Horror movies are one of the most effective genres of film, simply because they usually work with a particular set of rules that have been established for generations. SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK is no exception, as the teenagers living out the famous tales from author Alvin Schwartz will learn that there’s a book’s worth of trouble that comes from opening a secret anthology of terrors.
And like any good story, there are certain elements that are needed in order for a horror film to truly work as a member of the genre. In honor of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK’s release, we’re going to run down 10 elements we feel every chilling tale of fright needs.
Don’t worry, you can read this list with the lights on.
A Memorable, But Frightening Menace
If you’re going to get scared by a horror movie, it should at least be by a threat that’s truly terrifying. Be it a realistic horror villain like Norman Bates or something like SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK’s cadre of beasties, if they can inspire horror just by looking at them or mentioning their name, the story is off to a good start.
Clear Rules to Live By
Anyone in a horror movie knows that there needs to be a set of rules. Whether the story adheres to them or gleefully twists them into something to trap our heroes, these guidelines tell us when to scream and when to sigh with relief. Though it seems a bit late for the SCARY STORIES team, as by finding the film’s book of spooky stories, they’ve already awoken a pretty powerful evil.
Plenty of Characters Who Could Disappear at Any Moment
Some stories can get by with a handful of characters and never need any more or less. But having a solid mix of people who could be taken out of the picture at any moment builds tension and anticipation. This goes double if your cast happens to be full of all-stars, as folks would suspect their odds of survival would be greater, which makes their potential demise all the more shocking.
The Element of Surprise
While having prior knowledge is always good going into a horror film, it’s nice to see the unexpected come into play in order to make things a bit more difficult. The rules are meant to be guidelines, but when they’re broken or bent, all sorts of crazy things could happen, and that keeps the story fresh. In the case of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, the newly created monster known as “the Jangly Man” is a mixture of several of the books’ monsters turned into one creepy surprise for loyal fans to enjoy.
Atmosphere, Atmosphere, Atmosphere
Dim lighting, wide corridors and fluttering curtains can do a lot for a potential scary adventure. Even something as innocuous as creaking floorboards can be threatening, if presented in the right context.
A Backstory That's Key to the Monster/Villain’s Purpose
There is almost always a backstory to the monster or villain of a piece, and it’s a pretty important thing to have on your side when telling a scary story. A good origin story makes the progression of evil interesting and helps the protagonists understand how to defeat the monster/villain.
The Trademark Murder Weapon
Freddy Krueger had his claw. Michael Myers has his kitchen knife. Chucky has … whatever his doll hands can handle, at this point. Every iconic villain has their favorite method of killing their prey, and it’s a good calling card that stays with audiences.
Proper Theme Music
A good horror movie needs an equally horrific score that signifies when danger is around. Screams sound better when they're in tune with a villain's arrival song. The more memorable the music is, the creepier it can become when folks happen to hear it randomly on a dark and dreary night.
A Showdown for the Ages
A face-off against evil has got to be epic. We’re talking doors slamming, property getting destroyed, or even just fighting in a corridor with a severe case of red lighting.
The Possibility for a Sequel
Evil is always waiting for another opportunity to come back. If you’re making a horror movie, there’s a good chance you’re going to end your film with one last hint or a final scare to let audiences know that there’s always the possibility that the nightmare isn’t over yet.
And there will be plenty of nightmares in SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, which opens tomorrow at an AMC theatre near you! So if this list has you ready to face the darkness, get your tickets and say your prayers!