Good evening, class, and welcome to our midnight Halloween lesson! With All Hallows Eve lurking, our attention turns to that most spooky of film genres: The horror movie.

Horror movies get a bad rap. Don’t get me wrong, there are an awful lot of bad ones, a lot of cheap ones, a lot of exploitative ones, a lot of schlock, and a lot of trash. But there are also classics. Your humble teacher’s own favourite movie is horror masterpiece, The Exorcist. Ask around and you’ll find that while everyone doesn’t has a favourite sci-fi or romance movie, they definitely have a horror movie, or an experience with the form, that they hold dear.

The Exorcist

Warner Bros.

So how do you do them well? Simple: Be scary. Find something that scares people and do that. If you want your movie to last forever then find something simple that scares people. There are a lot of movies about the scary computers that were dated when they were released. Don’t do that. Don’t latch onto a trend and make your horror movie about that because trends come and go. Real fear – the fear of being followed, fear for your children, fear that everyone around you is not who they seem, fear of strangers, fear of big bloody fucking werewolves – is universal and everlasting. Primal fear ages like cheese, a fad ages like milk.

Let’s say you’ve got your horror movie together. You’ve cast your good looking leads and you’ve got your synth-y soundtrack.  What next? Well, you need a monster. What’s the trick with monsters? Don’t show them. Don’t show them until you have to. Let the audience scare themselves worrying about what’s out there in the dark. When in doubt look to the master class in not showing the monster: Jaws. And then look at the master class in what happens if you show the monster up front straightaway: Deep Blue Sea. One of those movies will still be held in high regard in a hundred years, one of them is responsible for the song lyric, “My hat is like a shark’s fin.”

The thing with horror movies is that each year there is a stand-out example. Someone has an idea that no one else has had before, and they make an excellent movie out of it. So why not you? Surely you can think of something that scares you, and you can rustle up the money to make a movie. With the recent trend of success, you make a good low budget indie movie and the next step will be a Star Wars. Provided that you’re a white male, of course.