But I love reading scary scripts. Because I enjoy all those feelings knowing that it's on the page not in Dolby Surround Sound and in the dark. I can get as scared as all get out but then look up from the page for a minute if I need to and exit the experience. I need that out.
But it doesn't happen very often that I read a horror script that really scares the heck out of me. Not very often at all. I see a lot of writers who write horror scripts that are gross-out or predictable and my pulse goes nowhere. My theory is that writers think that the fx and/or execution of the moment when it's on film - the creepy music, the dry ice stage fog - all of that will make it nice and scary so it doesn't have to be scary on the page. While it may be true that the execution is going to really nail the scary moment - it should be scary on the page too.
One of the scariest things about THE RING was the jerky, stop frame way the little girl moved. That scared me to death. The original GRUDGE - entitled JUON - scared me so thoroughly that for weeks on end I couldn't go upstairs in my house because the unnatural way that creature moved down the stairs lodged in my unconcious. But if on the page, it simply says:
The CREATURE moves down the stairs jerkily, like a crab.
Do you get a visual? Sure. Kind of. Does that scare you? Not really. Recently I read a script in which this horrendous creature shreds people to pieces. But that's all it said in the action line:
LOUISA reaches her long arms and shreds him to pieces.
Uh - okay. So. I guess that would hurt. But can you really picture that? Did that raise your pulse one iota?
If you are writing a horror script, which has so many conventions and abberations that you could write a master's thesis on the topic - make sure to have fun with it, get gross, get scary, really deliver the horror of the experience with your words. Don't rely on special fx, soundtracks or other post-production devices. Those will absolutely enhance the moment but use the words at your disposal to really write something frightening and disgusting.
Have your monster/ghost/killer look up with blood dripping from their chin. Let mucus ooze from their skin. Give them bad breath and weird eyes and crackly movements. Remember when you were little and you used to put the flashlight under your chin and tell scary stories on sleep-overs? Bloody Mary. Bloooooody Mary. Blooooooody MARY!! That stuff was scary and theatrical. And your script should be too.
In WHAT LIES BENEATH, the scene that probably scared me the most was the scene in which Michelle Pfieffer is blow drying her hair and in the mirror, behind her, the bluish-green, decayed face of the drowned girl appears. Something behind you in the mirror - that's primal, guys. Something outside the darkened window. Something outside the car. The crunch of bones, the splash of blood - that taps into some pretty intense fears. You can't rely on fx for that fear factor in your horror script. Get it on the page.
The market for unproven writers and their spec scripts is dismal right now. But it's always dismal. There is a brick wall we have to get over. So make your script the absolute best it can humanly be. If you're writing horror - go big and write it so that the reader will be so engrossed and so jumpy that you give them nightmares. Go for it.