How To Make A Horror Movie

The humble horror movie, the staple of first time film-makers, first dates and late night cable everwhere.

The latest in our regular series of how-to guides for the aspiring hack, this is the indespenible list you'll need to make a horror movie for half a crown and your last Rolo, then take Cannes by storm next year.

Lesson One...

What Budget?

The Cliché: Most horror directors bang on about a budget so small they couldn’t even afford shoestrings.

The missive in the genre seems to be that the bigger the budget for a horror, the worse the resulting film… so go cheap.

Appears In: The Blair Witch Project (1998)

How To Recreate It: A decent gambling addiction should do the trick, just piss your money away by spending an unhealthy amount of time on poker websites.

Any money you don’t use for poker, feel free to inhale via the latest designer drug, keep a steady stream of hookers on retainer or drink til you vomit blood.

If you still have some money left, get married, that should take care of it.

Once you’re left penniless, it’s time to get creative and start making your film.

Beg, borrow and steall, but don’t pay for anything. Hopefully you saved some of that vomit blood. That'll come in handy.

Next: Location, Location er… Location [page-break]

Location, Location er… Location

The Cliché: Mental Hospital, Campsite or mansion, the key word you’re looking for here is ‘Abandoned’.

Appears In: Friday the 13th (1980)

How To Recreate It: Finding the perfect abandoned location has never been easier, thanks to the global economic crisis.

Families, businesses and nuisance occupiers of land everywhere are being kicked out.

If you happen to need a property for a shoot that hasn’t already been vacated, place a call, mutter the words 'swine flu outbreak' and it should be empty for at least a fortnight.

Once the place is yours, spread a little cement around the place to make it look old, and pray you nail the scene in one take before the occupiers reach the end of the infection period.

Next: Cindys and Todds [page-break]

Cindys and Todds

The Cliché: A troop of teens, all with names like Cindy and Todd, decide to go on holiday/road trip/dare to aforementioned abandoned area.

Appears In: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

How To Recreate It: Walk into any branch of Gap, Abercrombie and Fitch, All Saints or likewise and shout ‘Cindy! Todd!’ until somebody named Cindy or Todd answers.

Once you’ve collected sufficient numbers of Cindys and Todds, ensure all are allergic to wearing shirts, have an unseasonal tan and can’t recite the alphabet past N.

All you need now is some kind of toy-looking Jeep or dusty van for them to drive around in and you’ve got yourself an instant horror movie cast.

Next: Pick Your Big Bad [page-break]

Pick Your Big Bad

The Cliché: Take your pick; vampires, zombies, mutants, serial killers, revenge killers, thrill killers, cannibals, aliens, trans-dimensional undertakers are just some examples of the big bad. Pick one and run with it.

Appears In: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

How To Recreate It: Leave no stone unturned by including all your favourite movie monsters in your film. With zombies, vampires, werewolves, Nazis and bees, you can’t go wrong.

Go the extra mile by creating a big bad of your own. This can be accomplished with a quick trip to the local hardware store.

Glance around til you see an item not previously used as a tool of murder, say a belt sander.

Now make your way to a fancy dress shop, and make a bee-line for the masks. You’re looking for something catchy and iconic that isn’t already in use, say the Mick Hucknall rubber mask.

A belt-sander wielding Muck Hucknall? We’re scarred for life.

Next: Atmos-fear [page-break]


The Cliché: A layer of fog, a storm with strong winds and rain or a deafening quiet help set the mood.

Appears In: The Mist (2007)

How To Recreate It: Fog is easy. Head down to your local council estate and find the family that smokes the most.

This is easy to spot, there will be a 26 year-old great grandma on the porch splitting a Lambert & Butler with a one year-old.

Now ask all 14 occupants of the one bedroom terrace to spark up and chain smoke a deck each.

In no time you’ll have a cloudy, blue-tinted hue that envelops the room like a light fog, giving atmosphere without being too thick to film in.

Now roll cameras, and cough your way to box-office gold.

Next: Macabre Make-Up [page-break]

Macabre Make-up

The Cliché: No matter the budget, the majority of money, attention and time will go into creating gory and realistic make-up effects.

Appears In: Hostel (2006)

How To Recreate It: The best way to avoid having to waste time and energy on make-up effects is not to use any.

Creative casting should enable to find people ugly enough to look like the were just killed in the face with a car, add a little ketchup and you’re away.

For the more complicated effects, such as throat-slitting, limb-tearing and disemboweling, the answer is to actually do all these things to your actors – you’ll be praised for the realistic effects and it won’t have cost you a penny!

We're not recommending you do that, you understand. But you will win an Oscar for Best VIsual Effects.

Next: The Killing List [page-break]

The Killing List

The Cliché: The victims are picked off one by one, starting with minor characters and ethnic minorities and working up to the bigger names.

Appears In: Scream 2 (1997)

How To Recreate It: This should involve massive amounts of research, watching every horror movie ever to see who gets bites it, and when.

Starting with an ethnic minority is a healthy approach, perhaps followed by a minor character in a red shirt, and then from one of the older cast members who used to be that guy in that show.

Sluts should go soon after that, followed by man-whores, who will always die with a surprised look on their face.

Towards the climax the best friend who can’t die because they are the most likeable character will die, only to return and save the day in the film’s final moments.

However, if the actor who's playing the best friend is really annoying, you're allowed to kill him too. Horror movies are brilliant.

Next: Virginal Hero [page-break]

Virginal Hero

The Cliché: The only person who can defeat the big bad is the one who hasn’t been engaging in casual sex, drinking or drug use.

Appears In: Halloween (1978)

How To Recreate It: Tough one this, virgins are hard to find these days.

Your best bet will be to take a bookish, slightly minging, religious type who embraces chastity because they can’t get any, and give them a makeover.

Once your virgin is slightly attractive and therefore camera ready, they will most likely now want to have sex, due to actually being noticed by the opposite sex.

Disuade them with large doses of religious propaganda, pictures of STI riddled genitalia, threats of a Russell Brand visit, and that Gareth Gates sex tape that’s doing the rounds.

Once filming is over, leave your star to her failed acting career, which will ultimately culminate in massive amounts of desperate, unprotected sex, a meth addiction and an untimely death from a cocktail of sexually transmitted diseases. That's showbiz!

Next: Mostly Dead, Not All The Way Dead [page-break]

Mostly Dead, Not All The Way Dead

The Cliché: The killer, seemingly dead, pops up for one last scare before being finished off for good… well until the sequel (see next page for details).

Appears In: Scream (1996)

How To Recreate It: Make sure to go overboard with your killer’s demise. Show them being killed in a variety of ways, overkill if you like, to hammer the point home to the audience that this killer can’t possibly come back.

At some point during filming, slip the actor playing the killer a drug that will actually stop his heart. Then once he’s good and dead, attach defibrillator pads to his chest, put his shirt on and lay him in position.

Now all that’s left to do is roll camera, have your heroes celebrate their victory and leave the camera lingering suggestively on the killer’s dead face… then hit the difib, restarting your killer's heart and making him leap off the floor.

All worth it for a decent scare, though the most surprised person will likely be the actor you just used like Kiefer Sutherland in Flatliners .

Next: Hint At Sequel [page-break]

Hint At Sequel

The Cliché: The surviving characters return to their lives, but there’s a problem at the coroner’s office – the killer’s body is missing!

Appears In: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

How To Recreate It: The obvious route would be to announce in the credits at the end of the film that “The Killer Will Return In Horror Shenanigans, Part 2 …”

This is the world of hack cinema though, so the obvious route is the very last one we want to take. Here’s what you do instead.

Call the police, tell them that there has been a murder. Get your friend, who is trained in breathing techniques that allow him to lower his heartrate to near undetectable levels, to play dead.

As the police arrive, turn your camera on and film them removing the body, taking statements etc.

Ask if you can ride in the ambulance. With the paramedics about to start work on your friend, they should open their eyes suddenly and pop up, prompting screams from the medics, hopefully resulting in the ambulance crashing.

Your friend should then fling open the ambulance doors and escape into the night, cackling maniacally. Fade to black.

Any horror clichés we missed? Let us know how to recreate them in the comments!

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