Cheesy, unimaginative, excessively gory, and frustratingly predictable. These are common sentiments that many movie goers share when it comes to horror and suspense films these days. Many will agree that the presence of a creepy person crawling around like a spider on the wall has pretty much become a permanent fixture in these movies as well, for some absurd reason. Since filmmakers are not getting the hint that the horror genre demands as much creativity as any other genre, you will find that returning to the couch instead of the movie theatre will probably serve you better. You will be able to catch all your favorite horror classics this way, unless you are privy to a special screening in a theater. Whether it be your first venture into horror binging, or you are return visitor, you will reap the best rewards by starting with the Master of Suspense, aka Alfred Hitchcock. The great man departed from our world over thirty years ago and no one has managed to helm a suspense piece as adeptly as him, though some horror junkies would be right to argue that a few have come close, such as John Carpenter of Halloween. To drive home this point, we first have to establish the unique relationship between suspense and horror variables.
You see, suspense can exist on its own in a film, but horror alone can rarely be presented in a visual medium effectively. Sure, seeing a zombie munch on anyone’s flesh can be horrifying but we are not really becoming part of that experience, and this alone normally falls flat after the feast is over. However, the setup for suspense is much more aesthetically complex, and as a result, is essentially more satisfying to the audience. Enter Hitchcock. He was more interested in displaying the psychological conflicts and hysteria that embattle the human mind rather than devising laughable creatures or entities that largely live outside the realm of reality. To put it simply, he was the best at showing how people are their own worst enemy, and that suspicions, misinformation, and misconceptions are often the culprits for instilling fear. He masterfully illustrated that if a director carefully crafts camera movement, frames camera shots, displays lighting, includes character development, and last but not least, employs a balance between terse and extended cuts in editing, we transcend the confines of our seats and start to share the experiences with the character that is displayed on the screen. We share their growing suspicions of the next door neighbor, empathize with their fear of their husband’s erratic behavior, and march alongside them as they piece together a conspiracy. Ironically, this build-up to the climax is often just as, or more, gratifying than the climax itself. If you do not believe me, check out one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. Though some of his films mainly capitalize on the suspense component, “Psycho,” “The Birds,” and “Rear Window” *are terrifying exploits into suspense, horror, and mayhem, so in keeping with the Halloween spirit, start with one of those. I assure you, you and your guests with be cringing in your seats, and then jumping out of them, in no time.
*Make sure to get the original Psycho (1960) and Rear Window (1954)
Click on this link to see Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography:
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