The Elements of a Good Horror Movie

We all know that action and horror movies are among those which really grab the audiences’ attention. There is an interesting experience as well as a frightening one. However, horror movies are not easy to make. In fact, even a minor error in the several important elements could make the interest of viewers go away. 

The Elements of a Good Horror Movie


The most important element of all is suspense. People watch a movie with interest when they are not having the slightest clue what is going to happen next. This will also keep them hooked to the movie to the last minute because anything can happen anytime. 

Some of the best horror movies such as The Conjuring always give up a different perception and expectation to the viewer regarding what will happen next but then violate these expectations by doing what the audience expects the least. Suspense is also related to the entire storyline. There needs to be a mystery in the entire plot regarding the unknown happenings. 

Creepy dolls are considered spooky for all the horror movies. 

Detail to The Setting

If the story is full of mysteries and ups and downs but the setting does not complement this, the viewer will not be as frightened as he should be. Ultimately, the enjoying experience of horror which is related to the “scare factor” will not be there in the way it should be. The detail to the setting means that whatever is happening in the story should be happening in a particular environment. 

For example, a good horror movie will have some spooky music at times of crisis, thunder and lighting, dimming of lights, and a more scary response of the character in focus. All of these will make the user feel scared bringing the concept of horror movies to reality. Many people are actually fearful of elements such as thunder or spooky music and this could create a startling experience for them. 

In addition to that, the movie should be set at a place that is considered spooky. For example, haunted houses, graveyards, old houses in the forest, and other such places appear to be horrifying to the viewers. Of course, setting up a good horror movie in the middle of the city would be very difficult because there are many things to be taken care of. Horror becomes horror when the character in focus becomes very lonely and does not find an appropriate place to escape. 

Isolated places are spookier than the ones with civilization around them. 

Other than music, thunder, and place, another important element is that there needs to be visually apparent creepy stuff to the viewers. This could be animals such as snakes, spiders, rats, or other things such as dolls or clown masks which create a horrifying element. Several of these things are also a part of the phobia of human beings. Having these in a film will further amplify the phobia bringing a realistic horror experience. 

Realism Vs Non-Realism

Both, realistic and nonrealistic films are considered horror but something that grabs the attention of users is when horrifying experiences are made so close to reality that a person fears that this could be happening to them also. For example, the Paranormal Activity series is bound to a household but considered as one of the top horror movies of all time. This is because it is realistic and shows that horror without any fictitious characters is also possible. 

On the other hand, there can be other movies featuring non-realistic elements such as fictitious characters such as Frankenstein. Although these movies have scary characters, they do not leave a lasting impact sometimes as the viewers know that they are not being shown reality. However, some non-realistic films are presented in a very believable way which does get the viewer hooked to the entire film. In some cases, it is also seen that disfigurement, a totally unreal one, is also bringing the element of fear, especially to the young viewers.

Read more about some of the top movies by John Ford – Most Popular Movies Directed by John Ford.


A comedy movie is good even if it does not have logic because it is made that way. However, when something full of suspense and thrill comes up, it needs to be backed with logic else the viewers won’t view it as something more than a comedy. Therefore, good horror movies always have twists and tweaks in the plot with all the expected and unexpected jumbled up but at no time do they defy the basic logic of why and how something has happened.

If there is a flaw in the logic, the viewer’s mind will stay stuck there and he won’t be able to enjoy the movie. It can also be an instant turn-off for the viewers who may not want to watch the movie anymore because it is not making any particular sense. Therefore, even if a movie has ghosts, there needs to be a logical explanation. For example, haunted houses usually are haunted because of a dead person’s spirit that resides here. 

Suggested Reading – Movie Stars Who Suddenly Switched Careers.

Character Development and Acting

You will scare people only when you are acting scared. This is why the best horror movies have the priority of developing the different types of characters in the story and ensuring that the actors performing these characters are acting in the most realistic and intriguing way. If there isn’t proper character development, and it’s either too much or too little, the viewer will soon lose interest. 

In addition to that, there needs to be plenty of characters to support a good horror movie. The reason behind this is because the viewers will be hooked to many characters at a time and they will slowly die or face torture at the hands of the evil forces within the horror movie. Death and fear of torture are two important aspects that need to be shown in the film. Having a solid number of people who can be erased from the story could build up tension and possible predictions by the viewers. 

Some films have the top stars of the movie dead first although the audience is expecting that the top stars will survive until the end and will emerge victoriously. Having a major twist like this could eliminate all possible predictions and expectations in the viewers’ minds making the movie more interesting. 


If the horror movie starts off well and keeps the viewer engaged, there is a chance that the directors can ensure the same interest in the end. What can possibly keep the viewers waiting and anxious is if the film ends up on a cliffhanger rather than on a conclusive end. This can give the viewers hope about a sequel of the movie. Although not all good horror films have a cliffhanger ending, many of them do. 

For example, The Conjuring, Anabelle, Paranormal Activity, and many other film series have been very popular for the cliffhanger ending. One of the main benefits of keeping the films left on a cliffhanger ending is that the existing viewers stay excited and suggest the movie to be watched by their friends and family as well. The big thing that could be intriguing is that the nightmare of the horror film isn’t over yet rather something bigger is waiting to happen anytime soon.

Leaving the movie on a cliffhanger keeps the user excited.

Theme Music

Although not much of an important aspect, it is still important that there is a particular theme music. Why? Because even after the viewers are done with the movie, they might be listening to the theme music. Moreover, this theme music could be used at the start of the film. Usually, such horrifying sounds could be initiating interest right away. If you listen to these songs, you will actually feel scared. Some people also have phobias of listening to the thrilling music and could experience hallucinations or probable scare thoughts at dark times so listen to these songs at your risk.

One of the most horrifying music theme songs of all times for horror movies has been the theme song of the movie “Saw”. With ratings and rankings of this song at around 4 out of 5 stars, many people were actually attracted to watching the entire movie. There are other movies as well which have theme songs for example Thriller, Willow’s Song, A Storm that Took Everything, The Hooks, Tales from the Crypt, and many others as well. 

Theme music is important for keeping the audience hooked even after the movie. 

Also Read – Movie Stars Who Suddenly Switched Careers.


The Hollywood industry has been full of horror movies. From the 1950s to the 2020s and even ahead, horror movies have improved with the focus on details, characters, storyline, tension, acting skills, theme music, cliffhangers and sequels, logic, setting, and suspense of the movies. Today, horror movies are one of the most frequently watched ones by audiences even in cinemas. Some movies are considered so horrifying such as The Conjuring of Annabelle 3 that the viewers have been known to visit psychiatrists right away. Sounds spooky? Watch them today and see if you can find any elements that we mentioned above.