How to write, shoot, and edit your very own horror film

How to Make a Horror Film

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

If you’ve got a thing for scary movies, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll want to make your own. Here are some ideas as to how to get started.


  1. Get a scary idea for the movie. But make it good so they wont suspect it coming. And when it comes, make it as scary as it can be. It could be more frightening if you HEAR noises, rather than SEE the ghost or monster etc.
  2. Turn your idea into a plot, or story. A great way to get an idea is to brainstorm ideas, then choose one and write the story. Always have a story before filming, or else it might turn out cheesy.
  3. Find a place to film the movie. Good ideas are in the woods (especially at night), cabins, wooden buildings, abandoned houses, etc. Make sure that you have permission to film at the location before you start.
  4. Find a cast who’s willing to star in your thriller. They don’t necessarily need acting experience, but that depends on the complexity of your movie. Make sure they are willing and able to take orders from the director.
  5. Add scary and scratchy, eerily atmospheric music for suspense. Add scary, screechy music for when something surprising happens.
  6. Have a scary killer/monster/whatever. For some reason killers that don’t talk are scarier than ones who do. Make sure their motive is simple (revenge/insanity is good)
  7. Make something completely ordinary the center of the drama (paper bag, telephone, toilet, doorbell, TV, videotape). If you do it well, it will be scary!
  8. Have a plot twist (at the end or middle end).
  9. Add good effects (if the blood looks like ketchup you’re not going to scare anyone so use hot sauce or tomato soup instead. It looks more realistic) If you choose to go with effects…that is. Its proven that a sudden moment of suspense without graphic bloody violence is more scary because the watcher’s imagination finds the scariest possible outcome that they personally can imagine… much scarier than even a realistic gore fest… think De Niro’s Hide and Seek… Scary because of the suspense, not because of the blood, or the realism of said blood.
  10. Make sure you use good effects. if you want to make magic balls, fire, explosion etc. use effects lab pro! An alternative, which is more expensive, but can give much more professional results is called Adobe After Effects (it has motion tracking, color correction etc., see a site called VIDEO COPILOT).
    • If its murder in your film,make it realistic by cutting out newspaper articles and terms.(Example:Cut out photos and articles of Missing people,deceased people, etc. And Use your Psycho as the plot of those Situations.)[p.s.Don’t Use Real Names of suspects and or Deceased]
  11. After all of the filming is complete, start moving it to the computer. Editing it is often fun, but frustrating, seeing as it could be erased with one click.
  12. About half way into editing, set a release date. Put up posters around school or the neighborhood. Try not to invite general public though, just people you know.


  • You can do the paranormal activity approach and create a shockumentary…(acknowledge the cameras presence with no music in the background. Viewers will be at suspense)
  • If you want to make it extremely disturbing, try to make your intended creepy characters as far down into the ‘uncanny valley’ as possible. For example, if you want to put some creepy dolls in, make sure they’re disturbingly lifelike with staring glass eyes and possibly some scratches or imperfections, rather than a cute plastic baby doll.
  • In a sequel, never change the originals ending for reaction. It will confuse the audience and will cause non-originality.
  • Research by watching some scary movies and find what made them scary. Don’t steal ideas though it is plagiarizing and the audience can notice it. Be as original as you can!
  • Make sure you plan your movie well before you start filming; don’t get over excited and write the script as soon as possible, but try writing a two-page, three act (beginning, middle and end) plot overview. It helps flourish your ideas for what will happen in key moments.
  • Practice a little with different ideas.
  • Be bold with ideas! Use any ideas that can shock the audience and get a reaction from them. Don’t worry about being too extreme, that’s what editing is for.
  • Watch the TV show UNSOLVED MYSTERIES, you get plenty of ideas. Disturbing is very scary. The Exorcist, Do You Wanna Know A Secret, and When A Stranger Calls, were all really disturbing and all very scary.
  • Right before the scariest part, have a normal or calm scene. Then out of nowhere have something scary happen. It will be much more unexpected and scare people more. Don’t try and make it too obvious though, for example “Alicia is walking in the woods then the masked killer jumps out from behind a tree and kills her”. Let the moment grab your audience suddenly by the throat, like, have a tree suddenly come alive and eat her OR have the masked killer waiting back at home, disguised as someone she knows, then get her.
  • Read online criminal archives, you’re able to understand better about massacres and such (provides a believability for your movies).
  • Make sure not to make it unrealistic. The more realistic, the scarier the movie will be.
  • Start out by making small, short movies to practice with. They’re fun, easy, and are excellent for creating new ideas.
  • Use great quality video editing software, not that cheap downloadable junk. Here are some good software programs: Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer, Apple Final Cut Express, and Sony Vegas.
  • Define your characters and give them good characterization, the audience will get attached to whatever characters they like best. This captivates the audience more.
  • In the movies, make it seem that safety is available (at the moment), but have a *believable* event that makes it not come. (like the cops have to respond to another call instead of going to the house).
  • If you have a sequel, don’t change it to the extreme. (Ex. Jimmy died in the first movie from a blow to the head. Jimmy died in the second movie from being gutted then buried alive.)
  • There is a big difference between scary and gory! Wes Craven has this down great. But just because gory isn’t very scary doesn’t mean you can’t have gory just don’t make the movie depend upon gore. Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most successful horror film directors and he never used gore that was near excessive in his movies. Some of his movies are scary and not gory.
  • If you find more originality or better acting out of improvising(acting without a script), go for it!! Many famous films lacked permanent lines and staging. Just keep the point clear and don’t get too carried away.
  • Get your script proof read by HONEST people, not just your folks as they can be too nice, have some friends who will say which parts they liked and which parts need revising. Remember, the things that you write that you won’t like, others possibly will like.
  • If you can’t feel you can work alone, get a friend(s) to brainstorm with you.
  • This goes along with #6 make something totally safe totally creepy. (A nursery, a computer.) Anything people depend upon… too bad TV has already been done!
  • Basing things off true stories or saying they were true make thing twice as scary. Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on a true story about a killer named Ed Gein. You can take events and exaggerate the story line, it makes a good movie)… it was scary. Blair Witch project was said to be true Update: It wasn’t either, but the way it was made makes it very possible)… it was also scary.
  • If you are going to have fake blood, don’t use tomato sauce; tomato juice works really well.
  • Stalkers are scary (if you do it right).
  • Mythical creatures (vampires, werewolves, witches) can, sometimes, be scary but don’t count on it. Many mythical monsters now are constantly “updated” but are still the work of fantasy.
  • Sometimes, a quick ending, something possible can have an effect.
  • If you are doing a scary movie make sure that you have good actors….(not your little sister)
  • Best recommended if using high quality cameras (HD), which is the best!
  • For creating an excellent soundtrack, buy the MAGIX Music Maker Software. You can buy some CD’s that contain scary sound effects and noises. Then import the CD to your computer using Windows Media Player, all you have to do is drag and drop the audio to the MAGIX timeline.
  • Avoid using music that was already in a movie like John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN.
  • Make sure the people can act its not good if the characters are not believable!
  • Don’t make sequels that make the series seem to be never ending. Friday the 13th had many many sequels. Everyone expected to know what to happen in the sequels. Saw movies seem to come out every year. After seeing Saw I and II, you know what’s going to happen. If you do that, the movie will not be scary. If you do plan to make a sequel, make sure to is a continuation of the story. For example don’t make movies like in the first movie Jimmy dies after being stabbed by a knife. In the second movie, Jimmy dies after drowning. In the third movie, Jimmy dies in explosion. Jimmy dies after he is decapitated in the fourth movie.
  • Make sure to use realistic props. If you use guns make sure they don’t have the stupid orange tip on it.
  • If your little sister or brother is around make sure they are at least 100 meters from the camera so that they are not heard. (Unless, of course, they’re in the movie)
  • Make sure your friends (actors) are devoted to the movie so they don’t mess it up.
  • Have the title make sense. If your movie is called “Sunshine” and the movie has nothing to do with the title at all, then you need something different.
  • Add a strange twist to it. Kill off the person that seems least likely to die. Turn the sweet, innocent child into an accomplice of the murderer, luring people to their doom. Do something that no one will ever see coming.
  • When using a soundtrack, don’t use the same sound track over and over again. As well, don’t use music too much, or the audience will know when the scary/gory parts are about to happen.
  • Also, when using music, it is a good idea to have the music on while “Jimmy is looking for the possessed lady in the bath”, and then when he looks, nothing is there. It makes your viewers even more scared.
  • Usually,cameras often catch better performances when Outdoors.
  • Make sure to not let the viewers get too comfortable when the movie is supposed to be scary. Insidious was scary up until the middle when they showed the demon which resulted in me becoming too comfortable with it.


  • Make sure your blood looks real!
  • It’s okay to be a bit funny, but don’t overdo it. If you are going to use humor, it is best to use black humor. The Evil Dead 2 did this, and the movie turned out amazing.
  • Don’t steal.
  • Don’t be too out there with your plot.
  • Don’t have too many plot twists; that’s not scary, it’s just confusing.
  • Don’t do anything that will look fake or is too hard to act out. It will look cheesy.
  • Don’t have too many stereotypes in it. (The black guy dies first, blond dies second (due to stupidity) the hot brunette lives to see the end.)
  • Happy endings are overrated!
  • Do not act out a death scene in public places, you are likely to have the cops called on you or angry people will yell.
  • Don’t disrupt the flow of vehicle traffic (you will have the cops called on you!)
  • If you are using a video creator/editor on your computer, constantly save your work. Otherwise, you have the chance of losing all your hard work just after finishing it, and being forced to start all over again.
  • Do not use the same spot to film over and over! Have some variety.
  • Make sure your lighting is correct!
  • And just because it’s a horror film, does not mean to put others lives in harm’s way.

Things You’ll Need

  • Script or permanent plot sequence
  • Characters that perfectly fit your actors
  • Organization
  • Camera (3ccd is a benchmark for broadcast quality)
  • Tripod
  • Microphone – preferably a “rifle” mic
  • Lighting
  • Charged batteries and blank tapes!!!
  • Fake blood, costumes, wigs, masks, and whatever else is necessary (stock up on the costumes, makeup, and blood at the Halloween section at Wal-Mart!!!!!!!)
  • An empty house or two. Free of people not involved in the Filming is better.
  • Good video editing software, specifically for NLE or Non-Linear Editing (like Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, AVID media composer)
  • Creepy soundtrack/soundscore
  • willing friends
  • A very scary or eerie set, to set the motive for the movie to be chilling.
  • And have a movie premier to show to all of your friends, it’s loads of fun!!!
  • (If you want to get yourself noticed,try placing a video on “”. You’ll recive reviews, comments, rates, and easy fans. Just Sayin’)

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