Mess with the minds of your friends as you move and manipulate them in the best horror movie night ever. Don’t just think of it as putting a movie on the TV and switching off the lights, there is a method to the madness. And your first and most important decision is the movie selection. It can be a nightmare finding something that will make everyone happy so let’s begin by looking at why people like horror movies.
There are three primary factors that make horror films alluring; tension (suspense, mystery, terror, etc.), relevance (cultural/personal relevance, fear of death, etc.), and un-realness (the knowledge that it is not really happening in the real world). Look for a movie that incorporates all 3 elements. An easy example is A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddie Krueger is a serial killer who kills people in their dreams causing them to die in real life. Check. But now you should take it even one step further….
Dr. Carl Jung believed that horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious,” so look for a movie that resonates closely with your audience. Is your movie night for high school friends (Urban Legend), or your family (A Quiet Place), or perhaps while you’re camping (A Cabin in the Woods)? Find those common themes and use and manipulate them to freak your friends out!
Atmosphere and Ambience
Before your friends even enter the house, they should have a sense of what they are in for. Greet your friends at the door while wearing a hockey mask (Friday the 13th) or pull out some of those Halloween spider decorations (Arachnophobia) and hang them on the front door. Like the first allure of a horror film—tension—make them feel it before they’ve even walked in the door.
Once they’re inside, the fun can really begin. Set the eerie mood using light, smell, sound, and props. You can use candles, or a real wood fire, have spooky sounds playing through your home speakers, pay your little brother/son to scare your friends, set pranks around the house.
Get the Real Cinema Feel
Don’t slack on the tech set up, the more like a real movie theater you can make it the better. If you don’t have a large TV, perhaps you can borrow a projector from a friend or family member. Borrow an extra set of speakers and hook them up to the TV. And make sure the room is dark, really dark. I’m sure you’re not planning on throwing your movie horror night during the day. You’d better not be. And once you’ve done all that, take it an extra step further. Grab some extra candles or torches, and if anyone needs to use the toilet, they must use a candle—no lights allowed. Ever. For eternity. Well, until they go home.
Comfort Is Key
The reason movie theater chairs are so comfortable is because if they are not, you start fussing with your seat position, you twist, stretch, yawn, it takes you out of the movie. Don’t allow distractions and make sure your guests are as comfortable as they can be. You don’t need to bring in plush covered recliners, but blankets, pillows, bean bags, are all great to have around.
Post Movie Plans
When we make plans we so often think about the event itself, and sometimes pre-game, but rarely the post-game. Don’t let the movie night end in a giant anti-climax, rather make sure to keep the energy going and find a way to re-engage with each other. Don’t forget, you have all just spent at least an hour and a half staring at a giant screen in mostly silence. This is a good time for a prank, or a discussion if your friends are the movie-dissecting type. If not, maybe a game. Perhaps hand out a quiz with a fun prize for whoever can remember the most details about the film or turn it into a mini trivia tournament on the film. Find out who is going to be the King or Queen of Horror.
Libations & Digestible Accoutrements
The what and the what, you say? Food and drinks. Again, stick with the theme of the movie if you can. Are you watching The Silence of the Lambs? Well, you can definitely have some fun with that… “Liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.” Look for interesting spooky recipes, or if you want more traditional snacks like popcorn, you can still dress it up with food coloring and other fun stuff. And if you are the competitive type you can also work the food and drinks into the fun of watching the movie. You don’t want to promote irresponsible drinking so perhaps only drink when Hannibal Lecter blinks (he rarely does!) rather than every time he says “Clarice.”
Have fun with all the elements and your guests will too. And when the movie night is over, and everyone is getting ready to leave, send your little brother/son outside to scare them as they get into their cars.