Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Yay Or Nay For The Pre-Credits Scary Bit? #HorrorDiary

It's behind you!

Do you like to meet the heroine/hero or the monster first in your horrors?

I’m blaming Spielberg entirely for my current dilemma. As mentioned in my last post, Top Gear-nightmare Duel is one of my big inspirations for the script I’m writing. It opens cold with David Mann (Dennis Weaver) pulling his red Plymouth out of his suburban driveway and setting off on… his journey. (Dum dum duuuuh)

I love being drawn into David’s world as he flicks unimpressed through an array of local radio stations as he moves further away from home. It’s quite intense. It’s all from the POV inside David’s car. It… doesn’t feature a scary truck for ten minutes. Also, Spielberg kinda mastered the ‘get the monster into the film at the beginning’ a few years later.


My original plan for my script’s hero Shelly (you can read the story logline here) was to introduce her first and then we only ever experience the whatever-it-is who begins terrorising her through her eyes. But would I be missing a trick?

Or, for a script where I intend to have Shelly in every single scene, would opening on a different character be cheating? Would or is that something only I’d be bothered about or even notice? :)


Scream and Halloween provide perhaps their most memorable moments in the opening scene. Candyman is one of the few examples I can think of where heroine Helen (Virginia Madsen) and monster Candyman are introduced simultaneously – albeit with Candyman introduced via flashback/fantasy sequene. Paranormal Activity and [REC] also go another way and first and foremost introduce us to the character of the camera.

I have attached the first draft of my Small Town Demons opening scene. It’s not long so please have a read! (re-read the logline here)

As well as our monster, the location and the character the scene (briefly) introduces will be relevant later on in the script. But right now, I’m just trying to work out whether my heroine or my monster are the best way to haunt and hook the viewer.

Posted by john | Filed in #HorrorDiary, Movies, Writing

2 Responses to “Yay Or Nay For The Pre-Credits Scary Bit? #HorrorDiary”

  1. August 17th, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Anna Heathcote said:

    Personally, I’m not a massive fan of pre-credit scares. I always prefer to meet the ‘hero’ first and build up an idea of their life. In my opinion, the more you buy into a character and identify with them, the more chilling it is when the shit hits the fan. I loved Duel. Reminded me a lot of Deliverance which scared the bejesus out of me even though not much physically happens. The more mundane, the better.
    Look forward to reading further drafts!!

  2. August 20th, 2013 at 7:29 am

    john said:

    Thanks, Anna!

    My definite worry with using the opening scary bit is that it lets the audience off the hook. “A-ha, we’ve had a moment of catharsis now we’ve got a few minutes off for some character stuff” they all announce in weird un-rehearsed unison with one splendid audience voice (and can make the protagonist feel a bit incidental).

    For now I’m going with the Jaws route, not just in opening with a scary bit but also getting back to the scares asap, in particular making sure that the protagonist is right in the thick of it from hereon in – I always forget quite how soon the poor boy on the raft gets killed in Jaws!

    If this doesn’t work though, I do have a plan B for how to open the film… I guess this is why the opening ten minutes of scripts are always the most re-written!

    Thanks again, Anna – and I think you’re absolutely bang on about maximising the mundanity!

Please leave a Comment