What’s The Secret To A Really Great Horror Movie?

Samantha Lopez
Writ 106
The Conjuring

The film The Conjuring, directed by James Wan and released in 2013, was popularly favored amongst critics for its thrilling story and spectacular special effects. One of the reasons why the film is considered a great horror movie is because it combines the fear of losing control to something powerful with true events. In the 1970s in Harrisville, Rhode Island, a new family, the Perrons, have moved to the land that was once owned by a witch named Bathsheba. Bathsheba was a devil worshipper during the colonial times who sacrificed her child to the devil and killed herself by hanging.

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This caused the land to become cursed and many of its inhabitants were killed, committing suicide and sacrificing their children. As a result, the souls of many past residents now haunt the land, trapped in a sad state. The Perron family has moved in and has to rely on the two demonologists, Ed and Lorraine, to save them and stop Bathsheba. While the movie focuses mainly on the horror aspects of this story, it also emphasizes the theme of losing control in the characters’ experiences.

The filmmakers focus attention on the family and the Warrens, as they all struggle to find and stop Bathsheba from causing more harm. There are many articles and pieces of evidence that can verify my claims and help me better understand the movie. The film, as stated before, is more than a generic horror jump-scare film. It delves deeper into the psychological torments the characters face in the haunted house, especially during moments when they have no control over what is happening around them. For instance, the ghost activity is not only fear-inducing but also deadly. At the beginning of the film, we see that a ghost has killed the family’s dog, and we learn that the violence won’t stop there. Later in the film, we discover that many of the previous inhabitants died from Bathsheba’s curse. Ultimately, the film suggests that our greatest fears aren’t always found outside, but rather within our own homes.

This is a connection, as the ghost could represent our repressed inner self, such as negative emotions from past mistakes. While the film presents many of the problems we have faced, it also presents a significant message about the solution. The movie presents a solution through the actions of the characters, especially with the Warrens. During the case, we see how they both hold onto their strength and faith to get through one of their most deadly cases. The end result of their actions towards the problem has a happy ending. In the end, they manage to save the family and send Bathsheba to hell, ending the curse. The overall presentation of the story is to inform the audience that there are times where you may feel that you are losing control of your problems. Being sad and not doing anything isn’t going to solve them, but with strength and faith in yourself, you can solve many problems. Most people tend to forget during times of hysteria that in the end, the only person who can solve any problem is yourself. It’s even proven later in the film when the mother, Carolyn, gets possessed by Bathsheba. Even with the help of Lorraine and Ed, she had to fight the demon inside her body.

Either way, it was up to her to stop the demon from killing her child and ending the curse. As stated before, the main theme of the movie is dealing with repressed emotions and choices. The movie presents elements that are connected to the theme. One of the elements in the film has to be the crisis. In the beginning of the film, we see many of the characters facing a crisis on their own. With the Perrons, it’s the supernatural crisis that is prevalent in the film. While later in the film, we see Ed and Lorraine Warren facing their own crises as well. With the theme, many of the problems themselves are linked with Bathsheba, the main source of the problems. This makes the characters relatable and shows how people deal with things during a crisis, making the moral of the movie resonate with the audience more. When Bathsheba comes into the picture, it is possibly implied that she is also a metaphor for the negative repressed energy during the crisis, which would make sense since as stated before, the ghost represents the repressed emotions.

The article, “A Lesson Concerning Technology,” suggests that “the menace in The Conjuring is a creation of human society that now exists to drain and destroy it. The affective witness utilizes her capacity as a recording device to capture the ‘excluded other of desire that always continues to haunt the subject’”. With the quote from the article, we can understand that the overall job of a ghost is to suck the energy out of a living person until they are most vulnerable, just how our darkest emotions from past mistakes suck our energy out of us, making us too vulnerable to move on. The crisis in the film is not only important from a storytelling perspective but also for the audience to sympathize with the characters. This facilitates character development and propels the story forward, or else there would be no story or risk for the family.

There is also evidence to prove this in the movie, especially during the climax of the film. The climax occurs when the Warrens are investigating the house and discover the ghosts of the land’s previous inhabitants. Each ghost still haunts the land due to the repressed emotions each is holding back. The paranormal reason why the ghosts still inhabit the land of the living is because they can’t move on from the actions they took when they were alive, particularly during their times of crisis. Another element I noted in the film is the world views and ideologies surrounding the supernatural. Many people have expressed their disagreement with the Warrens’ beliefs. A big example occurs at the beginning of the film, during a college lecture scene where the Warrens are discussing their case dealing with the haunted demonic doll named Annabelle.

The various reactions during this scene show diverse beliefs about ghosts. Some people understand and respect the Warrens’ work, while others disrespect it. Other critics seem to touch upon this subject, critiquing the Warrens’ beliefs about the supernatural. The article, ‘The Conjuring Is The Real Deal,’ states, “there are indeed ghosts/’forces’ in the world, but they rarely, if ever, manifest as much violent energy as we see in movies” (Paragraph 6). It is interesting to explore this concept because it provides an insight into how the Warrens react to adversity. This also connects with the central theme of dealing with a loss of self-control, seen in both the family and the Warrens. As people in society lose control, they can also feel the pressure of societal worldviews and ideologies. The next element in the film that connects with the theme is cinematography. Cinematography is defined as the study of filming; the reason for analyzing this element is because the visual style helps to drive the narrative. This is especially true regarding the designs of the set and lighting, both of which help establish the story and tone of the movie.

This is extremely important since the story of The Conjuring is complicated. A lousy direction could have made things harder for the audience to understand. It is essential because it makes the audience feel that the ghosts in the film are genuinely threatening and effectively instigates fear. According to the article, “The Conjuring: Ghosts? Poltergeist? Demons,” “Ghostly apparitions and pranks reportedly assailed the Perrons from the outset, sparing only the father, Roger. I read accounts of many of their apparitional experiences with old familiarity. Such reports represent a common phenomenon well known to psychologists and skeptical investigators” (Ghost). This quote shows how vital cinematography is to allow the audience to experience the supernatural. As stated before, the job of the cinematography is to visually tell the story. One of the scenes that set the movie’s tone is at the beginning when the family just arrives at the house. The camera shot creates an atmosphere and presents the characters’ personalities without any dialogue. In short, the cinematography lets the viewer experience the journey the characters make throughout the movie. Meanwhile, during the production of this horror movie, things like the soundtrack and sound effects, might not seem important, but they play a significant role in the movie’s fear factor.

The reason for this is that the sound effects in the film can stimulate a feeling of uncertainty that perfectly matches the visuals. For instance, during any scene with a ghost, such as Bathsheba or any of the past victims, each has a unique sound and music, with Bathsheba sounding more demonic. This uniqueness makes the ghosts stand out and stimulates the audience’s sense of hearing. Berthold Hoeckner conducted an article that explains after conducting a series of tests that audiences are more likely stimulated by how memorable the sound and music in the film are. “Using different genres of film music to underscore the neutral or ambiguous reaction shots of a character, our experiments demonstrate for the first time that film musical schemas influence how much viewers like or dislike a character and how confident viewers feel about how well they know a character’s thoughts” pg.150 (Film Music Influences How Viewers Relate to Movie Characters). In brief, the sounds and music not only convey the movie’s theme but also complement the cinematography and the entire story. The final, extremely important element that helps tie the theme and other elements together is the characters.

The characters are important for the audience to get attached to, as they help carry on the story. What makes a well-developed character is that they are three-dimensional, not one-dimensional. Characters like Ed and Lorraine Warren are three-dimensional because there is more to their character than just being demonologists. The article by Robert Greens, “Character over Concept: Writing Dialogue in Search of Story,” describes how vital good characters are for capturing the audience’s attention through a series of experiments. “I’ve tried to come up with a funny premise and then write characters to fit it, and it never works for me – I think I made a less good movie, partly because I do think I got a little too caught up in the premise of it, which I thought was clever at the time” (Baumbach 2005: 122-23). This quote allows us to understand from a writer’s perspective how important characters are for a story.

This connects with the theme because we are watching the characters going through this crisis. To sum things up, the center of the crisis, being that ghosts represent our most repressed emotions. In conclusion, The Conjuring is a film that is widely favored for many of its elements. It’s been able to convey the theme of what society is facing. The fear that the greatest dangers can come from your own home, an element that is expressed in the film and was able to convey this message with a solution. The solution that if you have faith and strength, you can overcome many obstacles. The theme also connects with the other elements to help with the story. If the movie were to be directed in another direction, then the story would have probably been too complicated to understand. Since every element is critical for the movie, one misinterpreted can disrupt the movie. Without the theme, the crisis wouldn’t have been able to let the audience relate to the characters, the world ideologies would have been confusing, and the cinematography wouldn’t have had a lot to work with the sound effects/music. This wouldn’t have resulted in a good movie without all of the elements working together, fortunately, they found a way to. What did you try to argue here? I tried, in my essay, to argue that the ghost in The Conjuring represents our repressed dark emotions from our choices.

2. Overall, what were your struggles? What were your successes? My struggles were trying to find the right theme for the movie, though my most successful would have to be my revision.

3. In what areas (Central Claim, Organization, Development, Analysis, and Clarity of Prose) were you effective and in what areas were you less effective with this final draft? My most effective areas were the central claim and development, while my weaknesses lay in the organization and clarity in the draft.

4. Do you feel you have improved in certain areas from your middle draft? How and why? I feel that I have improved from my middle draft because I looked back and did more research. With more research, I was better able to understand the assignment which made things easier for me.

5. In what areas do you feel you are still struggling and why? The area I feel I struggle the most in would have to be the organization. This is due to the fact that I tend to come up with all my ideas first and organize things at the very end.

6. Point out a few peer-review comments or my comments that you found particularly useful and helped you revise for this essay. How did you use this feedback? The comments I reviewed from you were about how I was missing a strong theme and how it was lacking strong support. I used this feedback to reevaluate and review my research thoroughly.

7. What does the instructor need to know before reading this draft? I am really striving to improve my grade to a B in honor of my recently deceased uncle. I have also made sure I haven’t plagiarized any articles.

8. Lastly, BOLD places in your essay where you revised based on these comments.

Secrets Of Creating A Psychological Horror Film

In contemporary society, one of the newest films introduced is “Split”. It is a 2016 American psychological horror film. The main character of the film is Kevin Wendell Crumb who has 23 different identities as a result of a dissociative identity disorder. Kevin experienced past abuse from his mother. Additionally, Kevin kidnaps three girls and holds them hostage in his basement for unknown reasons. He has a psychiatrist who is aware of his different personalities, but she does not know about the three girls he has kidnapped. During the film, a 24th personality appears called “The Beast”, who appears to develop demon-like superpowers. However, the girls must find ways to escape before it’s too late. Dissociative identity disorder is a real mental illness that affects many people. Following the release of the film, many suggested that the filmmakers were perpetuating a negative stereotype of the condition. Moreover, there are people who live with and experience dissociative identity disorder. Separate identities form inside themselves to escape from trauma. These personalities may have names, traits, mannerisms, and distinctive voices. This creates a sense of different experiences. When they shift personalities, they experience memory gaps. Feeling voices trying to control and possess them, experiencing anxiety and depression. People suffering from multiple personality disorder are described by the National Alliance on Mental Illness as a disorder that forms when someone is trying to escape reality, often because they have experienced a traumatic situation such as abuse.

On the other hand, the film captures an in-depth understanding of all the different personalities, however, most of these personalities have an obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorder. These types of disorders are characterized by an emphasis on cleanliness and neatness. Kevin’s psychiatrist believes these people possess superpowers. She considers them unnatural and special, and notes that inpiduals with DID disorder generally have superior intellectual capacities than inpiduals without it. Moreover, one of his personalities portrays a woman. This caused issues when a Care2 petition was introduced, claiming that “Split” is transphobic and offers a harmful narrative surrounding mental illness. Nevertheless, the movie does not contribute to society’s better understanding of dissociative identity disorder. Instead, it only adds to the existing stigma surrounding mental illness. The film may demonize those who are truly suffering. The film portrays people with DID as monstrous, thus reinforcing stigma and misunderstanding. In reality, cases of alternate personalities turning violent are incredibly rare.Portrayals of evil behaviour are non-existent, thus “Split” brings a regressive representation of gender identity and mental illness to the public. As a result, the film stigmatizes mental disorders, trivializes complex mental issues and suggests that DID is not something to be trivialized. It also reinforces the inaccurate and harmful notion that people living with complex mental issues should be feared. The film ends without attempting to humanize DID; there are no closing statements about the mental illness.

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A variety of different problems come across when representing mental illnesses throughout media. It has been concluded that many on-screen depictions of mental illness have been wrong. A psychotherapist from New York, Elisabeth Howell, concluded that the film raised the potential for dangerous attitudes to emerge and for people with illnesses to be damaged. The movie suggests that people with dissociative identity disorder could be violent, but many experts suggest that people diagnosed with this specific mental health problem are more likely to hurt themselves. As a result, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation conducted research on 173 people with dissociative identity disorder who are constantly coping with unbearable trauma. The study concluded that 3% of people are charged with an offense, 1.8% are fined and less than 1% were in jail over a six-month span with no convictions or probations. This shows that people with DID disorder are no risk to the community; however, most inpiduals with chronic and severe dissociative identity disorder report childhood abuse (Freyd, 1996). Other research supports the notion that the film has led to more negative attitudes towards mental illness and healthcare. The media is fascinated with mental illness as a cause of violence; in addition, the media depiction of DID is sensationalized. They depict treatment that would be considered unethical. The main aim of Hollywood is to primarily entertain, rather than inform and educate the public, and mental illness becomes the main focus and instrument of horror. Nonetheless, the stigmatization of people with mental health issues becomes violent and dangerous.

In conclusion, Split captures the main elements of the different personalities, but the negative outcome is that the main character is portrayed as a monster. The media enforces stigma by portraying people with mental disorders as unnatural, creating problems for those who are realistically suffering.

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