The Impossible – researching emotional scenes

As part of my research, I have been looking into different movie scenes that are considered very emotional.

One of the scenes that is discussed regularly online is the reunion scene from The Impossible, a film that is based around the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and focuses on the experience of Maria Belon and her family who all survived the catastrophe.

 In this end scene it focuses on the family being reunited again after searching for one another. I have watched the scene several times and each time I have watched it I have written down the different factors that made me feel emotional.

Here are the reasons:

  1. I found that the music was the key factor that had the biggest impact on me. The music in this scene is very dramatic , slowly building up to a climax as the brothers rush to meet one another. The music , as well as being emotional, created a tense atmosphere as well. Throughout the whole film you are waiting for the family to be reunited and as I was waiting for the music  to grow faster and louder, I felt myself becoming more tense as I was waiting for another disaster to keep them seperated.

      2. Even though this film is set around a Tsunami which many audiences would not be able to relate too, the fact that it is based around the struggles of a family is something that  audiences will be able to relate too. The loss of family is something that many people are fearful of, so putting  the audience in a situation where they are confronted with a family losing one another really plays to their emotions and puts them on the edge.

      3. The cinematography in this scene is very effective in creating emotion. The film uses a variety of shots ; however, I found that the most emotional shots were the close ups. This is because the camera really captures the emotion on the actors faces, meaning that we can really relate to the characters and feel the same emotions that they are.


Sourcing Music + Sound Effects

The same way I did for my horror / fear movie, I have spent time researching into music and sound effects that are going to have the biggest impact on my audience and in my film.

Here are some of the music / sound effects that I have managed to find that I believe will work for my film.

This music is perfect for the beginning of my film. At the beginning everything is perfect, sunny and happy… all three emotions and feelings that are portrayed throughout this music. This instrumental uses higher notes and a quicker tempo to help give the emotions of happiness. I particularly like the bird tweets that are placed in various places throughout the instrumental as it gives it a natural feel and also the illusion of being outside, which is where the beginning of my film starts.

When my protagonist drops her food I want to edit the shot into slow motion, with this sound accompanying it. The reason for this is I believe slow motion can really highlight a problematic situation and by adding the slow motion sound effect as well it will increase the dramatic feel and pull the audience into the story further.

This piece of music is what I am hoping to use for the sad / emotional part of my video. I think this music will work well as it’s very slow and sticks to lower chords which give a depressing and upsetting feeling. It is also a well known pop song that includes emotional lyrics, so by using the instrumental of this song the audience will instantly relate it to the version they know which will increase the chances of them feeling emotional.

I asked my project partner for feedback. Here is what she had to say :

“I love the slow music one, it instantly made me feel sad as I know the original version with the sad lyrics so I instantly put two and two together. The happy music is perfect as well, made me think of a sunny day and made me all happy and giddy. I think the slow motion sound effect will work well as long as it is used appropriately, it could be quite difficult to incorporate but would be really effective if managed!”

Why do people cry at movies?

Before I start to piece together my ideas for my short film that focuses on using editing to make audiences sad, I have to research into why audiences cry at movies in the first place.

In an article “People why cry at movies aren’t weak they are emotionally strong” from Elite Daily (here), the writer talks about how its a positive sign that audiences cry at movies as it can make them more “empathetic, sociable and generous”.

“Empathy is a vital aspect of emotional intelligence” – John Haltiwanger, Elite Daily

“Movies are designed to impact us on an emotional level and they frequently succeed in this endeavor.”

” When we watch films with highly emotional content, it releases oxytocin — a potent hormone that also behaves as a neurotransmitter in the brain. Oxytocin is what helps us connect with other humans and compels us to be more empathic, loving, trusting and unselfish individuals. Paul J. Zak, a neuroeconomist at Claremont Graduate School, is a world-renowned expert on oxytocin, which he has dubbed the “moral molecule.” In an experiment conducted by one of his graduate students, participants were shown a video from St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN. One half of the group saw a portion of the video in which a father discusses the terminal brain cancer of his young son, Ben. The other half watched a part where Ben and his father visited the zoo. The portion of the video in which Ben’s cancer was discussed was obviously more difficult to watch and produced a more emotional response. But the participants who watched it exhibited a 47 percent increase of oxytocin as measured in blood, which also proved to alter their behavior in positive ways.”

“What this all suggests is we cry during emotional movies because of oxytocin, which makes us feel more connected with the characters while increasing levels of empathy, altruism and even fulfillment.”

References :

Elite Daily. 2015. People Who Cry During Movies Aren’t Weak, They’re Emotionally Strong. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 6 April 2016].

Researching Monsters + Creating Characters

In a typical horror movie there is always a stereotypical ‘damsel in distress’ protagonist who is being haunted/ chased by a crazy, unknown monster. My own horror film is not going to be any different and there are several reasons why this is. In this blog post I am going to be researching into previous horror protagonists and monsters and also put together, in description, the characters that I plan to use.

As I plan to focus on how effective editing can be rather than the storyline of my short film, I have chosen to stick to a typical horror cliche story so that it is easy to understand  and simple which means more emphasis will be put on how effective the editing actually is.

Inspiration for my own horror movie monster

JIGSAW, Saw Movies

The Jigsaw is one of the most infamous horror movie icons. The reason this monster inspires my own horror movie creature is because he is a figure that is controlled by someone else, playing into the ‘fear of the unknown’ theory as the audience never really know at first who is controlling this character. The Jigsaw character is also very menacing to look at which instantly makes the audience uneasy, putting them on edge straight away as they are constantly expecting this character to do something scary.


Some  of the scariest horror movie monsters wear masks and the character from ‘Scream’ is not any different. Ghostface is considered scary for the same reason as Jigsaw is… we, as an audience, do not know what is behind the mask and that makes us feel uneasy. The use of masks means that the identity of the monster is concealed which reduces the risk of an audience being able to relate and connect with them, meaning they become more fearful and dangerous to the protagonist as we do not know what they are capable of. The use of masks is a regular prop within horror, as can be seen in the images below which are taken from several different movies.

Killers, The Purge


Michael Myers
Hannibal Lecter


Through this research it inspired me to have my own ‘dissertation’ monster conceal themselves behind a mask. Even though I am focusing on how effective the editing is and am using a non scary plot line to create horror, I still need my characters to be effective and fearful. I want my horror character to wear a mask as it disguises the character and makes the audience ask questions such as “who is this person? Are they going to harm someone?”. These questions then add to the build up of the horror.

I roughly sketched what I wanted my antagonist to look like:

Even though this drawing looks pleasant because of the smile, I am planning on placing it on the suffocating, tied up pillowcase to give a sinister and uneasy feeling. The black holes instead of eyes takes away any connection that the audience may be able to  have with the antagonist while the ‘dried blood’ gives an ominous and gruesome feel. The tied rope around the bottom of the mask connotes the feeling of ‘being suffocated’ which represents how my protagonist feels with the pressure of her final dissertation deadline.

I asked my project partner, Tara Rance, for feedback on my antagonist.

I think that it’s going to work really well. I love the idea of the rope suffocating the antagonist which then represents the suffocation that the protagonist is feeling from her deadline. I think the ‘dried blood’ could be a bit too much but its worth a try, this character is all about creating an eerie feeling rather than being gruesome. Also, it would be hard to tie that ‘dried blood’ into the idea that this is a dissertation deadline monster’.

The Power of Sound + Sourcing Music / Sound Effects

One of the key differences to whether a horror movie is successful or not is through the sound effects/ music that is used. I have focused of the effect of music in a previous blog post (which can be seen here); however, I wanted to research further into how I can use music and sound within my editing to create more of an impact.

In many of the articles I searched through such as ” Putting fear in you ears: what makes music sound scary”  and “Why is scary music scary? Here’s the science.”, they discuss how music that is “non linear” has a bigger effect on audiences and creates higher anxiety which leads to the audience becoming more scared. A key example they use is the music from Jaws, “ominous bars of music signaling the approaching shark in Jaws, some of the most recognizable film scores were designed to terrify us.”

Reading these articles inspired me to start researching for my own music that I want to use in my short horror movie, a key element to my project idea that editing can change the mood of video.  I used YouTube to search through many different pieces of music, sound effects and songs to find the ones that I believe would be suitable for my own horror video.

This are the ones  that I found most effective and had the biggest impact on me as a listener (warning, some of the images are gruesome.)

As soon as I listened to these different pieces of music and sounds, I was instantly on edge as they are the definition of creepy and horror.  I found the last video, “creepy  child laughing”, the most effective as it played on my childhood fears of creepy characters that I can not relate too. Not being able to relate with the character that is laughing creates horror as it is  creating the fear of the unknown, an important factor for my own horror video. I believe that this specific piece of music will be really effective in my own horror video as the high pitched laughing connotes a sinister being which will help add fear to my short film.

I asked my project partner, Tara Rance, what pieces of music she found effective and why. Here’s the comments that she had to make:

“The first piece of music is very eerie. The mixture of the low, omnious tones and high pitched quick beats made the hairs go up on my arms as it made me think of creepy music boxes. The video  with the song that the creepy child is laughing was the most effective for me as I have always had an irrational fear , like many people, of dolls and creepy children so it just reminded me of them. It would definitely work in your video I think as its about an unknown figure that is haunting the protagonist and by having that creepy laugh it shows you that this unknown character is sinister and something to be afraid of.”

The Allure of Horror + How I Plan To Terrify

Psychologist Dr. Glenn D.Walters identifies primary factors of the horror film allure.

Tension – created through mystery, suspense, gore, terror or shock… all of these being straightforward elements of horror film making.

As I am not focusing on a stereotypical horror monster that can create terror and gore, I am going to have to rely on suspense and mystery when it comes to creating my own short horror film. This is going to be done by taking inspiration from films such as ‘The Strangers’ (which can be seen here) and using elements that I have learnt from the movie such as jump scares and creating the illusion of something happening when nothing exciting is actually happening.

Relevance – Dr Walters argues that for a horror video to be seen it has to be relevant to potential viewers.

Relevance can take the form of universal relevance , capturing the universal fear of death and the unknown.

It can also take the form of cultural relevance, for example dealing with societal issues.

Personal relevance takes the form of audience being able to identify with the protagonist.

Relevance is key to my horror film as it is what is going to help my audience relate and really connect with the piece of video. The more enthralled and engaged my audience are, the more likely they are to become scared. I am planning on connecting universal relevance  and personal relevance to my horror video as I believe they are the most effective forms of relevance.

I will create universal relevance by capturing the unknown through the figure that is haunting my protagonist. It will make them ask questions  such as “who is that?” and “are they going to hurt someone?”. It has been proven that ‘fear of the unknown’ is what drives audience the most when it  comes to watching horror movies. In an article by SCREENCRAFT (which can be seen here), the writer talks about how “it’s what you don’t see that will scare you the most”. They use Jaws as a key example. Through the  use of the iconic music score that represents the movement of the shark, fear was created throughout the audience without them physically seeing the monster.


Filmmaker IQ. 2014. FilmMakerIQ. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 2nd April 2016].

Ken Miyamoto. 2015. ScreenCraft. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 4th April 2016].


Researching Scare Elements – The Strangers

To get a better understanding of how effective elements of scary movies are (e.g. jump scares, atmospheric music) I have researched into some of the highly recommended scary scenes that have been aired throughout the years in cinema and TV.

The Strangers (2008)

The Strangers is a horror movie which plays into the mental vulnerability of an audience. It focuses on a couple who visit a house out in the woods, who are then terrorised by three masked maniacs. The Strangers is considered so effective by many critics as it plays with the fear that people are in your home, watching you and ready to scare you.

As stated in my treatment, I am using my own house as a location for my piece of video that aims to bring fear into audiences because your own home is somewhere you would consider as ‘safe’. By choosing to use my own home I will be able to create fear into my audience straight away as I am using the scenario that most people dread – somebody being in your house while you’re at home. The Strangers has done the exact same thing by using a cabin that is known to the characters and a cabin that they have visited many times before. By placing these masked figures inside the house it gets rid of all boundaries, making the film unpredictable as anything could happen.

The scene I have inserted below is considered to be one of the most tense and vulnerable scenes throughout the movie, so this is the one that I have chosen to analyse.

This scene is a perfect example of how suspense and fear is created without anything dramatic happening. It also relates perfectly to my previously analysed article,” So you want to make a horror film?”, as it includes many of the basic elements that have been proven to work within horror movies.

Small aspects of the scene, such as at 1:58 when a loud thud creates a basic jump scare is a simple but effective way of creating anticipation and fear within the audience. Nothing is seen but the scenarios that are associated with the jump scare is what makes the audience fearful. It has been proven that audiences are affected more by what they can’t see than what they can.