Justin Long Thinks This Is The Key To The Perfect Scream In A Horror Movie

In his spectacularly underrated horror career, Justin Long has been force-fed a monster's breast and beaten to death on the street. His eyes have been gouged out, and he has been murdered by Liam Neeson, among other things. What I am trying to say is: Justin Long's characters have been through quite a few gory scenes that have left both his characters and the viewers, screaming. 

In "Barbarian," the actor plays AJ Gilbride, an actor dealing with a career-ending rape accusation who owns a house of horrors in a shady-looking neighborhood in Detroit. Now Long's character has his fair share of screaming (I mean, what do you expect a person will do when he's been abducted by an otherwordly, humanoid-looking monster in his own house?), and the actor is opening up about what he believes is the key to the perfect scream in a horror movie. Long has the experience, and he's sharing his learnings with the rest of the world.

Fear is a tricky thing. For some people, a moment of horror induces a terrifying high-pitched scream — a call for help. For others, a moment of horror drains your body of all existing energy, and your body seizes up and stays alert. Fear impacts different people differently. But when you're in a good old horror movie, and a monster appears in a moment of unpredictability, there must be some screaming.

'You have to swing for the fences'

In a recent interview with Vulture, Justin Long went over how he mastered the perfect scream. The actor admits to associating a scream with a "high pitch," but he also thinks it's most important to commit to it. As an actor, you cannot be "afraid of looking silly," says Long.

The "Barbarian" star examined the performance of Veronica Cartwright in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," and Ridley Scott's "Alien," revisiting when the actress would commit to communicating to audiences that she was "disgusted and horrified" at the sight of these creatures. Long gave an example of his own: he often pulls pranks on his loved ones and seems to have been inspired by the reactions toward them.

"You have to swing for the fences with whatever comes out of your mouth when you're afraid. I saw this thing on what fear does to a lot of people, and I try to clock it sometimes when I have a moment of fear — well, I've seen it. I like pulling pranks. That doesn't sound very loving, but I love pulling pranks on loved ones. Whenever I'd scare my brother, for example, he would get operatic with his fear. He'll be like, [ghost voice] 'Ohhhhhh!' He had this musicality to it. And I've noticed that when you're afraid, it doesn't always manifest in a sound. You often don't have the energy for that. Most of your energy is going to seizing up and being alert. There are YouTube clips of people being scared or people surprising somebody, and it's rarely like, 'Ahhhhhhh!'"

Committing to a perfect scream

Long further explained that he hardly finds it convincing when he witnesses people screaming in horror movies. The actor has a sound explanation for his belief, but he also does admit that because it's a horror movie, you gotta do what you gotta do.

"Whenever I see that in a movie, it never rings true to me, because you have to muster a lot of energy to put that out, and when you're afraid, your energy's already going elsewhere. But then again, it's a movie, so you'd have to convey that fear somehow."

If there's one thing Long believes is necessary for mastering a perfect scream, it's committing to it. An actor needs to commit to the moment fully, and rely on the fear that's making them act that way.

"The scream depends on the moment. It depends on what is making you potentially scream. But I think screaming — some of the legends do it so well, like Janet Leigh — it's about committing."

The art of a good scream might differ for different performers, but we've seen Justin Long stay true to his word. We witnessed his character scream a few times in "Barbarian," and there's no doubt that he was fully committed to it.