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Essay on Genre in Film

Horror films are defined as Unsettling films designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm,
and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and
entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience.
Horror films tend to use the theory of Uses of Gratification, which suggests that, instead of the
media forms injecting ideas into our minds, we as an audience decide what we do with what we
consume, and what we do with that information afterwards. Other theories such as the
Hypodermic Needle theory can also be used within horror films, with the idea that it is injecting
ideas into our minds.

Over the years, horror films have adapted to involve certain codes and conventions which make
them horror movies. Depending on the sub-genre of the horror film, the codes and conventions are
usually the same within that sub-genre. For example in a slasher movie, it usually involves someone
getting killed in the opening sequence, a group of teenagers, weapons, blood, power cuts and phone
lines cut, the group splitting up, and usually one or two survivors. Other typical codes and
conventions include the way the camera is shot, for example if the camera is following a character
around a house on their own, and its an over the shoulder shot and they are moving around a lot
and they open a fridge for example, then when they close the fridge the audience knows that the
killer will be standing behind the fridge door as it closes and then that character will die.

This research shows that this genre attracts a quite mixed audience in terms of gender. It shows us
that 42% of the audience are men, and 58% are women. The vast majority of this target
demographic are under the age of 25. Horror films tend to aim at the younger audiences more, as
they enjoy the thrill that you get out of watching scary movies. This is also a reason why a lot of the
characters in horror movies are usually under the age of 30 so that it will appeal to this target
audience more.
Horror films started becoming popular as early as the 1930s, with Dracula and Frankenstein which
were developed out of folklore and myths. The vampire myth began to surface during the time that
writer Bram Stokers 1897 novel Dracula was written.

In the 1960s, the classic Psycho became the mother of all modern horror suspense films, and
with the famous shower scene storyboarded by Saul Bass but directed by Hitchcock. Hitchcock broke
all film conventions in Psycho, by displaying the leading female protagonist having a lunchtime affair
in revealing undergarments in the
first scene, also by showing the
toilet flush on screen (which was a
first in American film), and killing
off its major star Janet Leigh.

In the 1950s and 1960s monster movies such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula, and
The Thing from another world were all monster movies that became popular at this time, and they
were created to try and take away some of the nations fear during the Cold War and allowing them
to escape the reality of the real world. Movies such as Godzilla were also produced during this time.

In the 1980s, slasher movies were introduced, for example Silence of the Lambs was the
introduction to this sub-genre. Films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th made
slasher movies popular in the 80s. This was also the start of the use of special effects, for example
Childs Play where a childs toy (Chucky) turns into a serial killer, prompting a fear of dolls for the
audience. This technique has also been brought into the present day, for films such as Annabelle and
The Boy.

In the 1990s psychological thrillers were introduced. Silence of the Lambs and Se7en are rated as
the top two for psychological thrillers. The Blair Witch Project became a sensation, which even today
has been remade and is popular within the same audience - people who watched it back then and
enjoyed it would also, most likely, watch the remakes. Also, the start of the famous horror franchise,
Scream, which changed horror movie stereotyping and also became the influence of a few crimes.

In 2000s a mix between slashers and fantasy horrors were popular within this decade. American
Psycho and Scream 3 were popular slasher movies and Scream was described as a "very good source
to learn how to kill someone." Scream was also the prime motivational factor of the death of Alisson
Cambier in 2001, who was stabbed 30 times and the killer had told the police that it was
premeditated and motivated by the cinematic franchise, Scream.

Since 2010, religious connotations with implications of an evil entity has become very popular in
horror films, with movies such as The Last Exorcism, The Conjuring and Sinister. All of these sub-
genres have made their way into the present day and are still very popular within the horror/ thrill
seeker audience. However, now a lot of producers tend to aim to make a successful horror film, and
they tend to use the same or similar codes and conventions, which usully end up with similar
plotlines. These are called Twin-films. An example of twin-films are films such as The Cave (2005)
and The Descent (2005). These two films follow extremely similar plot lines in order to create a sense
of horror.

In the early stages of horror films, women were usually represented as the damsel in distress as
they were seen as more vulnerable and were often seen as the blonde-bimbo, and usually attacked
by the killer first (as well as the black person), because they were seen as the weak ones, whereas
the male, hero protagonist usually contrast to this, and are portrayed as the strong and heroic
characters that always win and survive over the
antagonist. The idea of having the female character play
the lesser role has been a typical stereotype for
generations, and can even be recognised on front covers
of earlier horror movies such as Creature from the Black
Lagoon (1950), where the cover involves the monster
carrying the hopeless female character, as well as on
Frankenstein (1930), where the female is laying on the
bed on the front cover.

However, these representations came from when women had fewer rights and men were superior
and dominated. But due to the rise in feminism and cultural changes, the roles and representations
changed. In the 90s is when we really started to see the rise of women being portrayed as more
superior and strong, for example, Scream (1996) changed this up a bit with instead, having the main
protagonist - hero and survivor be played by a female character, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). In
terms of the male representation, we were used to seeing the male character strong and superior to
the women and playing the heroic role in the movies, and again this is because of the lack of rights
women had before this changed. This has changed in the modern films, as well as the racial
stereotypes of the black person always dying first. For example in The Purge where the white, male
protagonist is seen as the strong father who is protecting his family, but then is one of the first
family members to die, whereas the black male tramp is the one who rescues the family when they
are on brink of dying. In the early day of film, we have always seen male characters as being the
villains and the ones we should be afraid of, for example in Dracula. However, some films attempt to
steer away from the idea of the females always being the victims, for example in the film Jennifers
Body we see all the males that she comes in contact with becomes her victim.
The film Final Girl (2015) shows a clear representation of how horror movies have developed in the
sense of stereotyping, etc. and in this film it lives up to the title of the film. It is about four guys who
seduce and take women into the forest to then make them run so they can hunt them down, but the
main protagonist in the movie, Veronica (played by Abigail Breslin), fights off the guys and survives.

Zillmann & Weaver (1996) conducted research to find out if the audience preferred the women in
the films to be fearful towards the antagonist and the males being the heroic character. As time
changed, this has not been the case as much anymore, and a lot of the time now, we see women
being the protagonist and outsmarting the males or antagonist, or even women being the ones to be
afraid of.
Racial stereotypes as well, such as the black person always dying first has
also changed since early horror films. In Scream 2, Phil Stevens dies in the
opening scene of the movie in the toilets of a cinema, and in I Still known
what you did Last Summer, Karla Wilson (Brandy) dies nearing the end of
the movie as she is running from the killer. In Scary Movie 2, which is
almost like a parody/ spoof of different horror movies, the director has
noticed this as there is a scene where three black people say that they
always split up and then the black people die first. This stereotype has
almost become a token minority and audiences have become more
aware of the fact that, if theres a black character in a slasher movie, he or
she is usually destined to be the first victim to the killer.
However, this stereotype and representation has changed over the years,
and especially in 2017, the newest thriller Get Out
involves a black guy who has a white girlfriend, and she
brings him home o her parents which is all part of the
plan, and they hypnotise and kill black people, but the
main protagonist, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya)
gets out of the hypnotism and kills the whole white
family and survives.

A lot of films nowadays want to ty and stray away from all the representations and instead have the
men and women working together in order to overcome the issues. An example of this is the Saw
films, where we see a variety of people being victimised by the antagonist Jigsaw, and they have to
work together as a team in order to escape.

A typical character we tend to see a lot nowadays in horror movies, are young college students. They
are very distinct stereotypes and they are characters that were brought in to represent todays
youth. They usually consist of a dumb blonde, the jock, the couple, the intelligent one and the
unintelligent one. By having all of these characters it would appeal more to the younger audience
and allow the viewer to feel like they can relate to
it more, as some young people will feel like they
can relate to some of these personalities/
characters. An example of this is the movie
Detention (2011), where characters similar to the
typical college student characters are used, and
they have to figure out who the killer is between

There are a few theories related to the horror film industry. The Uses of Gratification theory
encourages the audience to be active. When watching a horror, we sometimes get a good feeling
after feeling like we have experienced an unexplained event. It allows the audience to seek out
answers if the film is then still left unexplained. With the Uses of Gratification theory, the audiences
arent just taking in the information they are seeking from the unexplained, they are taking parts of
the film into their day-to-day lives. This theory suggests that as an audience, we seek out certain
media In order to fulfil our needs. For example, if we wanted to find a specific Drama genre film, that
involves all codes and conventions of a drama, we would go out of our way to find one. This theory
highlights that we all have our own reasons for seeking out specific medias. In terms of horror, we
tend to seek it out as a way to escape from our own reality.

The Hypodermic Needle Theory suggests we are directly influenced by what we consume. This
theory can also be applied to horror films nowadays. The theory states that media injects ideas into
our minds. Several horror movies have been blamed to influence and manipulate u and bring it into
our real lives. For example,

Wes Cravens Scream became instantly popular

and a classic back when it was released in 1996.
As it provided us an ironic take on the Slashers
genres many clichs, and resulted in a highly
original horror film. Despite its comedic
elements however, the film also inspired
several real life murders. Back in January 1998,
16 year old Mario Padilla and his 14 year old
cousin became the centre of a media frenzy
surrounding what was referred to as The Scream murder. His cousin Ramirez confessed to helping
hold down Padillas mother as Padilla himself preceded to stab her 45 times. They confessed to
being inspired by Scream and its sequel, and planning a murder spree after purchasing two ghost
face costumes and a voice changer like those used in the film.

Horror films tend to follow a Three Act structure. This is a narrative structure where the first stage is
the setup, where the protagonist is being introduced as well as the dramatic situation. The second
part is confrontation, where the main drama occurs, the climax, and obstacles are thon at the
protagonist. And finally, the resolution when the issue has been solved, but the audience is left
wondering wat the aftermath of it all will be. Quite a few horror films are left with an open ending,
such as Halloween and Scream, as this keeps the audience active and not just take in the
information. The intention of it all is for the audience to be left feeling puzzled and wondering of
what could or could have happened.
Links Used:

Definition of Horror Films -

Over the Years -
Psycho -
Shower Scene -
Blog on Stereotypes -
Black Stereotyping -
Crime influenced by Scream -
Zillmann & Weaver (1996) -
Zillmann & Weaver (1996) -
The Scream Murders -