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I don’t believe in ghosts, spirits or any of the other crap but I do like the idea of them. There’s always a big audience for those documentary styled, Blair Witch like, friggin’ stupid camera quality movies and there’s always a big market for horror/scary films and games. Yet, I find that the environs are never as creepy as they could be. I think instead of just the same old haunted house or running through the forest wily nily, horror writers could go the next step. Some on my list are pretty stock standard and others are personal preference. So, I present my list of and reasons for…
THE TOP TEN CREEPIEST PLACES AT NIGHT!
I’ll do it count down style.
Forests and random bushland aren’t going to get past number ten ever. Despite all the hunting trips gone wrong, dead teen camping trips and failed family fun times you throw at me. I kinda like the quiet surrounds of the nature at night. But they rank in at ten by popular demand and precedent. Blair Witch, Friday the 13th and nameless other movies will have some dumbass teens bumbling through the woods being chased by a vengeful spirit. What makes these areas of nature creepy at night/haunted seeming is the fact you don’t have four walls around you. The camera flicks from one side to the other. You can’t see through the brush. Anything could be peering at you just behind the branches… that and all the pissed off angry magical critters ever dwell in the deep woods.
9. Abandoned Warehouses:
Abandoned warehouses get number nine because they’re so empty, big and broken. They’re supposed to be bustling buildings of workers and produces and instead they’re all cracked concrete and shattered glass. What makes them creepy is the echo effect. The fact that your voice booms out and returns to you. Is it really your voice? What if the echo was something different? Are they the echoes of your footsteps or the reports of someone/something else’s? The big empty space of the factory floor, the repeating tight hallways of the offices above and the same crooked light and echoing noise. That’s what gives them the heebie-jeebie factor. Also, just how many workers went postal there? How many lost their sanity? Took their own lives? Could leave restless spooks…
8. Abandoned Theatres:
These hit number eight because they’re areas of show. They were designed for performers and action and entertainment. The acoustics also fuck with them. What goes on stage spreads out to you. Moth chewed curtains, moonlight spotlights, actors’ shades floating entering stage left. These things out creep forests and warehouses because performers are notoriously unstable and they like to perform. To put on a show. What if the show is you? And the act is the last man hanged? That and there’s a bit of history to them. Accidents on stage, suicides, murders but also plays and movies. Macbeth’s tale alone should make theatres seem fuckign creepy. Chicago fires. Big ticket creepy items.
These are always creepy and the only reason I place them here is because it’s incredibly hard to set anything longer than a scene in an underpass. They’re still fucking creepy though. It’s the tunnel effect and being underground. There’s two ways in or out and a whole pile of weight hanging above you. The walls are close together, the sound echoes nicely and travels further. So, there’s that but there’s also the fact that shady dealings go on in underpasses. Drug deals and assault being chief among them. Always creepy to go into an underpass because you can become trapped very quickly. Adds to the claustrophobic creepy value of it.
Now, this one you would normally. place higher on the list. No one likes being around the dead for too long and at night that’d take a bigger aspect. But it ranks sixth because of predictability and the sheer overuse of it. The whole hands punching through the dirt and clawing at the air as lightning crashes in the sky scene is overdone. Still, there is value in creepy cemeteries. Surrounded by the dead under the earth, in supposedly peaceful rest or some cremated and drifting softly on the wind. If there was ever a gathering point for haunts, it’s a cemetery. Should be enough to give you a shudder
5. Abandoned Prisons:
This one is understandable and you’ll probably wonder why it’s so far down the list. It’s because it’s predictable that it’s down the list. You expect that kind of crap in an abandoned prison, so it kinda limits the strike value. If you’re writing and you want to freak people out, then put them in their happy place and then turn that to spikes and ghouls. These are places where deranged people once spent their lives. Where violent criminals were held. People surely died or went insane. Some executed or took their own way out. Bound to happen. And the cells. Imagine stepping into one supposedly empty cell, the door slams behind you and then you’re the fresh meat. Not fun. I do recommend the Fremantle Prison Night Tour if you come to Perth. Highly freaky.
4. Abandoned Hospitals:
Hospitals alone are freaky. They smell of disinfectant and bleach. They’ve got the sick, the dead and the dying as well blood and organs on tap. There’s plenty of death and plenty of creep. A metric shit tonne of potential for writing. A doctor who went over the edge. Someone doing a vivisection. Someone breaking children’s legs so that they stay in the hospital forever. Freaky stuff. But hospitals hit number four because of the sheer range of haunts that could be left in there. You could always make them creepy.
3. Abandoned Asylums:
Similar to hospitals but creepy because of their patient range. The mentally ill. Some are nice and friendly. Others are disturbed and violent. And that’s just the patients. What about staff? Watching people with low sanity must take a toll. At night, an abandoned asylum would have noises; creaks and groans. Doors would open or slam shut because of the wind. The wind would sound eerily like the screams of the demented. All over verrrrrrrrrry creepy.
This one you can sorta chuck in with the number one but I give them their own place here because they are freaky on their own. Little kids shouldn’t be scary but they are. Their laughter, their actions, the way they talk and the fact you just can’t quite understand the way they think. The fact they have invisible friends. Playgrounds have that nice connotation of echoing with kids’ laughter as they play nicely on the equipment. But that’s at day and that’s when things are shiny and new. Things break and accidents happen. Kids could crack their skulls on the swings or fall off the monkey bars and break their necks. Child ghosts are the worst because you think that they cannot hurt you if they were alive. They’re not supposed to be able to. As the pissed off dead though… different story.
The playground piece ties nicely with this one because of all the points. Kids are supposed to be easy to stomp if you’re an adult. But not as ghosts. Then there’s all the settings a school has. Offices, libraries, canteens/cafeterias, classrooms and playgrounds. There’s also staff that used to work there. There’s long corridors and echoes. And the fact they’re supposed to be filled with people. They are freaking creepy because the sheer amount of crap that goes on at schools. Bullying, self-esteem, suicide attempts. Hell, we had one kid storm the staff room with a knife before getting his ass tazed. Between that and the sheer range of issues young people get, it makes for some fucked up little monster ghosts. They have a range of props to fuck with. Rulers, projectors, tvs and pcs. They’ve got sports stuff. Desks and chairs to move. Boards to write on. All kinds of hollywood horror routine gear.
Anyway, that’s the list. It’s probably a little broken and there is always room for improvement but I like it. Those places are creepy and easily haunted.
Still, what’s creepy to me isn’t creepy to everyone.
What do you find creepy?
I don’t know what it is with the last 12 months or so but I’ve noticed a lot more of these horror survival games being released. Instead of a game placing you in a Fantasy Movie or an Action Movie, you are now the start in a psychological horror movie. You are our survivor and you’re now solving puzzles, running like hell and FREAKING THE FUCK OUT BECAUSE WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?
I mean let’s take a look at some of the titles being released. The big ones are Allan Wake and The Walking Dead. I suppose you can throw Amnesia in there as well. These are games where there is still combat involved but a lot more of puzzle solving, stealth and running are involved too. It provides a nice change to what you usually do in a game. Usually, if you have an enemy or a series of enemies, you smash through them with your M4A1 or your mighty magical war-hammer. You don’t turn off your torch and fucking leg it.
But that’s the kind of thing these new games are trying to promote. Less fighting and more running. Less frustrating and more frightening. Puzzles and little details too. It’s no longer a case of, proceed to objective A, kill enemies then look for the huge fucking neon sign which says ‘OBJECTIVE’ or the mini-map and quest tracker which say ‘Go to Red Rock and break 15 boxes of Plague Contagion!’. It’s more, listen to creepy music and noises, look for a key, use key to open a door and then find a way to turn to the power back on. ONLY THEN TO SEE THE FREAKY LITTLE GIRL WITH KNIVES FOR EYES.
These horror survival games kinda remind me of the original Half-Life. Now, the original Half-Life was one hell of a game. You spent your time alternating between two types of game-play; puzzle solving and shooting. You would shoot aliens for a little bit and then need to figure out how to cross the electrified water. Then they’d throw you a jumping puzzle. It was good though. Puzzles, fighting and jumping. Gordon Freeman is probably one of the few action heroes with a physics degree.
While these new games retain some of that Half-Life feel, a lot of them are now focused on stealth and turning your torch off. It’s more avoiding danger and finding a way out rather than finding your way to danger and blasting your way out.
Beyond the game-play differences there’s also the fact that many of these games are relying on Kickstarter projects and donations to get off the ground. Games like the SCP variants are some relatively freaky games and they’re free. The guy who knocked up the original SCP did in two days during lunch-breaks. It’s a staircase simulator but it’s still plenty freaky.
So, I’m stuck wondering why there’s this change to this genre because usually these things follow a pattern. But I guess maybe people just wanted something different, maybe they wanted to scare themselves a little.
Now, while I don’t deal overly well with scary stuff, at least not the incredibly gory stuff, these games provide a cool alternative to the wash of action games and make for some great Youtube Let’s Play vids.
On a side note, I really hope someone makes a sandboxy RPG from The Stand by Stephen King. Something about being a survivor in the post super-flu world catches my attention.
I entered a rather interesting conversation about horror stories and how pretty much every horror movie ever made has in fact been lame and being a logical sceptic reduces a film from being scary and frightening to pathetic and funny in mere seconds. Seriously, all horror movies kinda suck. I’m yet to be fully scared by one, not that I’ve watched a lot but none of them have really freaked me out. I’m a little squeamish around horror gore, you know the slow self inflicted/possessed inflicted stuff, not my cup of tea nor is my glass of my beer but never really frightened. I tend to laugh at the horror film where it’s a tale of some town which burned down and now some crazy Christians are taking refuge in a church to keep out evil spirits and the like. I look at it and laugh because A) There’s nothing to be frightened of B) The fact that people actually believe heavily in the popular ideas of spirits n shit C) It’s just not scary so therefore the movie’s purpose has been flawed from the beginning and that’s funny to watch how hard the director has tried to get a scare.
There’s like three basic style of horror film. First is your Hollywood produced one where a bunch of actors are in some setting where some evil is back to life n shit and for some reason is trying to kill the main characters. Then you have your gore films and they’re ridiculous because they aren’t scary, they’re just bloody and more about shocking people. The way they get scares is by trying to get the audience to imagine it happening to them. Being trapped with your head in a noose while standing on a block of ice which is slowly melting is a little freaky if it’s you AND YOU HAVE TO DECIDE BETWEEN CUTTING OFF YOUR RIGHT EAR OR DYING TO SAVE YOUR FRIENDS OR LETTING YOUR GIRLFRIEND DIE. DUN DUN DAAAAA. Scary stuff… Then you come down to probably the most effective and yet the most stupid of the styles, the documentary style of film where it’s filmed on a Sony Camcorder and there’s running, blurred images and like night-vision scenes for like 100 minutes. Eventually, there’s just a lot of unexplained shit, maybe some dead people and yet no one bothers to explain it THEREFORE SPIRITS. Maybe a door opens on it’s own or like a pipe rattles or something, a chair moves, shit I don’t know. So, yeah, they are all equally stupid in their ideas and there’s nothing for them to be scary so they become funny.
Horror films are easy to make, you just have to set it up so that the audience freaks themselves out and to do that all you need to do is make look as close to reality as possible and then have some unexplained shit in there. I mean look at the Paranormal Activity franchise, three films now and each scares people, Blair Witch Project, I haven’t watched it but from what I hear it’s just some teens running around in a forest. Horror films rely on you to do all the work, they let you scare yourself, they don’t make you scared they just invite to scare yourself because if you give your mind hands, mouth, knife and fork it’ll happily eat itself. Because people have a habit of believing shit that really makes no fucking sense. People will tell me they’ve had encounters with ghost and spirits and I’ll look at ‘em and just shake my head. Got any evidence? No, but I swear I saw what I saw. OF COURSE YOU DO YOU WANT IT TO BE TRUE. My friend also saw something. That’s still not really any evidence, just your word against mine, I mean because you assert something, doesn’t make it true.
That’s why with all this talk of spirits and ghosts and shit there’s thousands of eye-witnesses and unexplainable stuff which gets labelled evidence and explained by “ghosts”. That’s not a solid explanation, it’s a theory sure, I’ll give you that, it does account for things but it’s more accepting the idea and then trying to gather evidence for it, rather than gathering a heap of evidence and making your ideas from that. People often see shit and just jump to the ghost conclusion without bothering to consider it wasn’t ghosts, it might just have been a badly cast shadow, your mind still waking up and your bad superstitions. People want to believe in this shit so much that they take their basic beliefs and then try to prove them and of course any thing that they can’t explain they just label as being proof. A window that some guy makes sure is locked and their doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with it keeps coming open. GHOSTS. An old house where a murder took place has lights shining in it sometimes. GHOSTS.
It’s easy to make a horror story. You just put some shit in there you don’t try to explain and then let the audience jump to a conclusion. You plant a seed of doubt and let them nurture and grow the damned thing until it blooms into a terrible frightening image.
If you gave me all the equipment, the actors, a substantial pay-check, the staff and the time, I’d write and a direct an “Indie” horror film. I could do it in about three months tops. Have it out on DVD by Christmas. That’s why I never really get frightened by horror films. It’s because I know how they work.