The Thriller genre evolved fromcrime films, this was because many of thetechniques used in thrillers are easy toimplement with the presence and pressure ofcrime; for example tension created from thethreat of a killing. The first well- known crime filmwas ‘The Great Train Robbery’ (1903) andthis film opened they eyes of the viewers to aworld which they had never witnessedbefore, a story behind a crime! This film wasvery simple and was produced before thedawn of movie sound therefore lacked incaptivating techniques, even so it was thefirst strong film of the crime genre. Otherfilms produced around this time were ‘TheBlack Hand’ and ‘The Moonshiners’ besidesbeing some of the first crime films thesewere also some the films ever made!
The Crime genre slowlydeveloped as more films wereproduced and from 1910-1928many classic silent films whereproduced, these include: ‘TheMusketeers Of Pig Alley’ (1912)‘Underworld’ (1927) and ‘TheRacket’ (1928) all of these filmsintroduced the idea of a wellthought out story line which makesthe viewer think. As time went bycrime films became more popularand this helped attract moredirectors therefore bringing moreideas to the table. Eventually filmsbegan to use sound, from thisfeature many new features wereborn.
The very first recognisedThriller genre film was ‘The Lodger’(1926) directed by Alfred Hitchcock.This film showed the evolution ofThrillers; it was the first movie to havethe typical effects on the audiencewhich are included in most thrillers;the techniques used where:• Build up of tension• Element of Surprise• Strong emotions• An Intelligent Story lineThis was Hitchcock’s first major filmand with his new ideas and attention todetail the Thriller genre was born.
Hitchcock (born in 1899) was a Britishfilm director and producer who developed theThriller genre. As a dedicated hard worker andstrong businessman Hitchcock made himselfknown for many reasons; despite directing andproducing his own films he also starred in manyof them and presented his own TV show ‘AlfredHitchcock Presents’ all of these enabled him tobecome a cultural icon. Before dying in 1980 he gained 60years of experience in the film sector andinfluenced a collection of more recent and wellknow film makers, some of these include StevenSpielberg and Tim Burton. Since his deathHitchcock has been referred to as ‘the greatestBritish film maker of all time’ and ‘the mostinfluential film maker to date’. The next few sideswill show the progression of the Thriller genremuch of which Hitchcock has contributed to.
M (1931) was a classic Thrillerdirected by Fritz Lang (German). The storyline consists of a child murderer on the looseand the police calling in other criminals to helpthem catch the criminal. M was one of thefirst films to introduce content which was ableto shock the audience, this continued to beused throughout Thrillers because theadrenaline produced from a terrified audienceintensified how immersive the film was. Mbecame a classic due to its strong abilities tokeep the audience immersed and theintroduction of innocent children.
Hitchcock’s major work began in the early1940s, to improve his chance of success and filmquality Hitchcock moved to California; this helped himget better actors and equipment therefore improvingthe chances of his hard work to create a classic film.His first well known thriller was: Suspicion (1941), thisfocused largely on the tension created from theconstant suspicion of what Linda thinks Johnnie isplanning to do to her. This was the being of the sub-genre ‘Psychological Thriller’ this new sub-genrefocused on the plot rather than action and created anelement of wonder to help keep viewers engaged untilthe very end of a film. Other Hitchcock 1940’s Thriller films included‘Notorious’ (1946) which showed involvement of thegovernment; this was one of the first films categorizedas a ‘Political Thriller’ this sub-genre revolved around aplot which consists of a government employed workergoing against his country and betraying their trust inhim.
Hitchcock joined Warner Bros.Productions and adapted to a faster and moreintense schedule to produce blockbuster films.Hitchcock started the 50s off with a strongclassical film ‘Strangers on a Train’ (1951) thisshowed the development of the ‘PsychologicalThriller’ and introduced the idea that there can bemore than one bad guy and stories can be told bymultiple perspectives to give a stronger idea ofthe plot. In 1954 Hitchcock moved to ParamountPictures; this period of his career would be hispeak. In 1958 Hitchcock produced anddirected another film; he called it ‘Vertigo’ at thispoint in his career Alfred had now become somewhat of an expert in ‘Psychological Thrillers’ andthis film simple just improved the standards ofwhich where expected from a Thriller film, at hispeak Hitchcock’s films where almostincomparable to any other Thriller’s producedaround the time because of his unique ideas andintelligent Plots.
Undeniably Hitchcock’s best film, releasedin 1960 the film had almost ever aspect ofall previous Thrillers: shock, an intelligentstory line and strong emotions betweencharacters. The film is a ‘PsychologicalThriller’ and includes some aspects ofhorror; this is ironic hybridisation. The filmdeveloped the Thriller genre because of it’spopularity; the took in over $32m at the boxoffice and inspired the famous Tim Burton.The most famous scene in the film is themurder in the shower; even though thescene is only 3mins long it uses all 4technical codes in great detail; consisting of77 camera angles, 50 cuts, sound bridgeediting and exquisite acting. The scene hasbeen referred to as a masterpiece by many,even though the film was a breakthroughfor the Thriller genre Hitchcock stillcommented that the acting of John Gavin(Sam) was satisfactory; this shows thedemanding perfect standards which needto be put into consideration when quality
Alfred Hitchcock’s last major triumphin the Thriller genre before his death;Frenzy (1972). The story linerevolves around a serial killer whorapes his victims, in some ways thefilming of the movie is similar toPsycho due to similar scenes in themurders but other aspects are verydifferent for example some comedyis used in Frenzy but not in Psycho.Overall Frenzy was a film which usedall of Hitchcock’s previously usedtechniques to create a successfulThriller including his eagerness toterrify an audience with an intelligentplot.
After the reign of Alfred Hitchcock as leadingdirector and producer of thrillers ended there wasmassive potential for any director to replace him,in 1991 ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’ directed byJonathon Demme was released; this film showedthat even though the greatest thriller producerwas gone this didn’t mean intensely thrilling filmscouldn’t be produced. The plot consisted of a FBIagent coming close and interacting with a knownserial killer, the thrills were projected from thekillers manipulate ability; and the risk of trustinghim. This again was a ‘Psychological Thriller’and expanded the depth in which movies couldinfiltrate a viewers mind and make them feel thefear of the character.
The film was released in 1992 and arguableintroduced the ‘Erotic Thriller’ sub-genre,while still containing thrills, action, anintelligent story line and psychologicalaspects the film also shows frequent nudity.As all of these are in the same film this isironic hybridization; but this helps the plotbring the viewer into the characters shoesand involve them in the storyline. The filmwas extremely successful bringing backnearly $360million in the box office; this maybe because of it’s attention to detail whilstwriting the plot, this shows that even thoughthe appearance of a ‘Thriller’ has changedover the years the basics (such as theattention to detail in the plot) have stayed thesame.
Released in 2000 the film supported theidea of mind reading; the plot consists of achild psychologist creating a tool forreading peoples minds, initially used toread her patients minds she is thenencouraged to use it to help solve a crime;this crime involves finding the location of aserial killers last victim before he passedinto a coma. The film shows theprogression of the ‘Thriller’ genre becausesince the beginning of the genre new ideassuch as futuristic and fantasy items (mindreading tools) have been introduced. This(if looked on over a broader scale) showsthat form the start the genre itself haschanged and many branches have grownfrom the trunk as when a ‘Thriller’ isreleased today it is no longer just a ‘Thriller’but a specific type of ‘Thriller’.
The French film was released in 2002, and is astrong ‘Erotic Thriller’ this is the latest sub-genre to emerge from the ‘Thriller’ andgenerally consists of a plot revolving around acharacter with an occupation such as a danceror model; or maybe just a rich attractivewoman (typically a Femme Fatale character orDamsel in Distress). The Femme Fatale plotconsists of a woman traveling to Paris andmeeting her doppelgänger; who later commitssuicide and leave the original character theopportunity to steal her diamonds; seven yearslater the character moves back and findsherself being recognised. The ‘Erotic Thriller’genre focuses on the male gaze approachwhich involves showing the view what astereotypical male would want to see.
The film (released in 2010) is a strong‘Psychological Thriller’, the plot consists of aemotionally damaged investigator travelingto a severe mental patient jail; where hebelieves he is searching for a patient whichhas escaped. The film is important to the‘Thriller’ genre because it contains afantastic twist which isn’t revealed until thevery end of the film; this twists reveals thatthe prisoner he is searching for is in facthimself; this supports the aspect of intelligentplots in Thrillers.
In the future I predict that the ‘Thriller’ genrewill continue to expand and soon will becompatible with almost any genre evencomedy; the start of this could be shown by‘Hot Fuzz’ this is because the film is a comedyfilm but does show aspects of slightly thrillingscenes, obviously this isn’t a ‘Thriller’ but Ithink films like these could somehow developinto ‘Thrillers’. Also I think the immersificationof films will increase due to 3D graphics; thiswill mean the viewer may feel more emotionalbecause the graphics can help them to feel asif they are in the characters shoes when usingtechniques such as the point of view shot.