My inquiry question is “what makes an effective short horror film?”. Initially, I chose this question because I have a fascination with horror films. Ever since I was a child, I was interested in how horror films could make me feel so scared of something that had always been so familiar to me. For ZIP, I wanted to create this feeling myself and present it through a medium that I enjoyed tinkering with. Surprisingly, my question has not changed throughout the process of my inquiry. About a week ago, I considered narrowing my question to “what makes an effective short, found-footage horror film?”. However, after finding some information that made me question my decision, I decided to stick to my original question. My question stayed the same because the question is just the right size. It isn’t so broad that I am forced to narrow it down, nor is it so narrow that I need to make it broader. Due to this, I found enough information from my research to create my artifact, so there wasn’t a need for me to change my question.
Through ZIP, I expanded on multiple skills. One skill I expanded on is my researching skills. This year, I researched effectively and managed to finish my research in less than a week, a drastic difference from my research last year, which took a couple weeks. Additionally, I improved my synthesis skills. By having an inquiry which requires me to create an artifact, I forced myself into synthesizing the information on my notes into practical information that I could apply. Then, I synthesized the practical information into my actual artifact, my short horror film. Furthermore, I improved on my filming and editing skills. I took many ambitious risks in my filming, such as filming while moving for the first time, and I applied various effects while editing my film, such as turning a day scene into a night scene. As a student, I can use my researching skills for note-taking in future classes, while I can use my synthesis skills in all my future classes, whether that be incorporating literary elements into creative writing or writing a science report using information from various sources.
I learned a lot about what makes an effective short horror film, but I do not have an answer to my inquiry question. Simply put, there is not a single answer to my question. Horror is subjective, and there isn’t just one way to achieve the feeling of horror. A gory scene of splattered blood and guts can achieve the feeling of horror, but so can objects randomly moving around in a room. The effectiveness of a short horror film is not determined by the amount of gore or how superstitious your film is. Rather, the effectiveness depends on how well these elements are executed. However, there are some universally applicable short horror film tips. For a short horror film, and short films in general, keeping the film simple is very important; there is no need for lengthy takes and visual effects unless it is relevant to the plot. Additionally, maintaining a feeling of unfamiliarly and the unknown adds to the effectiveness of a short horror film. According to Hari Hara Sudhan, a film critic, “an unknown rat is scarier than a known snake” (Sudhan, 2017). Once we see something, our survival instinct towards it lowers, and we feel less afraid about it. This is the reason why monsters rarely make an appearance in the first half of a movie; it simply wouldn’t be effective for the monster to make an appearance so early. By keeping things in the unknown, the film maintains a feeling of suspense and builds up to the climax. To conclude, there is not a true answer to my question, but there is universal advice that a filmmaker could follow to increase the effectiveness of their short horror film.
My final learning artifact is a short horror film that I created myself. It demonstrates my learning by synthesizing my research into my film. By implementing my learning into an artifact, I am able to prove that what I did was more than just regurgitate information found on the web. Additionally, my artifact connects to my core competencies.
- Think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts
During my research, I thought critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore the various ideas and information I encountered. Ultimately, my task was to create a short horror film myself, so during the research process, I critiqued different ideas and explored the possibilities that came with each idea I encountered. Midway through my research, I considered the idea of creating a found-footage film. However, I discovered that many filmmakers advised using found-footage as a medium if the effect could only be accomplished through that specific point of view. After critiquing and reflecting on the idea, I finally decided that since I could achieve the same effect without using found-footage; I would not use the idea and stick to what I planned originally.
Exploration of different ideas.
Exploration of found-footage idea.
- Explore the relevance, accuracy, and reliability of texts
I explored the relevancy, accuracy, and reliability of texts. When it comes to anything creative in general, such as filmmaking, there’s always a level of subjectivity. Thus, in my research, I encountered both contrasting and similar ideas. For example, one source told me that if the horror movie was not achieving its effect, I should “just ratchet up the intensity” and add lots of gore (Dowd et al, 2015). Meanwhile, in another source, I was told not to “focus on the story” as “gore is not the point” (Frank, 2016). These two answers weren’t wrong; they were simply two different solutions to the same problem. Deciding which one to choose forced me to explore each of the source’s relevance, accuracy, and reliability, which involved me looking up the authors of the different articles and searching up their credentials. If the author’s information was not available, I would simply continue my research, see if similar opinions popped up, and go with the popular opinion.
- Use writing and design processes to plan, develop, and create engaging and meaningful texts for a variety of purposes and audiences
To create my artifact, I used a variety of writing and design processes to plan, film, and edit my short horror film. First, I brainstormed some ideas and put them on a word document.
Exploring different ideas.
Next, I picked one specific idea and started going into the details, such as where I wanted to film, how many actors I needed, whether I was going to have a monster, etc.
Planning the film.
Then, I storyboarded my film, drawing scenes and figuring out the best angle to shoot for each scenario. Basically, I drew out my scenes in a “comic book” style with a scene in each box and a short description below.
Afterwards, I filmed my scenes, and then got right to editing. Editing was where my film really started to get developed. In the case of creative writing, one uses one’s writing to create effects, such as expanded moments, suspense, and a dramatic climax. For video editing, I can literally stretch clips to slow down movement and make expanded moments, which in turn allows me to build up suspense. I could also add a dramatic sound effect to make my climax more apparent.
By using these different writing and design processes, I planned, developed, and created an engaging and meaningful artifact.
I consulted a variety of resources for my inquiry. However, a lot of the sources gave me identical information. Here are my top five resources that gave me unique and useful information that I incorporated into my short horror film.
This source gave me an answer to my question from a scientific point of view. By providing me with the science of fear, I could start brainstorming ideas with information to back me up.
Fun Size Horror
A lot of other sources gave me great tips, but a lot of the tips were geared towards longer horror films, not short horror films. By giving me some tips on making a short horror film, this source gave me practical information that I could incorporate into my own film.
B&H Photo Video
Not only was the information in this source easy to digest and understand, it was also easily applicable. The video went over makeup, costuming, lighting, atmosphere, and showed me the “how” of doing things rather than just telling me “what”.
This source gave me some great tips on creating the feeling of fear. It addressed some common mistakes amateur horror filmmakers made, such as overusing the jumpscare and adding too many sound effects. The trick was to keep things simple and realize that sometimes something as simple as silence could easily build up enough suspense.
This is a very concise source, but the information it gave was invaluable. By equipping me with the knowledge of how different transitions, such as cut and fade to black, were used and what effects they achieved, I could confidently edit my video knowing that the transitions I applied would give me my desired effect.
Initially, I thought I would not have any more questions since I thought my inquiry question was pretty straightforward. However, throughout my inquiry, I asked myself more questions than I actually answered. Horror is a surprisingly broad genre, and even within it, there are subgenres, such as psychological, slasher, found-footage, possession, urban legend, and “cat and mouse” horror films. This leads me to have questions about what makes an effective psychological short horror film or what makes an effective found-footage short horror film? As cliché as this sounds, horror is a world of possibilities; there is just so much you can do in this single genre. This motivates and excites me to research more about this genre as a whole, as well as look more into the different subgenres and find my niche.
Well. That’s it. The moment I finish typing this sentence, ZIP 2019 will be over.