Truly Scaring an Audience is No Easy Task… YOU’RE NEXT

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The horror genre appears to be one that splits audiences right down the middle. Those who enjoy horror are generally obsessive over the genre and become devoted to seeking out all kinds of scary movies. To scare an audience is to create a believable illusion of terror, which is powerful enough to make viewers forget that they are watching a film. Scaring an audience is no easy task. For that reason, it’s a genre that deserves more respect than it often gets.

The target audience for horror is more about age than ethnicity. It used to be more male but females play an increasingly greater role in horror audiences. Hispanics — especially those whose first language is English — own movie-going across genres. They go to more movies, watch more movies online, go in a bigger group etc.

Errors of the Human Body, by Eron Sheean; Would You Rather, by David Guy Levy (in MIFF 2013 Mayhem program)
Horror films routinely top the box office, yielding an above-average gross on below-average costs. It seems that audiences want a good group scare as a form of escapism, just as their great-grandparents chose Universal horror offerings to escape the miseries of the Depression and encroaching world war in the 1930s.

A couple of years ago, MIFF offered a “Cutting the Edge” program defined by provocative films and stirring visual presentations guaranteed to test limits and take viewers to the extreme.  This genre was expanded into two programs, “Visions” and “Mayhem” when executive director Jaie Laplante took the helm in 2011.  The Visions program replaced Cutting the Edge, and the Mayhem program was created to celebrate the creativity of genre-focused film talents, where you can expect suspenseful thrillers that’ll rock your cortex.

Scenes from Antichrist, The Evil Dead; The Descent

In a recent interview on Rue Morgue with contributor Shawn Macomber’s new “Sinister Seven“, Laplante said “Hopefully audiences embrace it and take a chance on films that are maybe slightly different in approach than what they’re used to seeing. If we can pick movies that strike people in such a way that they’re thinking about them for days or weeks afterward, I think we’ll be successful. I mean, the function of art is to help us understand ourselves, right?”

Laplante can still vividly recall how he felt exiting a perspective-altering midnight screening of Candyman at the Toronto International Film Festival as a young film student. “If I hadn’t seen Candyman at that midnight screening, it might have been many more years before I was turned on to what the genre had to offer. I think about that a lot in regards to Mayhem. I want the films we bring in for it to at least have the potential to make that kind of an impact”, said Laplante.

Scene from You’re Next

Couples looking to have a truly great time together at the movies should seriously consider a terrifying horror film. It’s guaranteed that your date will look for comfort and reassurance, while the jumpy moments tension building will have you tightly clasping one another for dear life.

In keeping with the genre… together with O Cinema, MIFF will co-present a special “Mayhem” event on August 15th at Regal South Beach, with one of the smartest & most terrifying films in years: You’re Next, by Adam Wingard.  Actress Sharni Vinson will be in attendance to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A following the screening. Stay tuned for a chance to score tickets. — Tatyana Chiocchetti

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Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.