Tight Framing & Extreme Close-Ups
Similar to the use of negative space, horror filmmakers often use tight framing to induce anxiety within the viewer. An extreme close-up with a shallow depth of field once again places the viewer in a setting of not knowing what’s directly surrounding them. They feel trapped. From there the mind begins to connect the dots the filmmaker intentionally placed out of frame. Sometimes it’s nothing. Other times it’s the killer waiting to strike.
Irregular movement can be via the cameraman or the subject within the frame. Both the camera moving at odd angles like in found-footage horror movies such as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, or the actors movements being irregular can also put the audience in a state of unease. The demonic crab walk is a common trope, as well as ghost of zombie walking.
If you’ve seen even one horror movie, then you know exactly what a jump scare is. With the viewer already hyper-aware of something looming due to camera movement or sound design, as soon as the scare is delivered, this anxiety is often released via a small “jump” out of one’s seat. The jump scare is probably the most used technique in modern horror filmmaking. This can often lead to an overuse of jump scares, or the predictability of one – however, when it’s executed well, the entire theater jumps simultaneously. A true sight to see.
Camera exposure is the amount of light let in to the image. So by underexposing shots in horror films, the brightness is reduced creating a more mysterious, shadowed, and overwhelming feeling. This is yet another filmmaking device utilized to keep the viewer in the dark.
Abrupt color changes in horror films tend to lead to rapid changes in mood and tone. Jumping from pallets of reds to blue can sway the tone of the scene from happy to sad, hot to cold, or heaven to hell.