Writing the Horror Feature Film
Horror has been one of the staples of film ever since the medium was invented. Perhaps that's because the genre taps into our most primal fears—isolation, the unknown, and death—in a visual, visceral way. But at the same time that we're frightened out of our wits, we are granted the safety and protection of the theater. It's the best of all possible worlds.
For producers, making horror movies is a no-brainer: Intelligently written horror costs very little to make, crosses language barriers, and consistently makes money. Five of the 15 most profitable films of all time (by ROI) are horror: Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, Night of the Living Dead, Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Open Water.
This genre is truly a writer's medium: If you can present a new version of an old concept and scare us on the page, your script can sell. Plus, there is always room for innovation and creativity within the field. That's why horror is a natural choice for many a screenwriter.
This workshop is offered in two formats. The budget-friendly On Demand option (which is for sale here) gives you the option to work on the same great workshop materials as the Online option, only without instructor feedback. You'll immediately receive our comprehensive course in PDF format, which provides instructions and exercises on specific skills you will need to succeed as a screenwriter. You can purchase the On Demand option here. To get the Online option with instructor feedback and online discussions with other students, please click here.
In this workshop, you'll learn how to:
- Develop genuinely shocking plot twists
- Create never-before-seen scares and set pieces
- Write fully realized, multidimensional characters
- Use silence to increase tension
- Gradually build up to the big reveal
- Fit firmly into the genre while presenting a new hook
- Add comedy to provide relief between jumps
...and much more. We'll reference classic horror films, new and old, in every subgenre, including: supernatural (zombies/vampires), creature, teen, psychological, gothic, slasher (aka slasher/torture/gore), paranormal, suspense, found-footage, apocalyptic, sci-fi, comedy, and hybrid.
We'll build your movie from the ground up, covering topics like:
- Loglining using the “What if?” premise
- Combining horror with other genres for hybrid innovation
- How “based on a true story” can help you
- Finding shocking new elements of surprise
- Showing less of your monster, not more
- Anchoring the story with empathetic characters
- Building a mood through sounds and visuals, not dialogue
- Understanding what to leave unexplained
- Devising the worst day ever for your characters
- Creating unusual and complex villains
- Letting the audience's imagination do the work for you
- Containing your environment to make your audience feel trapped
By the end of this class, you'll understand how to give your own horror idea a strong hook, how to structure and pace your movie, and how to execute action and dialogue to deliver maximum fright. You'll be well on your way to writing your own powerful horror film that stands out from the crowd!
Session One: Develop a Unique Horror Concept
- Write a comprehensive logline
- Pick a subgenre or hybrid
- Devise a unique hook
- Create an urgent goal, then raise the stakes further
- Pitch using a standard format (Movie X meets Movie Y)
- Make situations worse for your lead than you think he/she can handle
- Build a rule set for your world
Session Two: Create Memorable Characters
- Build multidimensional characters, not stereotypes
- Develop a backstory for your villain
- Give your lead a major flaw
- Create active, not passive, characters
- Learn the 4 stages every horror lead must face (Separation, Desperation, Loss,
Session Three: Construct a Tight and Frightening Structure
- Isolate your hero from safety
- Start with a suspenseful scene that immediately sets the genre and mood
- Alert the audience to just how evil your villain can be
- Cut scares with humor
- Build to a climactic showdown
- Save the greatest horror till the end
- Tease audience with small bites of fear
- Provide a “false rescue” moment
- Develop a final twist and a horrifying aftermath
Session Four: Write Awe-Inspiring Action and Witty Dialogue
- Create the same atmosphere on the page that you want on screen
- Avoid expensive SFX through evocative clues
- Capture humanity's most primal and archetypal fears
- Make opposite choices from what the audience expects
- Date available: 10/28/2014
- Publication date: 10/28/2014
- Return policy: This item is not eligible for return.
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