Ambience Part 1
by Dan Greene

You have your movies with good scenes, or good deaths, but nothing beats a good atmosphere. A good atmosphere has to be backed up with quality or else you’ll feel ripped off for investing your time in something that promises hell but goes nowhere. If you look however, you’ll find that most of the classics had a great atmosphere. I guess Nosferatu was probably the first movie to pull it off really well, although I could be wrong. The setting is what’s most important overall here, but the atmosphere comes through in how you use the setting, how you utilize what you have. So what movies have good atmosphere and why?

The Descent

Holy shit, man. This is one of the best movies to come out in years, in terms of today’s topic. I was completely blindsided. A group of women go on their annual cave-exploring expedition, get lost, meet CHUDs, fight and die. Nothing to it, right?

Wrong! When these ladies are in the cave, pretty much the only lighting used is the lights on their hardhats, and that makes all the difference. Everything you see is largely from their perspective, almost as if you’re in there with them. The whole movie feels claustrophobic. A lot of people get freaked out by ideas of getting buried alive or being put into some enclosed area that’s too small to move around in. If you’re one of those people then they got your number. You will have a hard time watching this…. Enjoy!

There are lots of scenes to mention here, but the one that stands out the most happens before the CHUDs arrive. The girls are trying to find their way, and they have to get through a rather narrow tunnel. One of the girls gets stuck in it. saw112.jpgThey’re, like, half a mile underground, lost, and this chick can’t even scratch her face because the fucking planet won’t let her. The Earth is pinning her arms to her sides. A stronger sense of helplessness you’ll be hard pressed to find on the surface in the human world. The scene is shot really well but it’s the overall atmosphere that makes the scene, and the movie, stick with you long after it’s over.


Some loved it, some hated it. I fucking loved it. Trapped in an unknown place, some sterile yet dirty room full of white tiles and scum, two guys are chained to the walls/pipes/whatever and challenged to free themselves at the cost of the other’s life. Everything in this movie contributes to the atmosphere: the room, the lighting, the dialogue, the sense of complete confusion, panic, frenetic scheming. Within the first ten minutes of this movie you’ve been figuratively cut off at the knees and have nothing to stand on anymore. If you guessed the end of this movie before it happened then congratulations genius, but you need to realize that you think way too much when you should be watching and feeling. You guessed the end, we’re all very proud of you, but you missed the fucking movie in the meantime.


Think about that one for a second. This one doesn’t grab you by the balls (or vulva), it takes its time. It wants you to take your time too. Relax, get to know the people, understand what summer in Amity is all about. 14_jaws.jpgFeel the uncertainty of the city council. Feel the camaraderie of the crew on the boat, having a few drinks and singing a few songs. Feel the barely restrained panic as you realize that Quint has read way too much Hemingway and is not going back to that fucking shore without that shark. And if he can’t do it, he’s taking you with him. Your heart’s in your throat as you watch Brody sitting on a sinking stick with the shark heading right for him. Two hours later, you can finally breathe. Now that’s atmosphere.

Chopping Mall

Sorry, I had to throw this in as an example of how to fuck up a movie. Yes, I own the DVD. Screw you, okay?

Pure 80s crap. A group of teenagers are in a mall after closing hours. I bet some of them plan on fornicating, or at least showing their boobies. What they don’t know is that the security system is largely comprised of killer robots. Don’t you dare laugh. No, I’m just kidding, go ahead and laugh your ass off. This movie is fucking asinine.

They probably thought they were making some grand sociological statement about the human condition in the latter part of the twentieth century, but it seems they were also trying to make a shitty hybrid of Robocop, Fast Times At Ridgemont High and the second half of Dawn Of The Dead. They really should be showing this one on TBS every second Saturday. It’s not scary at all. AT ALL. I highly recommend buying it if you find it for a low low price in the bargain bin. Make sure to grab some good weed on the way home too. Trust me, it’s the only way you’ll get your money’s worth.

On the other hand, I’ll let you borrow my copy if you share some of that doobage……

Dan prefers to rate all of his movies while as high as jesus. It seems to work.


Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-RamaThe best, worst "kids trapped in a mall" movie ever made. God, I love this movie.


I have heard of that but have never had the pleasure. I need to call the video store.


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