How To Write A Horror Movie  book cover
1st Edition

How To Write A Horror Movie

ISBN 9780367151652
Published April 3, 2020 by Routledge
180 Pages

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Book Description

How to Write a Horror Movie is a close look at an always-popular (but often disrespected) genre. It focuses on the screenplay and acts as a guide to bringing scary ideas to cinematic life using examples from great (and some not-so-great) horror movies.

Author Neal Bell examines how the basic tools of the scriptwriter’s trade - including structure, dialogue, humor, mood, characters, and pace – can work together to embody personal fears that will resonate strongly on screen. Screenplay examples include classic works such as 1943’s I Walked With A Zombie and recent terrifying films that have given the genre renewed attention like writer/director Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed and financially successful Get Out. Since fear is universal, the book considers films from around the world including the ‘found-footage’ [REC] from Spain (2007), the Swedish vampire movie, Let The Right One In (2008) and the Persian-language film Under The Shadow (2016).

The book provides insights into the economics of horror-movie making, and the possible future of this versatile genre. It is the ideal text for screenwriting students exploring genre and horror, and aspiring scriptwriters who have an interest in horror screenplays.

Table of Contents


A note on transctiption of dialogue and screenplay format

Chapter 1:  "Who Goes There?": A Brief Introduction to Horror
Chapter 2:  What Scares You?
Chapter 3:  Basic Horror Movie Structure
Chapter 4:  Building Act One
Chapter 5:  The Changed World of Act Two
Chapter 6:  Ending and Beginning
Chapter 7:  Dialogue
Chapter 8:  Fearful Landscapes
Chapter 9:  Humor in Horror
Chapter 10:  "Beyond This Point Are Monsters" - Digging Up Inspiration
Chapter 11:  Politics and Global Horror
Chapter 12:  "Our name is Legion" - Varieties of Horror
Chapter 13:  "Dead Man's Chest" - The Economics of Horror
Chapter 14:  The Future of Horror


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Neal Bell is a writer and professor of play and screenwriting at Duke University and has received grants from the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Winner of an Obie Award for sustained excellence in playwriting, he’s been a script consultant for HBO, and also received an Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play for Spatter Pattern.


"Here is a book that teaches how to think like a horror writer, that demonstrates how a deep knowledge of the literature can influence a modern script, and that thoughtfully conveys the craft necessary to write the artform."

Terry Curtis Fox, Chair, Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing, NYU Tisch School of the Arts