How long has it been since you read a real page-turner? A while? Yeah. Me too. I think that’s why I love watching thrillers. They are the ultimate in creating and sustaining suspense. Talk about tight writing. They race ahead with twisted turns in a world where you’re hooked into finding out what happens to the characters or who survives.
My heart simultaneously leaps with the evil guy who comes into view behind his latest victim in the dreary, deserted park. “Turn around. Turn Around! TURN AROU… Oh, never mind. Too late.” I slump down in my seat, heart hammering in my chest like I ran a 100 yard dash.
I’m not a slasher or horror movie watcher although they can be thrillers too. I couldn’t get through Nick Cage’s Drive Angry, although I loved the creepy, alien-like quality of the accountant played by William Fitchner. It was too violent for me. Silence of the Lambs haunted my nightmares for years.
I love the white knuckle-busting, heart-tapping, “Oh my God, He’s in the house!” terror.
But why is that?
There’s a lot of reliable research out there on the internet, including Web MD which claims, we love thrillers because there is inherent satisfaction in surviving the length of the film. For me, it’s a lot more than a trophy or bragging rights. Wait. I don’t think they give out trophies.
Watching and reading is a time commitment. Writers hope you won’t toss the book, change the channel, or walk out of the theater. Thrillers step it waaaay up, tautening the tension to a high pitched SQUEAL.
A well written thriller captivates its audience. It engages us early so we form attachments to the characters. We have to care about someone and hope they make it out ALIVE! Sometimes we cling to the armrests, our hands like arthritic claws until we find out.
All genres rely on suspense, but thrillers use many tactics to bring us to a heightened emotional state of sheer terror! BWA-HA-HA-HA!
After we’ve been introduced to the evil antagonist, we cringe every time they come in contact with our hero. We know Norman Bates in Psycho isn’t normal and tense up when Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) talks to him in the office. When the bathroom door opens and she’s taking a shower, my high pitched scream drowned out the screeching violins. EEH! EEH! EEH! EEH!
Two musical notes caused our hearts to gallop in Jaws. We knew he (or she?), had entered the scene deep within the darkness of the sea. We would start preparing for an attack by huddling in our seats or peeking between our fingers. Sometimes all it takes is a shadow moving across the floor, the thumping of a shutter, or an creak of a door.
Knowing a creepy characteristic of the evil dude in the movie can set up a great scenario. In Sleeping with the Enemy when Laura Burney, (Julia Roberts) comes home, opens a cupboard, and finds the cans in alphabetical order, she screamed. So did I.
Why is it when anyone comes home to an unlocked door, they step inside, as if it’s no big deal? For the creepy factor, of course! Even if they are stupid enough to shrug it off, we know that stranger danger lurks somewhere…. inside….the…. house. In Halloween, Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Leigh Curtis, walks into her friend’s house while the serial killer slips into the shadows. She escapes, but Michael Meyers follows her home.
Using foreshadowing is another way to build suspense. In The Birds, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedron), walks into a pet shop with her new lover and the birds go WILD. You know that life is going to get pretty interesting in a very bizarre way for this new couple.
A twisted ending can leave us reeling. Side Effects with Jude Law raised the question of who to trust. for a while, I didn’t believe him. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the plot took another hairpin turn. In Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, we are led to believe, oh wait, spoiler alert…Just watch the movie. Talk about being sucked in!
Tension built slowly through a movie can end up as tight as plucked violin strings. In Misery we are introduced to super fan, Annie, (Kathy Bates). We soon realize she’s really a stalker who will stop at nothing to keep best-selling author Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a prisoner inside her house. She is completely diabolical. By the end of the story, we want her DEAD.
Thrillers magnify what every book or movie should contain which is enough suspense to keep us glued until the ending. The successful ones entertained us all the way through to the credits. I commit to the ones that have interesting characters who draw me into the story and promise a satisfying ending. What? They don’t promise that? At the end of Halloween, Michael Myers disappears. I’m not sure if I was satisfied when I didn’t sleep for the next three nights…
What thrills you?
I saw them all and loved running half-crazed down memory lane with you. The last line in Halloween has to be the all-time best “I think he is the bogeyman.” YEEEKKKKK……..
CUE MUSIC!!!! That got my heart racing.
Thanks for creeping down the lane with me!
I am actually running. I think something is gaining on me.
Susie, I like thrillers but they kill me LOL…
I should watch them in the morning. I wouldn’t need coffee!!!
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Forever, because nobody reads these days, they just surf instead
We are becoming an ADHD society! We gotta keep things moving and interesting or boredom sets in…
Thanks for stopping by MJ!
The alphabetized cans did me in, too. BECAUSE IT COULD HAPPEN FOR REAL.
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RIGHT????? That is the creepiest scene! I love how the writer took OCD to a whole new level.
Thanks for stopping by Jan!
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My favorites are Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” and as always, Anthony Hopkins in all of the “Silence of the Lambs” movies. It’s the “normal really isn’t normal” thing that gets me, and I don’t think anyone’s better at that than Hopkins. Did you see the interview he did on late-night TV? I forget the host, but they asked him what it was like to play Hannibal, and Hopkins paused and looked down. When he looked back at the host, he was in character as Hannibal. I got HUGE chills just watching that. Like you said, Susie, it’s the unexpected that thrills us. 🙂
That was the BEST movie!!!! She was so evil. I didn’t see the interview of Hopkins, but I’ll google it. I bet he is super creepy!
I love thrillers and the unpredictable. I want to see Shutter Island, but my daughter said she guessed the ending in the first 5 minutes!!!
In general I don’t watch many thrillers. Too uncomfortable and still takes me back to my own personal thrill ride at home when I was growing up. *shiver*. But I did see Misery, and totally love Cathy Bates. And Sleeping with the Enemy left me with my heart pounding. I’ve never seen any of the Freddie Kruger or Jason movies. Just not interested in going there. I did like the suspense in Dolores Claiborne; what really happened, will she get away with it type of stuff. Very apropos topic for Halloween!
I agree about horror and can’t even watch Walking Dead! I loved Dolores Claiborne too. Nice little twisted ending, wouldn’t you say?
I just watched, Enemy of the State with Will Smith and Gene Hackman. That is a real glimpse into what is happening right now!
Good points all about movie thrillers, Susie. This week, on the train ride to and from The Grind, I read an article in the New Yorker about Ebola that read a lot like a thriller as it focused on biologists at Harvard and a doctor in West Africa battling this scourge. When I finished reading it yesterday, news broke out that a doctor in NYC is now infected with it. that added to the creepy factor for me. Here’s the riveting story in the New Yorker:
That is so scary and yet thousands die of the flu each year. A lady in our neighborhood just died of Strep. She was born without a spleen…
You might want to start wearing a mask while on the subway, but I think it is passed through body fluids..
Love the recollections of oldies but goodies; I am easily scared, and still sometimes afraid to take a shower when alone! Thanks, Norman Bates. My cousin and I were reminiscing about The House on Haunted Hill, a real oldie, and she remembers a skeleton being swung through the kiddie audience at just the right moment–I either blocked it out or wasn’t there. Great post, Susie and Happy Halloween! Is the mouse outline still visible? Or has it mysteriously morphed into something else…
I loved The House on Haunted Hill! I like to watch anything chilling and not too gross. I can’t believe they did that to poor unsuspecting people, but back in the day, no one really thought about all the consequences, like therapy for years afterward!
One time, Roxy started barking when I was taking a shower alone at night. FREAKED ME OUT!!!!
Now I want to check to make sure that MOUSE stain is still there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Happy Halloween to you! Thanks so much!
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I had the nightmare of all nightmares last night that Twisty the Clown from AHS turned into Twisted Easter Bunny – W-E-I-R-D!!! The music does it for me when watching horrors and thrillers that something is about to go down, so I have a blanket to cover my eyes – ha! I love when they go outside or down to the basement or check the closets – really the bad people are in there waiting for you. Happy Weekend – Happy Haunting!!!
It is leaking into your dreams! GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That sounds super scary.
They always walk reeeeally slowly down the steps….
Happy weekend before Halloween! Thanks Renee!
They also appear out of nowhere and scare the crud out of you!
The element of surprise is a very good tactic!!!
I love thrillers more than gore.. That creeps me out the most… Hitchcock was the master
I’m right with you sister! I can’t handle any kind of torture either. I’m way too empathetic.
I love Hitchcock too and would love to watch a movie marathon!
Thanks for stopping by Linda!
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Holy Crap! That Misery freaked me out. Duuuuuuude Bates was so awesome in it. I felt for James Caan when he woke up and there he was tied to the bed with a log between his feet and Bates a giant hammer. Dude! And then when Julia Roberts walks into her kitchen and feels a weird presence and then goes to the kitchen and opens the cabinets OH MY GOD that really freaked me out. But Jodi Foster in Silence of the Lambs…in the dark trembling, feeling for the wall, and that dude with the night vision goggles… that one…that one did it for me. I actually yelled at the screen. Total thriller…totally intense.
Oops Julia. And with the night vision. Sorry I guess all that talk about thrillers made me nervous.
Edited it! That happens to me all the time! I’m not wearing my reading glasses right now, so I’m taking chances!
These movies are the best of the best! I would love to write like that… Don’t even get me started on Hitchcock movies! Bwahahahahaha!
I bet your kids are getting super excited. 🙂
Well, now I know why I don’t watch those creepy horror movies. I did see Silence of the Lambs, which I thought was really good and I have seen a couple of other, less scary, suspense movies, but usually the music gives it away for me. I do like movies that totally blow my mind at the end; like movies where you have no idea who the bad guy is until the very end. Or vice versa, someone you just know is the killer, turns out to be the hero. Those kinds of movies give me the chills.
And movies like The Sixth Sense, where you only found out at the end that Bruce Willis was a ghost. Those kinds of “creepy” surprises I like.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
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Oh – Fatal Attraction – that was another one that got me going. Creeeeeeepy.
Those are truly great movies. You should watch Whatever Happened to Baby Jane or Side Effects for twisted endings! Oh! I just remembered another one! Johnny Depp in SECRET WINDOW!!!!!!!!!! Talk about creepy and twisted!!!
Thanks Patricia! Have a Spooktacular weekend before Halloween!
Silence of The lambs! (and the rest of trilogy) Oh man! I ADORE those.. i seriously know most of the dialog .. how creepy is that! )) for some reason my mind loves the cat and mouse genre.. especially Sir. Anthony Hopkins’s beautiful and twisted mind… “Fraction” is one other of his genius creations. Something very sensual about the way he portrays “bad guys”… i’m really drawn to that .. (i’m sick i know) )) As for “Thrill” in general, I have so much of it in my life (good, bad and the ugly), that I rarely need an extra punch ..
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Silence of the Lambs was too graphic for me when I watched it for the first time. Maybe now, I’d be less haunted. Desensitization has it’s benefits! Hopkins never disappoints!
Great to “see” you, Lena!!
Misery and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane are two faves of mine! Thrillers are the best! Great examples!
Thanks Jess! I wish all writers thought a little about suspense and tension when writing their books. I’ve had trouble getting through a lot of them. Hopefully, I’ve applied enough of these tactics to my own!
You know what one I read and really liked recently, Night Film. Spooky, but told from the viewpoint of an investigative reporter. Enjoy if you give it a read!
That sounds great!!! Thanks Jess. I’m tired of downloading poorly written books. I did enjoy The Goldfinch and Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children is pretty good! I’ve had to turn to best sellers…
I liked Miss Peregrine too. There’s a sequel out for that now.
He wrote three books in the series! Very creepy and perfect for this time of year.
Jaws scared the crap out of me when I was little (even wrote a post about it).
I bruised my leg on the seat ahead of me when the shark surfaced for the first time! I would imagine the person sitting in the seat jumped too!
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It’s the spooky season! I vote for the Hitchcock marathon – nothing’s scarier than flickering black and white movies in a dark room added to an over-active imagination! Thrilling post
Thanks Phil! I agree about Hitchcock. I’m watching “It” right now!!!!!!!!
This is an awesome list, Susie. All great points. I have been recording scary movies (not slashers) for a couple of weeks now so I can binge watch them Friday & Saturday.
What a great idea! I think I’ll do the same…. Happy Halloween!!