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Comparing 3 Short Films

In: Film and Music

Submitted By kmillard1
Words 1521
Pages 7
Explore how "Stalker-Lewis Farinella"(2008), "Lovefield-Matthieu Ratthe"(2008) and "Vanished-NewDawnFilm"(2010) conform and deviate from horror genre conventions.
The aim of this research investigation into genre is to gain an understanding in the way that horror films are constructed and created to effectively represent the genre to its audience. This will expand my understanding of how technical, audio codes, setting and characterization are frequently used in constructing a piece of media text to either reinforce or deviate from stereotypes and audience's expectations. Bateman states that "Audiences are said to like the concept of genre (although we may not identify it by that name) because of its reassuring and familiar promise of repetition and variation" (A. Bateman, 2010, pg46.) During my independent research into horror and genre, conflicting arguments have become apparent in regards to genre and its definition. Bennett identifies genre as, "Encompassing groups of texts and categorizing them according to the characteristics they have in common" (Bennett, 2006, pg26) where as writer Barry Keith's arguments are contradictory stating that; "Genre movies are always about the time and place in which they are set." (Grant, 2006, pg6) Theses quotes have enabled me to identify the three pieces of horror genre media texts that I am going to analyze for my research investigation and how their construction is used to appeal to its audience with reference to; "Stalker-Lewis Farinella", "Lovefield-Matthieu Ratthe" and "Vanished-NewDawnFilm", and how their technical, audio, visual codes characterization and narrative are constructed to relay the genre to its audience.

It has been quoted that the "Concept of genre is important in arousing the expectations of an audience and how they judge and select texts"(Bateman, 2010, pg46) presenting a valid point in "Lovefield" by Matthieu Ratthe, a horror short film released in 2008 about a young woman who gives birth in a farmer’s field. By using conventional horror technical and audio codes the audience are deceived into thinking that it is a horror. In order for a successful horror film, the audience’s expectations must be fulfilled to enable the audience to be captivated and interested. A writer in the Media entertainment Book, 'The Psychology of its appeal' has explained that; "In the case of horror, individuals may specifically seek the feeling of thrill and excitement that horror images can evoke." (Vorderer, 2000, pg75) it is suggesting that the audience take pleasure from images that would in other circumstances seem vulgar. This quotation could be considered in 'Lovefield' regarding a sequence of images leading up to revealing a disheveled foot shaking, accompanied by groans of agony. These images would instantly connote to the audience that this woman is in some kind of pain. At the beginning of 'Lovefield' a high angled shot of a corn field is used showing the setting of an isolated rural environment; which is a common convention of a horror film. Due to the setting being unidentifiable to the audience, it connotes the sense of unpredictability and 'fear of the unknown', provoking tension and suspense within the audience. Commonly a close-up is used within the film to suggest to the audience that this object is of some significance within the narrative. 'Lovefield' uses a close-up of a jackdaw, a bird that is frequently symbolically linked to death. The colour of the bird, black is an enigma code suggesting that something mysterious is possibly about to happen. The colour black also connotes death and misfortune. Due to the frequent use of this standard convention we, "As members of cultural communities, we recognize culturally specific codes and conventions that have been established over time" (M.Gillespie, 2006, pg52). Through the use of this, I was able to establish that 'Vanished' was also within the horror genre. 'Vanished' has a very conventional setting, the woods. Using this allows the audience to depict they will be isolated and subtly suggesting the possibility of mysterious happenings. This technical code positions the audience to feel suspense created by the situation the characters are in.

The narrative structure of a horror films generically follow a linear sequence, showing events within a chronological order enabling the audience to understand the cause and effect of events easily. The idea of narrative is represented in Rayner's quote, "Narrative ends to be associated with the way a fictional story is told in terms of how events unfold and are revealed to the audience." (Rayner, Wall and Kruger, 2004, pg28) Conforming to this quote is 'Lovefield' the audience can establish the beginning, middle and end events. Propp's theory of character functions are used so that the audience can relate to a 'stereotype' as it allows them to identify with the roles of characters and whether they should be emotive towards them. This theory can be easily applied to my other piece of media text, 'Stalker'. "On identifying a person as having the identifying media characteristics... we then attribute the stereotypical characteristics to them" (P.R. Hinton, 2000, pg7/8) this is highlighted visually through props (use of mask) the character is depicted to be the classical villain; he is very masculine and dismissive of the human race. The mask conceals the identity of the person beneath creating an enigma code, however due to previous villains being associated with masks, the audience become fixated on this particular feature serving as a quick form of identification, reinforced by other films created such as; Halloween. Tina is portrayed as the 'Damsel in Distress' within Propp's theory, she is deemed as being mentally weak and vulnerable as she is seeing a psychiatrist. Her visual image contradicts what her stereotype would normally look like, conventionally Tina would have blonde hair suggesting 'bimbo' qualities, and however she has brown hair which suggests she is more intelligent and possibly less feminine. This film does however deviate from the classic narrative structure of linear sequencing, as events unfold in a non-linear sequence as the audiences are following a dream of Tina's in which she is woken. Conventionally children are perceived as being the embodiment of innocence and naivety and are genuinely not suspected to be the causes of evil therefore, 'Vanished' defies from this as it is revealed that a child is the catalyst of mysterious happenings. Ayanna says that, "Ironically, the belief that the root of all evil lies within children, is not that easy for adults to digest" (A. Guyhto, 2006, pg1) this quotation supports the film. Through looking at my secondary research it becomes apparent that narrative structures and theories vary throughout as it does not just depend on the genre, but also the sub-genre that the film falls into. Frequently within a horror film the protagonist is normally female. Using a female character reinforces a stereotypical assumption that they are; weak, vulnerable and easily over-powered by the 'villain'. "Horror tales can evoke genuine fears; frequently consisting of being pursued, trapped and slaughtered by an overwhelmingly powerful figure."(Worland, 2007, pg9) "Lovefield" deviates from this by using a male protagonist; the audiences believe that the male shown is the villain due to the close-up on his skull tattoo which has negative associations to death, a common feature of a horror short film. Using a male protagonist suggests that maybe he has a vulnerable, softer side working accordingly to Strauss' binary opposition theory. It may also suggest that in the current time, men can defy stereotypes of masculinity and can be deemed to be more feminine which is suggested at the end of the film. 'Vanished' also defies character convention and stereotypes. The portrayal of Jennifer can be described as some what masculine; she takes lead of her boyfriend which is unusual in a patriarchal society. In accordance to expectations, the audience would have been led to believe that eventually Jennifer herself would be attacked or hurt by something/someone of a more powerful force. However, she is revealed as being a very dark and demonic character, who is the missing girl in question who has killed her family and then goes on to kill the male protagonist(her boyfriend), which juxtaposes expectations. A common convention of a horror film is to relay to the audience an insight into the possible events that are about to happen, it gives the audience a sense of being omnipresent. The use of correctly used audio codes both diagetic and non-diagetic is vital in creating the most suitable atmosphere needed to set the horror genre. A reoccurring unsettling sound effects prolong and intensify the feeling of suspense and unease for the audience and are important for the audiences own genre identification.

My research has enabled me to thoroughly understand conventions of horror genre films. To appeal to the intended target audience, the directors have to include particular camera movements, shots, use of diagetic and non diagetic sounds such as ambient sound and eerie music to connect with the dark setting created to convey a conventional horror. I have also discovered that there can be variations in the way that conventional features are used, but used correctly and a successful horror film should be created.

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