Posted in Film, Writing

How to Terrorize the Reader Through Description

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Watching Like a Writer is a movie review series that looks at films from the perspective of a fiction writer, complete with one writing takeaway, and an exercise that will help better your fiction!

Buffy the Vampire Slayers remains the best television show ever made having anything to do with vampires — it’s also just the best show ever, period — but in the world of film, what are the best of the best when it comes to creepy, crawly vampire tales? It’s time to look at the five best vampire movies! Sorry to say, but you’re not going to see any of Edward or Bella here…

5. Let Me In (2010)

Good vampire movies are few and far between, and rarely are they brilliant. Matt Reeves’ remake of the similarly effective Swedish film Let the Right One In does everything right, with two stellar performances by its young stars, Oscar-worthy cinematography, an eerie small town setting, and a story that is as slow and hypnotic as it is fascinating.

4. The Lost Boys (1987)

Joel Schumacher makes a lot of good movies and a lot of bad ones, but The Lost Boys is one of his very best. Featuring a huge ensemble cast including Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, and a young Corey Haim, this very ’80s cult classic has more laughs than scares but remains entertaining throughout.

3. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Turning this movie on with the knowledge that it’s a great vampire movie might make the watching experience confusing, given that no vampires show up until the second half. But once those vampires start wreaking havoc in a middle-of-nowhere Mexican bar, the fun really begins. George Clooney has never been more energetic on screen, and Quentin Tarantino’s sparkling script never fails to surprise.

2. Dracula (1931)

Now it’s essential to go back a little bit further in time. Two of the best vampire movies ever come from nearly a whole century ago, when the film medium was only beginning to evolve. 1931 was one of the best years for monster movie horror, with the releases of both Dracula and Frankenstein by Universal Pictures. Bela Lugosi stars as the blood-thirsty vamp, and his career would never be the same. Dark, funny, endlessly evocative, Tod Browning’s Dracula is a ghoulish delight from beginning to end.

1. Nosferatu (1922)

Many may scoff at wanting to see a silent movie but look, seriously, this (and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is must-see viewing for horror buffs. F.W. Murnau directed this truly creepy masterpiece of the macabre, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that changed character names and places. Max Schreck played the vampire, and his haunting presence makes for one of the most memorable villains in movie history. Don’t watch this one alone!

Watching Like a Writer

Something the silent film Nosferatu makes me think about is how to capture terror on the page not by dialogue or by action but by description. How can I describe the villain in a way that’s so eerie and haunting that the reader gets a chill before the character’s even done anything? What words can I use to make the antagonist truly frightening?

Exercise!

Look at the antagonist of your work-in-progress and think about how you’ve described him or her (or it). How is the description effective? How could you make it better?

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