Horror! One of my all-time favorite genres! Horror films can evoke fear and suspense, elevating heart rates and taking audiences on spine-tingling adventures into the unknown. While you might get stressed while watching a horror movie, imagine trying to write one! Scaring audiences is a challenging task.
Writing a horror script requires understanding human nature, building tension, and mastery of the art of surprise.
Whether you're looking to become the next Jordan Peele or are just looking to branch out and explore the horror genre, studying horror is one of the best ways to learn how to write it. Keep reading, as today I’m talking about my five favorite horror scripts to learn from!
“Get Out” Screenplay
Written by Jordan Peele
“Get Out” is THE groundbreaking horror film of our generation! The script powerfully blends social commentary with psychological terror.
We follow Chris, a young Black man, who visits his white girlfriend’s parents on a weekend getaway that quickly becomes an unforgettable nightmare. The film expertly explores racial tensions and social issues while delivering intense moments of horror.
This script can show writers the power of using horror as a vehicle to explore meaningful topics. Basing a horror film so strongly in reality can help audiences to examine and process greater societal issues. “Get Out” demonstrates the importance of building suspense while slowly revealing sinister secrets, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.
Written by Kevin Williamson
“Scream” is the original meta-horror film that showed audiences the humor and frights in deconstructing horror tropes. Like many films before it, “Scream” follows a group of teens being terrorized by a masked killer, but the script’s unique approach makes this 1996 film feel fresh, even by today’s standards.
The script provides valuable insights into acknowledging and subverting the usual horror clichés. “Scream” challenges horror conventions and pushes the genre to do better, all while keeping the audience engaged and fearful.
“Scream” also displays an excellent example of using humor in horror to create moments of levity that then help to heighten the impact of the scary moments.
Written by Ari Aster
“Hereditary” is a haunting supernatural/psychological horror film that leaves a lasting impression on viewers. Ari Aster’s directorial debut sure does pack a punch!
Following the grandmother’s death, a family is plagued by disturbing and traumatic incidences caused by a mysterious entity. This script is a masterclass in writing emotionally charged horror scenes.
“Hereditary” showcases how to take a character’s emotional turmoil and express it through horrifying genre elements. The film explores real topics like grief, trauma, and family dynamics in a way that feels grounded in reality. The script takes these difficult topics and further emphasizes them through the film’s horror.
“Hereditary” also does an excellent job of slowly building dread and having the tension culminate in visceral and shocking twists.
“The Evil Dead” Screenplay
Written by Sam Raimi
“The Evil Dead” started as Sam Raimi’s low-budget directorial debut but has since become a cult classic that birthed a beloved horror franchise. “The Evil Dead” is a great example of what can be accomplished on a low budget in the horror genre.
Issues like budget restrictions, practical challenges, and the inability to do advanced effects can prove challenging for most horror movies. But in the case of “The Evil Dead,” the film takes its challenges in stride and uses them to craft a nightmarish tale.
The film uses its lack of funds to craft a creepy and claustrophobic atmosphere in primarily one location, a cabin. The film proceeds to use gory practical effects in ways that prove most effective in horrifying the audience. An aspiring filmmaker or screenwriter can learn a lot from the shooting script of “The Evil Dead."
Written by Joseph Stefano
A blast from the past but a classic for a reason, “Psycho” is a seminal horror film that revolutionized the genre! The film follows the search for a missing woman, who, after embezzling money from work, checks into a motel run by a strange man and his overbearing mother.
“Psycho” is responsible for introducing many iconic horror and, more specifically, slasher film elements still used today. This script demonstrates how powerful a well-written twist can be in subverting audience expectations.
Norman Bates is a shocking and unforgettable antagonist whose reveal continues to captivate audiences. “Psycho” utilizes a slow build of psychological terror and subtle character development to tell its terrifying story.
We all know Hitchcock, but many probably haven’t heard of screenwriter Joseph Stefano!
Writing good horror is an art form that requires a solid balance between tension-building and emotional resonance. By studying horror scripts like those mentioned in the blog, writers can derive a wealth of knowledge. Whether touching on social commentary or bringing new life to old cliches, these scripts offer many unique insights into the genre.
These horror masterpieces have undoubtedly left their mark on the genre, reminding us that the true power of horror lies in the ability to tap into the universal fears associated with the human experience. Hopefully, these tales of terror will inspire you to craft your own haunting stories! Happy writing!