The horror movies that really scare us linger in our heads with a perfectly executed suspenseful ending. Having all the pieces slide into place can take filmmakers months or years to do, but this Oct. 13-15, local filmmakers have just 48 hours to make a short horror film. For the 48 Hour Film Project, teams draw a horror theme out of a hat, write a screenplay, and shoot and edit it. “It’s an incredibly intense experience,” says Nick Fiorella, co-director of the zombie film Safe House, the 2016 audience award-winning Cleveland film. He shares how he crafts a suspenseful ending on the fly.
Explore the Genre: Fiorella advises to get comfortable with your genre or concept. For example, when writing a zombie film, consider the key elements, such as survival, fear and conflict. For Fiorella, that meant swiftly researching shows such as The Walking Dead to avoid cliches. “Nobody trusts each other,” he says.
Do the Twist: In order to create a truly suspenseful ending, writers have to brainstorm a twist early. From there, you walk in reverse. “It’s like a big plate spinning act,” he says.
Build Tension: To keep your viewers on the edge of their seat leading up to the twist, create tension between characters and their environment. In Safe House, a character asks a question about a family photo that unleashes conflict. “It’s about making the audience aware of where the plot is going,” Fiorella says. “It’s a build-up moment.”