David and I were in Seattle this weekend and on our last day we ended up at the EMP Museum. The EMP Museum has exhibits about Music, Science Fiction, and Pop Culture. One of the exhibits they had while we were there was about the Lure of Horror. The exhibit was curated by Roger Corman, John Landis, and Eli Roth, three well known Horror directors. The exhibit it self was great because it took you through a few different areas around horror and really tried to explain what made something horror. Not only was it about the information that was presented, but the atmosphere that the exhibited exuded horror movie. Everything about the exhibit brought you into a space that was meant to be unsettling.
To enter into the exhibit you go down a set of cement stares, that has a wall of screaming faces spread all over the wall, with a red glow to add to the atmosphere. Then down in the exhibit the space definitely played with light and shadow to create a sense of mystery in the space. Part of how they did this was using iron and creating un even spaces and patterns. There were rooms where you could watch information about various famous horror movies and you were in these kind of claustrophobic rooms, surrounded by these iron walls. There was even a neat wall where there was a light shining and stepping in front of it cast a shadow, which then morphed as you moved. There were some great details that they put in to the atmosphere of the place that just made you feel a hint at the tension in a horror movie.
Now along with the visuals the ambient music and noise that could be heard throughout the exhibit, also helped to create the mood for horror. From random screams and unintelligible voices to eerie music, all of these were playing at some point during the exhibit. About halfway or more through the exhibit we found a dial that allowed a passerby to change what the ambient noise was throughout the entire exhibit. It created an interactive element to the exhibit as well as a random element of what sound was playing at any given point in the exhibit. All the audio music and sounds were very well done and just added to the whole experience.
What is Horror?
I think one of the best parts of the exhibit was towards the beginning where they first had a display discussing what horror means. Next to that they had a great series of interviews with a variety of directors, asking what is horror, what scares you, why do we like horror, etc. It was a great examination of the humanity of horror films. The part that I really liked is saying that horror is not about blood and gore, or going boo, it is that anticipation of something terrible. It is taking your expectations and turning them on your head. If you do not expect it to happen it will and if you do it will not; a doll coming to life, opening a door and having nothing outside, these are elements of horror. Hearing from these directors really made me appreciate the possibility of the genre and what it could off beyond the gore that is often tied to it now a days.