Saturday, February 26, 2011

Editing: An Unnerving Shot Sequence in Galaxy of Terror

This shot sequence from Galaxy of Terror twice misleads the audience by raising -- and then denying -- their expectations, unnerving them for the final shock.

The setting is inside a spaceship on a hostile planet. Ranger (Robert Englund) has just seen Captain Trantor (Grace Zabriskie) on a video monitor, apparently injured near an air lock. He rushes out of the room, toward the air lock.

We begin with this objective shot of Ranger running through a corridor:

We cut to a subjective shot of his POV rushing through the corridor:

Cut back to an objective shot of Ranger:

Cut back to a subjective shot of his POV, rushing toward this door:

But then the door opens -- and out comes Ranger!

We were fooled! Shot 4, unlike Shot 2, was not subjective! Not Ranger's POV.

By misleading viewers, director Bruce D. Clark has unnerved the audience, fraying its nerves for potential future shocks.

Cut to what looks like Ranger's moving POV:

And once again, the subsequent shots alternate between what appear to be subjective and objective shots.

Ranger approaches yet another door.

This appears to be his POV moving toward the door:

Will we be fooled yet again? When the door opens, will Ranger enter or exit from the doorway?


The door opens -- and out comes the burnt body of Captain Trantor!

The previous misdirection in Shots 3/4 lowered our expectations for anything gruesome exiting from the second doorway, making Trantor's appearance all the more shocking.


For more about how horror uses editing, and the difference between shocks vs. frights, see Horror Film Aesthetics: Creating the Visual Language of Fear. This blog represents a continuing discussion of my views on horror, picking up from where the book left off.

Also read my post on how editing misleads audiences in Vacancy.

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