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FM2 Revision Help
FM2 Revision Help
FM2 Revision Help
FM2 Revision Help
FM2 Revision Help
FM2 Revision Help
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FM2 Revision Help

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  • 1. FM2 British Film Topics – Help with revision 1. What are some of the narrative features that are distinctive in the films you have studied? This question is interested in your knowledge of how films use storytelling techniques. To answer this question it’s important to show that you know what the narrative features are. Narrative features can include plot-ordering, mise- en-scene choices, editing, sound effects or camera movements, all the elements that are used to draw the audience into the diegesis (world) of the film. Genres have narrative features that are distinctive to a particular genre; your job is to show that you know the narrative features that distinctive to the horror genre and how these have been used in the case study films. Horror films are defined as "unsettling films designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm, and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience" (filmsite.org). Horror films must include a monster (human, alien, mutant, creature, or otherwise), and a collection of directorial, editorial, or cinematographic factors meant to shock and frighten the audience. Certain factors need to be considered this includes characters, set design, lighting, and music, these features or conventions need to be used in such a way that it makes the genre recognisable for the audience. Noel Carroll, in his essay The Philosophy of Horror, maps out the traditional narrative structure of the horror film in three stages. The first he names the ‘Onset phase’ where a disorder is created, generally in the form of a monster. The second Caroll calls the ‘Discovery phase’, where the characters of the story discover that the disorder has occurred. The third phase he calls the ‘Disruption phase’, where the characters destroy the source of the disorder and restore normality. This similar to what Todorov stated, he argued that the basis of conventional narrative structure consists of an initial situation (situation 1); a problem which disrupts this situation; a resolution of the problem which allows the reinstatement of the initial situation, perhaps with slight changes (situation 2). What is particularly distinctive about The Descent (Marshall, 2005) is that it doesn’t have a ‘Disruption phase’. What is the ‘Onset phase’? and how are genre conventions (micro elements) used to preempt the oncoming of this phase? Describe how we are made aware of the ‘Discovery phase’ In what way does Caroll’s ‘Disruption phase’ not fit with The Descent? 1
  • 2. FM2 British Film Topics – Help with revision If using Todorov’s narrative structure it could be argued that The Descent doesn’t fit so nicely into his three part structure (unlike traditional gothic horror films1) and it’s this that makes distinctive. The multi layering of several stories within the film. Once you’ve covered the narrative structure discuss (also look at pg23-24 of study guide): Mise-en-scene choices – the choice of settings/locations linking in with themes of isolation and entrapment Characters – key to horror films is the use of ‘the monster’, and more so in contemporary horror the use of ‘the final girl’2. How this character archetype is used distinctively in The Descent? Also comment on the use of an all female cast. “they are un-natural relative to a culture’s conceptual scheme of nature. They do not fit the scheme; they violate it…monsters are in a certain sense challenges to the foundations of a culture’s way of thinking.” (Carroll, 1990:34) The ‘monster’ of the horror film is by far its most important feature. Without the monster, and the threat it imposes on the ‘normal’ world, there would be no ‘horror’ to speak of. Hutchings asks the question “What makes a monster a monster?” and answers that, “simply being dangerous is not in itself enough to bestow monster status…these monsters should not only be dangerous but ‘impure’ or ‘unnatural’ as well” (Hutchings, 2004:34-5). It is the idea of ‘Otherness’ which is the key to defining the horrific element of the monster. Robin Wood explores the theme of ‘Otherness’ in horror. Wood posits that the ‘other’ is a project of a repressive society in which powerful groups impose or project identities upon subordinate groups (Wood, 1986:73). However Hutchings warns that over emphasis on this interpretation results in the assumption that “a horror film deals with notions of the Other because that is what horror films do, and if a film is not doing this in some way, then it is probably not a horror film at all” (Hutchings, 2004:102). Hutchings attributes the traditional destruction of the monster at the end of most horror films to this preoccupation with social repression, “delivering”, he accuses, “their monsters to victimhood as those monsters are defeated and/or destroyed by the forces of good” (Hutchings, 2004:157). 1 Like Hammer Horror films e.g. Dracula 2 the Final Girl tends to become more and more masculine and phallic, as she becomes more active and aggressive, turning from hiding and cowering from the killer to fighting back or in fact hunting him down. (But you should find out more!) 2
  • 3. FM2 British Film Topics – Help with revision Discuss typical uses cinematography (camera and lighting) referring to specific parts of the film (you need to use textual examples in order to make it clear that this is typical of horror films) – remember Horror films are defined as "unsettling films designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm, and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience" THEY KEEP US ON EDGE shadows only dimly lit by helmet lamps, flashlights, and flares. Even better, Marshall cleverly uses a home video-camera (with an infrared light, of course) to show much of the underground action. This has the simultaneous effect of blurring and distorting the imagery (thus hiding potential budgetary limitations) and creating a jumpy hand-held look that perfectly captures the sense of claustrophobic panic infecting the characters. But I also wanted to utilize the fact that the caves are pitch black until the girls take a light into them. The only light source there could possibly be was the source the girls have with them at the time, whether it be their helmet lights, torches, a lighter, a box of matches, flares or the fire that they create at the end. That was the only light source, so everything else had to be pitch black around them. And that enabled us to create these moments where there are very black. It increases the tension because you have no idea what's in the darkness, and neither do they until they turn their lights on. For extra marks you could reference and discuss the sub-genre URBANOIA Applying the same to Creep (Smith, 2004) What is the ‘Onset phase’? and how are genre conventions (micro elements) used to preempt the oncoming of this phase? Describe how we are made aware of the ‘Discovery phase’ Is there a ‘Disruption phase’ what happens? Can you apply Todorov’s 3 part structure? Once you’ve covered the narrative structure discuss: Mise-en-scene choices – the choice of settings/locations linking in with themes of isolation and entrapment Characters – key to horror films is the use of ‘the monster’ the element of the ‘the Other’, and more so in contemporary horror the use of ‘the final girl’. How is this character archetype is used in Creep? 3
  • 4. FM2 British Film Topics – Help with revision Discuss typical uses cinematography3 In additional for both films you can talk about themes that typically come up in horror films and how these are used in the case study films, bring in binary oppositions. 2. How effective is genre in presenting ideas about society in the films you have studied? This question is asking you to consider the conventions and themes of the horror genre, and how they are used to present certain ideologies (messages) about society. Remember a lot of the time films can reflect what was happening in the world at the time they were filmed or released. They usually reflect zeitgeist4 Horror films, at their best, can present very effective mirrors to some of society’s biggest problems. Through the history of the genre, film after film has presented an outlet for anger, sadness, or even parody of pointless wars, consumerism, greed, and a slew of other attributes. In a way, horror films make the perfect allegory in presenting challenging ideas in an entertaining way. Some are shockingly fun, others have transcended into a beautiful art form. Horrors tap into cultural fears… The best way to create fear for the audience in a horror text is to play on the fears that already exist. Tudor identifies this as he says that horrors provide a ‘monstrous threat’ and this threat is ‘based on notions…from the producing society’. Horror films won’t meet their primary objective of scaring the audience if they do not in some way represent the fears of the people watching them. By analysing the types of monsters presented to us in horror texts and identifying what fears they represent we can identify the behaviours and ideas that the producing culture perceived as different, frightening or that represented the ‘abnormal’. This approach is far more useful than a simple media language identification of horror conventions as it allows you to analyse the values and ideologies presented by the text and can give you an insight into the context of production. The Descent It is, to a certain extent, possible to suggest that a further reading of The Descent would be that it functions as a reaction or an interpretation of the 3 "I deliberately made the Charing Cross station zing with a modern airport terminal sheen that gradually disintegrates into greens, earth tones and ochre shades as Kate goes lower and lower into more macabre areas. 4 The sprit of the time, how people/society were feeling at the time 4
  • 5. FM2 British Film Topics – Help with revision ongoing Gulf conflict. Within this context the group of women who enter into a desolate wilderness space (the Middle East) represent the coalition forces whilst the Crawlers represent a variety of terrorist threats. To back this up I would reference the guerrilla5 aspects of the Crawlers – who represent a terrorist threat to society – which simultaneously places them as ‘the Other’ (the ‘other’ is a project of a repressive society in which powerful groups impose or project identities upon subordinate groups). Therefore this places the women as the coalition forces (UK and US), who feel they need to enforce ‘normality’. You can also bring in the genre conventions of Urbanoia as this relates to the clashing of two different societies. Creep You could say that this film reflects the harsh realities of living in inner city London, and how some people can get swallowed up and forgotten about. At its core, Creep speaks to abandonment: Kate abandons her colleagues, London abandons its homeless. Alienated from society -- and each other -- these characters find solace in vodka, heroin, even murder. The Underground provides a fitting environment for their disconnectedness, labyrinthine, mechanical, and claustrophobic. In the empty Tube complex, cries go unheard and lives are forgotten. Closed-circuit cameras spy on activities, but no one's really watching. Use textual examples from the films that show how this message comes across e.g. Jimmy and Mandy, homeless junkies who make the inhospitable Tube their home, holed up in a spacious heating vent with their dog and the fact that Kate's confrontations with the city's homeless illustrate her lack of sympathy for those less fortunate. (By reading Creep in this way do you feel some sympathy for the antagonist?) 3. How is gender represented in the horror or comedy films you have studied for this topic? The Descent: (use the James Rose essay) - The film could be seen as an all girl action film why? - Juno – taking on masculine traits but still having femininity - Sarah – and her transformation in the Cave, final girl aspects, - Who do the Crawlers represent? - Are there any messages about society communicated? Creep - Does Kate embody the role of final girl? How? - Men feeling the need to dominate/ women seen as objects (Guy & Kate and Mandy & ‘Creep’) - Think about George his role in the film 5 A member of an irregular, usually indigenous military or paramilitary unit operating in small bands in occupied territory to harass and undermine the enemy, as by surprise raids. 5
  • 6. FM2 British Film Topics – Help with revision 4. How far are the narratives of the genres films you have studied for this topic predictable? This question is asking you to present the typical narrative themes that are used in horror films e.g. themes of isolation, entrapment, etc. You should also consider the use of binary oppositions in horror films as a way of presenting the narrative and then use textual examples from the case study films. This question is also asking you present an argument, because it starts with how far, therefore you need to be thinking to what extent are The Descent and Creep typical of horror films. Remember all genre films have a blueprint (a foundation) but they can add and take away but there must still be recognisable element for the audience to still identify the genre. Look back on the early work we did on genres and their predictability. 5. What have you found interesting about some of the messages and values contained in the genre films you have studied for this topic? This is similar to question number 2 6. How far are the storytelling methods used in the films you have studied for the topic typical of their genre This question is a mix of number 1 and 4 6

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