Alfred Hitchcock and the overlap between scary and funny

Horror films and comedy both rely on surprise twists. So maybe there are comedy lessons to learn from the master of the twist: Alfred Hitchcock. This article outlines some of Hitchcock's techniques. Some scary/funny overlap bits excerpted below...

People need to trust you. They need to feel safe and give themselves permission to go with you "on a ride." (That's why it's so key to build confidence at the start of a set.)

1: It's the Mind of the Audience

In the same way people go to a roller coaster to get thrown around at high speeds, theater audiences know they are safe.  As a film director you can throw things at them, hurl them off a cliff, or pull them into a dangerous love story, and they know that nothing will happen to them.  They're confident that they'll be able to walk out the exit when its done and resume their normal lives.  And, the more fun they have, the quicker they will come back begging for more.

This KISS bit reminds me of quote I dig about editing jokes as far as you can: "If it's not part of the joke, then it's part of the problem."

7: Keep the Story Simple!

If your story is confusing or requires a lot of memorization, you're never going to get suspense out of it.  The key to creating that raw Hitchcock energy is by using simplistic, linear stories that the audience can easily follow.  Everything in your screenplay must be streamlined to offer maximum dramatic impact.  Remove all extraneous material and keep it crisp.  Each scene should include only those essential ingredients that make things gripping for the audience. As Hitchcock says, “what is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out…” (Truffaut) 

You've got to stay ahead of the audience. If they know where you're going, they won't be surprised and they won't get that aha moment that creates laughter.

12: Surprise and Twist

Pull the audience in one direction and then another, trick them, and keep them from knowing what's really going to happen.  You must make the audience think they know whats coming next, and then you pull the rug out from under them.  It must never turn out the way they expected.

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