Horror is one of my favorite genres, and it always has been. If my memory serves me well, I was just a young kid — probably only about 8 or 9 years old — when I managed to somehow watch the entire 1976 film “The Omen” with Lee Remick. Don’t ask me how I got my hands on that VHS (… or maybe it was Betamax?), but it happened. And I loved it.
After the fact, I’m not sure if my parents knew that their son had watched one of the scariest movies of the decade. And if they did know, I doubt they realized how terrified I was by it. In any case, “The Omen” really impacted me — but not in a negative way. I’d probably even go so far as to say that watching horror movies made me less fearful as an adult and taught me that being scared is a feeling or emotion, like any other, and can be managed. It also taught me that fear can be exhilarating and is better with a side of common sense.
Of course, I’m not recommending that you let your kids go see the next big slasher film that hits theatres, because the violence in some of the new horror films is a little ridiculous. Looking back, much of the delight I experienced from watching the horror films of my generation, like “The Omen,” “Psycho,” “Children of the Corn,” and “The Shining” (I saw that one when I was 11), was the great way the stories unfolded. They safely allowed me to experience horror. Some children experience horror for real, and that is not something a child should ever have to experience.
Over the years, I’ve gained an appreciation for high-quality horror films that don’t need superfluous special effects to be great. I think the scariest movies are the ones that leave some of the fear up to the viewer — it’s imagining what is lurking in the shadows or getting inside the murderer’s head that is really the most horrifying part of scary movies. It’s the writing, the concept, and the artistry that makes it truly frightening. It’s Jack Torrance bearing his teeth to deliver his famous “Here’s Johnny,” line in “The Shining” that is cemented in our collective memories.
And these movies were scary before over-the-top special effects were a thing, because the tone was set so well. It doesn’t matter how much money and how much technology horror movie creators put into a blockbuster film. If it’s not a great story with great acting, no one will buy it.
This month, I decided to celebrate Halloween by taking a trip down memory lane and rewatching a few of my favorite horror movies. In these older movies, the effects are simple, but the story gets inside your head. To me, that’s what it takes to have an impact in life and in business. You don’t need fireworks to win customers, but you do need a quality script. If your company can tell a great story that relates to your audience on an individual level, you don’t need smoke and mirrors.