Brief: For this film, we are only allowed to use close shots and the entire story has to be set in a toilet cubicle.
Although it’s not seen as a very interesting or exciting place, a toilet cubicle can actually provide a variety of choices for a film. Toilet cubicles are very solitary places and this provides a blank canvas for our short film, because being in a solitary place can relate to lots of different emotions. It could be calming, a quiet space for someone to shut themselves in to escape the rush of the world. It could be funny, toilet humour amuses even the most mature of people. It could also be frightening, being alone in a small cubicle sitting there vulnerably, there could be anything the other side of the door.
Logistically, filming inside a toilet cubicle is difficult, as it is such a small space. Obviously you cannot film with the door actually closed because there would be no room for the camera and this is where the idea of the 4th wall is used. In a normal room, there are four walls, but on a film set that 4th wall doesn’t exist. If it was a play, the ‘4th wall’ is where the audience would go. For a film, the ‘audience’ are the cameras and crew.
For filming inside a cubicle, we would keep the door open and position the camera in the doorway, so as far as the viewers know, the door is locked.
Using only close shots is also going to be tricky. Wide shots are also known as establishing shots, because that’s what they do. They set the scene, show the surroundings so you have some context for the rest of the film. In this music video for Close to Me by The Cure, the video is purposely comprised mostly of close shots, which very effectively portray how claustrophobic it is in that wardrobe. However, the video would make no sense and have no narrative if it wasn’t for that wide shot of the wardrobe falling off the cliff, and this shows how useful wide shots are.
There are other ways to show the surroundings. In this scene from Kill Bill Vol.2 , only close and super close shots are used yet you can understand the situation even with no context. All that they do is cut together a lot of close shots showing that box from different angles. You see the sides of the wooden box and a shot of one of the nails holding it together so you know she’s in a sort of coffin. You also see a shot of her head pressed against the top of the coffin and a shot of her feet pressed against the side so you know how small the space is. Shots of her feet and hands show how she is tied up, so you know it was no accident she was buried alive. Just by seeing those close shots, and without watching the rest of the movie, you are able to construct a story line, and that’s what we have to try and do for our short film. Luckily, toilets are very recognisable places so it will be fairly easy to set the scene with the first couple of shots and maybe the sound effect of a squeaky tap or running water.
We decided on horror for our theme, because we felt that there were lots of possible stories and also it is easy to create a basic scary film because most horror movies follow the same patterns.
Horror movies are all about building up the tension as much as possible to make the jump scares effective. The music in jump-scare scenes are very important to creating the tension. It is generally violin like this , because they can have a slightly screechy, off key sound to them which is very piercing and unsettling. The music starts off quiet, building up in a crescendo, becoming louder and higher. You know that it can’t keep going up forever, so you start to anticipate the release, that moment when the music stops, and the suspense it creates makes you anxious, as you are practically being warned in advance that something bad is about to happen. A good example is this scene from The Woman in Black. In this, the music builds up in conjunction with the lights going out one by one, and as you watch it you find yourself holding your breath waiting as the darkness gets closer and closer, waiting for that last light to go out. As soon as it does, the music cuts out, signalling that the suspense is over. During this, the shot cuts between the characters face and the empty corridor. The fact that you are repeatedly seeing his face means you get to see the fear slowly build up inside him, especially in his eyes, and this fear is translated to you.
Silence can also be used very effectively in horror. In a silence, every sound seems exaggerated, so in films you can use silences to focus the viewers attention on any unusual noises, such as bangs, whispering, footsteps etc. This basement scene from The Conjuring uses silence very well. If there was any kind of music during this scene, the clap wouldn’t have been such a prominent moment, and it’s the clap that signifies the release from the suspense the quiet has created, so it needs to be emphasized.
During the build up, the shots are usually longer shots. They spend a lot of time on the face as well as showing the surroundings. The reason for this is it gives the illusion that time is going slower and you feel like you are waiting for the release. The more you are forced to wait for it, the more you anticipate it and so the more it shocks you when it finally comes. The best place to focus is the eyes, because the eyes are the most expressive part of the body, and if you can get the emotion across the screen, the audience starts experiencing that same emotion second hand.
During my research, I’ve found that the most effective scenes in horror movies are the ones where the monster is never fully shown. Going back to the same scene from The Conjuring as I did before, the only part you see of the ghost in this sequence is the arms, as well as hearing the laugh.
At this point, you don’t know anything else about the ghost, so it allows your imagination to fill in the gaps. This is the basis for why so many people are scared of the dark, because in the unknown, your mind can create far more terrifying images than the reality. So by not showing the full monster in a horror film, you are essentially turning the audience against themselves because you are allowing them to be scared by the monster that their own mind has created, based on the hints you have given.