New directors should make horror movies! Don’t believe us? Read the scary truth below!
Written by Johnny Papan
Horror isn’t a genre often associated with prestige. In fact, only 6 freaky films have ever been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. One of the most recent being Jordan Peele’s directorial debut: Get Out. Despite this, horror films have always been a launching pad for new directors. Renowned filmmakers like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, Stephen Spielberg, and even Frances Ford Coppola have all honed their craft making horror films in their early career.
Making horror movies is a great way to develop your career as a film director. You have the freedom to experiment, there’s lower financial risk and you can turn your film into a franchise with a dedicated fanbase. Here are our top 5 reasons why new directors should make horror movies.
1. Horror Has A Dedicated Fanbase
Horror fans are a dedicated subculture. It is is one of the few genres where even if a movie looks bad, people will still watch it. In fact, some horror films are so bad, they’re good, and develop cult-followings. Films like Leprechaun, TerrorVision, and the ever-so-famous Troll 2 are perfect examples.
Perfectionist pressures are off when you make horror movies. This leaves more room to have fun, and that’s where the magic happens. Besides, even if your movie sucks, people still might love it.
2. It’s Inexpensive to Make Horror Movies
Money is the ultimate factor in when producers make horror movies. The advantage to horror is you can make horror movies for extremely cheap if you are crafty. Films like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and the original Last House On the Left were all made for less than $100,000. In the movie world, that’s a dime on a dollar. This is achievable because each film utilizes limited, easy to access locations, and small cast and crew.
Paranormal Activity Director Oren Peli shot this massively successful debut film in his own house on a miniscule $15,000 budget. He used creativity to make the film feel “real,” a similar tactic used in The Blair Witch Project. The movie was filmed on an inexpensive home video camera, and he did not hire a camera crew. The film’s focus on characters, story, and brooding, emotional horror is what makes it such a success.
3. Great Horror Movies Can Become Successful Franchises
Peli’s Paranormal Activity turned $15,000 into a nearly 900 million dollar franchise. Saw was James Wan’s directorial debut, and that spawned 7 sequels. Think of all the Halloweens, Friday the 13ths, and Nightmare on Elm Streets that are out in the world. Sometimes, when you make horror movies, one great film can set you for life.
This is because the horror genre often allows for repetition, even if it was not initially intended. Monsters return from the dead, a new family moves into the haunted house, the work of a villain is carried on by a successor. We all know Hollywood loves remakes and sequels. If you write a horror movie that is a financial success, producers will find ways to make another one happen.
4. Fear is Universal
Most people who enjoy Steve Carrell’s antics in the U.S. version of The Office, probably don’t share the same feelings about Ricky Gervais in the original U.K. series. That’s because, though the concept is the same, the style of comedy is vastly different. The U.K. version touches the comedy palette of the U.K., and the American adaptation switches things up to the tastes of people in North America.
Although comedy tastes can vary by region, horror is universally understood. Scary is scary, no matter where you are from. This is why it is so easy for horror-films to gain worldwide success. Everyone has, more or less, some kind of sensitivity to fear. Plus, horror isn’t about words. It’s about imagery, and brooding build up. This is why North Americans can enjoy Japanese films like Ju-On. The film was seamlessly remade in America as The Grudge.
5. Horror Hones Your Chops
The horror genre uses tropes like building tension, creepy music and special effects. Getting to use these in a low-pressure, often fun environment, allows you the freedom to get crafty and creative. You have to figure out how to make blood splatter, dismember limbs, fake stabbings. You can experiment with the idea of not showing something overtly brutal on camera as a crafty way to save finances. This can also be a way to better shock the audience, leaving things up to their imagination.
It’s also a great way to learn how to work with actors. Tropes of horror are often tension building to fear and panic if you are the victim, or sinister, erratic, psychopathic behaviours if you’re a villain. You can experiment with actor emotion, really trying to get them to dive into their character and get the performance you need.
In conclusion, horror has proven time and time again as one of the best ways to get your foot forward as a director in the film industry. You can experiment, learn, develop your style and more in a low-pressure, fan-dedicated genre. If you’re lucky, one simple idea can get you a lifetime of work. Or, royalty checks.