I'm doing a pass on my medieval zombie horror movie while I wait for notes on Exposure
. I got the note that there didn't seem to be enough threat in the beginning. So that would be my cue to put in all sorts of foreshadowing, right? Dark shadows moving in the woods, etc.
Actually, no. What I realized is that I had not made the main characters real enough and I had not made the tensions between them strong enough. I had a group of future victims who liked each other all too well. What I needed to do is introduce conflicts between them -- human conflict, to contrast with the unnatural conflict later. Conflict gives your characters a chance to act more distinctively, hence defining themselves. Conflict also keeps the characters from being comfortable. Comfortable is boring. Later on in the movie, of course, they'll be screaming. Early conflict keeps the drama going until the bad guys show up. Early drama keeps the characters feeling unsafe
In your movie, unsafe is always good.
(In his Creative Screenwriting
podcast interview, Josh Olson, the guy who adapted A History of Violence
for the screen, said he always thought The Big Chill
was a horror movie where no one got killed. House in the middle of nowhere, interesting characters bumping into each other. Throw in rodent sized fire ants, or whatever, and you've got a great horror movie. And then there's my friend Jim Pickrell, who got irritated at Night of the Iguana
, because the iguanas never showed up.)
UPDATE: I put the link for the Creative Screenwriting podcasts. I'm not sure the Josh Olson one is still up there, but other interesting ones are.