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The jumpscare is a fundamental building block of the horror genre — they frighten the wits out of us right when our guard is down. An effective jumpscare can be pretty thrilling or jarring depending on the intensity of it, but as most horror fans will tell you, they’re hard not to be fond of.
While certain filmmakers heavily rely on jump scares in film and television, there’s much to be said about storytellers who prefer to build an atmosphere of fear. It could be a dimly lit home where the protagonist is seen walking down a large, empty hallway. It could be a glimpse of a terrorizing shadow in the dark. Perhaps they’re both taking place against the backdrop of eerie music — or pin-drop, anxiety-inducing silence. Both evoke a consistent feeling of fear, but how do you replicate that consistency in a show where its characters fight with ghosts?
In “Lockwood & Co,” Netflix’s adaptation of Jonathan Stroud’s young adult supernatural thriller series, a group of badass detective teens battle a ghost epidemic in London. Joe Cornish (who directed “Attack the Block” and “The Kid Who Would Be King”) serves as showrunner and director on the series and has revealed his preference for employing silence and lighting over jump scares for the show.
‘Our Ghosts Are Really Present’
The trailer for “Lockwood & Co.” indicates the show will feature a fair amount of ghosts — the characters are, after all, fighting against a ghost epidemic of sorts. The show is heavy on action and combat sequences, so director Joe Cornish had to look to other means to craft the show’s spookiest moments. In an interview with SFX magazine (via GamesRadar), Cornish went over how the “Lockwood & Co.” team worked hard on “lighting and light levels” and used it to create an atmosphere of fear. Here’s what he had to say:
“We worked really hard on lighting, and light levels, making sure stuff was legible enough but that you’re also slightly peering into the shadows.”
The showrunner continued, discussing how creating a balance between using sound and silence was necessary to keep the show’s eerie atmosphere consistent, and was something he preferred over sudden jump scares.
“I think sound is hugely important, and also silence. A lot of modern media is frightened of silence and when nothing happens that’s often the most interesting moment. We tried not to do too many jump scares. We do one or two, but we try and create an atmosphere of creeping fear rather than give people heart attacks.”
Ghosts Take Center Stage In Lockwood & Co
Joe Cornish understands that “Lockwood & Co.” is heavy on featuring its ghosts, so the team had to come up with a design that allowed them to integrate moments of terror that weren’t fleeting — the kind that stays with you throughout. Here’s what he told SFX:
“In other movies or TV shows, you might glimpse a ghost as a jump scare, and then it’s gone. Our ghosts are really present, and our characters fight with them, so we had to come up with a design that you could really train the camera on, and involve in an action sequence, and would be able to leap around and dive and swoop and bolt into a corner.”
“Lockwood & Co” promises to be a fantastic new entrant in Netflix’s supernatural young adult category and stars Ruby Stokes as Lucy Carlyle, Cameron Chapman as Anthony Lockwood, and Ali Hadji-Heshmati as George Karim (Cubbins in the book series). The new series will be available to stream from January 27, 2023.
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