Classic lessons in creepy communication…

Halloween is upon us, and so it’s time for a dubiously crafted comparison between horror films and internal communications 

Oct 31, 2018 | Feature

OK, I know there’s loads of stuff that likens IC to zombie apocalypses, Star Wars and other film genres, but hear me out.

Before I start though, a bit of background on where the idea for this little piece came from.

I’ve always been a bit of a horror film movie buff, since my teenage years. This obsession has continued in the bloodline of my teenage daughter.

A few nights ago, in typical dad style, I thought it would be good to share a horror classic with her from my youth. So we settled down to watch The Exorcist, a classic, which transformed the terror flick genre. It scared the bejesus out of me when I sneaked in under age to watch it in a very cold cinema.

Expecting my daughter to be scared witless, I was somewhat deflated by her post-film reaction. I expected a similar reaction to how I first felt, only for her to say, “that was just weird!’. Obviously, The Exorcist hasn’t aged as well as I thought. Saying that, she thinks films where creepy dolls come to life are terrifying, so what does she know anyway…

However, we both bond and are collectively chilled by Stephen King’s and Stanley Kubrick’s classic, The Shining.

It combines the two things we both like, horror and snow…in equal quantities.

It still holds up really well, mainly due to the quality acting, a riveting story and creepy setting. But, and this is where the IC bit comes in, it’s also because The Shining has all the elements of great communication and employs all the mechanics of emotional response.

All change!

Like any great communication campaign, the challenge is first set.
In this case, the need
to resolve lingering family issues and the chance to change. In The Shining, it’s Jack Torrance’s (Jack Nicholson) search for seclusion at the Overlook Hotel to write the book that will reverse his family’s fortunes. Underneath, though, lurks the threat of what could happen if the change isn’t made, while the promise of progress lies ahead.

All, initially, looks good. And so, the film begins.

Take your time

What’s great about the film, and like any considered campaign, it builds steadily, with moments of suspense and surprise.

In this instant gratification age, the pace of the film seems almost leisurely, but Kubrick knew what he was doing. To get the required emotional response, he needed to edge us closer to the conclusion, step by step. In this instance, regularly unsettling us.

The macabre can teach us a lot in the tactics of delivery, and linking messages and action to deep emotional response. Obviously, focused on a more positive outcome! 

As Jack slips into apparent madness, but is insidiously possessed by the hotel’s darker spirit of the murderous caretaker, the pace picks up fast. Reality blurs and overlaps with the supernatural as we head to the conclusion. Twists and turns along the way keep us guessing, until the famous “Here’s Johnny!” moment. Jack ‘the axe’ smashes in the bathroom door trying to dispatch his wife Wendy (wonderfully played by Shelley Duvall) and his psychic son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who possesses the ‘shining’.

The film reaches its climax in the snowy maze scene as Jack pursues Danny with evil intent among the shrubbery. Thankfully, Danny eludes Jack and escapes the icy, horrific grip of the hotel with his mum in the Snowcat. Here we have our resolution, our moment of delivery, as Wendy and Danny escape the evil to emerge to a new, brighter future.

Ready for resolution

We all sigh a collective sense of relief and feel optimistic. Good triumphed over evil and was delivered not by super humans but by those who became empowered by events and the need to act. Sound familiar?

You get the point! And here ends my thinly veiled communications attempt, while actually banging on about one of my favourite horror films.

If you have never seen The Shining, I urge you to do so. And if you have, then please watch it again, preferably in the dark with the heating turned off. Oh, and if you’ve got horror-obsessed offspring, get them to watch it too!

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