Whether you’re a horror aficionado or the kind of person who’s too chicken to watch Scream Queens, you’ve probably seen at least one movie that really, truly freaked you out. In some cases, it’s easy to understand why you’re scared — Annabelle’s entire face, for example — but in others, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that hallway is terrifying the bejesus out of you. Cosmopolitan.com talked to four people who’ve spent a lot of time on horror sets — two costume designers, a production designer, and a cinematographer — to get some insight on how scary movies actually go about scaring you. And yes, horror professionals get freaked out too (though they’re a little harder to scare than your average Paranormal Activity fan).
- Leah Butler, costume designer for Annabelle 2, The Lords of Salem, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4, and The Bye Bye Man
- Michael Fimognari, cinematographer for Ouija: Origin of Evil, Oculus, Jessabelle, and The Lazarus Effect
- Natalie O’Brien, costume designer for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and The Bad Batch
- Jennifer Spence, production designer for Annabelle 2, Lights Out, The Bye Bye Man, The Lords of Salem, Paranormal Activity 2, 3, and 4, and Insidious: Chapter 2and Chapter 3
How does the process of producing a horror movie differ from making something like a drama or comedy?
Jennifer Spence: When I’m working on a horror film, I have much more freedom to be creative because the supernatural is present. I make a lot of suggestions about what could be interesting to give the viewer something cool to look at and try to build on the characters’ oddities. I’m really conscious about filling out the background details about a character even though you might not see it in the words in the script. And there are always oddball things that you’d never think of that you end up doing. For example, [on one movie] there was a doll that had to be broken in a certain way when she hits the ground, and it’s really specific, the way it’s written. So we had to figure out how it would break, because you can’t predict something like that. We had to do practice runs and see if we could get it to do what the script said. What can we make it out of that would actually accomplish that? It was part of the challenge.