November 25, 2012 by Nikos
My friends and I gathered in a house today to watch Sinister, your classic horror story where SPOILER ALERT: a thousand year old sinister deity turns children into killers and then eats their souls after making them kill their entire family by different means every time:SPOILER END. As usual, in this film there are several doors that are given the spotlight because the protagonist has to satisfy his curiosity by opening and verify that nothing unnatural resides on the other side.
This has become a cliche nowadays. It almost seems forced to watch this kind of scene, so many are the times we’ve witnessed such an action that whenever we watch a movie and the protagonist comes in front of a door and there are no lights on, we all wish he/she would just leave the damn door alone, grab the rest of the family and get the hell away from that house. We all know that there’s probably something behind that door and while it does raise our adrenaline thinking about it, it’s lost it’s effect from being overused in films and so often. It feels like some kind of cheat a writer uses to do the job.
I think having a character not opening the door, walking away but getting caught by the presumed evil presense in the end anyway to be a fresher approach to it. Or maybe no doors at all could be an interesting way of dealing with this. I recall the game Slender by Parsec Productions did a great job at not having doors. Apart from it’s forest setting there was a weird building with white bathroom-like tiles all over the place that was structured as a maze of corridors tha eventually ended up in rooms and exits from the building itself but all of those entrances/exits were simple openings with no physical door. You could encounter Slender at any given time and if you were unlucky enough to get yourself in a room with no building exit between the room and the point where Slender was seen, then you know that soon enough you’ll see Slender appear in the doorway of the room and it’s game over. The other half of possibilities, you were lucky enough to exit the building and continue running like there was no tomorrow and you could eventually clear the game.
The point is that the entity called door is a very significant one, one used by writers for many years, no matter the genre or intended medium. As far as the horror/thriller type of stories go, it has two ways of affecting the story. Making the character feel safe behind it is number one and spelling the character’s doom is number two. As you can see the first way is a positive one, or at least as positive as it can get since we are talking about survival from ancient evils, gods, monsters etc. The second way is negative as it’s usually the reason why the end is a bad one for the characters.
But as with everything else you have to know when something is a cliche and change it if need be. It’s a great tool to have in a horror story but imho we have to try different approaches first and rely on it only as a last resort if no other way can be used in order to avoid this annoying feeling of the story being predictable and forced.
Title was inspired by fellow blogger, Zer0. I apologise if this post seems like rambling but it was written in 5 am :P.