The art of cinematography revolves around the shots, angles and
movement of characters within a film. Cinematography is vital in building
tension in thriller movies and influencing the emotions that the audience
SHOTS – A shot is a unit of recording from the camera within a piece. A
film is compromised of various different shots, shot at various distances
and focus levels.
ANGLES – The angle of a shot is the position of the camera relative to the
character. It can be short or wide & high or low.
MOVEMENT – How the camera moves to follow the on screen action. This
could be a panning across, zooming or tracking a character across screen.
Thriller films most often use close up shots to convey emotion from the
character in moments of fear, anger and suspense. Close up shots allow
more emotion to be conveyed because people can recognise the small
movements on the face of the actor, as well as the larger facial gestures.
Often in thriller films, small details in the foreground of a shot can make a
large impact (e.g. a dead body). Therefore, deep focus is often used to
emphasise foreground items and blur the background. (1)
Thrillers avoid wide and long shots in times of tension as it has more
impact up close, however they are regularly used to set the scene or show
Low angles are often used in thrillers to convey the superiority of certain
characters. This can help the audience determine where characters
function within the overall narrative. For example, a criminal about to kill
someone would be shot from below them to show their power.
High angles are used to convey the opposite of a low angle; they often
show vulnerability and lack of knowledge or power. For example, the
victim of a crime could be shot from a high angle.
Eye level shots can be used to portray some form of stand off or tension
between characters, a convention derived from westerns. However, in a
thriller they can also be used to convey friendship or the equality of
In a thriller film, it is often important that we know as little as the character
does so that we can understand and empathise with their fear. Tracking is
used to follow the character on screen and reveal only as much as they
see, not ruining the surprise for the audience.
Panning and zooming out can be used in the same way to create tension,
slowly revealing the danger to increase the suspense. For example, slowly
panning toward a monster from the camera would leave the audience in
suspense for the duration of the shot.
Zooming in can be used to focus on a specific detail that a character has
missed to make the audience aware of the danger.