I recently decided that, if I were going to write a horror film like Arousal, I'd better bloody well do my research on horror films. From where I sit, the best way to meet and exceed audiences' expectations is to first be acutely aware of what those expectations are... and what better way to find out than send yourself back to film school detention for a refresher?
After a browsing session of IMDB's best rated horror films, I decided to 1) see great horror films I've never seen before so I can pick up their tips & tricks, and 2) see specific films similar to Arousal's storyline. I'd rent other classic horror films or favorite horror films I'd seen before, but only after watching my must-see list. Many on the list were reputed to be excellent, and some weren't. Either way, I'd figure I'd learn what worked and what didn't. The final list is really only about 20 films long, which is surprising. I would have thought it would have topped 50. (That's good news—I might actually be able to see Aspen Extreme by late March after all.)
An insight I gained while fleshing out the Arousal's story is that it's essentially a zombie film. This is a very odd (and delightful) discovery, since I had absolutely zero intention of writing a zombie film. I simply wanted a film with some kind of viral infection like Ebola or Marburg (which scare the holy crapper out of me!!!). Yet if you take Ebola as the plotline gimmick, and give it a twist to make the virus affect behavior in an extremely violent way... well, shit, that's basically the plot of 28 Days Later. While technically the infected people in 28 Days aren't zombies, that story has all the hallmarks of a zombie film. Thus the reason why I chose to put so many zombie films on my queue.
Another easter egg I unearthed quite by accident was a film called Cabin Fever. It had a similar storyline to Arousal (hikers trapped in the woods), and it had great IMDB ratings, so I slapped it on the list. Turns out it was directed by Eli Roth, who recently made the splatterpunk Hostel. Oddly enough, Eli Roth apparently knows the director of Threading Over Dark, that horror film I worked on which wrapped this last December. Cool.
My Netflix Queue for Horror Research
Repulsion(When it's crossed off, I've seen it!)
Wages of Fear
Come and See
Knife in The Water
Ju-on: The Grudge
Night of the Living Dead
Dawn of the Dead
Eyes Without a Face
House of 1,000 Corpses
Shaun of the Dead
Films I've already seen
28 Days Later
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre