Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coffin Hop: Mastering Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock earned many names in his time as a filmmaker, including The Master of Suspense.

Suspense is vital to most writing--every story depends on at least a little emotional tension or there is no story. (Thumb your nose, guardians of the avant-garde.) Horror, thriller, and mystery fiction relies on suspense.

I showed my classes this wonderful clip from The Birds. While Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Psycho may have been better films from start to finish, this snippet reveals Hitchcock's masterful touch (and is pretty damn creepy, as well).


Suspense is all about waiting. You know something bad is going to happen, but the master makes you wait for it.

10 comments:

Barry Napier said...

Personally, I always preferred Vertigo. But yeah, the Birds is great, too. It is the one movie where, if it were to ever be re-created, as seems to be the current trend, I will start beheading people.

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - "They" would drop the ball on a remake; the story wasn't about the birds--it was Melanie's story. Remakes miss the human angle.

AnthonyJRapino said...

Love The Birds. But what does it say about me as a Professor that you showed a clip of The Birds and I showed my class Trick 'r Treat, in full. :-D It is college though.

E. Arroyo said...

Ah...and we are antsy people who just can't wait. Makes it all the more terrible. Great post!

Milo James Fowler said...

King is another master at using suspense to drag his readers through thousands of pages. Under the Dome = case in point. Something awful is always right around the corner...

James Garcia Jr said...

Thanks for sharing that, Aaron. I dragged my 13 year old to see that scene. Great film. I just saw North by Northwest recently and continue to be impressed with the Master.

-Jimmy

Aaron Polson said...

Tony - David Sedaris used to show entire soap operas in his comp 1 class. ;)

E - No, we can't wait, can we?

Milo - King gets me to read even when I *think* I know what's coming.

James - North by Northwest has such an implausible plot--no one but Hitchcock could have made it into a masterpiece. Cheers!

K.C. Shaw said...

The Birds is so creepy. My favorite Hitchcock is Rear Window, though.

Your students are lucky.

Penelope Crowe said...

The Birds never scared me but I always loved the movie. Thanks for posting!!

Cate Gardner said...

Alfred Hitchock is my idol. That man was a genius at suspense. My fave Hitchcock movie is Rope. Jimmy Stewart and a bit of humour to the suspense - sold.