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*Menacing music* *Boy screams* *Monster screams* Welcome to Now You See It. *screaming* An effective moment in a scary movie requires extremely precise editing and camera direction to actually be scary. I found a cool case study to outline this idea in a movie currently out in theaters called ‘Lights Out’. The movie’s based off of a short film with the same name, general concept, and director. What’s interesting is that the movie and the short film have a moment that’s basically the same, but I think one is much scarier than the other But what do you think? Let’s look at both scary moments, and see which one is done better. Let’s start with the movie: Now the short film: So, which one’s scarier? My guess is you picked the short film, but why? Let’s take a look at how the short film perfectly uses many horror techniques, while the movie, despite being so similar, doesn’t. I think the most important difference is the length of the clip. The movie clip is actually from the trailer, because the movie’s still in theaters. The trailer cut makes the movie clip about four seconds shorter. In those four seconds the short film has an extra flicker of the lights. With each added second is a lot more suspense added to the scary moment, so when the pattern suddenly changes, and the ghost moves, it’s that much more startling. Let’s say you want to scare the audience with a clown attack. How do you do it? Do you let the clown sit, motionless, for thirty long seconds, while we have no choice but to uncomfortably stare at it? And then all of a sudden, it’s gone. Or do you show the clown for a few seconds at a time, and throw in a couple random jump scares with no build-up or continuity? It’s making the choice between one really big scare or a bunch of little ok scares; which moment builds up the payoff better? Another difference in the two moments is that the short film has a very powerful shot right here. It’s from the creature’s point of view as it looks towards the woman, like a predator stalking it’s prey. This shot makes the woman look small and powerless. This is a shot we’re all familiar with in horror movies. It adds suspense by showing a character being watched by the monster. The problem with the movie clip is it just switches from her reaction to a shot of the monster, and it’s not as menacing as the point-of-view shot. Finally, where are they in the movie? A warehouse? It’s never fully addressed in the movie, and it makes the moment less scary because we’re unfamiliar with the location. A big component of many horror films is that these monsters, or serial killers, or supernatural beings invade places where we thought we were safe. That’s what makes it scary. *policeman on phone*: “We’ve traced the call, it’s coming from inside the house!” *cont.*: “Our squad cars are heading over there right now, just get out of that house!” Home invasion is a real life fear, and when we’re in our pajamas, heading to bed, that’s when we’re at our most vulnerable. The short film really capitalizes on this idea, and it’s genuinely scary. In the movie, we see an unfamiliar monster in a place we’re already unfamiliar with, so it’s not as scary. Those are the three main differences, I think, but you could go even deeper. For one thing, in the short film, the lady is always bright in the shot, so it seems more menacing when we can see her clearly while also seeing the ghost. In the movie, when the ghost is visible, the lady can’t really be seen, so she seems more removed from the monster and the threat. I also think the ambient hum in the background makes the short film scarier. Also the fact that in the short film the lady has to walk through the hallway where the ghost already is. That seems scarier than having the lady already at the light switch. But what do you think? Are there any other aspects that make the short film scarier? Am I overthinking something? Leave your comments below. Getting a laugh requires a funny performance, or a well timed cut. Getting people to cry maybe takes strong characters and a gorgeous film score. Getting an amazing shot requires compelling cinematography. But to get a scare? You need everything at once. The music, the timing, the script, the actors: everything has to work together or else it’s not scary. So before you go to sleep tonight, ask yourself: what scares me the most? Thanks for watching. *screaming* “Kitty!” *Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince plays*

100 thoughts on “What Makes a Movie Scary?

  1. Director of Lights Out here. I agree with this video (although there is one extra light switch in the movie that's not in the trailer). This is why I'll continue to make short films even if I get to direct Hollywood features as well. There's less pressure in shorts, especially no budget ones, and you can take your time. The most shocking thing for me was how long it takes to do each set up. In the short it was like "let's put the camera over here" and I'd adjust one light. On a film set it can be 45 minutes to an hour (or more) if you want one extra angle. The angles you get will look great but it's frustrating to have to prioritize everything since you're under the clock. And you get more personal films when it's just two people making them as opposed to hundreds of course.

  2. 0:52 I don't know why but I find this scene so hilarious 😂

    Edit: I remember now, it's cuz I saw "hey Vsauce Michael here" in a meme video

  3. Despite your very logical points, the movie one got me better. Because
    – I saw it first – the most important part probably,
    – the warehouse, its coldness and its colors are scarier than someone's house (I don't view it as my own house so it's okay),
    – seeing the intruder's POV makes it closer to you and takes some suspense away (in the movie it stays completely alien)
    – "when the ghost is visible, the lady can't really be seen" – which makes it my own POV and it's way scarier

    After rewatching the short movie one I liked it a bit better though.

  4. I remember watching that short film and the fear I felt the following night and still, a couple years later I hide in the comments because I'm that scared of the ghost lady. 😀

  5. The homemade look of the short is what makes it scarier in my opinion. The professional lighting in the movie ruins the scene for me.

  6. They're not… modern horrow is fucking trash. Jumpscares and excessive trope use.

    Want a good, newer horror movie? A gem among the trash?

    Watch Hereditary.

  7. IMO I thought another element of the short film was it was in a more enclosed space making the women seem more vulnerable whereas the trailer scene was in a slightly bigger space

  8. There is two things that scares me in horror movies
    1 if cat/dog gets killed
    2 in movie theaters the sounds are like so fucking loud when i went watch it chapter one i had headpain 2 days

  9. Films that have low production values (rather than well-dressed, fine-grain, hyper coloured films) are more scary. High production values are comforting in some way. It just feels like Hollywood. Low budget look is a little unsettling. You feel like you don't know what you're going to get. Even before the Blair With Project, if you didn't feel the studio behind the film, you had less of an idea of where you were. Hard to explain, but any ideas I've had for shooting horror has always had a pastel feel. Comparing the Japanese and American versions of 'The Ring' is exactly what I mean. The Japanese version is much scarier. Super colour just gives a horror film a Disney feel, letting us off the hook a little. So I liked the low-budget scene. Also, she's half-dressed so more vulnerable.

  10. For me i think the short was scarier just because it was harder to see, in combination with her being in her own home as well as the thin long hallway giving a natural feeling of claustrophobia. where as in the movie, soon as that light goes out im like nope, thats straight up somebody over there no question and im out. i will say when it actually comes closer though the movie one does look much more terrifying to me though, looks larger and much more threatening.

  11. Was I the only one who didn’t see the ghost in the narrow hall to well to be scary, had to repeat it to see where it was

  12. Me: Turns light off

    Monster: appears

    Me: Uno Reverse Card

    Me: turns lights on and disappears

    Monster: is now visible in light "uh, oh…"

    Me: turns lights off and appears in front of monster "UNO BITCH!" beats monster with a bat

  13. I have an original idea involving two young children, a brother and sister, who can talk to animals yet agree to repress their abilities for fear of being ostracized because of it, until they hear that a serial killer is on the loose slaughtering the members of a nearby wildlife conservation center. This killer is secretly a female who was traumatized by an incident involving animals in the past at said center. The film explores various themes such as the roles of men and animals in nature, animal cruelty and the definition of what it means to be an animal.

  14. The things that struck me about the short, before anything else discussed, were the difference in the jump sound and where the ghost goes.
    Of course, the sound, I think everyone knows what I mean by that. But where the short stands out is it's more subtle an unnerving.
    What really scared me though, is that, opposed to the obvious "ghost is suddenly closer," in the short, the ghost is just gone. It's so much creepier that way. Where did it go? What does she do now? Is it still in the house?
    That feeling is what I think really makes the short's version so much better

  15. You forgot the ghost. In the short film there is something about its behaviour that's so uncommon and weird (facing the wall, naked, like a lunatic). It makes me so uncomfortable. In the movie its just a basic ghost with glowy eyes.

  16. One more thing that makes the short film scarier is that when the lights are turned on a final time, you actually see it (for the most part) right within your personally space or within striking distance… seeing the ghost move only a foot or two like in the movie is spooky but nowhere near as scary as personal space being violated…

  17. Another thing I like about the short film is that it lets the audience react. It's hard to tell at first that the monster has moved because it's dark, but once you see it, it's really scary. The woman has the same reaction. There's a split second where she doesn't see that the ghost has moved, and THEN she screams. She lets us figure out what's happened, and it's more subtle (despite the orchestra kicking in).

  18. Also, I would say these real life sounds from the short movie makes it much better. It makes it so real and familiar. We all hear those sounds every now and then, so it's super compelling when seeing them in the movie. Long movie could do the same, using the absolute quiet of the empty warehouse. But it ddin't

  19. I loved the feature film & the short film! The feature had me scared out of my wits! I was actually afraid of the dark for two weeks! and in 46 years I had never been afraid of the dark.
    I still twitch a bit inside when I enter a dark room and flip the switch.. keep expecting to see a crazy woman standing on the other side of the room.
    I love the actress from the short film! She is in all of the short films by ponysmasher! Those short films are scary AF with a touch of humor as well.. and hardly any dialogue in them! They simply tap into those fears we can all relate to!! Well, most of us.
    I'm not going head-to-head with a famed photo.. no thank you!

  20. Someone has probably said this but also the location of the final scare. You're expecting it to get closer, so in the film version that's exactly what it does, and it is still in your eye line. The clever thing about the short is now its extremely close and also you've had to change your line of sight and it cuts quick enough that by the time you've moved your eyes you've barely seen it and can't make out what it is. It's also slightly invaded the light as well. This makes the jump that more effective.

  21. Horror films that are filmed like a home movie tend to seem more scary because they seemed to be real like the first Paranormal Activity.

  22. I think where the shadow lady appears in the short makes it more scary as well. I am not as smart as you, but it just was. Good vid btw

  23. Also, the girl in the movie can leave the place whenever she wants, but the girl in the short film can't. The ghost is between her and the apartment's door.

  24. I think both are not that great as the "light-switch-play" is way too long. Why switching it five times? Seeing this shadow the first time is fucking scary. But seeing it the fourth time … Come on. Plus it is very predictable that it will move at some point.
    But if you want to pick a favourite: Yep, the short film. o face the monster in your own home is just way more horror than the other version.

  25. The medium/long shots of the woman in the short shows our separation from her and therefore her helplessness, which a close up does not achieve

  26. Hey Now You See It ! Loved the video! One thing I wanted to add that I noticed was that the silhouette is much more defined in the new movie. Making the short film much more ambiguous and adding the fear of the unknown to it and making you unsure if there actually IS something there or not. Same goes for when the ghost moves. In the film, she just becomes bigger and closer but is in the same spot for our eye. In the short film. You FIRST notice she has disappeared, giving you one stage of freight and then when you very (and I mean VERY, you can barely tell she's there) briefly see her standing next to you its another shock.

  27. Y’all ever looking in the fridge or something and ur brains just like “imagine if there’s a clown right behind you right now lmao”
    Like I didn’t need to do that to myself

  28. why do people make dumb decisions in horror movies? I think it would be a lot scarier if the person outsmarted the monster but the monster was one step ahead, cuz then that would give viewers the thought that the monster can’t be outsmarted

  29. Great theory,Now please tell me how would you want to see the Five Nights at Freddy's Movie being made?With either one of those Horror Segments being implemented or both :D?

  30. Really good points here. Despite the numerous shitty horror-movies that come out nowadays, there's still really great ones. You just have to search them through the massive pile of shit that is today's horror-movie scene. Lights Out (the full length movie) was surprisingly good.

  31. its the monsters point of view and it makes her look powerless…? Bro come on,how the fuck does that make it more scary,like it doesent look like shes powerless it just looks like shes fucking confused

  32. It's actually the sound a lot of the time. If you mute the film, you seem to become way more confident. You dont hear that dreadfully intense long music that builds to the jump scare.

  33. In the movie, there are things like a sturdy metal table between her and the monster. In the short, it's just at the end of a short hallway, and visually the threat seems much more immediate. Even when it moves closer in the movie, it's still behind the table, where in the short it moves into touching distance. Also, I think the distances are about the same, but in the movie the woman is out of focus, and seems larger in the shot, making her feel further away and safer from the monster.

  34. Why tf does the women still play with the fricking switch? I would be in a other country if I turned of the lights and saw that shit

  35. I think another reason that the short film is more frightening is because the being disappears instead of going in for a jumpscare. Having a lurking being in your house makes the situation very tense.

  36. My dumbass thought the leftover caption box was a box of soup in the short film and didn't even see the creepy woman.

  37. 1:05 I almost had a heart attack it’s too late for this, I’m about to go to sleep and have nightmares now 💀

  38. I'm safe in the commenst.
    I'm safe in the comments…
    I'm safe in the comments!
    I'm safe in the comments!!!

    ooh pizza! 😊

  39. But the fact also that in the short film at the last decisive apparition the entity/creature/monster appears as suddenly different from the form it had been in previously, instead of a shadow, it is not only closer but suddenly has a naked unclear flesh like appearance which evokes nudity and is a shock to the eye when expecting darkness and seeing something suddenly reflected in the light

  40. Thas what makes a horror movie scary:
    1.the make up
    2.the sound
    3.look real
    4.true story
    6.the hair

  41. I feel like the movie is more scary, cause even when the light are on it's darker, and I like the idea how it got closer, and there's nothing you can do, although it would be scarier if she flickered the light one or 2 more times but since it's a bigger area too, I feel like there's more places the monster can come from. Also lastly, you can fantley see the creatures eyes, and rough hair outline. I think just giving you a more descriptive look of the monster but not completely giving what it looks like away makes you wonder and think about it even more.

  42. What you think you see, what you think you hear .. that’s what it’s really about. Real horror is about suspense and atmosphere. Anybody can add loud music and cgi to get cheap scares

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