A horror film seeks to create a negative reaction from the audience by portraying their fears. For example, if people are scared of clowns; a horror film will most likely depict them in a very startling way in order to disturb the audience. Horror films usually involve elements like ghosts, vampires, demons, monsters, zombies, cannibals and serial killers. This usually involves a supernatural origin. Horrors usually consists of subgenres which are films involved with a certain element or personalisation that is aimed at a certain audience. For example, these subgenres are:
- Remakes of old horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- Science Fiction
- Horror Comedies
- Action Horrors
- Monster Movies
The setting in a horror is typically small communities or isolated places. These represent isolation or being alone. Also, horror films show locations with dark history. For example, these places could be an abandoned house, haunted hotels and insane asylums. Typical locations that are often used in a horror film are as listed: lakes, country side, cities, woodland area, creep hotels and other locations that make the audience feel disturbed or isolated.
The technical codes for a horror film are very different from any other genre. High and low angle shots can help to connote fear and nightmares. POV shots are equally important because they allow the audience to see the setting from the antagonist/monster’s perspective. This type of shots typically happens during the middle or towards the end of a horror film. Handheld shots used during a horror film can make it extremely difficult for an audience to comprehend what is happening during the sequence. However, due to the shaking of the camera, it can connote fear and how petrified the characters are. One of the most fundamental factors in a zombie film is the use of sounds. It is important to use disturbing sounds in order to evoke emotion out of the audience. For example, a director should aim to have a very disturbing soundtrack or use sounds like footsteps or a heartbeat to connote the character’s fear. Extreme close ups can be used to show the audience what the victim is currently feeling at the given time. For example, ECU focuses on a character’s facial expressions during a sequence in which they are completely terrified.
The iconography in a horror film is extremely important because it sets to visualise a tone during the horror film and from that point onwards the audience will have a certain idea of where the film is going. Visual style is usually uses colours that portray evil, blood or danger like red or black. Black is a very common colour to use as it focuses on people’s primal fear of not being able to see in the dark. Low key lighting can be used to create shadows and odd shapes in the dark. Props are very important in a horror film as it helps the audience identify the antagonist’s appearance. For example, specific props can be identified with certain characters e.g. the finger knives with Freddy Krueger, a machete and hockey masked is linked with Jason Voorhees etc.
The narrative structure of a horror film is very simple. It usually consists of a protagonist, a man or girl that keeps up with the conventions of the genre and must embark on a mission to kill or solve the problem. Quite typically some narratives are formulaic and this most common in sub-genres such as Slasher films. After some series of events that turn the “slasher” insane or due to some twisted or terrible childhood past, they usually return to their hometown and kill the teenagers. The teenagers are portrayed to be stupid and immoral (It is very common for teenagers to be portrayed in this manner) and are usually shown to be the ones that evoked the “slasher” to come back in the first place. During these slasher films, there is always a survivor that manages to escape or kill off the antagonist which relates back to narrative structures. A good example of this style of narrative structure is the Halloween series or the Friday the 13th franchise.
The character types portrayed in a horror film are:
- Main protagonist (victim or hero of the film)
- Antagonist (monster, mutated freak, supernatural being, alien or a serial killer)
- Immoral teenagers
- Police officers that are either good or bad and contribute to how some victims are killed. For example, some police officers are portrayed to be extremely stupid and are often killed, leading to other characters being killed as well.
- Ghosts, demons, psychopaths, stalkers, werewolves, cheerleader
Many films portray Romero’s concept of zombies in their sequences. Zombies are newly dead flesh eating creatures that have been re-animated by radiation chemicals, viruses, sorcery or acts of God. They can be very strong, but not very fast or agile which typically gave advantage to the survivors in the films as they could run away from a small pack of zombies without getting hurt or killed. Zombies are impervious to pain and can only be killed by destroying their brain or decapitation. Most modern films portray the zombies to be contagious and when people get bitten they will become a zombie. To conclude, this spread of zombies will ultimately lead to a plague where the zombies will vastly outnumber the living.
In modern portrayals of zombies, they depict them to be faster and much intelligent zombies. Examples of these portrayals can be 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. In these films, a virus occurs where humans will turn in a zombie like creature but not a zombie itself in which they don’t die unless they starve. Typically, most zombie films end with a cliffhanger, a cure is discovered or everyone is killed.
The character types in a zombie film are:
- A leader (usually guides the group and makes most of the decisions)
- Betrayer (someone who commits an act where they can influence other characters death or cause misfortune upon them)
- Human sacrifice (usually involves a character sacrificing themselves in order to save others)
After researching a few horror conventions, I chose to go with the zombie subgenre. This is because I personally engage with the zombie subgenre as it depicts people having to survive an apocalypse as much as they can by avoiding getting bitten. The common conventions of a zombie film makes the audience think about what they would do in these given circumstances. For example, a typical George A Romero depicts a power struggle within the group and the fear of getting bitten, which is personally appealing as it gives a realistic approach to the film because if something of that magnitude actually happened, these are potential factors that could occur and determine who could potentially die.
Due to the length of the upcoming sequence, I have decided to use the leader character type to show the audience that he is the one responsible for the rest of the group and that he has the most power over everyone. I have decided that I could hint to the audience how a certain character will ultimately end up like. For example, I could show that a character is beginning to become selfish and very suspicious over the period of time which ultimately will show who the character really is.
Really good background research Pedro! Will you be using any of the character types you identify in the 4 bullet-points above?