Before we jump in, if you haven't watch HBO's Lovecraft Countryyet, saddle up. What creators Misha Green and Jordan Peele have done is downright phenomenal.
The series is based on Matt Ruff's book of the same name which looks at the work of known racist piece of shit H.P. Lovecraft and the bigotry in the United States during Jim Crow America. But instead of African Americans playing the victim, it's the racists who need to look over their shoulders. There's plenty of monsters and horror too, which brings us to the video below.
How did Jordan Peele film the perfect US horror scene in 7 seconds? Nerdstalgic dives into the madness and explains the cinematic techniques used to tell his story.
Know your story
There's a lot to learn from this 7-second sequence. As Nerd points out, everything Peele has done is with purpose. Knowing the script inside and out is obviously critical as a director. But how do you translate what's on paper to the visual medium? Understanding the story arc and how the audience is engaged is key. Choosing how you frame a shot can add to the subtext of the allegory.
In this case, Peele commits to the menacing terror of Us by removing the audience from the violence. By placing the camera outside the house, the audience members are onlookers to the swift stabbings of the family. The frame parallels the story arc. The Tethered are detaching themselves from the family, and so, the audience is detached too.
Pick your moment
The first act of Us sets up the idea of horror but doesn't quite pin itself there until this scene, which is nearly 30 minutes into the movie. Not all horror has the same slow burn. But it is important to pick your moment. To decide when you are going to cross that line of violence or show your monster's face either figuratively or literally.
Every shot should serve a purpose
Any cinematographer worth their salt will tell you camera movement should be motivated. If it's not, it's most likely covering up a subpar story. Whether it's to motivate the character arc, add context, or move the story forward, the shots in your movie should without question serve a purpose.
Peele's 7-second shot points to multiple things, one of them is that Lupita Nyong'o's Tethered family is different. It also tells us that there are more Tethered out there. A lot more. And this very idea is a frightening revelation. It drives the idea of what is going to happen next. It tells the audience to expect the unexpected. And lets us know the Tethered are here to kill us.
What's next? How about more horror?
October is on the horizon and there's no better time to sink your teeth into one of the best movie genres for indie filmmakers. You can learn about the horrors of V/H/S. Then check out how sound is used to scare.