ASSESSMENT 1 – INDIVIDUAL TASK
‘WHAT IS A THRILLER
Before I did any research on what a thriller
actually is, I created a mind-map of what I
personally think a thriller is.
In the mind-map you can see that I have
broken down; what a thriller is, into different
sections. I have explained the contents of a
thriller as well as the, costumes, settings the
sound and the effects used in them.
I have listed a few movies that I also think
come under the title of a 'Thriller'.
What is a thriller?
Definition of a thriller: Its usually a novel, play, or movie with an exciting plot,
typically involving crime or espionage. It involves a person, thing, that
A Thriller is a broad genre of literature, film, and television programming
that uses suspense, tension and excitement as its main elements. Thrillers
heavily stimulate the viewer's moods, giving them a high level of anticipation,
ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, surprise, anxiety and/or terror.
Films of this genre tend to make the audience free an adrenaline-rush, gritty,
rousing and contains a lot of fast-paced scenes.
A thriller provides the sudden rush of emotions, excitement, and
exhilaration that drive the narrative. Sometimes at a constant, breakneck
pace thrills. It keeps the audience on the "edge of their seats", same as to a
sensation of hanging from a cliff, as the plot builds towards a climax. Literary
devices such as plot twists and cliffhangers are used extensively. A thriller is
usually a villain-driven plot, whereby he or she presents obstacles that the
protagonist must overcome. A common theme in thrillers involves an
innocent victim/victims dealing with a tremendous issue.
Different types of thrillers:
Common sub-genres of thrillers are:
* Psychological thrillers
* Crime thrillers
* Erotic thrillers
* Mystery thrillers
* Spy genre
The horror and action genres often overlap with the thriller
genre. Thrillers tend to be psychological, threatening,
mysterious and at times involve larger-scale villainy such as
espionage, terrorism and conspiracy.
IN DEPTH ANALYSIS OF
Psychological thrillers; incorporates elements from the mystery and drama genre,
along with the typical traits of the thriller genre. In addition to drama and mystery,
many psychological thrillers contain elements of, and often overlap with, the
horror genre, particularly psychological horror.
E.G; Christopher Nolan's movies; Batman Begins, Dark Knight, The Dark Night Rises,
The Prestige, Inception.
Crime thrillers: Crime films are films which focus on the lives of criminals. The stylistic
approach to a crime film varies from realistic portrayals of real-life criminal figures,
to the far-fetched evil doings of imaginary arch-villains. Criminal acts are almost
always glorified in these movies.
E.G; Films dealing with African-American urban issues and culture. They do not
always revolve around crime, but often criminal activity features heavily in the
storyline. For example; Menace II Society and Boyz n the Hood.
Erotic thrillers: Sex in film refers to the presentation in motion pictures of sexuality or
eroticism and sex acts, including love scenes.
E.G; The Housemaid (2010), Passion (2012), Jism 2 (2012), Enemy (2013).
Mystery thrillers: It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator
or amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by
means of clues, investigation, and clever deduction. The plot often centres
on the deductive ability, prowess, confidence, or diligence of the detective
as they attempt to unravel the crime or situation by piecing together clues
and circumstances, seeking evidence, interrogating witnesses, and tracking
down a criminal.
E.G; A Soldier's Story (1984), Few Good Men (1992), Courage Under Fire
(1996), Basic (2003).
Spy genre: which deals with fictional espionage; inspired by rivalries and
intrigues between the major powers, and the establishment of modern
intelligence agencies. It was given new impetus by the development of
fascism and communism in the lead-up to World War 2, continued to
develop during the Cold War, and received a fresh impetus from the
emergence of rogue states, international criminal networks, Muslim
fundamentalism, radicalism, maritime piracy and technological espionage as
potent threats to Western societies.
Sub genres; Spy-fi, spy comedy and spy horror.
E.G; The Bourne Identity (2002), Mission: Impossible (1996); Munich (2005),
The Constant Gardener (2005), Casino Royale (2006).
A successful example of a director and film producer who created many thrillers
at his time is Alfred Hitchcock.
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock,was born in 13 August 1899 and died on the 29
April 1980) he was an English film director and producer. He pioneered many
techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a
successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies,
renowned as England's best director, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood in 1933
and became a U.S. citizen in 1955.
Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six
decades. Some examples of his work; Rear Window (1954), Psycho (1960),
Vertigo (1958), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rebecca (1940)
The main themes dealt with
Common methods and themes in crime thrillers are mainly ransoms, captivities, heists,
revenge, kidnappings. More common in mystery thrillers are investigations and the whodunit (a
story or play about a murder in which the identity of the murderer is not revealed until the end)
Common elements in psychological thrillers are mind games, psychological themes, stalking,
confinement/death-traps, horror-of-personality, and obsession. Elements such as fringe
theories, false accusations and paranoia are common in paranoid thrillers. Threats to entire
countries, spies, espionage, conspiracies, assassins and electronic surveillance are common in
The primary elements of the thriller genre:
* The protagonist(s) faces death, either his and/or her or somebody else's.
* The force(s) of the antagonist's must initially be cleverer and/or stronger than the protagonist's.
* The main storyline for the protagonist is either a quest or a character that cannot be put down.
* The main plot line focuses on a mystery that must be solved.
* The film's narrative construction is dominated by the protagonist's point of view.
* All action and characters must be credibly realistic or natural in their representation on screen.
The two major themes that underpin the thriller genre are the desire for justice and the
morality of individuals. The protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) may battle, themselves and each
other, not just on a physical level, but on a mental one as well. Either by accident or their own
curiousness, each character is dragged into a dangerous conflict or situation that they are not
prepared to resolve.
Key characters found in a
Characters include criminals, stalkers, assassins, innocent victims (often on the
run), menaced women, characters with deep dark pasts, psychotic
individuals, spree killers, socio-paths, agents, terrorists, cops and escaped
cons, private eyes, people involved in twisted relationships, world-weary men
and women, psycho-fiends, and more. The themes frequently include
terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit, or romantic triangles leading to
murder. A common occurrence in thrillers is characters being taken as
hostages and with a ransom in need.
The protagonists are frequently ordinary citizens unaccustomed to danger,
although commonly in crime thrillers, they may also be "hard men"
accustomed to danger such as police officers and detectives. While
protagonists of thrillers have traditionally been men, women lead characters
are increasingly common. In psychological thrillers, the protagonists are
reliant on their mental resources, whether it be by battling wits with the
antagonist or by battling for equilibrium in the character's own mind. The
suspense often comes from two or more characters preying upon one
another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by
merely trying to demolish the other's mental state.
Codes and conventions of thrillers:
As with any genre, a thriller has specific codes and conventions; films within this genre conform to their own
specific ones. While not every convention applies to every film; every films must contain elements of these to
be classified as a “thriller”.
One example being the Plot and structure; One of the key features contained in nearly all thriller films is the
establishment of an enigma (a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand or a riddle
or paradox) this is a major aspect of the plot, and is something which the audience cannot understand and
which will be explored throughout the plot of the film. An enigma can be established by an object, dialogue or
a particular scene within the opening sequence.
Also, As with any genre, certain technical methods must be used to support the appropriate atmosphere.
These can be divided into seven areas which give the movie its effects;
1) Lighting- Dependent on the nature of the thriller film the type of lighting may vary: the most commonly used
type of lighting is naturalistic to create the realism necessary for the audience to be fully engaged in the plot of
the film. However, this also is dependent on the scenario.
2) Costume- The use of costume in the thriller genre may not be immediately obvious, but on closer
inspection it can be said that there is a certain logic behind the use of clothing.
3) Location- In the case of location it is difficult to identify a common ground as this is obviously going to differ
with each film, but the basic rule of location is that it must have some relation or bearing on the plot; in other
words there cannot be a location that is totally irrelevant and contributes nothing the the film.
4) Camera work: Establishing shots; in terms of camera work the establishing shot is integral: not only does it
give the audience an idea of the setting of the film, but it can be used to establish the tone of the entire film.
E.G Close ups, long shots, extreme close ups, worms eye view etc.
5) Sound and Music: Effect of a soundtrack, (sound effects and themes), all need to follow the rules of being
creepy and building up suspense; usually there is no narration used.
6) Editing: Transitions within the thriller genre may vary dependent on the style of the film, or the intended
effect: for example the clean cut transition is favoured for its realism and enhancement of continuity, filters
,freeze frame and slow motion.
7) Iconography: Knives (blood, death, pain), shadows (unknown and mysterious), confined spaces (trapped
and struggle to break free), woods (lost and vulnerability), running water (symbol of death as it suggests
draining of life), street lamps (creates fear what is lying in the darkness, it relates to shadows), fences and
windows (isolation and imprisonment).
Key director's of the thriller
genre, including examples of
Physiological Thriller Director: Christopher Nolan.
Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of a
decade plus of film-making, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to
working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever. His films often have obsessive
protagonists with a troubled past, who are obsessed to gain justice by any means in
life (e.g. Leonard in Memento (2000), Al Pacino's character in Insomnia (2002),
Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005). Also the protagonist of Following (1998) and
Hugh Jackman in The Prestige (2006) were obsessive).
Movie: Inception (2010);
Movie Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hP9D6kZseM
Just through the trailer you can see the aim of the movie is to portray
a contemporary science fiction action thriller set within the
architecture of the mind. There are a lot of close up shots used, which
build up the tension and suspense. To almost make the audience
think the world is almost coming to an end. This is known as a 'hook';
metaphorically tries to hook you into almost feeling you are part of
the movie. If you watch carefully you also realise a lot of blackout
shots are used. This is also known as a cliff hanger; so not everything
is given away in the trailer.
Crime Thriller Director: Quentin Tarantino.
Quentine Tarantino was born 27 March 1963 in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA. His films mainly
feature criminals and characters committing horrible crimes involving murder and drugs.
The only crime Tarantino has committed was shoplifting from a book store when he was a
teenager which slightly inspired his imagination.
Examples of his work: Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill:
Vol. 1 & 2, GrindhouseSegment: Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds.
Movie: Kill Bill Vol.1 (2003);
Movie Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ot6C1ZKyiME
Kill Bill is a two-part action thriller film released in 2003 and 2004 by writer-director
Quentin Tarantino, and starring Uma Thurman as The Bride. Originally conceived
as one film, it was released in two "volumes" (in late 2003 and early 2004) due
to its running time of approximately four hours and presented in a nonlinear
narrative style, as is common among Tarantino's films.
The film is an epic-length revenge drama, with homages to earlier film genres, such as
Hong Kong martial arts films, Japanese chanbara films, exploitation films and
Italian spaghetti westerns; an extensive use of popular music and pop culture
references; and aestheticization of violence. Filming took place in California,
Texas, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Mexico.
There are a lot of extreme close ups used in order to give off an action packed feeling.
The trailer used low angels and high angels to show the audience ever posture
made, this gives of a criminal atmosphere. The trailers shows every actor used in
the film through a mid-shot. A lot of special effects are used to make the trailer
dramatic and eye-catching. Iconography is very important in this particular
movie due to the amount of weapons used.
Erotic Thriller Director: Paul Verhoeven.
Paul Verhoeven was born on the 18 July 1938, in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland,
Netherlands. His movies give off a fear about sex in motion pictures, as if sex
would undermine morality.
Examples of his work: Soldier of Orange (1977) and De vierde man (1983), Flesh
& Blood (1985).
Movie: Basic Instinct (1992);
Movie Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLGx5YT6sOg
Analysis: From the trailer you can tell the movie is going to be about a
police detective who is in charge of the investigation of a brutal
murder, in which a beautiful and seductive woman could be involved
in. There are a lot of slow motion effects used as well as repetitive
screening. This adds a horrific yet seductive mood to it. The movie is
half spy half erotic which is also an element thriller movies use; they
merge many types together to form one film. The music used is calm
yet slowly builds up as the scenes get more action packed. The trailer
ends leaving the audience on a cliff hanger of 'what could happen
Mystery Thriller Director: Jonathan Demme.
Jonathan Demme was born on the 22 February 1944, in Baldwin, Long Island,
New York, USA. He tends to involve a few comical scenes but is best known to
add twists and mystery to his movies.
Examples of his work: The Manchurian Candidate (2004). The Truth About
Charlie (2002),Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Movie:, Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Movie Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQKs169Sl0I
Analysis: Young FBI agent Clarice Starling is assigned to help find a missing
woman to save her from a psychopathic serial killer who skins his
victims. Clarice attempts to gain a better insight into the twisted mind
of the killer by talking to another psychopath Hannibal Lecter, who
used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford believes
that Lecter who is also a very powerful and clever mind manipulator
have the answers to their questions to help locate the killer. Clarice
must first try and gain Lecter's confidence before he is to give away
A lot of slow music and extreme shots are used to build up the tension of
the scene, the music is slow yet keeps the audience curious. Some of
the camera movements follow the character's every move to give off
a feeling of being involved.
Spy Genre Director: Doug Liman.
Doug Liman was born on the (born July 24, 1965) is an American film director and
producer. His movies involve supernatural humans and is best known for his action
packed movies such as; Swingers (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002), Mr. & Mrs. Smith
(2005), Jumper (2008), and Fair Game (2010).
Movie: Jumper (2008);
Movie Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5ZNG3Oveh4
Analysis: The trailer is about a teenager with teleportation abilities who
suddenly finds himself in the middle of an ancient war between those
like him and their sworn annihilators. Many pan shots are taken
considering he is teleporting so his movements are followed to make
the audience feel like we are following him. Long shots and extreme
long shots are used to show the surroundings of where he has
teleported to; E.G; Egypt. This adds a sense of excitement.