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CONVENTIONS OF 
HORROR
MISE - EN - SCENE 
Old, abandoned or unfamiliar location. 
Usually where the main events of the 
horror film takes place. The killings, or 
phenomenon. 
Blood is a very common Mise-en-scene feature, 
especially in a wet horror. Where the scare features 
are people dying violent death. It can also be used 
by the victims, to identify how ruthless the killer is. 
A torch or form o flight, used to guide the victims 
through the stereotypically dark location. E.g. 
woods, house, their house. 
It usually reveals a clue about the killing, or reveals 
the victim to killer, exposing their hiding place. Or 
they shine the light and find the killer’s location. 
Masks are often used to hide the 
identity of the Villain(s). The fear of 
the unknown is what creates an 
element of terror and panic. It’s 
what gives the horror film mystery. 
The classic ‘Whodunit’. 
Dead bodies and corpses also feature in a lot of wet 
and some dry horror films. It can be a presenter of 
danger or trouble. Skeletons in the basement. 
The victims have no set wardrobe to be identified by in numerous horror films. 
There is no specific type of wardrobe for a horror film unless it’s to suit a purpose. For example if the 
killer was a wielder, he would put on a safety mask and large boots to do his killings. Or if a ghost was 
killing people for revenge they may wear an item linked to their death, or symbolises how they died.
PROPS 
A majority of props that appear in horror films 
usually involve weapons: knives axes, chainsaws, 
chains, guns etc. Also skeletons and dangerous 
household items such as sharp/pointed edges of desks 
and tables. All these elements connote the theme of 
death, or the Symbolism of taking a life.
CHARACTERS/FEATURES 
Protagonist. The Damsel. 
The villain. Who has a hidden identity to 
create a dominant theme of mystery. The 
mask or expression on the face tends to 
link in with the narrative of the theme, or 
to tease the characters. 
The friends, other victims that go first. 
There also a few passers by that 
may render help to the victims, 
but they may also become a 
victim themselves. 
Each of the characters hold a particular 
significance. One of them may even have 
particular traits to hide themselves with the 
victims. But as the film progresses, you 
grow to realise their previous actions where 
out of place, which reveals their identity. 
The killer usually has some kind of 
disturbed pass, that they want to 
compensate for by killing. They 
may even re-enact their past by 
inflicting the pain on others.
NARRATIVE (PROPP) 
The villain – Their role is attacking the victim 
The donor – The donor in horror films is usually a character who gives the character a 
clue, or hint to solve the mystery in the film. 
The helper – The helper usually has the profile of an adult or an older person 
The princess – The heir to the throne (usually the damsel in need of rescuing) 
The false hero – A character pretending to aid the hero but he is in work with the villain, 
or he simply wants to hinder the hero from achieving his task. 
The hero – The protagonist who saves the princess, or person he shares a bond with.
HORROR FEATURES 
SCREAMS - The screams of a victim can emphasize the tension happening in the scene, even if nothing is 
physically affecting them. It really exaggerates the danger, and the shrieks may even scare the viewer also, making them 
feel as if they are they, or causing them to image what it would be like if they were in that position. 
BREATHING - Breathing is a common tell for danger in a horror film. It may be the victim is running and hiding 
from the killer/villain. Their breathing may even add to the tension, because t may be what gives their hiding place 
away. Also it tells you how the character is feeling, weather they are in shock, loss of breathe or scared. 
ACTION OF A VILLAIN - Every villain in a horror film tends to have their own trait, personality, or 
gesture to extend their twisted personality. For example in the shining, the villain uses a nursery rhyme to taunt the 
victim, the irony or the innocent nursery rhyme to contrast with the gravity of the situation and how he’s coming to get 
her. Also they may conduct a killing in a particular ritualistic way, or has a certain fetish for his killings. For example 
every victims will be killed in the exact way. For example in the call, the killer kidnaps young victims, blonde, and must 
be an adolescent. He then uses them for their scalp and head of hair. Then disposes of them, in a sinister/torturing way.
SUB GENRES of horror 
Wet - A wet Horror consists of mass blood, spilling of guts and the deconstruction of bodies. It’s has a much 
more brutal, violent and aggressive style to it. Many films such as ‘The Decent’ ‘I know who killed Me’ and 
‘Final Destination 3’ feature these themes. 
Dry - A dry horror is more to do with sinister themes, chills and perplexing the mind with simple fears 
amplified. This could consist of being tapped in a small space, a natural disaster or an intense situation or 
setting where the stimulus creates a life endangering environment. But just because a film is a dry comedy, 
doesn't mean the film will not feature blood or deaths. If it does, it will be on a minor level, with small 
scenes of violence and probably made evident through narrative. Films such as ‘Intruders’ and ‘Orphan’ are 
great examples of this.
EXAMPLE CLIPS 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVsVKn-MS14&safe=active FRIDAY THE 13TH 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7S3ygQJJLc&safe=active THE CONJURING 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdG7A377boY&safe=active FINAL DESTITNSTION 3 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUmyrBSeDs4&safe=active ORPHAN
TECHNICAL CODES 
Camera work plays a big role in films. It can express the mood of the setting, and even give away the 
characters feelings or actions. This is done through the type of shot, or the movement. For example a 
handheld shot would be shaky, this could show the character is running, or being shaken from a hit or in a 
fight. Also the movement such as a tracking shot could emphasize the journey a character I taking. To 
exaggerate the struggle. 
Shot types can reveal a characters stance, which will allow the audience to perceive their current situation e.g 
tied up, severed, or trapped in a small space. Also the shot type allows us to see the characters face, which 
enables the character to connote what the character is feeling. 
Shots such as a Close Up or Extreme Close Up can present a certain object, a part of a location, or body part 
can in a emphasized way that attracts the audience. It can indicate to them that it’s of importance, or 
significance as to what’s going to happen in the current or next scene. 
Lighting also has an impact on the film. It can reduce the light to show that a character is alone, to 
exaggerate the isolation by leaving everything black, presenting the theme of non-existence. It can create the 
theme of mystery in an unfamiliar place. It can also create the idea of being trapped, by the lack of light 
presenting to the audience that a character is being squashed into a corner.
FRIDAY THE 13TH 
The Friday the 13th is a Slasher Horror film. It’s about friends that stay in an old cabin in the woods where a serial killer 
comes to take them one by one. The Director of the film keeps the identity of the killer a mystery, this creates the element 
of suspense and adds to the scare factor in the film. This mystery element conforms to the stereotypical conventions of 
horror. He also conformed to another horror convention by using mise-en-scene. The setting of the horror was based around 
the cabin and campus that they had temporarily moved into. This is common in horror films to base the film around a 
particular setting that is unusual to the characters, or is a place they are unfamiliar with. 
The characters inside the film are young adults. The director used a demographic of young people who are social to suit the 
needs of the target audience. The 18 rated film would have appealed to 18 year olds and higher because of the age relation 
and similarity between the audience and cast. For example the audience will presumably have a group of friends that carry 
out activities together. The gratifications theory was used here, Personal relationships. The audience can relate to the 
characters because of the age group and the activities the characters get up to. The audience watching may have found 
themselves in similar positions before and can imagine themselves being in that position. 
There were a number of violent scenes that feature violence that is about to occur, or a theme of death. This is a very 
prominent theme which reinforces the genre of horror. Also the camera work used was very stereotypical of a horror film. 
The incognito/voyeur camera, to create the idea of the characters being watched by an anonymous identity. Creating 
tension and also mystery. They’ve used isolated location in the fil trailer to foreshadow the danger. It creates the theme of 
vulnerability not knowing the location well. Being at risk of unknown possible danger.
THE CONJURING 
The conjuring is a Spiritual Horror based on a true story. The trailer contains quick cut frequencies to add tension. 
They also use a lot of images in the trailer to foreshadow and to inform the audience that this is what the film will be 
based on. They also do a lot of jump cuts instead of having everything in chronological order because it’s a trailer and 
not a premiere. Also there is a lot of use low key lighting and there is blank space surrounding some of the footage in 
the scene. This is a strong convention of the genre horror, the use of the colour black. Black connotes evil, mystery 
and death. 
Mystery is a large feature in horror films to create this theme about the fear of the unknown. The characters in this 
film move into a house, which they know nothing about. It turns out that the knowledge that they didn’t know 
(mystery) is what is the cause of the trouble in their life. The colour black also connotes death. Death is a strong 
convention in horror films. The villain in horror films main agenda is to severely hurt or kill the protagonist/hero. 
There are a lot of scenes in the trailer with female victims in danger on their own. It is evident that the narrative 
theory of the female victim has been used here. This has been done to emphasize the theme of danger. Low key 
lighting featured in most of the scenes where the female victims are alone. The darkness connotes isolation, which 
reinforces the female victim theory, being made a victim by being alone and powerless. Someone else is in control of 
their situation. 
The technological code of using a shaky hand camera was evident in the trailer. It was used to add to the action being 
carried out in the scene , it emphasizes the tension. Also the use of shot types such as close ups and shot reverse shot 
were implemented in the clip to show the characters emotions, and to show it has a link between what they are 
looking at and what they are in fear of.
FINAL DESTINATION 3 
Final Destination 3 is a Psychological horror. The Psychographic for the film is adolescents and young adults ranging 
from 15-25. And your socioeconomic groups C1, C2, D and E. 
Technological codes used was shot reverse shot and quick cut frequencies. Similar to the work of The conjuring and 
Friday the 13th. The shot reverse shot was fast paced to create the idea of being rushed, which created tension. It gives 
the audience the sense of the character and what they are looking at has great significance as to what’s going on in the 
scene. In this case we are looking at the protagonists camera and the people/objects that it’s capturing. 
Again similar to the work of the previous two trailers discussed, low key lighting was evident to create the theme of 
mystery. Mystery is one of the main, if not the dominant convention in all horror films. It allows the character to . The 
director wanted the audience to have a preferred reading of the Mise-en-scene used being suspicious. For example and 
abandoned location, a suspicious odd character profile and object that a character is hiding (that could be a possible 
weapon/memorabilia to another character). 
In on of the scenes in the trailer there was a stereotypical feature the diegetic sound of a female breathing heavily 
and a female screaming. The connotations of breathing heavily are usually someone escaping trouble, or under going 
traumatic stress. Also the diegetic sound of multiple characters screaming, including a female scream connotes a sense 
of panic and disturbance. The change that affects the equilibrium that leads to the second stage of narrative, disruption 
of the equilibrium according to Todorov’s narrative theory. The director again wanted the audience to have a preferred 
reading that there is a strong theme of danger evident.
ORPHAN 
In the trailer the director was building a character profile for the audience , although he gave away a lot a bout her 
personality, they still manage to preserve the predominant horror convention of mystery. The director does this by 
using effects, such as presenting the villainous character, then a fade out to black, fast paced, followed by an 
action. This hints to the reader that there is a link between the two occurrences, but it’s not explicit, which causes 
the character to wonder, and generates suspicion. 
A lot of the scenes the character is in, she is not particularly friendly. She is seen in conflict with another character, 
having aggressive behaviour or being presented as an outcast and alienated member. The connotations of being 
alienated is being an outcast because they were different. Different is a contrast from the usual or normal. The 
director is already building a barrier between the villainous characters and the rest of the characters. 
Also captions feature in the trailer. Such as ‘There’s something wrong with Esther ‘ to hint to the audience she has 
a problem but we don’t‘ know yet. There was another caption that says ‘You’ll never guess her secret’. The 
director is really striving to reinforce the mystery convention. 
Quick cut frequencies were used along side jump cuts. This created the idea of action tension and a really rapid 
montage of hazardous scenes, filled with action and trauma. The director wanted to give the audience a preferred 
reading that film is intense and that the villain in the film was extremely dangerous by all the trouble she’s cause 
that’s evident in the scene.

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Conventions of horrorr

  • 2. MISE - EN - SCENE Old, abandoned or unfamiliar location. Usually where the main events of the horror film takes place. The killings, or phenomenon. Blood is a very common Mise-en-scene feature, especially in a wet horror. Where the scare features are people dying violent death. It can also be used by the victims, to identify how ruthless the killer is. A torch or form o flight, used to guide the victims through the stereotypically dark location. E.g. woods, house, their house. It usually reveals a clue about the killing, or reveals the victim to killer, exposing their hiding place. Or they shine the light and find the killer’s location. Masks are often used to hide the identity of the Villain(s). The fear of the unknown is what creates an element of terror and panic. It’s what gives the horror film mystery. The classic ‘Whodunit’. Dead bodies and corpses also feature in a lot of wet and some dry horror films. It can be a presenter of danger or trouble. Skeletons in the basement. The victims have no set wardrobe to be identified by in numerous horror films. There is no specific type of wardrobe for a horror film unless it’s to suit a purpose. For example if the killer was a wielder, he would put on a safety mask and large boots to do his killings. Or if a ghost was killing people for revenge they may wear an item linked to their death, or symbolises how they died.
  • 3. PROPS A majority of props that appear in horror films usually involve weapons: knives axes, chainsaws, chains, guns etc. Also skeletons and dangerous household items such as sharp/pointed edges of desks and tables. All these elements connote the theme of death, or the Symbolism of taking a life.
  • 4. CHARACTERS/FEATURES Protagonist. The Damsel. The villain. Who has a hidden identity to create a dominant theme of mystery. The mask or expression on the face tends to link in with the narrative of the theme, or to tease the characters. The friends, other victims that go first. There also a few passers by that may render help to the victims, but they may also become a victim themselves. Each of the characters hold a particular significance. One of them may even have particular traits to hide themselves with the victims. But as the film progresses, you grow to realise their previous actions where out of place, which reveals their identity. The killer usually has some kind of disturbed pass, that they want to compensate for by killing. They may even re-enact their past by inflicting the pain on others.
  • 5. NARRATIVE (PROPP) The villain – Their role is attacking the victim The donor – The donor in horror films is usually a character who gives the character a clue, or hint to solve the mystery in the film. The helper – The helper usually has the profile of an adult or an older person The princess – The heir to the throne (usually the damsel in need of rescuing) The false hero – A character pretending to aid the hero but he is in work with the villain, or he simply wants to hinder the hero from achieving his task. The hero – The protagonist who saves the princess, or person he shares a bond with.
  • 6. HORROR FEATURES SCREAMS - The screams of a victim can emphasize the tension happening in the scene, even if nothing is physically affecting them. It really exaggerates the danger, and the shrieks may even scare the viewer also, making them feel as if they are they, or causing them to image what it would be like if they were in that position. BREATHING - Breathing is a common tell for danger in a horror film. It may be the victim is running and hiding from the killer/villain. Their breathing may even add to the tension, because t may be what gives their hiding place away. Also it tells you how the character is feeling, weather they are in shock, loss of breathe or scared. ACTION OF A VILLAIN - Every villain in a horror film tends to have their own trait, personality, or gesture to extend their twisted personality. For example in the shining, the villain uses a nursery rhyme to taunt the victim, the irony or the innocent nursery rhyme to contrast with the gravity of the situation and how he’s coming to get her. Also they may conduct a killing in a particular ritualistic way, or has a certain fetish for his killings. For example every victims will be killed in the exact way. For example in the call, the killer kidnaps young victims, blonde, and must be an adolescent. He then uses them for their scalp and head of hair. Then disposes of them, in a sinister/torturing way.
  • 7. SUB GENRES of horror Wet - A wet Horror consists of mass blood, spilling of guts and the deconstruction of bodies. It’s has a much more brutal, violent and aggressive style to it. Many films such as ‘The Decent’ ‘I know who killed Me’ and ‘Final Destination 3’ feature these themes. Dry - A dry horror is more to do with sinister themes, chills and perplexing the mind with simple fears amplified. This could consist of being tapped in a small space, a natural disaster or an intense situation or setting where the stimulus creates a life endangering environment. But just because a film is a dry comedy, doesn't mean the film will not feature blood or deaths. If it does, it will be on a minor level, with small scenes of violence and probably made evident through narrative. Films such as ‘Intruders’ and ‘Orphan’ are great examples of this.
  • 8. EXAMPLE CLIPS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVsVKn-MS14&safe=active FRIDAY THE 13TH http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7S3ygQJJLc&safe=active THE CONJURING http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdG7A377boY&safe=active FINAL DESTITNSTION 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUmyrBSeDs4&safe=active ORPHAN
  • 9. TECHNICAL CODES Camera work plays a big role in films. It can express the mood of the setting, and even give away the characters feelings or actions. This is done through the type of shot, or the movement. For example a handheld shot would be shaky, this could show the character is running, or being shaken from a hit or in a fight. Also the movement such as a tracking shot could emphasize the journey a character I taking. To exaggerate the struggle. Shot types can reveal a characters stance, which will allow the audience to perceive their current situation e.g tied up, severed, or trapped in a small space. Also the shot type allows us to see the characters face, which enables the character to connote what the character is feeling. Shots such as a Close Up or Extreme Close Up can present a certain object, a part of a location, or body part can in a emphasized way that attracts the audience. It can indicate to them that it’s of importance, or significance as to what’s going to happen in the current or next scene. Lighting also has an impact on the film. It can reduce the light to show that a character is alone, to exaggerate the isolation by leaving everything black, presenting the theme of non-existence. It can create the theme of mystery in an unfamiliar place. It can also create the idea of being trapped, by the lack of light presenting to the audience that a character is being squashed into a corner.
  • 10. FRIDAY THE 13TH The Friday the 13th is a Slasher Horror film. It’s about friends that stay in an old cabin in the woods where a serial killer comes to take them one by one. The Director of the film keeps the identity of the killer a mystery, this creates the element of suspense and adds to the scare factor in the film. This mystery element conforms to the stereotypical conventions of horror. He also conformed to another horror convention by using mise-en-scene. The setting of the horror was based around the cabin and campus that they had temporarily moved into. This is common in horror films to base the film around a particular setting that is unusual to the characters, or is a place they are unfamiliar with. The characters inside the film are young adults. The director used a demographic of young people who are social to suit the needs of the target audience. The 18 rated film would have appealed to 18 year olds and higher because of the age relation and similarity between the audience and cast. For example the audience will presumably have a group of friends that carry out activities together. The gratifications theory was used here, Personal relationships. The audience can relate to the characters because of the age group and the activities the characters get up to. The audience watching may have found themselves in similar positions before and can imagine themselves being in that position. There were a number of violent scenes that feature violence that is about to occur, or a theme of death. This is a very prominent theme which reinforces the genre of horror. Also the camera work used was very stereotypical of a horror film. The incognito/voyeur camera, to create the idea of the characters being watched by an anonymous identity. Creating tension and also mystery. They’ve used isolated location in the fil trailer to foreshadow the danger. It creates the theme of vulnerability not knowing the location well. Being at risk of unknown possible danger.
  • 11. THE CONJURING The conjuring is a Spiritual Horror based on a true story. The trailer contains quick cut frequencies to add tension. They also use a lot of images in the trailer to foreshadow and to inform the audience that this is what the film will be based on. They also do a lot of jump cuts instead of having everything in chronological order because it’s a trailer and not a premiere. Also there is a lot of use low key lighting and there is blank space surrounding some of the footage in the scene. This is a strong convention of the genre horror, the use of the colour black. Black connotes evil, mystery and death. Mystery is a large feature in horror films to create this theme about the fear of the unknown. The characters in this film move into a house, which they know nothing about. It turns out that the knowledge that they didn’t know (mystery) is what is the cause of the trouble in their life. The colour black also connotes death. Death is a strong convention in horror films. The villain in horror films main agenda is to severely hurt or kill the protagonist/hero. There are a lot of scenes in the trailer with female victims in danger on their own. It is evident that the narrative theory of the female victim has been used here. This has been done to emphasize the theme of danger. Low key lighting featured in most of the scenes where the female victims are alone. The darkness connotes isolation, which reinforces the female victim theory, being made a victim by being alone and powerless. Someone else is in control of their situation. The technological code of using a shaky hand camera was evident in the trailer. It was used to add to the action being carried out in the scene , it emphasizes the tension. Also the use of shot types such as close ups and shot reverse shot were implemented in the clip to show the characters emotions, and to show it has a link between what they are looking at and what they are in fear of.
  • 12. FINAL DESTINATION 3 Final Destination 3 is a Psychological horror. The Psychographic for the film is adolescents and young adults ranging from 15-25. And your socioeconomic groups C1, C2, D and E. Technological codes used was shot reverse shot and quick cut frequencies. Similar to the work of The conjuring and Friday the 13th. The shot reverse shot was fast paced to create the idea of being rushed, which created tension. It gives the audience the sense of the character and what they are looking at has great significance as to what’s going on in the scene. In this case we are looking at the protagonists camera and the people/objects that it’s capturing. Again similar to the work of the previous two trailers discussed, low key lighting was evident to create the theme of mystery. Mystery is one of the main, if not the dominant convention in all horror films. It allows the character to . The director wanted the audience to have a preferred reading of the Mise-en-scene used being suspicious. For example and abandoned location, a suspicious odd character profile and object that a character is hiding (that could be a possible weapon/memorabilia to another character). In on of the scenes in the trailer there was a stereotypical feature the diegetic sound of a female breathing heavily and a female screaming. The connotations of breathing heavily are usually someone escaping trouble, or under going traumatic stress. Also the diegetic sound of multiple characters screaming, including a female scream connotes a sense of panic and disturbance. The change that affects the equilibrium that leads to the second stage of narrative, disruption of the equilibrium according to Todorov’s narrative theory. The director again wanted the audience to have a preferred reading that there is a strong theme of danger evident.
  • 13. ORPHAN In the trailer the director was building a character profile for the audience , although he gave away a lot a bout her personality, they still manage to preserve the predominant horror convention of mystery. The director does this by using effects, such as presenting the villainous character, then a fade out to black, fast paced, followed by an action. This hints to the reader that there is a link between the two occurrences, but it’s not explicit, which causes the character to wonder, and generates suspicion. A lot of the scenes the character is in, she is not particularly friendly. She is seen in conflict with another character, having aggressive behaviour or being presented as an outcast and alienated member. The connotations of being alienated is being an outcast because they were different. Different is a contrast from the usual or normal. The director is already building a barrier between the villainous characters and the rest of the characters. Also captions feature in the trailer. Such as ‘There’s something wrong with Esther ‘ to hint to the audience she has a problem but we don’t‘ know yet. There was another caption that says ‘You’ll never guess her secret’. The director is really striving to reinforce the mystery convention. Quick cut frequencies were used along side jump cuts. This created the idea of action tension and a really rapid montage of hazardous scenes, filled with action and trauma. The director wanted to give the audience a preferred reading that film is intense and that the villain in the film was extremely dangerous by all the trouble she’s cause that’s evident in the scene.