VOD & Theatrical Screenings: How Do You Watch Horror?

I watch a lot of horror films, and for a majority of these films, I’m watching them at home on a laptop or through a streaming service on my television.  When you live in a cultural wasteland in Middle America, it’s not very often that the hot, new horror film is going to play in a theater within a fifty mile radius.  The debate of Video on Demand versus Theatrical Screenings is endless and complicated, but both of these forms can prove to be extremely beneficial modes of experiencing horror.

A film like IT FOLLOWS, for example, works extremely well in a theatrical setting.  The cinematography is a departure from the frantic, quick cuts that horror films of the 2000s relied so heavily on.  Each shot is composed and executed like a painting.  The use of zooms and pans help visually tell the story, sans dialogue.  When coupled with the outstanding score from Disasterpeace, it presents an enigmatic aesthetic representation.  A film like IT FOLLOWS requires the audience to take in a visual world that is exactly that; a world.  This is a horror that isn’t specific to a small area, but one that surrounds us.  The slow pans from the lead actress’ point of view towards the buildings and nature around her are absolutely stunning and beg to be seen on a big screen.  At the same time, it’s a horror film that makes you second guess those around you, and walking amongst groups of audience members when the lights come up is a perfect way to guarantee the film will leave a lasting impression.


DIGGING UP THE MARROW is a film that I saw both at home as well as in a theatrical setting. While my feelings on the film (which you can read here) are pretty identical, my experience watching the film completely changed when I was among an audience.  Anyone who has performed in theatre can tell you that even without saying a word, you can feel how the audience is responding to your performance.  Audiences in movie theaters are no different.  When I was at home watching the film, I had the luxury of thinking about something else if I was scared.  “Did I do the dishes today? When did that weird crack appear in the wall? Is that painting crooked?”  There was a distinct distance between myself and the film.  However, when watching DIGGING UP THE MARROW in a dark theater surrounded by a group of people, everything changed.  My senses were heightened and the things that worked for me watching at home, worked for me 10x harder.  A lot of my nit-picky criticisms went away because in that moment, I was unable to escape.

honeymoon rose leslieOn the flip side, a film like HONEYMOON absolutely thrives in a VOD setting.  A film like HONEYMOON is meant to be personal, intimate, and razor focused.  Parts of the film are snippets from a couple’s wedding video, something that would absolutely be watched at home.  Films like HONEYMOON work because we aren’t being transported to another world, we’re instead voyeurs spying in on the lives of those around us.  While I’d love to see the cinematography on a larger scale, I have a distinct feeling that it wouldn’t have broken my heart nearly as much as it did as I watched it alone in my living room.

Obviously, these examples are from my own personal experience, but I suspect I’m not alone.  I’d argue that there’s no wrong way to watch a horror film (unless you’re pirating it and in that case, your grandmother sucks eggs), but the medium in which you watch a horror film can genuinely change the way you feel about the film after the fact.  How do you watch horror?  Leave a comment below and let’s keep the topic rolling!

One Response to “VOD & Theatrical Screenings: How Do You Watch Horror?”
  1. Dustin Sain says:

    I used to love going to the theater but cell phone usage and generally shitty people in the audience made me kind of hate it. I would splurge on a place called iPic because it was nice and the high price tag kept out teenagers and people who think bringing their infant out to a 2 1/2 hour action drama is ok. Now I have invested in a very nice 60in 3D LED tv and my living room is the theater. Some films benefit from the crowd experience, but 99% of the stuff I watch I wait to buy on bluray to experience maximum quality. Certain films I just couldn’t wait for (Digging Up The Marrow, Everly, You’re Next) I would buy copies of on iTunes or stream through my cable provider. But I can justify that cost because my computer routes to my TV, so it’s not like I’m paying $12 to stream a theatrical film to my iPad or phone. Luckily we recently got an Alamo Drafthouse just down the highway from my house, and if there is one company where the communal theater experience is priority #1 it is the Alamo Drafthouse. So if there is one of those films that I hear plays incredibly better with a packed theater I now have a place to go. If all theaters would implement a “shut the fuck up and watch the movie” policy I would probably be at the movies every weekend, but until then I will enjoy most things from the comfort of my couch.

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