Everyone says that they hate the shaky cam quasi-reality movies. As a writer of fiction, I must tell you that I think the regular, fiction horror in moves should be a thing of the past. I feel like fiction horror on the screen has run it’s course. I’ve seen the best of the suspense horror movies, I’ve seen the best crazy-killer-on-the-loose movies; I’ve been startled, psycholigically titilated, and I’ve been made quasy watching the torture of another human being. It feels like the fictional horror movie has run it’s course. Everyone’s worked so hard topping the last guy that there’s no more that they can do to me to horrify me. Enter the shaky cam horror.
The shaky cam horror is dependent on many things. The first thing shaky cams must do is be methodical. We have to learn to like these characters to some degree. We also have to believe that their lives are those of a simple, pedantic nature that makes us believe that they could be our next door neighbors. Once this is established, we should receive some information about the slow trickle of horror that is about to occur. If we receive too much information, it feels like we are being spoon fed information in the manner that a fictional, horror movie provides us information. Humans are sloppy individuals to some degree. To some degree, we don’t fill in all the blanks that we should fill in. We procrastinate on some vital issues. In other words, some slopiness is good in these quasi-reality movies. It adds to the reality of it all. You must also fulfill the keys to horror:
*Rhythm is everything. Harmony is horror. Steve Martin once said that comedy is best when it follows three beats. I don’t know if the same is true for horror, but there is a beat to it.
*Humans are helpless to anything about it. This one’s an obvious one, and it is covered in fictional horror movies, but it must be covered here.
*Limited direction and limited acting. I understand that when Spielberg’s company bought this script, they were initially thinking of going big. They were thinking of bringing in big Hollywood directors and big Hollywood actors. I’m glad they didn’t. It lent to the rawness and realness of the project. The directing wasn’t horrible, and it wasn’t great, and the acting followed suit.
*Less is more. If you have a couple of pivotal scenes let them occur off screen. Allow us to bring in our own elements to the plot. This is something that the best shaky cam, quasi reality movies have done. Provide a general scene of some creepiness, depending on your movie, and allow us to steer the course from there.
There have been three shaky cam horrors that immediately come to mind. The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and now Paranormal Activity. I loved all three of them, but this one was the best by far.