I’ve just been to see Cloverfield, the monster movie from the creators of Lost (or so it’s billed). The gasps, screams (and on one occasion, sobs) from across the cinema started me thinking about what really makes a scary movie/comic book/novel.
As human beings, we’ re conditioned to respond in a certain way to particular stimuli; that’s why a flickering TV image will continually catch your eye (and also why those animated Flash/gif ad banners on some websites are so darn annoying) – our eye is drawn to anything that’s moving in an otherwise static environment. It’s a survival instinct, one that helped us hunt prey in the past and serves us well today by letting us know there’s a bus headed straight for us as we step blithely into traffic. It’s this same basic survival instinct that makes films such as Cloverfield so effective.