Embracing the dark side

Embracing the dark side

June 7, 2023


Writing for DQ, Carolina Bang from Banijay Iberia’s Pokeepsie Films shares the secrets to creating successful horror series and explains why viewers love to be taken into dark and mysterious worlds.

Carolina Bang

Horror. Fantasy. Dystopia. Dark Comedy. Thriller. Suspense. The supernatural. The recent rise in these genres may seem surprising given the state of the world right now, but there is something about the ever-alarming current events that is pushing viewers into uncomfortable places.

Horror and fantasy give viewers a break from the mundane and an escape into a fantastical world, where anything is possible. As producers, we can put a window on a world that is familiar and obscure all at once. Audiences these days like to explore alternative realities and see the challenges faced by characters and how they overcome them. So just what is the secret to creating a successful genre stories fans love?

First and foremost, there must be unique and engaging storylines. Breakthrough shows like American Horror Story, Stranger Things, Black Mirror and, more recently, The Last of Us, Wreck and our very own 30 Coins are different from anything seen on television before, with suspenseful, gripping tales and, at times, added elements of science fiction. Building uneasiness with cliff-hangers, or a sense of forthcoming dread, leaves viewers on the edge of their seats, wanting more.

At the centre of the story must be a relatable character, like in Pokeepsie feature films Veneciafrecia, El Bar (pictured top), Venus, Perfect Strangers or The Chalk Line. Fans must care about the fate of those at the heart of the story, and this can be built through the backstory, personality and getting to know what motivates them. Whatever the story, to be a success, your idea needs to stand out in a crowd.

Pokeepsie Films’ mystery-horror drama 30 Coins

A successful horror story must also explore timely themes and bring emotional engagement. When experiencing fear, anxiety and empathy, viewers are often hooked and invested in the story.

Horror fans are well known for being passionate and engaged, and we’ve always found cultivating these dedicated fanbases keeps them coming back for more. The best tool for this is social media, and horror always generates a cross-platform buzz. Fans love to talk and speculate about plot twists and theories and share their reactions. This sense of community increases viewers via word of mouth, which enthusiasts of this genre love to feel part of. And let’s face it, capturing the attention of the loyal fan bases for which horror is so well known is key. These days, a surge on social and word of mouth is more important than ever.

In many ways, the recent resurgence of horror in mainstream television can be credited to the rise in streaming services like Max (formerly HBO Max), Netflix and Prime Video. These platforms have made it easier for people to access and binge-watch entire seasons of horror, opening the appetite for more and allowing niche programming to thrive.

Streamers have helped the genre’s rise with shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things

It’s interesting, though, as horror delivers great value for money. Even with the high production values needed for a show to be a success, it’s usually affordable. Add to that the increasing popularity of limited series and horror continues to deliver against lower production costs.

Ultimately, successful horror content depends on a combination of factors, including a first-class script to showcase a well-developed concept and compelling characters; talented actors; and an effective social and marketing campaign. Importantly, we need broadcasters and platforms that are willing to take a risk on a commission. And as an ambitious, platform-agnostic player, we are ideally placed to deliver in this space.

Success also depends on producers being given free rein to energetically think outside the box. Behind the creatives, there needs to be a company willing to invest in these concepts, to pay close attention, to support and encourage – and we’re passionate about this at Pokeepsie. With the right support, the opportunity in this arena is endless, even with the apocalypse on the horizon.

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