Sunday, April 01, 2007


This is a copy of an e-mail I sent to someone:

I think one of the things that make JEEPERS CREEPERS and WOLF CREEK very effective is that they keep the number of characters low. So you can stay with 2-3 characters all the time and develop emotional connection with them. Most of the horror films have too many characters, because they think they should have 5 characters who must be killed and 1-2 characters who would survive, and they spend too much time with those 5 cartoonish born-to-be-killed characters.

This factor shows obviously in JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 (B). They have too many characters, and the film turns to be just an average horror movies.

There are several directors who can manage well with many characters in a horror movie. One of them is WES CRAVEN. The many characters in his SCREAM trilogy and DEADLY BLESSING (1981, A+) are very memorable, or as memorable as those many characters in Agatha Christie’s novels.

Apart from the time to develop emotional connection, I think another reason why horror films should have fewer characters is that “the fighting scene” between the protagonist and the villain can be longer. When I view film for entertainment (actually all the time), I always get frustrated when

1.The fighting scene between the victims and the villain ends very soon. One example of this is BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006, GLEN MORGAN, A-/B+). They have too many characters, so maybe the filmmaker had to divide the time spent between each victim. Each victim ends up getting one minute to fight the villain before he/she gets killed. So where is the fun? If the film had fewer characters, each victim might get 5 minutes to fight the villain before they get killed. And I think the horror, the frightened feeling, the adrenaline rush of the audience would have increased much more.

2.The good protagonist is too invincible, or the villains are defeated too easily. One example of this is GHOST RIDER (A-/B+). The Ghost Rider seems to have too few obstacles to overcome in fighting the villains, and that lessens the excitement. However, one can argue anyway that one good thing about Ghost Rider is that it makes the characters look a little bit more rounded than in most action films.

3.The villain is too invincible, so the audience knows beforehand that the good characters would be defeated anyway, no matter how hard they fight. And when the audience knows beforehand what the outcome would be like, the excitement decreases. One example of this is JU-ON: THE GRUDGE Japanese-version series. The ghost is too invincible. There’s no use fighting the ghost, because you can’t win. However, the filmmaker of JU-ON is clever, because though the films cannot create excitement out of the fighting scene, the films can still create a lot of excitement out of the structure of the films, which shifts between different times and spaces, and full of narrative fragments. I think it would be interesting to compare and contrast the use of
“time-space shifting” technique in JU-ON: THE GRUDGE and REINCARNATION (2005, TAKASHI SHIMIZU, A) with the narrative techniques used by Alain Resnais, Nicolas Roeg, and Atom Egoyan. In the case of REINCARNATION, the excitement multiplies when the film tries to tell three stories at the same time: the murder in the past, the ghost in the movie-set about the murder in the past, the ghost in the present, or something like that. My friend said that REINCARNATION’s structure is just one dimension away from the structure of Resnais’ films. It gets close to Resnais’ films, but it just lacks one dimension.

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