John Carpenter

During times of stress I experience what is known as ‘Sleep Paraysis‘. This got me thinking about the emotion of fear & terror.

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The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781) is thought to be one of the classic depictions of sleep paralysis perceived as a demonic visitation.


 My idea is to achieve a small series of ‘Horror Portraits’ loosely based on the research you will find here. Modern Horror/Slasher films are a good reference point for this project as they combine the emotion that I am trying to achieve in the characters that I will work with and allow me to reference the cinematic imagery and styling. The king of Slasher movies during the 1970’s and 1980’s was John Carpenter – who was responsible for the Halloween movies (my personal favourite), The Fog and The Thing.

Jamie Lee-Curtis as photographed by Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who served as Carpenter’s official photographer on the set of some of his most influential movies.
Jamie Lee-Curtis as photographed by Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who served as John Carpenter’s official photographer on the set of some of his most influential movies. Although Jamie plays the victim, she is shot from below, making her look strong and powerful – a sign that she is also the heroine of the movie. The lighting is strong in her eyes with an aghast expression on her face almost representing the shock of a ‘deer in headlights’. Although possibly not a conscious choice, the black and white works well – ‘freezing’ the emotion in time.

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Photographed from below we are presented with the heroine in our story. The soft side lighting add’s a sinister feel to the image, and because the character is facing backwards we are presented with the feeling that she is being followed.
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By using a wider lens we are able to see some of the surroundings for the character in the image, but it is limited, allowing our imagination to create the rest of the city-scape. The wonder format replicates that of a film still – however the eye contact with the camera shifts this feeling. Rarely do the subjects in movies look at the viewer as this creates a connection.
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This film still by Cindy Sherman displays more of the traits of a horror film than that love. The lighting is harsh and direct. The side lighting creates a sinister feeling by leaving half of her bruised face in shadow. The background is slightly lit allowing us to create a scene and set the location. The angle for the shot is sill set from slightly below allowing us to ‘look up’ to the subject. A shallow depth of field draws you in to the eye line of the subject which is set just over our left shoulder… making us become part of the story as the threat/killer is BE-HIND YOU!
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Another Cindy Sherman take on the film still – again shot from below and cropped in allowing us to see only part of the surroundings, making the shot about the subject alone. This particular image is less effective in terms of the emotion that I want to achieve as it is much more brightly lit and the facial expression reads more as sad rather than frightened.

Pinterest Mood Board

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Album cover art for Julia Stone’s “The Memory Machine”. The image has an old Hollywood movie appeal – lending itself to ‘Hitcock’s Blondes’.

Hitchcock Blondes

Photographs by Richard Warren

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These images by Richard Warren are shot in the studio with a fashion aimed ‘edge’. However it is important to take note of the lighting style and the camera angles in these shots as he is directly referencing Alfred Hitchcock – the original King of the Horror genre in film. In these portraits the women are making direct eye contact with the camera, challenging the viewer to either return the gaze (left), or engage in the emotion with them (right).
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hitchcock2 These images have a more voyeuristic feel as the viewer is allowed to gaze at these women – either with their eyes closed or with their faces turned away. The darker shadows and vignetting around the edges of the images suggest that the shot has been set up as if from the p.o.v. of the killer looking through a bedroom keyhole or crack in the wall – watching his victim in a state of undress.

“It Follows”… in the footsteps of John Carpenter

“My goal with this film was to make a beautiful horror film – one that is equal parts gentle as it is aggressive. We designed the movie to work on many levels and I hope that you all enjoy one or all of them.” -David Robert Mitchell, Writer, Director and Producer of ‘It Follows’.

IT FOLLOWS – Official Trailer from MSP Film Society on Vimeo.

Interview with “It Follows” Cinematographer Matt Gioulakis – Five Frames from “It Follow’s”


Brooks Reynolds

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