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Conventions of Horror
James Allan
Setting
• The setting is usually an isolated area. Urban environments and dark
streets work well as they are secluded which adds a sense of danger.
Narrow alleys and run down areas are also used a lot
• Places with a dark history such as abandoned houses, hotels and insane
asylums.
• Locations for any good horror genre film could be : Lakes, roads, highways,
dark woods, houses, cabins, cities and subways. These are all areas that
could be made scary with added darkness which is a common theme in
horror films.
• Examples of horror films set within these genres include, The Blair Witch
Project, Cabin in the Woods and Wrong Turn
Cinematography
• Camerawork is very unnatural and the movements consists of many low
and high angles.
• POV shots are important as they are used to show the world from the
monster’s eye. This type of shot is usually used at the end of a film as the
monster is trying to catch the protagonist.
• Handheld shots are useful when trying to make the film seem more
realistic as it makes it seem like it is actually happening than it being a
film.
• Extreme Close Ups are common within horrors as they can be used to
show a change in emotion and they are useful when highlighting fear in a
characters face.
• Editing can create unsettling tension and suspense. If the editing hasn’t
been paced up in a while then you know that something will pop out and
scare you.
Iconography
• Visual style – often dark colours like red and black (this
links will the themes of evil and danger)
• Lighting is usually not natural and low key lighting can
help create dark shadows and unfamiliar shapes in the
blackness. Lighting can be vital within film, especially
horror as the darker the shot is, it tends to be more
scary.
• Common objects include weapons, masks, icons of the
supernatural and religious icons.
• The iconography of the monsters help to connote
extreme fear, disgust and terror for example ,
Vampires, Mummies and Frankenstein
Narrative
• Classic narrative structure is usually the main
narrative style in horror films but sometimes the
films are not ended as it can lead open a
possibility for sequels.
• There’s always an antagonist and a protagonist
who usually battle for control and decide their
fate, to live or to die.
• A common narrative feature includes the killer
revisiting his hometown where he first had his
traumatic experience and starts to kill people.
This is evident in movies such as Halloween.
Characters
• There are usually many main characters and supporting
characters in horror films, a few of the most iconic are,
• The main protagonist, often the “victim” of the movie
• The villain, often a supernatural monster or a serial
killer
• Creepy children
• Police officers that can either turn out to be good or
corrupted
• Many more monsters such as ghosts, zombies, demons
and stalkers
Themes
•
•
•
•

•
•
•

•

Good vs. Evil – Many horror films use this as a guideline to what they will put in
the film, which monsters etc.
Religion – These films are usually regarded as the scariest films, because of the
uncertainty of religion
Childhood issues – Films like Halloween use this technique to tell the storyline and
give us a clear view of what is happening
Science gone too far – Sci-fi horrors are usually also quite scary as they add a level
of uncertainty as some people believe things like this could happen in the near
future.
Zombie Apocalypse – These films are very popular as people watching are
intrigued on how the characters survive and they would like to imagine themselves
being in that situation
Insanity – Mental patients are used a lot in films as they naturally scare people
Envy – There are a lot of horrors that include a level of envy between two main
characters, the antagonist and the protagonist
Suicide – Suicide is usually a main theme within horrors as it can obviously happen
in real life which scares people even more

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Horror Genre Conventions

  • 2. Setting • The setting is usually an isolated area. Urban environments and dark streets work well as they are secluded which adds a sense of danger. Narrow alleys and run down areas are also used a lot • Places with a dark history such as abandoned houses, hotels and insane asylums. • Locations for any good horror genre film could be : Lakes, roads, highways, dark woods, houses, cabins, cities and subways. These are all areas that could be made scary with added darkness which is a common theme in horror films. • Examples of horror films set within these genres include, The Blair Witch Project, Cabin in the Woods and Wrong Turn
  • 3. Cinematography • Camerawork is very unnatural and the movements consists of many low and high angles. • POV shots are important as they are used to show the world from the monster’s eye. This type of shot is usually used at the end of a film as the monster is trying to catch the protagonist. • Handheld shots are useful when trying to make the film seem more realistic as it makes it seem like it is actually happening than it being a film. • Extreme Close Ups are common within horrors as they can be used to show a change in emotion and they are useful when highlighting fear in a characters face. • Editing can create unsettling tension and suspense. If the editing hasn’t been paced up in a while then you know that something will pop out and scare you.
  • 4. Iconography • Visual style – often dark colours like red and black (this links will the themes of evil and danger) • Lighting is usually not natural and low key lighting can help create dark shadows and unfamiliar shapes in the blackness. Lighting can be vital within film, especially horror as the darker the shot is, it tends to be more scary. • Common objects include weapons, masks, icons of the supernatural and religious icons. • The iconography of the monsters help to connote extreme fear, disgust and terror for example , Vampires, Mummies and Frankenstein
  • 5. Narrative • Classic narrative structure is usually the main narrative style in horror films but sometimes the films are not ended as it can lead open a possibility for sequels. • There’s always an antagonist and a protagonist who usually battle for control and decide their fate, to live or to die. • A common narrative feature includes the killer revisiting his hometown where he first had his traumatic experience and starts to kill people. This is evident in movies such as Halloween.
  • 6. Characters • There are usually many main characters and supporting characters in horror films, a few of the most iconic are, • The main protagonist, often the “victim” of the movie • The villain, often a supernatural monster or a serial killer • Creepy children • Police officers that can either turn out to be good or corrupted • Many more monsters such as ghosts, zombies, demons and stalkers
  • 7. Themes • • • • • • • • Good vs. Evil – Many horror films use this as a guideline to what they will put in the film, which monsters etc. Religion – These films are usually regarded as the scariest films, because of the uncertainty of religion Childhood issues – Films like Halloween use this technique to tell the storyline and give us a clear view of what is happening Science gone too far – Sci-fi horrors are usually also quite scary as they add a level of uncertainty as some people believe things like this could happen in the near future. Zombie Apocalypse – These films are very popular as people watching are intrigued on how the characters survive and they would like to imagine themselves being in that situation Insanity – Mental patients are used a lot in films as they naturally scare people Envy – There are a lot of horrors that include a level of envy between two main characters, the antagonist and the protagonist Suicide – Suicide is usually a main theme within horrors as it can obviously happen in real life which scares people even more