The unifying factor.

January 10, 2019

 

Someone asked me what I would consider my style. The truth is I don't really consider myself to have a style. I found myself starting to question this. But do I have a style? Does long shots and big dialogue scenes count? Or maybe I just haven't done enough, maybe I'm like Rob Reiner and I just genre hop from When Harry Met Sally... to Misery on a whim.

 

Except, that can't be the case because my work almost always does have a unifying factor. And the more I thought about it the more I started to realise what it is. I tend to write about what interests me, and there's one thing, however morbid or sinister it might seem to say, that fascinates me above all else.

 

One of the things I've always enjoyed about telling stories is the way they can used to capture a feeling, making the audience feel a certain way or look at things in a new light. I think capturing that feeling above all else is the key to a good piece of storytelling, whether it be in film, literature or on stage, if you can make people feel something then you're probably doing a fairly good job.

 

This is why I've always, personally, be more drawn to horror than any other genre. Horror, at it's best, attacks our base level, making us afraid and... well, horrified. It's all about going after the most primal of emotional responses; fear. And fear is something everyone has, even if sometimes it may seem like some people don't.

 

There are collective fears that every person shares, or at least there's one. Almost all fear is drawn out of fear of the unknown. What's lurking in the dark? What's around the corner? What's under that clown mask? And, perhaps even more so, what happens after death? What is death? Why is death? And so on and so on.

 

Questions that can't be answered, or that perhaps we don't want to be answered, are the scariest types of questions, and that's because we simply don't know what the answers will be. Fear of the unknown is something we all have, and we all recognise it in one way or another.

 

So, what if one could capture that sense of dread, the fear of the unknown within a story? What might it look like? What might the reaction be?

 

Horror cinema has been grappling with this idea for years, and from the most praised horror movies - The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, even last years' Hereditary - through to more obscure cult pieces - Society, Kill List, and my personal favourite The VVitch - almost every horror film, in one way or another, deals with that most basic of terrors.

 

My aim, almost always, whatever genre I'm writing, is to try and capture that. The unknown. What we don't know is scary, sure, but it's also fascinating, and no matter what piece I'm working on I find that I try to work it into the story. In Follow the Crows we don't know what caused the apocalypse, but nor do we know the Killer's true goal, or the Man's past. In The Door we don't know what's through the door, we don't know how these people got in the room, we don't know what put them there. He Was Dead is filled with open questions, the unknown is weaved through my short films...

 

I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that if I do have a unifying factor to all my works it's that sense of the unknown. At least, that's what I try to put into it. I'm not saying that I'm an auteur with big themes running through everything, but understanding what it is that fascinates me and why it fascinates me so might just help me in becoming a better storyteller.

 

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© Alex Secker 2018