Horror Movie Editing: How To Add The Scare Factor In Your Film

November 16th, 2021  |  by maria

Horror Movie Editing: How To Add The Scare Factor In Your Film

Making a horror movie is one of the most challenging tasks. Jumpscares are not the only factor that contributes to how terrifying a film is. Filmmakers who have years of experience can falter at this challenge, but with some helpful tips, you can become better at it.

Horror is a genre that has a cult following. People who enjoy scary movies have been fans of this genre for ages, and you have to bring your A-game to impress them. Before making your horror film, you should watch some classics and fan favorites to understand why so many people love these movies.

The scariest part of making a horror movie is all the pitfalls you have to face during your journey. Of course, everyone has their own process of filming and editing a terrifying scene. There are numerous techniques and tricks that can make any scene 10 times tenser.

What Makes A Horror Movie Terrifying?

Horror movies have a wide array of elements that make them so terrifying for us. There are countless tropes and techniques that affect us in a way that lingers long after the movie has ended.

Here are some of the things that make a horror film that much more scary.

Horror Movie Editing: How To Add The Scare Factor In Your Film

1.    Suspense

All the classic horror movies we have enjoyed so much over the years create a feeling that something terrible is about to happen. This anticipation builds suspense and keeps the audience at the edge of their seats.

Suspense is a hallmark for all excellent horror movies. For example, some of the most memorable horror movies build suspense and then turn our anticipation on our heads by making the reveal something no one expected.

2.    Fear Of Death

Feeling like there is something horrible about to take place is something that can create fear in the audience’s mind. Allowing the audience to feel what the characters are feeling, i.e., the fear of dying, can be crucial for gripping the viewers and making them feel the terror. The fear of death is the scariest thing we experience through our lives, and movies focusing on this fear can make us feel terrified.

3.    Scary Places And Creatures

Watching events unfold in a terrifying setting can make the scene have more impact. Horror movies play on this fear we have for scary places and creatures. There are a lot of places that seem ordinary, but their constant use in horror movies has made them a frightening place.

For example, an attic with rats and mice is something that can make us feel terrified. It is an example of how places and creatures play a part in making a horror movie even scarier.

4.    Fear Of The Unusual

Seeing everyday objects or people that are not considered scary and turning them into a source of fear is a sign of a terrifying movie. Dolls, nuns, clowns, children are not things we find horrifying in our day-to-day lives. However, some of the most renowned horror movies have used all of these to strike fear into the hearts of the audience. The use of such unusual sources for terror has made people these days have a phobia of dolls and clowns.

Whether it’s a large-scale production or a small project, the editing for a horror movie takes a lot of effort and technique. You have to be aware of the basics of editing to provide the audience with a spine-chilling experience.

Horror Movie Editing: The Basics

Horror Movie Editing: How To Add The Scare Factor In Your Film

Getting someone to the point where they feel terrified is not an easy job. Horror filmmakers have to master the art of creating a sense of dread through their work. When you watch a horror movie, you want that feeling of terror to last for a while after the movie has ended. There are various aspects of editing a scary film that add to that terrifying feeling.

1.    Transitions

Transitions are the key factor for any genre of film. However, when it comes to horror, transitions are of even more importance. To create that air of tension and dread throughout the movie, you need to cut to scenes in a way that does not take away from the general feeling.

Using different types of transitions can help you set the mood for the rest of the movie. If used smartly, transitions can also help you portray the character’s fear to the audience.

2.    Special Effects

Special effects can genuinely make or break any movie. You have to ensure they are used in the best way possible to have an impact on the audience. If they come across as too fake or cheap, there is a high chance of the audience not taking the movie seriously and not terrifying them the way you want it to. You don’t only have to use special effects to create a monster or a ghoul for your movie.

You can use special effects to treat the entire film and color correct it in a way that sets the tone and atmosphere. Using audio effects to scare the audience is also an excellent tactic. The best horror movies always use visual and audio effects to create a sense of fear for the audience.

3.    Shot Placement

To build a feeling of mystery and suspense, where you place shots throughout the film matters a lot. You can either let everything play out in chronological order, or you can jumble the timeline a little to make the audience feel like they have to figure something out.

It is also crucial that you place the scares and terrifying shots in a way that keeps the viewers interested till the final scene.

4.    Pacing

From the title animation to the final scene, the pacing of a horror movie matters the most. You need to pace the story in such a way that keeps the audience intrigued throughout and also makes the ending seem satisfying to watch.

The pacing of a movie is a critical part of grabbing the audience’s attention and keeping them hooked through every twist and turn of the plot. Using the pacing of your film to set the tone is crucial, and you can create the feeling of suspense and tension through it. 

Scare Factor: Tips And Tricks

The horror movie audience has gotten incredibly picky over the years. Long sequences of blood and gore are not enough to get the viewers frightened. These days, a horror movie needs to employ various tricks and tactics to instill fear into the audience’s minds. Here are some tips and tricks that can elevate the level of terror in your movie and increase the scare factor. 

Horror Movie Editing: How To Add The Scare Factor In Your Film

1.    Use Blur

A blurred background is a key factor in increasing the scare factor of your horror film. It is terrifying when you can’t see clearly what is moving in the background of the scene. Using a shallow depth of field to hide a person or a thing can make the audience feel uneasy.

If you are using a high-quality lens, you can use it at a fast speed to decrease the depth of field. What does a shallow depth of field does for the scene? Well, it helps blur the background and the foreground and make the audience feel like the monster or the ghoul is hiding in plain sight. 

2.    Focus On The Background

A pivotal part of creating a tense atmosphere for a horror movie is by using the background. There can be a sense of immediate danger if you show something move in the background of a scene. It also allows the audience to feel like they see and know something the character in the movie hasn’t acknowledged yet.

If you have ever been at the cinema watching a horror movie, you know these are the scenes that get the audience to gasp audibly. As the protagonist of your movie wanders around in a dangerous environment, the audience feels the tension increase. This factor is what makes a horror movie even more thrilling for viewers and keeps them at the edge of their seats.

3.    Use The Right Music

The right music playing in the background can really help you set the mood for a tense or terrifying scene. The background score is often the defining moment for the most memorable scenes in cinematic history. However, there have also been instances where the background music hasn’t worked out well and doesn’t add anything to the scene.

Not only is the right music key for making a horror scene memorable for the audience, but it can also help you increase the tension. Music can help the audience feel like there is a build-up happening, and something terrifying is waiting for them. It adds to the sense of suspense and thrill for the entire movie. Pin-drop silence can also be used to increase the feeling of dread and doom in a scene. If done right, a silent scene can have a chilling impact on the viewers. Filmstro has an wide variety of horror soundtracks, including our latest releases Us, Witch and Quiet.

4.    Keep The Monster Hidden

Seeing the monster can be terrifying when watching a horror movie. Not seeing the monster and being kept in the dark can be even scarier. The fear of the unknown is something all humans face, and using it to create tension in your horror movie is a genius move. You don’t always have to show what the monster looks like in order to scare the people. Sometimes, just knowing they exist can be enough. 

Taking inspiration from what Steven Spielberg did in Jaws by not showing the sharks, there have been countless horror movies that have gone the same direction. Showing the damage and destruction caused by the monster is enough to enable the audience to gauge how terrifying the beast actually is.

5.    Add Special Effects

In this day and age of cinema, it is highly unexpected for a horror movie not to use special effects. You don’t have to use special effects to create your monster. Instead, you can use these effects to set the tone and atmosphere of the entire movie. There are numerous scary films that use special effects to create a color theme and aesthetic.

The use of audio effects can also add a lot more depth to the scene. You can use the sound of someone breathing or a racing heartbeat to increase the tension in an already terrifying scene. There are many audio effects like creaking doors, footsteps, etc., that can help elevate the scare factor of any scene.

6.    The Perfect Reaction Shot

Another aspect of the not-showing-the-monster technique is having the perfect reaction shot. It can create fear for the audience to see how your protagonist is reacting to the monster. It can be more horrifying to see how scared someone is.

The reaction shots can make any horror movie far more terrifying. Using the perfectly edited shot can convey the fear your character is feeling, and it can put the audience in a spot where they get easily scared. 

Key Takeaway

Creating a scary film that frightens the audience and gets ingrained in their memory can be a challenging task. You can use various tactics to make your film terrifying for all the people watching. All the tips and tricks you can use while making and editing your horror movie are great on their own, and they shine even more when you combine all of them.

If you liked "Horror Movie Editing: How To Add The Scare Factor In Your Film", you should also check out Things To Know About Audio Editing

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