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.