The Horror Hook

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Catching the attention of your audience with a HOOK is your first step to enchanting them.  Much more is involved in the maintaining of their attention, but all of that is moot if you don’t first hook them.  For this reason, I am writing this short study on the HOOK of many great horror films. What do they have in common? Why do they Hook you?  What do they accomplish in that very first scene or scenes?

The opening itself might be a single images for a few seconds, or a scene of one or a few pages. In the Anatomy of Horror Master course we examine top horror films in detail and dissect what makes them tick. The Opening Hook is just one thing we look at.

What are the characteristics of a good opening horror hook?

1)      The scene should set the tone of the film. If a horror film, people should feel the dread already building. If they view the scene and laugh hysterically, it better be a comedy!

2)      It should hook the attention of the viewer using S.E.W.  Sex, Emotion, or Wonder.  Sex has always been connected to horror, and always a great hook (just look at all the ads on TV!). Emotion is what film is all about. If you can elicit a strong emotion, that is also a hook. Wonder is invoking Awe, or Mystery, or Excitement.  An alien world might create wonder, or a horrific creature, or an unusual mystery.

3)      Should establish the world we will be in. Do we see magic? Do we see aliens? Are we in space? Is it supernatural or realistic?

4)      Could contain the theme of the movie.

5)      Could foreshadow the end or climax.

6)      Could introduce the hero, villain (monster), or the premise of the film. Usually the monster itself, if introduced, is not shown directly, but the aftermath of what it can do is shown, or partial or quick views to build suspense and curiosity.

7)      Should create more questions to be answered.

As an analogy, think of fishing.  The bait (your opening scene) needs to be enticing enough for the fish (your reader or viewer) to take a big bite and HOOK him/herself.  If that doesn’t happen, then nothing else does- the fish got away, the viewer switched channels, turned off the DVD, or what have you. Once you hook, the rest of the movie you are reeling them in (pun intended), with each of your Reels. Once you drag them onto the boat after a long fight there is no escape!

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