Realistic stab scenes captivate and enthrall audiences of horror -- especially the "slasher" sub-genre -- and action films. Directors must create this realism while also preserving the physical integrity of actors and actresses. They accomplish this by integrating realistic props such as fake knives and fake blood. Strategic camera angles and quality direction and acting are also important to achieving a believable scene.
Fake or prop knives play a pivotal role in movie stab scenes. Prop knives come in a variety of forms depending on the needs for the scene. When a scene merits a close-up of the weapon, a real knife may be used to increase authenticity. For general purposes outside of close-ups, fake knives with blades that harmlessly retract on impact, or realistic-looking, yet benign, blades installed on real knives may be used.
Movies use fake blood excreted at the point of stabbing to "sell" stabbing scenes. Small pouches filled with fake blood, also known as blood quibs, help accomplish the task. The blood quib is taped underneath clothing on the victim and triggered either by a superficial impact, such as that from a retractable blade, or by an explosion forced by a small electrical charge attached to it. More fake blood can be added to stab wounds in between camera cuts to imitate an increasing loss of blood from the victim over time.
Camera angles play an instrumental role in stab scenes with fake knives, effectively simulating penetration. A camera behind the attacker clearly shows the perpetrator's angle of attack and where he stabs his victim. Just before impact, the viewing perspective changes to face the attacker. With the victim's body between the attacker and camera, the audience does not see that the knife does not actually penetrate the victim's body. Close-ups of the victim's face as he is stabbed increase the audience's empathy for the victim.
The most important aspect of a stab scene with fake knives is the acting. Attackers assume an aggressive, imposing and menacing stance while victims cringe in a defensive stance. Close-ups tend to focus on the victim's face, which increases the spectator's anxiety. The victim is often seen screaming in terror and agony as the fake knife enters her body. If the victim stares directly at the camera, then the audience identifies with her, while a stare to either side of the camera blurs this identification.
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