So you have a protagonist (whoever he/she may be), you have a setting and a hook. Basically you know that you are having steak for dinner, but what do you garnish it with?
We have talked about the different variations of horror in the film industry in past articles here on The Thumbkey. A horror story could involve monsters or just bad people. Lots of gore and viscera splashed on the screen or only hints of violence off-camera, letting the viewer fill in the horrifying gaps. Another important question to ask is whether the story will be set in a world where spirits and such don't really show up much (like real life, yes?) or one that the supernatural reigns supreme with Pazuzu and co. running rampant. You are probably asking what road will Semita take from all those ones mentioned above. The real answer is that I am not entirely sure yet and the hook, the introduction, leaves things to be fairly open.
Clearly the protagonist is either dreaming, as he mentions early on in the story, or there is something really strange going on. Ultimately this must be revealed to the viewer, not so much as to make sense but at least to give a ground for the story to stand on. Remember, cajoling the viewer into relating to what is on screen is key. We've all had bad dreams in the past, or (unfortunately) experienced scenarios in which harrowing human drama is prevalent. And if we ourselves did not experience it first-hand, the internet is only a few centimetres away should you wish to get familiar to what human suffering, perilous situations and darkness really is.
The point I am making is here is that, much like comedy, horror can trigger our "feeling" sensors easily. As also previously mentioned here on the site, inducing fear is actually easier than bringing out laughter. This is why dark comedies quite often hit all the right notes (the series Fargo is the latest of such stories to do so). Not everyone is happy (?) feeling frightened and uncomfortable while watching a film and that is highly understandable. It might be easy for you, whoever you are, to embrace the fact that you WANT to know what happens if she "opens the cupboard door" or walks into "the dark alley". You are basically comfortable with your morbid curiosity and that's OK. Not everyone is, however. This is why when mixing your palette regarding a horror story you have to decide who you are ultimately writing for. And yes, you are writing for someone else, not just yourself. Otherwise what is the point of filming it in the first place? Let's not digress to far though, let's stay on point.
Keeping a story within the real world has merits and drawbacks much like everything else in life. You can tell a clever story without straying into murky spiritual straits and the viewer won't even catch onto that until very late in the final act. One of the greatest examples of such a film was Identity. Without spoiling the story, Michael Cooney wrote an aeons-long-told story from a point of view that hits you like a two-by-four and leaves you applauding dizzily. The French masterpiece Martyrs also strikes these notes to perfection.
On the other hand you could go all demons, spirits and paranormal insanity, leaving you with practically every option in the book. Often this is viewed as the easy way out but when done right it works wonders.
Do we take the paranormal path with Semita or do we keep it in the real world? I have to confess that I am currently leaning towards the former because it would compliment the conclusion I have in mind while also (as mentioned above) give me more working space in which to fit in a bigger variety of absurdity and chances to touch those sensitive parts of our brains that makes bumps in the night feel frightening.
The answer to whether we go with gore or not has already been answered since, I had the chance to splash the red stuff early on and did not do so. Instead we can use vivid (non-bloody) imagery to our advantage.
Having said that I have to mention that using gore is not a faux pas in my book. I have heard of people making cases against the general use of gore because "it serves no purpose" and I wholeheartedly disagree with them. I liken doing that to producing a car racing film where there is hardly any cars or racing or with racing scenes that do not raise the heart rate or inject adrenaline into our blood. You can still do that but it would most probably be tasteless. I firmly stand behind the correct usage of gore in a film that could really do well it. Anyone who is attempting to stay the brush that draws that picture should check their motives or their own shortcomings.
Next up should be a continuation of Project Semita in which I have to address the questions I practically asked myself in this very article.
- Frixos Masouras 2014