Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Overview of Genres by Iona English

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The horror genre aims to create panic, cause dread, alarm, and to invoke our deepest hidden fears and emotions, while captivating and entertaining the audience. This genre, like others, continues to develop in new or improved ways, with thing such as special effects improving helping to create a more realistic and limitless world. Horror has recently moved away from stories with a religious or supernatural basis, which used to dominate the genre, to ones making use of medical or psychological ideologies.

Horror films effectively center on the dark side of life, including taboo, strange and alarming events or actions. They deal with our most primal nature and its fears: our nightmares, our vulnerability, our alienation, our revulsion's, our terror of the unknown, our fear of death and dismemberment, loss of identity, or fear of sexuality. Their plots frequently involve themes of death, the supernatural or mental illness. Many horror movies also include a central villain. Most dark, primitive, and revolting traits that fascinate and revolt us are featured in the horror genre. Horror films are often combined with science fiction when the menace or monster is related to a corruption or advancement of technology, or when Earth is threatened by aliens which are terrifying and evil in nature.

A classic convention of modern horror is to include young beautiful teenagers, often played by well known celebrities at the time e.g. Paris Hilton in House of Wax (2005), who get brutally killed by some supernatural creature. This convention is used a lot now as it appeals to a wide audience and makes film companies a lot of money at the box office. However beautiful young women have been used since the beginning of horror as a way to portray everything that it innocent and good in the world.


The Fantasy genre includes films that usually have themes involving magic, supernatural events, make-believe creatures, or exotic fantasy worlds. The genre is considered to be separate and distinct in its own right from science fiction and horror, although the genres often over lap.


Mystery is a sub-genre of the more general category, Crime film. It focus's on the efforts of the Detective, PI or 'armature sleuth', who must solve the mystery behind a terrible crime that has occurred; by means of clues, investigation, persistence and clever deduction.

Mystery films often follow two plot types, Open and Closed. The Closed story type conceals the true identity of the perpetrator until late in the story, adding the element of surprise during the suspects apprehension as the audience never truly know who it is, this causes the classic 'edge of the seat' feeling that mystery is so well known for. The Open mystery story type is in direct contrast to that of the Closed. As the title suggests, from the beginning of the film, the story is "Open" about the true identity of the criminal. The audience usually follows the 'Perp' throughout the movie as they commit the "perfect crime" and continue to elude the police, usually through clever planning or just plain luck.

Mystery usually follows either Todorov's Theory; where everything starts in harmony but then a crime is committed and everything is thrown into a "disequilibrium" and the hero/ main character has to solve the mystery for the equilibrium to be restored, or the follow Barthe's Enigma Code; the story starts with a problem, the "enigma" will then be establish as time goes on and in the very end the problem will be solved.

Horror and Mystery

Suspense is often maintained throughout out these movies as an important plot element. This can be done throughout the use of camera angles, sound track, mise-en-scene and surprising plot twists. Many directors, such as Alfred Hitchcock, use all of these techniques, but will sometimes allow the audience in on a pending threat and then draw out the moment for dramatic effect, however the time this is done for has to be precise; too long and the audience looses interest, too short and they expect it and are not half as surprised as they could be.

History of Horror By Iona English

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The horror genre goes back as far as the beginning of films themselves, over a 100 years ago. Some of the earliest horror films were Gothic in style which meant that they were usually set in spooky old mansions, castles, or fog covered, dark and shadowy locations which created an air of mystery as usually what the audience can't see is the thing that is the most terrifying. The main characters were usually 'unknown' humans, supernatural or grotesque looking creatures. This included vampires, evil madmen, devils, ghosts, monsters, mad scientists, demons, zombies, evil spirits, Satanic villains, demonic possessions and werewolves. Horror films at that time were developed out of a number of sources: folktales, fables, myths, ghost stories, melodramas and Gothic/ Victorian novels from Europe, such as the work of Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker.

The first horror movie, only about two minutes long, was made by imaginative French filmmaker Georges Melies, titled Le Manoir Du Diable (aka The Devil's Castle) (1896) - which contained some elements included in later vampire films.

By the early 1930s, horror entered into its classic phase in Hollywood - the 'true' Dracula and Frankenstein Eras. The studios took dark tales of European vampires and undead aristocrats, mad scientists, and invisible men and created some of the most archetypal creatures and monsters ever known for the screen. Universal Studios was best-known for its pure horror films in the 30s and 40s, horror's classic characters (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Wolf Man) and its memorable horror stars, such as Bela Lugosi.

Many of the films in the horror genre from the mid-1930s to the late 1950s were B-grade movies, inferior sequels, or atrocious low-budget 'gimmick' films. In the atomic age of the 1950s, 'modern' themes like effects of radioactivity exposure, toxic chemical spills, or other scientific accidents were explored.

Horror films branched out in all different directions in the 1960s and after because the Production Code disappeared and film censorship was on the decline. Directors began to portray horror in ordinary circumstances and seemingly-innocent settings, which made the movies both more realistic and terrifying.

Alfred Hitchcock, whose early silent film The Lodger (1926) explored horror's themes, brought out some of horror's most 'horrific' films. His films changed the face of all horror films ever since. He created the idea of horror that could be found in the dark shadows of the human soul itself. That the murderer was not some horrific supernatural being, but rather a disturbed person who could easily be your next door neighbour, an idea that has horrified audiences ever since.

In the 1970s, the horror genre was subjected to violence, sadism, brutality, slasher films, victims of possession, and graphic blood-and-gore tales.

In the 80s and 90s many of the more successful horror films from previous decades spawned inferior, low-budget, slasher films. Most of these sequels or 'imitations' were exploitative and featured gory violence, graphic horror, 'teens in peril,' along with computer-generated special effects and makeup. A common storyline through out these decades was that of a homicidal male psychopath committing a string of gruesome murders on pretty, female victims. Many of these films told the tale of a vengeful murderer motivated by revenge and/ or sexual reasons, movies of this storyline include the Scream (1996-2000) franchise.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Box Office Figures of Similarly Themed Films to 'Judgement'

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Budget: $40,000,000

Gross revenue-
Total in USA: $82,522,790
Total worldwide: $215,862,692

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Budget: $60,000,000

Gross revenue-
Total worldwide: $223,664,608

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Budget: $40,000,000 (plus $25,000,000 for prints and advertising)

Gross revenue-
Opening weekend: $26,600,00
Total in USA: $293, 506, 292
Total Worldwide: $675, 806, 292

Memento (2000)

Budget: $4,500,000

Gross revevnue-
Total in USA: $25,544,867
Total worldwide: $39,665,950

The Skeleton Key (2005)

Budget: $43,000,000

Gross revenue-
Opening Weekend: $16, 057, 945
Totall Worldwide: $47,907,715

Jennifer's Body (2009)

Budget: $16,000,000

Gross revenue-
Opening Weekend: $6,800,000
Total in USA: $16, 149, 944
Total Worldwide: $18, 726, 525

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Opening Film Analysis- Jennifer's Body

The film begins by slowly zooming in on a house. It is set at night and the non-deigetic sound is eerie, creating tension. We then see a close up of a hand picking at a scab, which to most viewers would be repulsive and disturbing. As the camera continues to pan towards the house we hear wind chimes in the background, this sound is usually an indexical reference to peace and relaxation, so it is used out of context, however this technique just adds to the creepy atmosphere. There is then a close up shot of a girl's mouth sucking on her long hair, another image intended to disgust viewers. In the shots of the scab and hair chewing, the diegetic volume is accelerated so we can hear the sound of ripping skin and the saliva in her mouth. Further accentuating the effect of nausea being created.
Next we pan up to the window of a girl's bedroom, the television is playing an exercise work-out programme and this noise once again doesn't correspond with the tension of the scene. After this there is a long shot of the girl, the lead protagonist called Jennifer played by Megan Fox, sat on her bed and the movie title appears in pink, fancy font. This indicates that this film may be mostly aimed toward a female audience as the font is feminine.
We then see from the long shot the character of Jennifer lying on her bed writing in a notebook as the television continues to play. The upbeat tone of a woman's voice emitting from the television doesn't match with her sad facial expression.
All of a sudden we see a long shot of a hooded girl stood outside Jennifer's window, staring at her with intense widened eyes, the sound pauses as this happens as if time is standing still. We assume that the panning shot through the front garden to the house was from this girl's point of view. A mid shot then shows Jennifer turn her head to look out the window, but nothing is there, as she rolls onto her side the camera zooms in on her face. This is when the narrator begins to speak, it is the voice of the girl stood outside.
In the next scene we are taken to an entirely different location, the shot pans out from barred windows into a small room to see the back of a girl sat on a stool. She is is wearing what appears to be a hospital gown. She starts by saying "Hell is a teenage girl" and talks about receiving letters and gifts from her 'fans', the camera pans over the mise-en-scene of opened mail and an array of obscure items.
We assume from the setting and costume that she a patient in a mental institution, a mid shot shows one of the workers then come to the door and ask her to get ready. Whilst she gets changed there are close up shots of scratches and injuries on her body, showing she must have been through a traumatic, violent experience. Before she leaves, the camera zooms in on a picture of a boy, we don't know who he is or his significance in the story yet. During this, her narration talks about how people are telling her to "embrace Jesus Christ into her heart", but says it has made no difference, this makes us think she must have done something bad and is seeking forgiveness.
A mid shot shows her putting on fluffy bunny slippers, this connotes innocence, an unexpected image to see in such a grim setting. A tracking long shot follows her walking through a courtyard wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, as are other women around her, further showing this is an institution. She is alone, evidently unhappy from her facial expression.
A jump cut then shows a close up view of a medical chart, we assume of the girl, with the word 'KICKER' written on it in capital letters and underlined several times, she narrates this description with a proud tone. The next is a mid shot is of her looking longingly outside through the barred windows of a cafeteria, connoting that she craves freedom.
A female doctor then approaches and tries to start a conversation with the girl, for no apparent reason she kicks the woman across a table in a fit of rage, referencing back to her 'kicker' reputation. A close-up shows blood dripping on the floor from the doctor's mouth. The troubled girl then screams "I recommend you shut the f**k up!" and spits on the woman as we see from a low angle shot to show her overpowering status at that moment in time. A long shot shows the entire room of other inmates start cheering her on, and then a mid-shot as the other staff try to restrain her.
She is dragged down a hallway, a birds eye shot shows her being thrown into a concrete cell. She crawls up to a wall and sits against it with her legs crossed, the camera zooms up to her distressed face from the corner of the room and we hear the sound of her breathing heavily. Her narrated dialogue is saying that she wasn't always this "cracked" and that it all started "when the murders began", we assume this is what the movie will be about. All the lights fade away and cheerful music starts playing from ceiling speakers that we see a quick close up of, this is contrapuntal use of sound. The shot then returns to a mid shot of her covering her ears and commenting on her hatred for the song, finished by a mid shot her curling into a fetal position.

Friday, 6 November 2009

History of Film

The birth of film began in the late 19th century, the Frenchman Louis Loumiere is credited as the inventor of the motion picture camera in 1895. To be precise, he created a 'cinematograph' which served as a film projector and developer as well as a camera. For the first 20 years in the beginnings of motion picture, films were silent and lasted for only a few minutes. However in 1927, after years of experimentation, a means of recording sound that would be synchronous with the moving imagery was discovered. Before this there would sometimes have been live musicians or a commentary spoken by a showman in the cinema as the film played. The first movie containing dialogue was The Jazz Singer. The first Academy Awards ceremony took place in 1929.

After this technological breakthrough a high majority of films were shot in sound from the 30s onwards, exceptions to this are the films of Charlie Chaplin, who refused to conform to this new era of non-silent films. Famous movies made during this period include: The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong and The Public Enemy (beginning of 'gangster' films). This time was also the beginning of Disney's animated motion pictures when they released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.

After the introduction of sound in films the industry continued to grow in popularity. Going to the cinema was becoming less of a luxury and more commonplace amongst western society. Hollywood was now becoming the principal producer of films to large audiences. Several major studio corporations were beginning to form such as Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Universal and Columbia. This all led to what is now known as 'The Golden Age of Hollywood' during the 40s. American cinema was at its peak of emitting an image of glamour and appealed to international viewers. The first classic 'movie stars' during this period include Clark Gable, Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Shirley Temple.

Due to the industry's success it was not much affected by the Great Depression, World War Two brought on a proliferation of movies as both patriotism and propaganda. Well-known films released at this time include: Casablanca, Citizen Kane made by Orson Welles, It's a Wonderful Life, Great expectations and Oliver Twist.

The 50s Cold War era zeitgeist led to a series of near-paranoia themed films, such as some with plots based on invading armies of evil aliens (War of the Worlds). After this period there was a revival of 'epic' movies, to entice audiences, including Ben-Hur and Spartacus. The fad for 3D only lasted 2 years (1952-1954) and helped sell films such as House of Wax and Creature from the Black Lagoon. During this time a turning point commenced in society of questioning the establishment and societal norms as well as the Civil Rights Movement, this reflected in some films such as 12 Angry Men and On the Waterfront. Other notable movies throughout this decade include Oklahoma!, Around the World in Eighty Days and Cleopatra.

In the early 60s Hollywood films were still aimed at family orientated audiences with box office hits like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. However as the decade progressed more violence and nudity was allowed to be shown on screen. This was the time when the James Bond films were first introduced. The nuclear paranoia at this time prompted the making of films such as Stanley Kubrick's Dr.Strangelove and Fail Safe. By the late 60s however more revolutionary and groundbreaking movies were being made including- Bonnie and Clyde, The good, the bad and the ugly, The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy and documentary films including one about the Vietnam War called In the Year of the Pig.

The 70s onwards is now seen as 'New Hollywood' or post-classical cinema, story lines contained more shocking twist-endings and 'noir' tones. These include Rebel Without a Cause, Hitchcock's Psycho, A Clockwork Orange, The French Connection and Dirty Harry. A new group of filmmakers emerged: Steven Spielberg (Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver), Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather trilogy) and George Lucas (Star Wars movies). Disaster films were also popular including The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. Other cultures were now starting to create popular films such as Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon which inspired many martial arts films after it and the Australian Mad Max films.

Blockbuster films made in the 80s include the Indiana Jones films, E.T, Scarface starring Al Pacino, Terminator and Tim Burton's Batman. In the 90s special effects were more widely used in movies like Titanic and Pixar's animated Toy Story, but more independent films were still popular such as Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.

Today in the 21st century movie makers continue to entertain and amaze audiences. Notable achievements of modern cinema include The Lord of the Rings based on the novels by JRR Tolkien, The Matrix, Gladiator and The Dark Knight featuring the late Heath Ledger's portrayal as The Joker and the first film to be filmed at least partially with IMAX technology.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Film Opening Techniques

There are many techniques available to film makers when creating the first opening minutes of their movie. The desicions they make can dramatically affect what impact their introduction has on the audience.
The Last Samurai uses a prolepsis in its opening, changing the colouring to blue/violet along with the image of a rare white tiger to accentuate the surrealism of the vision. It also splits between two different stories set in Japan and the USA, giving us the impression that they will eventually somehow combine. The sound and mise-en-secene in these places signifies where they are, such as the traditional Japanese music and kimonoes or the 19th century dress and American flags.
In Flags of our Fathers on the other hand an analepsis is used for a dream sequence. The seemingly diegetic sounds of screams and explosions are muffled and almost ghost-like; indicating that what we are seeing may not be directly happening. Also the colours are quite muted, using the technique of screen colouring to seperate the scenes from whether they are fantasy or reality.
Compared to this slow-starter The Bourne Ultimatum opens with a greatly fast pace. All the action shots are edited to have quick flowing jump cuts whilst the playing soundtrack is very rythmic, increasng the veiwers excitement and anticipation.
City of God also starts with a bang. The camera shots start out as very close-up as we see a scared chicken, with image-flashes of a knife. There is then a chase scene between the animal and a group of boys, during this mostly long-shots are used so we have the best veiw of the situation and its surroundings, with the occasional point of view of the running victim. To add to the energetic atmosphere upbeat Spanish music is used which also gives an idea of the setting.
The horror flick Sleepy Hollow also uses the technique of changing from extreme close-ups to long/mid shots. It shows us what appears to be dripping blood, which sets the theme and disturbs the veiwer. Then we see the pre-murder victim go from the close-up safety of his carriage to the long shot danger of the cornfields where he will meet his doom. The music playing throughout this begins very loud and tense until slightly slowing down, the man is then attacked when you least expect it, adding to the shock. Furthermore the mise-en-scene of a pumpikin headed scarecrow with a creepy facial expression adds to the audience's fear.