When looking at thriller films they many have plots that keep the audience at the edge of their seats/suspense.
A thriller plot should build up to a ultimate climax. The tension normally arises when a character is placed in a menacing situation, mystery, escape or dangerous mission which seems impossible.
The plot should include the idea that life itself is threatened. However; plots also involve characters which come into conflict with each other. The menace is sometimes abstract or shadowy.
Thriller promotes aspects of: Intense excitement Suspense High level of anticipation Ultra-heightened expectations Uncertainty Anxiety Nerve-wrecking tension
Thriller Through The Ages Early Thriller: Harold Lloyd's comic Safety Last (1923), is one of the earliest thriller films made. From 1923 to 1949 some of the earliest thrillers such as; ‘M’, ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde’(1931) right to ‘The lady of Shanghai’. Safety Last
Thriller Through The Ages The most influence, critically acclaimed British director that was established after the earlier thriller, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock, is a master of suspense and considered the acknowledged auteur master of the thriller or suspense genre. Hitchcock likes to manipulate his audience’s fears and desires and taking viewers into a state of association with the representation of reality facing characters. Alfred Hitchcock : Hitchcock's films often placed an innocent victim (an average, responsible person) into a strange, life-threatening or terrorizing situation, in a case of mistaken identity, misidentification or wrongful accusation (i.e., in The 39 Steps.) The Wrong Man (1956), and in North by Northwest (1959). Hitchcock utilizes various cinematic techniques such as; cross cutting, extreme zooms and montages.
Thriller Through The Ages Late Thriller: Present thrillers are much influenced by the infamous Hitchcock and some tend to steer right in the opposite direction. Many present thriller titles include; The Usual Suspects (1995), Se7en (1995), The Sixth Sense (1999), Signs (2002) and Memento (2000). The Usual Suspects The Sixth Sense
Analysis of The Black Dahlia Camera Work/Techniques
The beginning 5 minutes:
The beginning of the film has many different types of shots ranging from long shots of a locker room to extreme close of the facial expressions of a key character. A lot of special fading techniques are use to cut from one scene to another, for example; a fade between the two characters faces from one character to another, another is when the character ‘Bucky’ is hit on the head and the effect to fade out is the film is faded away with a ripple of water effect.
The middle 5 minutes: Most of the shots within this clip is over the shoulder shots to make the audience become more involved in the film and make them feel part of the film. Other shots that are used are long shots, mid shots and a range of close ups. All these add to the realisations of the film for the audience. The ending of the film: At the penultimate moments of the film it is highly edited with the use of special effects such as; fading's and cross cutting. The use of flashbacks are also used to show a part of the plot that is the missing piece of the puzzle that allows the audience to figure out what happened so that the plot makes sense this is also used in conjunction with the sound as a voiceover is explaining what happened and explains the missing piece to the plot. The composition of the shots during the end of the film allows the audience to see the importance of the characters and the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad guys’.
Analysis of The Black Dahlia Sound The sound in the film is mainly diegetic. It involves the sounds of things like: Smashing of glass People hitting one another Punching Screaming All of the above sounds mainly create tension and set the scene successfully. They mainly create the effect of realism for the viewer. The film also has elements of non-diegetic sounds which helps set the mood. For example: Eerie music Sounds of s trumpet Deep tone music A voice over I feel the above mainly creates tension. The dynamics of the music varies considerably changing the mood a lot throughout the film.
Analysis of Hard Rain Mise-en-scene
The beginning 5 minutes:
Two title sequences are shown showing the produciton companies; Universal and Paramount. Then the setting of the scene is shown through the use of street lamps, houses, flooded houses, roads with cars and traffic.
All showing that everyone has abandoned their house and is trying to get to a safe place incase of flooding. The rain is present and is still flowing showing that the flooding is due to this rain.
The camera pans along and shows a village all being guided by police and officers we can see that they are officer and police men as they are represented through the use of costume; the hats have police badges on them, they are all in uniform and they all are wearing yellow mackintosh to help keep them dry.
The cars that are next to them differentiate from the other as they have flashing blue and red lights and say police on the side. The other cars are civilians’ cars and therefore are normal cars that are packed with suitcases and cages to show the audience that they are being relocated.
Analysis of Hard Rain Mise-en-scene
Analysis of Hard Rain Mise-en-scene
The middle 5 minutes (31:41):
The water is now upto the roof tops and showing that the rain has continued and is flooding vigourously.
A male and female character are in a boat that is flowing in the river as they are arguing. One is a police officer as he has the hat with badge on and yellow mac and the other is a normal civilian woman.
In passing the surrounding they pass traffic lights that is inches away from the water touching it allowing the audience to see how much the village has flooded.
Neon lights can be seen from either a bar or club.
Then it cuts to many different situations such as a toilet and a cellar room on the dam bridge to a different part of the town such as; petrol station, houses and town shops all of which we see a rush of water swamp them all.
Analysis of Hard Rain Mise-en-scene The ending of the film: It starts with a elderly man and woman in a tree. The woman is hugging and trying to console the dying man. He then comes back to life and they both hug and console each other.
Two others are trying to find a safe place in which to hide. They are climbing up a wall in which we later find out is a roof of a town hall or church. Another man starts shooting at them both and the male tries to shield the woman and fires a gun back at the him.
The man uses the roof of a boat as a ram and flies over the top. It doesn't hit the man but the motor of the boat comes off the and slices the man as he flies back in to the water.
Analysis of Hard Rain Camera work and techniques The beginning 5 minutes: The shots at the beginning of the film are much the same in which are sweeping shots, long shots and panoramic views of the surroundings. The camera seems to have the affect of flying through and over villages, farms and towns. The next sequence of shots are a range of shots such as; long shots, mid shots to extreme close ups. The use of close ups and medium shots give the film a realistic feel and in which the audience will feel more involved in the plot.
Analysis of Hard Rain Camera work and techniques The middle section: (31.41) The middle section of the film consists of many of the same shots such as: mid shots, long shots and a range of close ups. However; the editing of this section of the film is fast paced which keeps the audience on the ‘edge of their seats’. The end 5 minutes: The editing of this last section is once again fast paced. The camera shots are once again not too risky and play safe with the same shots like long, mid and close up shots.
Analysis of Hard Rain Lighting The lighting within all the 5 minute sections are dull dark and slightly eerie. It all contributes to the plot and adds tension and suspense for the audience. The lighting almost promotes pathetic fallacy or foreshadowing of the films plot.
Analysis of Hard Rain sound The sound that can be heard when watching this film are both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. The diegetic sound that can be heard are all tense, dramatic and eerie music which draws the audience in and adds the build up of tension. However, non-diegetic sounds are to the realistic side to the film with everyday sounds such as; thunder, rain, dialect, car engines etc.
Plot Summaries of Successful Thriller Films
Silence of the lambs Plot Summary: 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 Lector, who used to be a respected psychiatrist. FBI agent Jack Crawford believes that Lector 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 Lector's confidence before he is to give away any information.
The Illusionist Plot Summary: A young boy falls in love with a girl that is way above his social standards along with the art of magic. Although the parents forbid them of seeing each other they cannot be split apart. Until one day they were found together and the boy was sent off. He became a magician and traveled the world. She fell in love with another man, the Crown Prince. The two got engaged but the boy, Eisenheim, finally meets back up with the girl and uses his powers to free her from the royal house in Vienna.
The Transporter Plot Summary: Frank Martin is hired to deliver a package to an American gangster known only as "Wall Street" in his BMW 735i. Breaking one of his rules, Frank opens the package, it is revealed to be a young woman tied up and gagged, by the name of Lai. Initially, Frank simply delivers the package, however when "Wall Street" attempts to kill Frank, Frank returns to the delivery site. Frank injures many of "Wall Street's” henchmen and takes Lai back to his house, where she explains that there is a large container full of people. Frank succeeds in an attempt to retrieve a truck full of immigrants. Frank is aided by a French Police inspector named Tarconi. Initially, Tarconi is assigned to investigate the path of destruction that Frank is leaving but ends up aiding in the recovery of the containers full of human slaves. Incidentally, although two slave containers are identified, Frank only recovers one at the end of the film.
Short Films Analysed
Short Film 1: Avow by Tony O’Reilly(2004)
The plot of this film; is a four minute confession made for and sent to the police. It becomes easier to understand the short film when you visualize yourself as a police officer who has just received this in the post.
The locations of this short film are varied a lot. The locations range from a bedroom ‘with a view’, a woodland area and a stairwell.
In terms of characters, there are only two characters that you are able to see within the short film as the films is based on the fact that it is from the point of view killer. The two characters that appear on the screen are the killer and the girlfriend/wife of the victim. When the two characters are both viewed on screen in black and white.
The editing of this short film is fairly quick in which the shots differ from the room with a view, the rest of the plot and a written narrator in which explains what the killer is about to do and what he has already done.
Narrative Structure VIRUS Virus has slight equilibrium at the beginning of the film although there is still an eerie atmosphere. A man is at work on the computer doing stereotypical things that perhaps a business man would do, i.e. checking emails, sending emails, drinking tea etc… It also has a disruption as he gets an email from his girlfriend where by she goes on web-cam to him which disrupts him from doing his work.
Narrative Structure 4:37 4:37 has an equilibrium as normal things occur at the beginning. A couple are in bed together trying to get some sleep. A disruption comes about when the male hears a noise from downstairs and goes to check it out. The audience assume that at the end there is a modified equilibrium as the male gets back into bed with her. Although we later find out that it isn’t actually him, its someone else and we are left clueless.
Narrative Structure OUR FILM In our film we will apply Todorovs theory to it with some adaptations. We will have equilibrium (the mother and child come home and follow a normal daily routine, i.e. boiling the kettle, putting child to bed etc…) We will also have a disruption (the adult figure becomes aware that there is something present as she notices things like shadows and hears noises.) We are going to construct an ending that will resist closure, the preferred meaning of which will be ambiguity and fear.
A SHORT THRILLER FILM
The main actor Andrew decides to stay late at the office for some extra work. Working hard, he receives an email from his other half Amber and finds the email rather mystifying as it is blank. However, there's an attached document to the email containing a quick time movie shot from Ambers web cam.
The tension is created when he sees a silhouette figure behind his girlfriend unable to help her he gets agitated. The same fate comes to haunt him too. Leaving the audience in suspense.
The set is very simple but this creates the impact of tension for the viewer. This is for the reason that it gives nothing away. The room is plain with just a desk in the middle of it, we get no idea of what his occupation is or why he is the only one in there!
The audience get a considerable amount of shots of a hall way that is slightly lit up. Again the audience are uncertain of why the camera keeps changing its view to show us this leaving them in suspense, it teases them!
We see a medium close up of another office, although this one looks smaller and again has just a desk. We are unaware why we are being shown this which builds the tension for the audience, supporting the stereotypical plot of a thriller film!
An over the shoulder shot is shown where we see the location of a girl on web-cam. Her location looks quite domestic helping connote the story a bit more suggesting perhaps he knows her.
The props within in the short film aren’t as unrevealing as the plot of the story, they all link together and there is nothing out of the ordinary.
For example, in the actors office we see things like:
A landline telephone
A computer with keyboard etc…
A picture frame of him and perhaps his girlfriend
The above are all stereotypical objects you would find in an office. They connote he is perhaps a business man with a high status job. The photo frame of him and his girlfriend indicates their relationship and signifies they are happy.
Costume The costumes signify upper class, wealthy business men. They don’t reveal their full outfits but we can see they are clearly smart wearing things like ties and shirts. It also has connotations that they are fairly westernized an traditionally wealthy. The colours are reasonably dark signifying perhaps importance. The male watching the CCTV cameras appears to be of higher authority as he is wearing a uniform and also has a badge.
Primary Audience Research
Research : Questionnaire
Where do you feel a thriller film should be typically located?
What time of day do you reckon a thriller film should be filmed?
What sets would you expect to see in a thriller?
Would you prefer
A linear plot that explains everything as it happens?
A story-line that starts from the end and works backwards?
A story line that includes a huge unexpected twist?
What type of sound would you expect to hear in a thriller film?
What type of music do you feel would suit a thriller soundtrack ?
Small deserted town/ somewhere remote/dark and enclosed/ big house Night time Woods/ forest/ houses/ streets Silence/ screaming/ footsteps/ knocking on door. Classical/ soft/ slow/ tense/ dramatic/ increasing in speed and volume/ creepy.
Audience research When trying to gain audience feedback, we decided to that it would be helpful to take a random sample of people in which we would show them three different individual images of film posters and we would ask them questions on all three individually. This would help us when creating our own film poster to promote our production. These are the series of questions which we asked our focus group. 1. (We flashed each images of the poster at least once and then asked the question) Write down 2 or 3 things that you can remember from the film poster? 2. What genre do you think this poster is for? 3. How can you tell this is a thriller film from the poster? 4. What would you conclude from the poster about the film itself? 5. Why would people be inclined to watch this film? (if not then why not?) 6. What would intrigue you, from the poster, to watch the film ?
Audience Feedback These were the results from the focus group: Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 P1:Dead person/face/side shot/white/blood/sideways face/lips/black background. P2: Butterfly/ The eyes/ Pale face/ White and dark/ blue. P3: woods/ men/ old fashion/ male/ globe/ forest/ 3 people holding a ball P1:Trail from lips/blood/black background/dead face/black and red colours together. P2: The toxic butterfly/ death/ eyes/ blue white face. P3: The men/ the crystal ball/ the forest/ the birds/ P1:Horror/ thriller/murder/love,horror/ P2: Horror/ thriller/ murder P3: mystery/ gothic/ horror/ not sure/ thriller/ P1: Romantic thriller/going to be a murder/ death based on love. P2: something to do with eating/ ghosts/ struggling/ mystery. P3:scary/ wedding/ unusual/ magical P1: no, because its too cliche thriller/ no too stereotypical/ boring. P2: yes looks interesting/ the eyes P3: yes unusual/ birds/ the crystal ball/ forest/ people P1:The name of film/ The actors or actresses/ the eyes/ blood and the dead body. P2: The butterfly’s significance/ the face and butterfly P3: i like the costumes/ the woods/ the birds and the magical imagery.
During and after research many different aspects in to the genre thriller, we have decided to make sure that all the thriller conventions are included within our production. The conventions that we decided to add in were; different types of lighting to help add suspense and a sense of tension to the piece. We also decided to have a domestic location in order to stay within our budget for the production and when looking at what the audience would want the majority expected to see a thriller film, filmed within a domestic house setting. When researching other short films we was able to come to a conclusion on the amount of characters that we wanted to have in our production. We concluded to have at least 2-3 characters because anymore or any less would inhibit the audience to understand the plot in such a sort amount of time. When researching types of audio that we would want to include within our production we concluded from other short films and questionnaire that natural dialogue would be the best approach concerning our production. We also found that dialogue was limited and we felt that other short films had ‘empty gaps’ in terms of the dialogue. So when creating our production we will have to take into account many of these aspects and try to produce the best thriller, suspense film that we possibly can. In Summary
Narrative Structure HERO Harry Potter HELPER Dumbledore VILLAIN Voldermort HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHERS STONE(2001) Dir. CHRIS COLUMBUS Propp Propp suggested that storylines naturally flow from different character types. For example, the villain, the hero and the false hero could construct a straight forward narrative. This theory covers various different films across the history of cinema. For example:
Todorov suggested that narrative structure comes in three parts. We have used this theory to analyse the film Mean Girls.
Three part structure Mean Girls (2004, dir. Mark Waters) Equilibrium (everything is normal) School scene/establishing sequence where audience see students moving around school, for example, down a corridor or near their lockers. Disruption (something interferes with the normality) A new girl starts school and interferes with a trio of female friends. This splits them up and causes many disruptions. Modified equilibrium (everything goes back to normal but things and people have changed) They all turn out alright in the end! The leader of the group turns into a sports fanatic and the others go their separate ways.