Creepy Commonalities - Breaking the Fourth Wall
The idea of the fourth wall is about the unspoken agreement between performers and audiences, one that establishes boundaries between reality and fantasy. Part of the comfort in watching scary movies is in the audience’s acceptance that what is occurring on screen is a bit of fantasy and make believe. There’s no boogeyman that will jump out at you or reach out from behind the screen to claw at you. In horror movies, breaking the fourth wall can have an unbelievably unsettling effect on audiences, because the comforting illusion of being able to survey a terrifying scene from a safe distance is instantly shattered. In this scene from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, Max Schreck stares directly into the camera - one of the many ways the fourth wall is broken in cinema. By doing this, he not only throws the audience off balance, but it is the horror genre’s way of telling audiences that they aren’t safe from the monsters behind the screen because they can see you.