Conventions of Horror films
There are many conventions of horror films that we as the audience expect to see when
watching a horror films. Different aspects of horror films and their conventions is what
makes a film a horror, or make it typical of a horror. Conventions are the general way of
how something is accepted. All genres of films will have specific conventions that the
audience will expect to see, however movies within the horror genre have specific
conventions that I will discuss.
Conventions of Horror films include:
- Red and Black Imagery
- Low lighting
- Isolated locations
- Slow paced sound that builds up
Red and Black Imagery
Red imagery is a common convention in horror films as it adds a sense of death and misery.
The colour red is associated with pain, harm and death. If there is constant red imagery in a
horror film, it indirectly informs the audience that evil is happening throughout the film.
Additionally, the audience will recognise that someone has been killed or harmed which is a
common feature in horror films, as the whole point of a horror film is to fright the audience.
This is present in many horror films; however I have specifically noticed it in the movie saw
1. Saw 1 is a very gruesome movie which includes a lot of red imagery including blood as it
involves many disgusting things happening such as cutting body parts off.
The fact that there is so many blood present in the film emphasises on the fact there are so
many people with body parts cut off and that this will continue to happen throughout the
film. It is clear to the audience that this may be a horror as the causes of blood occurring is
coming from something harmful or negative.
Moreover, black and red titles are forms of conventions of horror movies, as they are two
contrasting colours. Many horror films include that aspect in their films, and specifically the
film Insidious. Both colours connote danger, especially when put together.
Low lighting is very important in horror movies as it builds up suspense and tension
throughout the film, as well as gives an eerie feeling to the audience in order for the
audience to feel frightened. Low lighting is very popular in many horror films as it puts the
audience in a scary environment that’s full of suspense. Low lighting is also vital in creating
dark shadows and unusual shapes which is used for effect as builds up mystery amongst the
An example of low lighting is present in the opening sequence of Insidious 1.
The dark lighting is very effective on the film as the audience can not clearly see what’s
going on which causes them to focus well on all the aspects going on in the film. The fact
that the antagonist comes out of the dark with a candle emphasises on how scary the
In most horror films, isolated locations are a common and popular convention as it gives a
sense of loneliness, and loneliness can build up fear. Additionally, when isolation is present,
it informs the audience that no one is around to rescue the victim in a horror film. I have
seen this present in the movie ‘The Shining’ which is a horror.
The fact that the opening sequence consists of an isolated location of the country side and
mountains highlights the fact that the danger that will occur in the film will be harder to
escape from as there are not much people around the location. In addition, it gives the
audience a clue that someone superior may be living in a place like that as it is near the
mountains, and therefore they may be the villain.
Other examples of isolated locations that are frequently used in horror films are abandoned
houses, forests, grave yards, etc. They are all typical and ideal settings used in horror films
that make it conventions of horror movies.
Slow paced sound that builds up
As the sound is very vital in horror movies, slow paced non-diegetic sound that builds up
towards a specific scene is a form of convention in horror films. In a scene where something
dangerous may occur, non-diegetic sound usually builds up in pace and increases in volume
in order to give a dramatic and alarming
effect. For example, in the opening sequence of the movie “28 weeks later”, the non-
diegetic sound increases in pace and volume as the victim walks towards the door. When
she opens the door, the audience is introduced to the antagonist, in which there is a loud
screeching noise. This has a big impact on the audience, as it scares them (which is the
whole point), as well as exciting them to see what may happen next.