5 Horror Lighting Setups You Can Do with One Light

Find out how to recreate the looks of some of the best horror films and TV shows using only a single light source.

Horror films are all about mood and one way to create one that spooks your audience is by using lighting. There are many different ways horror filmmakers light their most terrifying scenes, from creating silhouettes to casting dramatic shadows, but many of these approaches don't require an entire professional lighting kit to pull off. In fact, you can light your horror scenes with a single light source. In this video, Jordy Vandeput of Cinecom recreates five different lighting setups from films and TV shows like Stranger Things, It, and The Exorcist using only one light and a few cheap or free accessories. Check it out below:

Here are all of the examples Vandeput shares in the video:

  • Spooky forest from Stranger Things: Put a light high up above your scene (in a tree, on a ladder, whatever) and add some mist/fog/smoke/haze.
  • Evil silhouette from The ExorcistPlace your subject in front of a light source and let them do their evil thang.
  • Stormdrain partial shadow from ItYou can use a cardboard roll or some barn doors to shape your light so that it only hits part of your subject's face.
  • Hiding in a closet from Annabelle: CreationTo create a strip of light that looks like a crack in a door, cut a long piece out of some cardboard and shine your light through it.
  • Frantic flashlight from Insideous: The Last KeyAn actual flashlight may not be strong enough to use, but if you use a Fresnel lens mount on your light source, you can focus the beam to make it look like a flashlight. Use mist/fog/smoke/haze to make the beam show up better.

You'll definitely want to keep some kind of atmosphere handy, whether it's smoke, fog, haze, whatever. This is because it is so damn good at adding style and depth to your shot, as well as creating the creepy atmosphere you're going for in your horror film.

What are some other ways filmmakers can light a horror scene with only one light? Share your ideas down in the comments.     

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5 Comments

Awesome.. Thanks.
Smoke is always the best ingredient of dark lighting :).

October 28, 2017 at 11:14PM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
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October 30, 2017 at 2:18AM

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Johnny
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I love all articles connected with lights. I think it's really underestimated factor. I remember a scene from Assassination of Jesse James...

October 30, 2017 at 3:21AM, Edited October 30, 3:21AM

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March 10, 2018 at 1:29AM

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Johnny
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April 25, 2018 at 2:53PM

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