How long before the horror starts

So while reading back the first draft of my latest horror feature I noticed that there isn’t really any horror until 40 pages in. Normally I open with some horror and then build to the horror of the story, or I have little glimpses of it before it’s unleashed, but this story doesn’t really set up for that. It’s more a character drama with violences before the horror kicks in and the genre somewhat twists.

The question i’m asking myself, and by the extension of this blog everyone else is, is this acceptable? Should you have to wait 40 minutes for the horror to start in a horror film? And I don’t mean fully start, I mean for the signs it’s a horror story to begin. Like I said I normally at least tease the horror but that doesn’t really work with this idea. There isn’t a single scene i’d consider a horror scene until page 42.

Personally I think if I was watching a horror film and the story and characters got me I wouldn’t notice that the horror hasn’t kicked in. But i’d fully understand the other way of looking at it and saying this is a horror film, show me the horror.

Would I wait 40 minutes for the first piece of action in an action film?  Or for the first signs of disaster in a disaster film. Monster movies often withhold the monster but normally you at least get a teaser at the beginning.

That said I remember watching Haeundae (Tidal Wave) and loving the fact that the disaster didn’t start until nearly an hour and a half into the movie if memory serves correct. I cared so much about the character by then that it really mattered.

My script is still in a very early stage so it might change, but it’s definitely a different approach to what I normally take and one that wasn’t done on purpose. Simply didn’t occur to me when writing the first draft that it worked that way as I was to busy enjoying the set-up.

I wonder how many films I’ve watched and this has been the case and I simply haven’t noticed. Reckon with good story telling it could be a lot. I love horror and all the conventions that come with it but I always want to care about the characters that I see going through hell in these films and maybe at times a little more set up wouldn’t hurt.

So what do you think? Is 40 minutes to long for a horror film to have no horror. By that point does it feel like From Dusk to Dawn and that you’ve just switched genres? Or should it not matter if the story is working?



4 thoughts on “How long before the horror starts”

  1. May not be. Depends how long the film is. I think if the horror tone has at least already been set, then it could work. I get that you want to hold off on the surprise, but you’ve got to give the audience something to grab onto. I’m fairly certain that in the original Superman, you don’t really get to SUPERMAN Superman until nearly an hour in. However, you do get teases of what he can do up to that point. It all depends on how you work up to the reveal/surprise. I think so, anyway.


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