Waiting for the Other Shoe

As someone who has only been able to enjoy being scared by art in the past couple of years, I found SEK’s post on pacing and horror quite interesting. I actually tend to find the build-up to a horrific climax much scarier than watching something awful happen, if only because you don’t get the release of being scared and upset and potentially disgusting for a long time — it’s not over, and there’s no release.In fact, probably the movie scene that I’ve found most frightening in recent years (and I don’t watch an enormous number of intentionally frightening movies or television shows, so bear with me) is from Zodiac (this version is rescored) in which SPOILER ALERT nothing bad actually happens to the main character:

What’s scary about it though is that something terrible always seems like it’s about to happen, and the main character will clearly be entirely to blame for putting himself in that situation if something does bad happen. Then, when he survives, it means that he hasn’t figured out the truth, and that the killer he’s been hunting is still out there. The catharsis of his physical safety is obliterated by a continued emotional crisis and physical danger.