April 15, 2008

CNN Video Editor Lee Hughey Discusses Fear And Film

The news media may sometimes resort to scare tactics to influence public opinion-- but they've got nothing on Dario Argento. That's the conclusion I've drawn from speaking to CNN video editor Lee Hughey about his personal taste in film. As usual, you'll find his top ten scary movies provided at the AMC link for you to pick over, and I've included his additional thoughts on the intersection of news, terror and film below. Meanwhile, I've got to see Suspiria, like, now.

TB: Earlier you told me, "Everything I learned about visual storytelling, I learned from movies, and esp. horror movies." Can you elaborate on this a little?

LH: Even though I work in TV, I learned my "visual sense" from movies. What better teachers are there than people like David Lynch and Sergio Leone to teach you composition, Robert Altman to teach you editing and pacing, Peter Greenaway and Danny Boyle to teach you about the use of music to tell a story, etc? Horror movies are all about creating mood, and about delivering little jolts or surprises to the audience when they aren't expecting them. Even when your subject isn't horror, I think that's an effective tool for keeping the audience interested in your story.

Obviously you apply it a little differently to news and documentaries than you do to dramatic films, but being a life-long movie freak gives you a lot of inspiration to draw from.

TB: How do you think powerful or upsetting images in the news affect people, compared to images they see in movies?

LH: You hear a lot of talk about how movies desensitize people, but I don't buy it. I've seen people confronted with really disturbing, horrific images from real life- Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq-- and the effect is has on them (and me) is profound. No matter how immersed you get into a horror flick, part of your brain never forgets that it's all fiction.

During the war in Bosnia, I knew people who started to suffer the effects of PTSD just because of the terrible, terrible things we were seeing in the raw video being fed back to Atlanta- horrible images of death, dismemberment, really unimaginable suffering. Real-life images can affect you in ways that fictional images never will, because you don't have that emotional distance from the real-life images.

TB: Why do you love horror?

LH: I love horror movies because I like getting scared! I like horror movies that put the characters into intense, seemingly inescapable situations- surrounded by zombies, or stalked by an evil-doer who's always a step ahead, etc. It throws my imagination into overdrive in a way that other kinds of films just don't. It's my way of looking for an endorphin rush, I guess.

I also love how varied horror movies are; they can be about supernatural evils or man-made ones. They can be over-the-top with violence and action, or they can be very subtle and create a quiet kind of dread. They can even be sort of funny, although I don't much like comedy-horror unless it's done by Sam Raimi.

View Lee Hughey's Top Ten Horror Movies

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