Here at The Sassologist, we obviously love films and books. Duh. And adaptation-wise, 90% of the time the books are better. But there are some reasons why horror works better on screen than on page. I won’t argue with you that the books are better, but I will give you five reasons why I love watching horror films more than reading horror books. Ofcourse, this is all in celebration of our Horrortober month. So let’s delve into those five good reasons why you should go to the cinema/turn on your television instead of picking up that book.
1. The Jump Scares
No matter how great the book, jump scares just don’t work when they’re written down. Think about it. ‘Jack walked into the bathroom to check his reflection in the mirror. This whole situation was just getting out of hand. Was there blood on his face? It all seemed normal to him, as he opened the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. Maybe a sedative would help. He closed the door AND THE KILLER WAS STANDING BEHIND HIM YOU COULD SEE IT IN THE MIRROR AAAH.’ Something like that. OK, Stephen King could write a very creepy scene about the killer standing behind Jack, but even then, it wouldn’t be a jump scare. It would just be scary. Jump scares are one of the best things about horror films and those only work on screen. You know it’s coming, you know you want to look away and yet… it was just a cat.
2. The Makeup
Yes, your imagination is great, and the writer described the monster/killer amazingly. But nothing beats good old fashioned makeup. You’ll always remember the messed up faces in The Ring, or Pennywise in IT. The zombies in George Romero’s zombiefilms. All the wounds in all of the slasher films ever made. The fake blood in films like Scream. The bitemarks by vampires, the larger bitemarks by all the sharks. And all of your favorite movie monsters are hidden behind layers of makeup. Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the werewolf, the Mummy. And while horrorfilms mostly don’t win a lot of ‘best movie’ awards, they tend to get a lot of nominations for the make-up department. Sometimes, they even win an Oscar for it, like The Fly, An American Werewolf in London & Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The makeup is part of the experience why horror films beat horror books.
3. The Decor/Setting
Art direction is another category in which horrorfilms are often nominated. You can certainly imagine the Paris Opera while reading the book, but seeing it on screen in The Phantom of the Opera is a totally different experience. And what to think about Norman Bates’ place in Psycho? This is yet again one of the aspects of a book you can make up in your own imagination, but art directors are visionaries. A great setting makes a horrorfilm even better, if it’s an abandoned mall in a zombiefilm or an old mansion like in Resident Evil (in which case the games are FAR better than the films, but that is a whole other topic). There are settings that are a bit of a cliché, like that old mansion, but that makes it even better. Because now, as soon as you see that large and haunted mansion in a film, you’ll know something is up. The same goes for forests and cemetaries: just don’t go there after dark.
4. The Visual Effects
Besides makeup, visual and special effects can make a horrorfilm even better. Just think about The Mist. Without that creepy fog, the movie just wouldn’t be the same. And let’s not forget the creatures in that same mist. Or what about the cute Mogwai turning into nasty Gremlins? The transformation is just spot-on. Ofcourse, all space-horrors can’t do without great visual effects. The Alien films certainly wouldn’t be the same without it. Good special effects can lift a film up. That said, terrible special effects can make a good movie worse. If you watch films from ten years or more back, the effects start to be laughable. So when watching older horrorfilms, just remember that at that time, those effects were the best they could manage, and you’ll be fine.
5. The Music (& Sounds)
I saved the best reason for last. Music makes the horrorfilm. There isn’t a jump scare without a frightening sound to accompany it. All horror franchises have their own thememusic. Think about Friday the 13th, Halloween and obviously Jaws. Jaws wouldn’t nearly be as good without that duuuuun dun duuuun dun swelling up. John Williams, the composer of the Jaws soundtrack, is one of the best Hollywood composers ever (something about a film called… Star Wars…). Either way, even if you are a booklover or a filmhater, you have to admit that horror films have great scores and that the music makes the movie. Not convinced? Turn off the sound the next time you watch a horrorfilm. It won’t be scary at all.