Headspace, 2020. Manipulated photograph.
Hypnotic, 2020. Illustration.
Deus ex machina is a plot device wherein a situation becomes so dire that only a bizarre act of chance can possibly save the day. In Latin, it translates to “god from the machine,” encapsulating the concept of introducing an unexpected power that ends up salvaging the story line. Horror movies tend to use this technique, along with many other devices, in a series of predictable variables that come together to write the very formula that dictates the horror genre as a whole.

Ironically, humans have always used scary stories as a sort of comfort, offering us an inflated sense of control over the dangers of our world. Despite portraying difficult imagery and subjects, horror movies tend to abide by a specific set of rules that create an oddly comfortable environment for the viewer by offering insight into the next plot point. The formula used to tell these tales becomes the means by which people feel control when watching horror movies. It is the job of designers and filmmakers alike to manipulate these variables in order to affect the audience as intended, creating a cycle of creation and co-creation as the art is perceived by the viewer. Through a series of explorations analyzing the structure and tropes of horror movies, I intend to unveil the metadata beneath the genre and use it to further understand how and why people are so entranced with scary stories.