As 2011 comes to a close, EW.com wanted to honor some of the hardworking names and faces from behind the scenes for their outstanding achievements. American Horror Story co-creator Brad Falchuk has been behind some of this fall’s most shocking television. With so many murders and revelations under his belt (or Rubber Man suit as it were), how can Falchuk (pictured, right, with creative partner Ryan Murphy) pick a single scene as the most chilling of all? It was surprisingly cut-and-dried. For more behind the scenes access to the year’s best TV and movie scenes, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2011: Behind the Scenes coverage.
As told by: Brad Falchuk
The idea of horror in the show is that people have all these fears that manifest themselves in so many different ways – in our imaginations, as monsters like the Bogeyman. We’re exposing ourselves and our vulnerabilities, the pains and pleasures of our lives – it’s all very personal.
In the school shooting scene [in episode 6, “Piggy Piggy”], what we wanted to do was say, “Okay, let’s take those fears. Now the Bogeyman, the man in the rubber suit, is the guy who shoots up those kids. They’re the same guy.” It’s sort of a metaphor of what happens when the monsters of your imagination become real in your life.
That sequence was conceptualized with a very specific idea in mind, which was, “I never want to see any blood. I never want to see any gore in this. This is a horrible thing that we’re doing, and I don’t want to make it into [torture] porn at all because I want to really get to the pain of it.”
If you’re building tension, the first most important thing to care about the people you’re putting in danger. The school shooting scene is so upsetting because you got to know these characters before we saw what happens to them. It’s this moment where these innocent kids are stuck, and it’s just this horror of these poor kids facing this reality: “Today’s the day.”
The structure was based on the idea that you would always be on someone else’s point-of-view when someone was getting killed. The teacher gets killed. That’s the only person you see actually get shot. With the rest of them, the second someone’s about to get shot you’re with them, and the second the bullet goes, you cut away to somebody else so now we just see their fear, so now that fear belongs to the person that’s alive. It keeps getting passed around like a football – “Now your turn, now your turn… ” The tension rises because each time you’re with the next person, you’re, like, “Okay, they know what’s happening, but they don’t know what to do.” And what would you do?
I also think it’s awesome when horrifying things happen in the middle of the day when everybody’s awake and alert. Tate is a very unhappy, troubled boy, and [he’s] like the Bogeyman saying, “I’m more powerful than the night. I don’t have to hide in the closet. There’s no place that is safe. You can’t escape.”
There was intentionally no music in the school shooting scene. We thought, “The scene itself is enough. We don’t need to push it.” I think the director filmed that so beautifully, and the actors were so real. They had that great sense of uniqueness and innocence that, for me, it really hurt to watch them go. To me, that was the scariest scene that we did.
Later in that same episode, when Violet is pouring the pills out on her bed, and it’s like, “This poor little girl just needs help, and there’s no one there to help her.” To me, those are the real horrible moments in the show that are the most upsetting. To me, an ax to the stomach of a person who kind of deserves it anyway [isn’t truly scary]. Whenever that would happen, in the editing room, we would just be laughing hysterically. We thought it was hilarious: “This is silliness. This is not real horror. This is fun horror.”
For more on the Best and Worst of 2011, pick up Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, on stands now.