David Hoof is the author of “Sharpshooter” and the soon to be released full length horror novel “Landfill”. He was nice enough to give us his thoughts on what makes a great story. After all this is the “Harbinger of Horror”
REQUIREMENTS OF GOOD HORROR
(+ ) where Landfill has this where other horror films don’t or where this feature in Landfill exceeds or surpasses its use in most other horror films.
1. (+) An opening that dramatizes immediately and in graphic terms that the horror has just begun, even if its initial victim is a ‘throw away.’ While explicit in gore, the scene should be at best incomplete in its visualization of the evil, or monster, or horrific force defining the emerging problem.
2. (+) A continual sense (tone) of disturbance, even when there is no explicitly dramatized reason for it, a projection by actors and soundtrack that something is increasingly wrong, even when this conclusion might seem – rationally – indefensible.
3. A compelling and artfully arranged soundtrack, down to every element (e.g. drops of water) as if terror were lurking in every sound, even the innocent ones.
4. Well-developed, compelling, if flawed characters, each credibly motivated, each with his or her own agenda, each with outer and inner conflicts, none able to escape the trap imposed by the initial set of circumstances.
5. (+) A sympathetic and empathetic protagonist whose inner conflict is inextricably wedded to his or her situation, so that he or she has to solve the inner conflict in order to even confront the outer conflict.
6. (+) Dramatic events that isolate the protagonist from allies and opportunities to confront the horrible threat early, before it becomes all but overwhelming. At best there should be a near-ostracization by former allies.
7. (++) Active adversaries of several kinds, none of them trivial, working against the protagonists and, at best, wanting him or her dead.
8. (+) At least one dramatic signal that the antagonists are overplaying their hand, that the devil they had courted has left them with a monster that has slipped its leash, or with a ‘control plan’ thoroughly inadequate to the rising crisis.
9. Lots of victims, but all of their demises related either to their own motivations or encounters with the ‘horror’ or both, hopefully in a conjunction of set-ups where the encounter is skillfully foreshadowed.
10. Few enough complexities that the plot line is easy to follow.
11. (+) Sufficient enough complexities so that the dramatic trajectory is not easily predictable.
12. Dialogue that satisfies the ‘once through’ criteria, meaning that only occasionally does it exceed three lines, and often goes no more than one line. One word responses, esp. at moments of shock, are almost obligatory.