little kid. An uncle wanted to scare
me so he took off his belt and held it menacingly. "Do you know what
this is?" he asked with a wicked look in his eye. "It's a belt!" I
said happily, having never heard that belts were used to beat
people.

I can also think of terrifying film moments where the monster is shown
completely. Showing the ghost at the end of The Ring is scarier
than it would have been not showing the ghost, I'm quite confident.


If you've got lousy special effects, of course, it might be better to
not show the monster in full lighting, because it would look
fake. Technology has overcome this problem, for the most part.

Rather, I think the main reason not showing the monster often works is
because because darkness is scary all by itself.

The Blair Witch Project is an interesting case. It's a very scary
movie, and the ghosts are never really even shown. However, it's tough
to say whether it movie would be more or less scary if the monster
were ever shown. I think it depends, of course, on the design choices
with the monster itself.

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