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Half-Empty Two-Shot

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The Half-Empty Two-Shot is a narrative framing technique usually found in horror and suspense films/shows, in which a shot of one character is composed asymmetrically, as if the character is in a two-shot with an invisible second character. It creates narrative tension by making the viewer expect someone (or some thing) to lunge into frame and balance the composition. In this context, it is also known as the "Bogeyman Shot" (thanks, Roger Ebert).

It's also sometimes used in melancholy contexts: the person that should be in the other side of the frame isn't there because he's dead, or missing, often with an empty chair or a deep impression left in a bed filling in.



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    Films — Animated 
  • In Shrek, this is used twice to show how alone Shrek and Fiona feel after their big fight. Fiona is shown sitting at an otherwise unoccupied table, with the table in the center of the shot. This is immediately followed by Shrek sitting at his table, on the opposite side (from the camera's perspective).
  • Another melancholy example occurs several times in Up, whenever Carl sits in his recliner, positioned beside his late wife's.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Clue has a scene where Miss Scarlet, left alone in the ballroom, nervously checks to see if the mystery killer is hiding behind the curtains. This is made even creepier by the brief tracking shot over her shoulder, which upon first viewing lends the sensation that we're about to see someone come up behind her.
  • Made famous by Halloween (1978): Throughout the first half of the movie, Laurie is repeatedly framed in this fashion, to suggest to the viewer that someone is about to fill the empty space. Towards the end, the setup is finally paid off when Michael Myers emerges from the closet to attack her.
  • In Tom Savini's remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), something does lunge into the frame, but from the wrong side.
  • Silkwood: In the last shot, all we see in the left half of the frame is .... headlights.
  • Used to creepy effect in Swimming Pool.
  • Used frequently in Harvey, for non-sinister reasons.
  • Strike: An unusual use of this effect occurs when a spy is shown running down a sidewalk, with the left side of the screen simply blacked out, like an unfinished wipe. The wipe is finally completed, revealing the men who are chasing him in the left side of the frame.
  • A very effective use in Jaws when Brody is on the right side of the frame, flipping smelly chum into the water, mumbling irritably as he does it, the left side of the frame containing nothing but the gunwale of the boat and the ocean. This sets up one of the most famous Jump Scares ever, as the shark comes leaping out of the water on the left side.

    Web Original 
  • An example of the melancholy sort: In Act 3 of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, there is a scene of Penny sitting in the laundromat with two frozen yogurts, waiting for Billy, who isn't showing up.