Hello gang! Let me ask you a question. What was the last creepy movie you saw? (Think about this a minute. Creepy movie.) Name the last moody film you viewed? What about the last film that stayed with you long after seeing the picture?
What am I talking about? I’m talking mood. All horror films have ‘em (at least the good ones do). Who can forget the first image of The Thing. A blinding snow storm pounds an Arctic research compound. Right away we’re thrown into the snow. We’re with a handful of scientists and military personnel. We’re cut off from the rest of the world. Don’t forget, Jaws. Three men adrift on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the terror to come up from the deep. Nowhere to run or hide. The boat bobbing back and forth in the salt water. A sense of dread is felt. Camp counselor alone in a downpour of summer rain at a hidden camp. Where can you go to be safe? Friday the 13th.
Many films today never establish the atmosphere. They’re too busy setting up the frights to come, hence they miss establishing the where? A suburban neighborhood (ET), working class community (Close Encounters …), a vacation paradise (Jaws). Don SIEGEL set the tone beautifully with (Invasions of the Body Snatchers) an everyday town, with ordinary folks like you and I … but then … (Great stuff). George LUCAS did it masterfully with his first feature, THX 1138. A soulless society of drones. They all look alike and act alike. Chilling.
Atmosphere can go a long way to hide faults of productions. Cujo (mostly shot on a farm and inside a car). American Werewolf in London, (establish the setting and the mood from the beginning. Its werewolf was a big disappointment.
We want to be taken to a place and time. Set down there to feel the terror to come. Don’t rush, take your time. It pays off in the end.
Ann B. Ance