This article was written by a very talented director of a short horror film, Riparian, Jayesh M. Mehta. Enjoy!
Obsession as a child
My obsession with horror films began when I was nine years old. I still remember to this day that my brother and I were watching, for the very first time, Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) past midnight, when everyone else was asleep, and this was before I saw anything even remotely scary!
Being five siblings, our home always felt claustrophobic no matter where we shifted. So, on that particular night, watching the film on our fourteen-inch CRT television as a kid was a real thrill; you know when you’re nine, what you see on the TV is real! Sometimes even more than what you see every day. The facehugger part was not so scary to me. It felt worrying more than scary. But I knew that it was the beginning of something so terrifying. Then, came the most gut-wrenching scene of all – the chestburster scene. There are rare things in life that you will remember the day you die, and for me, watching this scene is one of those things.
The “need” of worrying
Having watched thousands of horror films, which are all oddly filling – I learned that there is a sense of convincingness that makes it real. What makes it real for me is not really the perfect lighting, jump scares sudden shockers, or the ghost or supernatural entity itself. It is the worry, the tension, and the need. The “need” of worrying.
If a ghost appeared in front of ten friends in broad daylight, nobody’s going to be worried; because they can run, seek help or find a way out of the situation they’re in. It’s the darkness that brings the “need” to worry, loneliness, or any set of events that are unexpected. For instance, in the Riparian short film, the protagonist, about to quench her thirst, senses that something is wrong with the water, which brings in the “worry”, “fear” and a sense of “disgust”.
I could easily have a ghost in a white gown, but…
As an artist, and a creator, no matter what you’re working on, it becomes essential to avoid cliché of all sorts. Be it thematic material, storytelling, or character quirks. I could easily have a ghost in a white gown going after my protagonist, but that’s something I have seen a thousand times.
Experiencing original work firsthand is comparable to fine dining. You know you’re not going to be disappointed when you receive a dish ordered at a 5-star restaurant. So when a filmmaker or an artist comes up with something different, or rather creative, the audiences are going to have an experience synonymous with having a well-balanced 5-star dish.
Other than a great narrative, the right atmosphere, and the convincingness, sound design is a very integral part of a great horror film experience. I personally record audio on my film set, no matter how small the set is because I believe that it is the most cost-effective thing to do on films with limited budgets, as one may otherwise end up buying additional audio effects in the post-production. My sound design, therefore, comprises of the audio recorded on set, along with sound effect libraries that are either available with a free license, or any previously bought sound effects.
That being said, I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I intend to bring some more horror shorts in near future. Till then, stay safe and stay terrified!
By Jayesh M. Mehta, director, Riparian (A short horror film).