Essay on Film Genre
A true film genre relies on shared iconography, formalistic themes and similar narrative structures and content. ‘What genre does is recognize that the audience any one film within a context of other films, both those they have personally seen and those they have heard about or seen represented in other media outlets. …In general, the function of genre is to make films comprehensible and more or less familiar. (turner 97)’.
Action/adventure, the Western, Gangster/Crime, Detective/Film Noir, Comedy, Science fiction/Fantasy, Horror/Monster, Suspense Thriller/Spy/Heist and many others groups are usually used for marketing in stores where films are being sold. The majority of viewers, film critics, and film producers talk about films in relation to the categories. These categories are generally called genres. ‘The word “genre” is originally French, and it simply means “kind” or “type”. It’s related to another word, “genus”, which is used in the biological sciences to classify groups of plant and animals. A true film genre is a product of interaction between audience and the text. Therefore, all producers and audiences must have a quite good understanding and what is more important shared knowledge of genre’s characteristics. ’ For instance,’ westerns, at least the traditional ones, tend to share the same basic conflict and usually the same type of setting. All detective films share the same basic story: the uncovering of causes. Musicals share nothing more than frequent prominent interludes of music and perhaps dancing during a story. This shared knowledge, however, is not set in stone. Different people will have divergent understandings of genre. ’ According to this statement, audiences expand general ideas about any kind of genre based on going to the cinema, media coverage or advertisements and marketing. As a result of consequence, viewers have their own anticipations about a particular genre and define films according to their expectations. ‘Genres are based on a tacit agreement among filmmakers, reviewers and audiences. What gives the films some common identity are shared genre conventions. Shared conventions are shared thematic, stylistic and narrative structures. Although not every single film demonstrate all of the conventions, at least some of them are shown in a film. This helps the film critics to define whether this film fall into a particular group of films – genre. Moreover, critical analysis of any film can take place only if conventions are considered. These conventions are also called “repertoire of elements”. In this document shared genre conventions in terms of horror will be discussed.
The horror genre has become much more popular nowadays than ever before. ‘If its beginnings were rooted in literature – Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818) and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) are the titles that seem to spring to everyone’s mind – we also know that stories have always been told about ghosts, monsters, witches and the dark. ’ There are a lot of reasons why this genre is so popular today. However, it is still really difficult to clarify why it is so engaging for a great number of people regardless of its unreality. The genre of ‘Horror’ has been around since the late 1800’s giving it decades to develop and change. ’ ‘From the 1930s to the 1970s, most horror films were considered very much the poor brethren of the film world. ’ The reason was that horror films were made on a low budget. Furthermore, the target audience was young people who went to the cinemas late nights to have fun and scream their way. The great example was ‘the film “Matinee” (directed by Joe Dante, 1993)’ which demonstrates that horror films were watched mostly by young people at that time.
However, there were such films like “Psycho” (1960) and “The Birds” (1963) by Alfred Hitchcock which managed to change perspective of horror films in a better way. Since audiences appreciate thrill and excitement they experience during watching horror movies they expect new stories and plots. Consequently, film producers had to come up with new ideas and more challenging plots to meet the audience’s expectations and wishes. One of the genre conventions is iconography, which ‘derives from art history, where it only referred to visual signs. The context in which an object or sound is used is crucial in defining its meaning.
For example, a crucifix is readily associated with the church as a symbol of Christ`s resurrection, and is not simply an example of horror iconography. ’ In terms of a horror film a symbol of Christ would represent not only the Christ but the weapon against the evil. Another example could be a knife which is used to kill somebody rather than in comedy it is used for cutting things. In order to identify that the genre of a film is horror, such visual signs like red and black colors, blue filters in films are used. The use of blue filter is called digital color correction.
It was hard and expensive to achieve this correction previously. However, since computer technologies have developed a lot, much more powerful and exciting effects can be achieved by simply editing a film sequence in different computer software nowadays. Moreover, the mise- enscene of horror films also show that this film is horror film with the help of using such things like knives, guns, axes and many others. Another use of iconography is the setting. In horror films the setting is usually abandoned, isolated from people, the houses generally hide scaring past.
The majority of scenes are filmed in night time but the plot can be developed during daytime as well. There are some sub-genres of horror films. Therefore, the iconography can slightly vary. For instance, paranormal horror includes such symbols like unusual things happening or really dark scenes. “Slasher” horror shows masks, screaming victims. Another thing to consider is camera work in horror films. Generally, different and weird angles of camera are used. In order to frighten and express fear for the viewers extreme close ups and point of view shots take place during film.
There are many other types of iconography like the use of tense sounds and music which are generally linked with a horror genre. Therefore, aural signs should be also discussed when talking about iconography of films. ‘“One should not tell stories as straight-line narratives. There are so many other possibilities, and film would only enrich them. ” Peter Greenaway’. While researching horror films, another very important genre convention is narrative structure. ‘Narrative piece events together in a linear fashion that clearly shows the audience the reasons for, and the consequences of character behavior.
The logic of cause and effect ties together character traits, goals, obstacles, and actions. ’ . The main intention of narrative structure is to tell the story. Sometimes it is conceptual, sometimes real. For instance, the purpose of film can involve saving the world or finding a love. ‘Russian narrative theorist Tzvetlan Todorov argued that all narratives involve the disruption of a stable situation, which makes restoration of equilibrium an important goal. ’ First of all, with the help of disruption people can identify the genre of a film easily. For instance, f there is a drugs baron killing someone and trying to escape, perhaps the genre is gangster or thriller; some kind of dilemma in a family can be set in a film which genre is likely to be melodrama. Basically, the equilibrium Todorov was talking about is that generally characters come to this point of equilibrium only in the end of film after some kind of disruption: be it reconsidering goals or dealing with challenges. The great examples of films showing equilibrium are “slasher” films. Another part of narrative structure focuses on character types. There are different types of them which are strongly associated with the genre.
For example, the most expected character of horror films is monster. This character is extremely important in horror genre as to realize fear and revulsion. Since there are different types of horror films, monsters also vary. Sometimes, they represent ghosts which lead and frighten other characters. In some films, monsters are creatures that are half human half animal being. However, monster does not necessarily have to appear as a monster because it simply means phenomena or “bad thing” which is scaring. Almost every horror film has a Madonna as well. She is generally an attractive woman who is suffering because of a monster.
Madonna represents an ideal woman while a whore is completely opposite character that represents the worst things of women. ‘A standard narrative convention of horror film is that the exposition portrays a character or small group of characters venturing into a strange and ultimately threatening setting. Jonathan Harker (Alexander Granach) goes into the Carpathian Mountains to make a business deal with the mysterios Count Orlock in “Nosferatu”. ’ Genres are usually associated with particular themes. For instance,’ the wilderness versus civilization opposition in Westerns, and the human: non- human opposition in SF’.
In the beginning horror films were based on literature. “Dracula” was one of them. Since horror genre was developing during the time, new ideas such as aliens started to appear. During the 80’s the most popular idea in horror genre was “slashers” which was mentioned before in this document. The 80’s became some kind of new era for the horror genre as they started working closely on special effects to provide audience with more fear. ”The thing” (1982) and “The thing” (2011) is an example that shows how special effects have changed since 1982. The first version is full of makeup effects and costumes.
There is a big difference compared to the latest version in terms of using computer generated imagery for gaining special effects and digital animation. With this progression which influenced the viewers in terms of watching horror films the popularity of horror films increased a lot. ’ During the early 20th century psychological thrillers were introduced into the horror genre and changed the genre completely, sparking new ideas, which have grown and developed into the main theme and idea we have today. ’ Therefore, horror films expand themes about religion or unnatural things nowadays.
One of the examples of today’s horror films based on these themes is “Paranormal activity”. ‘It seems likely that a genre never dies. It may pass out of fashion for a time, only to return in updated garb. A genre may change by mixing its conventions with those of another genre. ’ Therefore, sometimes it is difficult to identify what is the genre of a particular film. Film producers are forced to take such actions like mixing some genres in order to create a new so called “hybrid” genre. The reason for this is to renew a genre by adding some conventions from another genre so that to surprise the audience and to keep them interested. The horror story […] is part of a long process by which people have tried to come to terms with and find adequate descriptions and symbols for deeply rooted, primitive and powerful forces, energies and fears which are related to death, afterlife, punishment, darkness, evil, violence and destruction. ” – J. A. Cuddon. According to Cuddon words, the horror film is only a part of a process. However, I do not think so because if something is a process then it has to end at some point and horror genre will never die. I think that is because the majority of people are curious about the things that are scaring or forbidden.
Curiosity has to be sated somehow and horror films help to sort it out. While watching horror films or reading horror books our mind experience feeling of being scared. Stephen King told once “We have to keep the ‘gators fed”. He meant that people would find another more dangerous way to sate their curiosity if horror genre would not exist. Consequently, this kind of genre will not die. Taking into account all above mentioned, I can come to the conclusion that every genre shares its own iconography, similar narrative structures and themes.
The main reason for that is to make every genre identifying and understandable. Audience chooses films to watch normally for entertainment so genre could be vital factor in this as it helps in choosing and understanding films. Bibliography Pramaggiore, Maria, and Wallis, Tom. Film: A Critical Introduction. Laurence King Publishing, 2005. Bordwell, David and Thompson, Kristin, Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. Lacey, Nick, Introduction to Film. London: Palgrave, 2005. Dougherty, Rachel. “Genre & Narrative in Horror Film…” 27 September 2012. 3 March 2013. http://racheldoughertyfilm. blogspot. co. uk/2012/09/genre-narrative-in-horror-film. html. Nelmes, Jill, An Introduction to Film Studies. Routledge, 2003. Rayner, Philip, Wall, Peter, and Kruger, Stephen. “AS Media Studies: The Essential Introduction”. Routledge, 2001. ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Wallis, T. , Pramaggiore, M. , (2005), Film: A Critical Introduction, p. 310 [ 3 ]. Bordwell, D. , Thompson, K. (2010), Film Art An Introduction, p. 328 [ 4 ]. Wallis, T. , Pramaggiore, M. , (2005), Film: A Critical Introduction, p. 310 [ 5 ].
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