The last horror movie I paid money to see was The Exorcist in 19 whenever-it-was. I was old enough to know better. Since then, I’ve lived a full and rewarding life without ever again shelling out coin for cheap adrenaline thrills. Actually, I’ve had the hell scared out of me for real a couple of times, and I’m in no great hurry to have those feelings artificially induced. Besides, contemporary horror movies are totally unimaginative. For the most part, they’re just a series of heart-jolting surprises, stuck together with bursts of exaggerated gore — literally. Let me show you how it’s done. Here’s a simple three part program that will help you write your own horror movie, and depending on how ambitious you are, take you to the very gates of Horror Movie Heaven: The Slasher Franchise. SPOILER ALERT (If you watch Horror Movies for the storyline, stop reading right now.)
First of all, horror movies are driven by the vivid portrayal of a single requisite character: the half-naked young woman. She is as essential to the horror movie as the horse is to the Western. If you don’t have at least one girl falling out of what’s left of her clothes, you simply don’t have a horror movie. Ideally, you need one Alpha female and a couple of expendable best friends (who get butchered early on, to prove the villain/monster/psycho is serious.) Strangers will do, but it’s better if the skanks know each other. The Alpha female needs a bit of a personality — perhaps a name or a hair style. But don’t sweat the details for the rest of the girls; they’re just there to lose their clothes and do some screaming.
You also need a boyfriend (he can be a husband as long as he’s newly-minted.) The boyfriend/husband is the catalyst that causes all the problems. He’s the guy who ignores everybody’s advice to get the hell out of there and convinces them all to hang around and get slaughtered. He comes with his own set of friends, usually a larger, stronger man and an idiot. The larger, stronger guy gets hacked up somewhere around halftime to prove the villain/monster/psycho can’t be stopped, and the idiot is there for comic relief. He runs around doing stupid stuff, but nothing much ever happens to him. Likewise, the boyfriend/husband is rarely killed; however, he must suffer at least one (and sometimes more) debilitating injuries. This allows the Alpha female to jump up at the last moment and save his dumb ass.
Secondly, you have to drop everybody’s IQ by about 50%. Once again, this is a fundamental feature of the horror movie. The future corpses have to be dumb as a box of hammers and take an active part in their own demise. For example, when confronted by a dark, rambling mansion, deserted campsite, scary island or what-have-you, they must do the stupidest thing possible: split up and go exploring. Together, they could probably protect themselves or possibly even beat the villain/monster/psycho bloody; individually, however, they’re just candidates for a toe tag. Nor should you let your characters arm themselves with anything more dangerous than a toothbrush. The villain/monster/psycho should have any number of ingenious hacking/stabbing/slashing weapons available to him, but your folks should never even think of picking up a rock. Nor should they grab a garden tool, a kitchen knife, a heavy book of poetry or — heaven forbid — in a country as gun crazy as America, a pistol. There is a willing suspension of disbelief in all movies, but the coffin fodder of horror flics must defy all reasonable logic. Therefore, they should run headlong down blind alleys; wander aimlessly in dark, creaky hallways, basements and derelict buildings, and never — under any circumstances – bring a flashlight or simply turn on the lights. In short, they should be stupid enough to get outwitted by sheep.
Third, and least importantly, you need a villain/monster/psycho. Actually, this guy really doesn’t matter; all he needs to be is somewhat grotesque, clearly demented and have a steady supply of sharp and/or pointy things to jab into people. The only important thing to remember is NEVER kill him off at the end of the movie – just in case the studio wants to pick up an option on Freddy Jason Myers, Part II.
So there you have it. All you need to do is write it up. Yeah, yeah, yeah! You’re going to need a plot (maybe) scene selection, action and dialogue, but these are just tricks of the trade you can pick up along the way. Or, you can forget about all that and go buy some old Archie Comics, piece together a couple of their adventures, add a villain/monster/psycho to massacre a few of them, and you’re practically half way to Hollywood. Oops! Somebody’s already done that. Oh well! Nobody’s going to notice.