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Genre Conventions - Horror By Rory Giddings

Genre Conventions - Horror

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Genre Conventions - Horror

Genre Conventions - HorrorBy Rory Giddings

Settings/Locations:Regardless of the genre, settings and locations are a very important visual element of the film, as they not only create the backdrop for where the film is unfolding, but also have a great impact on the observing audience. For example, an eerily overcast and gloomy setting is likely to influence the viewers emotions in a negative way. The settings and locations can sometimes assume as much importance in the film itself as the action or events. For example, the drama on scene might not even need actors if heavy rain, wildly lashing branches or falling leaves, etc. contribute to the overall dramatic effect. Settings and locations are either built from scratch, or a great deal of time is sometimes spent on trying to find an appropriate location/setting that already exists, such as abandoned houses, castle ruins, woodlands, etc. (Whatever particular setting is required for a particular film.) In terms of genre, which in this case is horror, stereotypical settings/locations are often along the lines of:

Abandoned houses a cabin in the woods, lost in the middle of nowhere then coming across an abandoned house Derelict buildings/ghost-towns For example, the ghost town of Pripyat, Chernobyl Isolated areas - such as the woods, forest, restricted areas, etc. Haunted houses The Shining, Poltergeist, etc. Locations that have local myths/dark pasts such as the fabled woods in The Blair Witch Project Suburban houses this is a good location as it creates a sense of familiarity for the audience as they can relate to it

Narrative:The narrative is the way that the story is told, how the plot unfolds, and how it concludes. Many horror films end on a cliff-hanger in order to create the opportunity of a possible sequel. However, some horrors choose to function as stand alone horrors that have the purpose of never being furthered. The narrative also tends to include a protagonist/heroic character which can be of any gender. Stereotypically, males are often presented as the stronger character, but this is not always the case as some horror films choose to include females who are equally heroic characters.

Many horror films tend to follow a traditional narrative structure. For example, the first act in a horror film focuses on the central characters beginning their ventures into a dark and threatening setting which the audience know will most likely kill them, as the main characters stereotypically die in horror films. The second act involves the protagonists/main characters being killed off so that the characters who survived the first onslaught eventually become fatigued/frightened which puts them at greater risk. The third and final act is the conclusion of the film which usually involves a dramatic showdown between the main characters and the films antagonist, which has varying results depending on whether the director wants to leave room for a sequel.

Iconography:Iconography is used to explain the visual style of a film and is an important aspect of many film genres. Gradually, the audience recognise and expect certain visual styles and objects on screen, dependant on the genre. For example, in an action film such as James Bond, we would expect vibrant cities, props such as guns, suits and formal attire, fast cars, an attractive female deuteragonist, etc. Iconography may sometimes include the colour theme for the movie, such as the primary colours depicted either in the trailer or the poster that are pre-released.

The lighting is also another significant feature in the iconography alongside the props and characters. So in the chosen genre of my film opening (horror), the audience would typically expect to see dark/eerie colours with negative connotations such as red to symbolise blood, black to symbolise darkness, grey to symbolise the bleakness of the situation/death of hope, etc.

Low-key lighting would also be typically included in the iconography of a horror film as it can be used to convey the negative mood and create different shapes and sizes of shadows. Horror film props would stereotypically include weapons, masks, connotations of the supernatural such as a haunted house, a disfigured face or mask, blood, gore, shadows, etc.

Sound:The audio is a key element in creating the atmosphere, building the suspense and increasing the overall dramatic effect. There are two types of sound/audio that can be used in a film, regardless of what genre the film is. These are:

Diegetic: This is normally exaggerated to help build the suspense within world of the film. In a horror, these sounds would most likely consist of creaking doors, loud, echoing footsteps, sharp and erratic sounds of moving objects and character voices, etc.

Non-Diegetic: Usually fast and loud to help build tension and take the audience out of their comfort zone. These would usually musical compositions and scores, for example in the opening scene of Jaws we hear music gradually building up which makes the audience nervous due to the anticipation of what might happen when the music reaches its climax.

Technical Codes:

Technical codes refer to how the equipment is used to tell the story in a media format, for example the camera work in a film. The main purpose of a horror film is to put fear into the viewer. This can be done in a number of ways, including editing and soundtrack, but most commonly through the traditional medium of camera shots and angles. High and low angles are heavily used within horror films to create anxiety and emotional distress for the audience. Furthermore, point of view shots are often used in order to allow the audience to see the world from the antagonists eyes (e.g. the shark in Jaws) or place the audience in the same frightening situation of the victim. An example of this would be films like Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and The Blair Witch Project, where the whole film is told throughout the filming of the handheld camera which puts the audience into a first-person situation so this can be a very effective technique for horror films.

I will be using Insidious as an example. From the films very opening scene, a panning shot is used right at the beginning of the film which allows the audience to establish where the film is taking place, which in this instance, is a traditional suburban home, which also helps the audience to familiarise themselves with the surroundings of a normal house. The panning shot starts in a child's bedroom at night which reinforces the dark/eerie atmosphere by showing the audience the innocence/vulnerability of the boy as suggested by the positioning of him on the screen, placed in the middle of the frame and completely by himself. As the camera continues panning around the childs bedroom, it shows the audience dark and gloomy surroundings which could emphasise the contrast between good and evil in not just the film, but perhaps this very room as the child is likely to be a key character in what will later unfold. This is suggested by him being the first character the audience is shown.

The camera then zooms into and follows a dark shadow until the audience gets a quick look at a ghostly figure, from which the audience can infer that this character is most likely going to be the main antagonist in the film, as implied by the darkness surrounding the figure and the ghostly/creepy white face which is darkly illuminated by the candle it is holding. After this, the films title is suddenly displayed in capitals in a big bold red font which erratically flickers, giving the audience negative connotations of blood and evil/demonic entities, paranormal settings to the viewer. It then cuts to a slow and eerie title sequence in which many different parts of the house are shown, again reinforcing the main setting for the audience. This makes the film much more engaging as they may relate to the similarities between their own house and the one being shown on screen. Furthermore, non-diegetic sound is constantly used to create a tense atmosphere, such as the use of high pitched violins and sudden tense sound effects which are also included in the opening sequence. Furthermore, low-key lighting is used to emphasise the shadows which serves its function in the purpose of creating tension and building up suspense of what could happen next. A Typical Example of a Horror Title Sequence:

Character types:In every horror film, there are always a group of stereotypical characters. These are:

The Protagonist This is usually a female role and they are usually the strongest and smartest characters in the world of the film as they almost always survive the film in order to open the possibility of a sequel. An example of this would be the character of Sidney in the Scream film franchise. The Sex Appeal This role is almost always filled by a female as they are required to play the promiscuous character in the group. Usually, their costume design will be representative of their character. They usually tend to be the first to go character in the horror film.

The Irritating Character - Again, this character is commonly one of the first to go. They are the character that the audience will almost always hate as this character acts as if they know best in whatever situation they are stuck in and make out to be the smartest of the group. Because of this, the audience are usually pleased when they are killed off.

The Unlikely Hero In some horror films, there is the possibility of an unlikely hero to the group of characters that are created and this character can be used to assist a twist in the plot and again leave room for a sequel.

The Antagonist this is the bad guy that is usually revealed at the end of them film. However, this is dependent on the plot for the film. They are commonly killed off at the end, or wounded to a small extent so that they survive. This enables the opportunity for sequels.

Horror films are well-known for their ability to blend multiple genres and themes into one film. The genre that most heavily overlaps in some horror films is thriller. The dark themes in horror films usually attempt to exploit the viewers' individual nightmares, fears/phobias and anxiety of the unknown. The most common themes that can be transformed into a plot and appear in horror films are:

An evil religion Satanic, occults, pagans, covens, etc.Childhood issues the antagonist wanting vengeance for the injustices he faced as a child, etc.Supernatural ghosts, creaking doors, demonic entities, etc.Scientific research/experiment gone wrong, accidentally releasing a virus, etc.Zombie apocalypse humans trying to survive hordes of the undead.Nightmares exploiting the viewers fears into a more realistic medium.Madness/Insanity a disfigured character, a sociopath who feeds on human fears, etc.