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Fearful Visions: Horror Cinematographers Reveal Their Secrets

Fearful Visions: Horror Cinematographers Reveal Their Secrets

Cinematography

Michael Marshall (Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky)

In many ways, you could say that shooting horror is easier than shooting drama, since there is a lot more room for experimentation. You can play with angles, lenses and shadows in ways that would be distracting in a straightforward drama. This can lead to the greatest difficulty as well, in that you still have to contain yourself, develop a language and stick to it, and show some restraint. That can be harder than it sounds, because oddly enough, horror sets are generally a lot of fun. One tends to have a good time, there is a fair bit of goofing around, spirits are usually high. Of course, there are tense moments as well, but in my experience horror sets tend to be pretty enjoyable—which could lead one astray into downright silliness, trying things that don’t adhere to the language you’re trying to employ. A certain consistency is important.

On Tackling Sequels

Working in horror often means doing sequels. I’m not sure what makes these films so easy to franchise; I guess the audience gets enjoyment from the shocking framed by the familiar. When shooting a sequel, I of course look at the previous films, but just to get a general feel. I don’t let them overly influence what I’m trying to do, and usually rely a lot on instinct to express the things I’m interested in showing. The Chucky films are a little different in that they have such a dedicated hand at the tiller; [writer/director] Don Mancini knows his main character and what makes him tick, and has pretty firm ideas about how he wants tell his stories. That makes it a lot of fun to work with him and enhance his approach; he’s open to anything, but knows what does and doesn’t work.

A scene from Cult Of Chucky, shot by Michael Marshall. Image courtesy of Universal Home Entertainment

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