So you want to scare the heck out of your audience and you only have so much budget for your movie. What’s your go-to? Well, there are a handful of tricks that have worked since the 1950’s:
The reaction shot. This can be your male lead taking a deep breath and a step or two back, a woman screaming at the top of her lungs, a priest seeing the scene and saying “My God” or something similar. You don’t need to show us what they saw. You’ll just mess it up. The imaginations of the audience will be better anyway. Just have your characters react and react strongly. Tell them that this is their big break.
Creepy music and have nothing happen. This builds tension. Build up a little more. Then a little more. At this point, you pretty much have to do one of two things (or both). Blow the steam off with a cat scare of some type. Have a cat jump up on the kitchen counter with a scream as if one of its paws had been stepped on (even though I have never had one of my cats jump up to anywhere while yelling like that… the noises they make are more of a half chirp/half grunt). When your protagonist realizes it’s just a cat, you can all let go a sigh of relief. Or you can have the bad guy show up. Or, why not? Let off the steam with the cat scare and *THEN* have the bad guy show up. Not that my cats would respond to a stranger with anything but “let’s get under the couch now”.
Or you can just buy a vintage doll and move it around the house. “Did you move the doll?” “No.” “That’s strange. Neither did I.” Nightmares for weeks.
Anyway, I’m not going to see Annabelle this weekend. I am going to try to see The Equalizer. Good, straightforward “I didn’t want trouble but…” righteous explosions.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?