Your Comedy all over my horror
This content has been archived. It may no longer be relevant
So this came upon on a social platform and I wanted to yak about it without typing it on my phone.
Horror and Comedy.
You actually need both in a good horror movie because of the emotional peaks and valleys – in fact all great movies have peaks marking the emotional highs, and the valleys for the release. Edge of your seat tension is only really good for the first 10 minutes while you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. The longer it takes, the more the payoff is diminished.
Comedy in horror does a few things – it breaks up the suspense and tension and it *should* humanize your victims/protagonists. Without a connection on some level, you don’t really care what happens to your characters, in which case you’re just throwing blood on the screen and wasting everyone’s time. The comedy in horror is directly proportional to the amount buildup of horror
The best way to visualize it is by using a roller coaster, because really great fun horror movies should feel like an amazing ride. The climbs are the buildup, the top looking down is your scare, and the coasting, loops, and vertical turns are your comedy.
Horror movies start with the initial climb (your first scare). It’s how you hook your audience in. as you zoom along to the next climb you may get tossed an inversion or just a few gentle hills, before the next big scare.
Remember, it’s not the drop of the roller coaster that drives anticipation, but the climb. If the is nothing but a series of climbs higher and higher with little relief, you’re left with an emotionally tired audience. Humor breaks the tension in Casablanca, when Captain Renault has ”Rick’s Café Americain shut down after the rousing patriotic anthem is sung in the presence of the Germans. When Rick inquires as to why, Renault tells him it’s because of the gambling – and then is handed his winnings. It’s chuckle-worthy and releases a little of the tension so the audience can set back and wait for what’s next.
Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods makes use of horror is a weird, tense situation, because it’s not the main characters and their own foibles (except Marty, who is so high, he’s the only one that can see clearly), but Sitterson and Hadley, playing off Lin (and each other) in the Complex. They know they have a serious job (as we come to find out later) and the tension of the Scenarios and the potential outcome is stressful enough.
Example: when the Scanario is chosen by Dana and the audience hears the chanting as Buckner Dead rise from their graves, back in the Complex the reason for the massive betting is revealed. The audience knows Bad Stuff is about go down (we can see the climb just ahead) but the release of tension means we’re reset back a few notches to enjoy the onslaught.
This is when it works. It can be a witty line or a jump scare, sparingly used to bring a smile.