The history and development of a psychological thriller

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The history and development of a psychological thriller

  1. 1. The History and Development of a Psychological Thriller Cliona Martin – AS Media
  2. 2. Summary The genre of thriller is used in literature, film and television programming with the use of suspense, tension and excitement as main elements. They heavily stimulate the viewer's moods making them feel anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, surprise, anxiety and/or terror. The most common use of subgenre to thriller is mystery, crime and psychological thrillers, however there are also many other subgenres.
  3. 3. Literary Devices and Techniques • Plot twist – There are certain films that advertise the fact they contain a lot of plot twists and have asked the audiences to refrain from revealing spoilers for example ‘Psycho’. • Unreliable narrator – Relating back to a plot twist, an unreliable narrator is a common literary device used in psychological thrillers and traces it back to Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on the genre. • MacGuffin – This is a goal or item that helps to move the plot. The MacGuffin is frequently only vaguely defined and it can be used to increase suspense.
  4. 4. Themes Many Psychological Thrillers have emerged over the past years, all in various media (film, literature, radio, etc.). Despite these very different forms of representation, general trends have appeared throughout the narratives. Some of these consistent themes include: • Reality • Perception • Mind • Existence/Purpose • Identity • Death In this genre of film, the characters/character often battle their own minds, seeking to determine what is real, who they are and life’s purpose. These subgenres often help develop the plot of a Psychological Thriller film, shaping the characters personalities. For example, the lead character will usually find his or her so-called “true identity”, or perhaps their inner demon, during the film such that a major archetype within these films is often the “loss of innocence”. Psychological Thrillers can be complex which leads viewers to have a second or third viewing to “decipher its secrets”.
  5. 5. 1920’s – 30’s Alfred Hitchcock's first thriller was the third silent movie The Lodger (1926), which was a Jack the Ripper story. This film was a psycho thriller because it dealt with a psychopath murderer and so had a typical story line of this genre. Hitchcock also produced thrillers such as Blackmail (1929)- his first sound film, Murder!, Number Seventeen, The Man Who New Too Much. These were all suspense films. The chilling German film M (1931) directed by Fritz Lang, told the story of a criminal deviant who preyed on children. Other British directors, such as Walter Forde, Victor Saville, George A. Cooper, and even the young Michael Powell made more thrillers in the same period; Forde made nine, Vorhaus seven between 1932 and 1935.
  6. 6. 1940’s Hitchcock continued to perfect his recognition in the suspensethriller genre with films such as: Foreign Correspondent (1940) and the Oscar winning Rebecca (1940) about an unusual romance between a young woman and an emotionally distant rich widower. Gaslight (1944) was a psychological thriller directed by George Cukor that told the story of a husband that plotted to turn his wife insane in order to acquire her inheritance.
  7. 7. 1950’s Hitchcock then added colour to his thrillers when he produced classic such as: Strangers on a train (1951), Dial M for Murder, To catch a thief, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. Niagara (1953) by Henry Hathaway starred Marilyn Monroe and tells the story of a woman who plots to kill her husband. Spy films were also quite popular in this decade.
  8. 8. 1960’s After Hitchcock's classics in the 50s, he released a shocking and engrossing thriller called Psycho (1960) about a loner mother-fixated motel owner and taxidermist. This was an iconic film because of the famous shower scene in which a woman is stabbed brutally. This scene has been re-enacted in many modern films and it has become an icon of the thriller genre. Inspired by Psycho, Michael Powell produced the film ‘Peeping Tom’ which is about a psychopath cameraman. Roman Polanski's first film in English, the frightening and surrealistic ‘Repulsion’ (1965) – with Catherine Deneuve as a young woman who becomes increasingly mad.
  9. 9. 1970’s – 80’s In this decade, thrillers started to get more vivid and Hitchcock’s ‘Frenzy’ (1972) was given an R rating because of the explicit strangulation scene. Brian De Palma usually had themes of guilt, voyeurism (obsession with spying on others having sex), paranoia and obsession in his films. Similar plot elements include killing off a main character early on, switching points of view, and dream-like sequences. His films include, the psycho-thriller ‘Sisters’ (1973), a film about dual personalities, ’Obsession’ (1976) which was somewhat inspired by Vertigo, ‘Dressed to Kill’ (1980), and the assassination thriller ‘Blow Out’ (1981). The decade ended with Phillip Noyce's ‘Dead Calm’ (1989), a psychological thriller with Nicole Kidman, who must fight for her life on a yacht against a crazed castaway. This film showed elements of obsession and trapped protagonists that inspired many thrillers in the 90s.
  10. 10. 1990’s The decade started with Rob Reiner's ’Misery’ (1990) which tells the story of a psycho fan. The theme of obsession was becoming popular and many films featured it: Unlawful Entry (1992), Single White Female (1992), Malice (1993)- starring Nicole Kidman, and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999). Another emerging theme of thrillers was the FBI/agent hunting a serial killer and the most famous example of this was the picture winning, The Silence Of the Lambs (1991) by Jonathan Demme. This was classified as a crime thriller but it also merged into the psycho thriller subgenre as it dealt with a psychological issues. David Fincher's Se7en (1995) is another example of a crime thriller that was famous. Recent thrillers have a lot of influence from the horror genre and tend to use more gore. But some of the best work contains some of the original conventions that made thrillers so captivating.

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