How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

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How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by FaxModem1 » 2017-06-11 04:47pm

In horror movies, there is the main cast, as well as the ancillary characters, and of course, the thing killing them off, whether it be a serial killer, a monster, ghost, etc.

The question is, how much should we know the characters? How much should we like them? It would seem like a cruel joke if person A finally got enough money for college from the scholarship they'd been trying to get for years and working jobs on the side, while also volunteering for the local homeless shelter and supporting their family, only to end up dead by Jason's machete.

On the other hand, if Person B is an arrogant jerk who cheats on his girlfriend, bullies others, and is mean in every scene he's in, the audience will be counting the minutes until Michael Myers stabs them, if only to see the jerk get his comeuppance, or because they loathe the character.

But if you develop the characters too much, the audience wonders when the hell the monster comes in.

So, how much should you develop the characters? How much should the audience sympathize with them? Should they not?

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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by JLTucker » 2017-06-11 05:20pm

In my opinion, the original Halloween handled this well. Every one of the female victims were relatable, funny, and charismatic, which is usually contrary to how women are treated. I felt for everyone one of them every time I watch it. Zombies rendition of the story tried the same and succeeded on some levels. The death of Annie in his sequel was heart wrenching.

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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by JLTucker » 2017-06-11 06:43pm

I think one issue is run time. Most of these movies are done in an hour and a half. No much development is done when your fan base wants blood and gore. However, wonder directors like Ti West came along with House of the Devil, creating a masterful horror movie that gives Rosemary's Baby a run for its money.

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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by Gandalf » 2017-06-11 09:47pm

I think it depends entirely on the nature of the horror. If it's a teen slasher meatgrinder, where the point isn't the story but the spectacle of teenagers versus Jason Vorhees, then I'm not too fussed about their names or motivations. If it's something more intense, with an actual story, then I should care about the characters.
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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2017-06-11 10:47pm

I'd say that important characters should be well-developed and sympathetic, generally. Otherwise, there isn't much of a story, and their deaths are not as likely to be particularly horrifying or tragic. In which case, you're not making horror, and you're certainly not telling a story- you're basically just making murder porn.
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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by Lord Revan » 2017-06-12 02:13am

I'd say it depends on the tone of the movie, if it's a typical slasher movie you'd want at least 1 or 2 victims that are more better developed so the movie is something else then just torture and murder porn. That said you can have a successful horror movie where the monster barely shows up Jaws and Alien are good examples of those, where the focus is pretty much on the characters and the threat to them and in both cases the monster the movie is named for barely shows up, but the fact that it's always "there" lurking in the shadows is what makes the movie, not the gore of which both films have fairly little of.
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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2017-06-12 07:21pm

I'd consider Alien and Jaws to be pretty much the gold standard for cinematic horror, at least of the stuff that I've seen (I'll admit I'm not a huge horror fan, in general). And Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when it gets serious, for televised horror- and that is a supremely character-driven show.
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Re: How sympathetic should a horror movie's cast be?

Post by General Zod » 2017-06-12 07:46pm

Horror works really well when the antagonists are other humans and not just faceless monsters. Go watch the original Oldboy for a solid example.
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