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.

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