Acting in Horror: Playing Fear

I recently posted an acting tutorial about playing fear in Horror (well, it’s nearly Halloween, isn’t it…). You can find all my tutorials on my YouTube channel. Here’s the blog post that supplements that video.

Fear in and of itself is generic and if an actor were to just act ‘scared’ or portray ‘fear’ then it’d be two dimensional and obviously acting. There’s a paradox in acting that we want the audience to forget we’re acting. We can’t look like we’re acting. The more we force looking natural, the more we look like we’re acting. Therefore, you can’t just play ‘scared’ as a general emotion. Fear and the nature of being scared will evolve and change in relation to the context your character is in.

There are different types of fear and you can’t act one generic fear and apply this to all scenarios. I mentioned in a previous blog post that there are different types of fear: for instance, we have lingering terror, nervousness, shock, dread, panic, being wary, even suspicious and whatever else you can think of. However, in addition to there being different types of fear, each type of fear can be interpreted differently. For instance, who knows what ‘dread’ is like definitively? As well as this, each actor has their own personality and will approach these different types of fear in their own way. What’s more is these different types of fear will be more appropriate than others in certain contexts (or literal situations). Therefore, rather than forcing one type of generic fear onto a scene, react to the scene itself. Know your character’s agenda: what are they looking for, what do they want, what is their objective? Again, we’re talking about Stanislavski’s units and objectives here.  But once you know your character, you can know how to act scared in a certain scene. For instance, it’s no use screaming at a ghost if your character isn’t scared of ghosts. Likewise, it’s no used acting suspicious in front of a ghost when your character is petrified of ghosts and most likely to be frozen in terror.

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