BTEC National Diploma in Media Production
- Pages: 13
- Word count: 3065
- Category: Media
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In this essay I will talk about the genre horror and I will choose 3 case studies to talk about, one pre 1960, one from the 70s and a contemporary one from 1990 to present day.
Horror is an ancient art form, for a long time we try to terrorise each other out of pleasure, by telling sadistic stories in which it triggers the less logical parts of our imaginations, giving us that basic thrill and rush of adrenaline in which fear brings, horror stories also sometimes serve as a wider moral purpose, reinforcing the rules and taboos of our society and showing the macabre fate of those who transgress it, horror films have long served both purposes.
The pre 1960 film that I choose to talk about is Dracula from 1931, an acclaimed masterpiece directed by Tod Browning, known also for two other vampire films: London after Midnight (1927), Mark of the Vampire (1935), screenplay by Garrett Ford, based on the novel by Bram Stoker with Bela Lugosi in Dracula and Lionel Barrymore sharing Lon Chaney’s dual role.
The generic conventions/iconography (things that you expect to find in a genre) we can find in Dracula (1931) are:
* A Castle in the mountains
* Frightened peasants.
* Coffin that opens very slowly
* Door opens by itself, with a strange noise
* Howling wolves
* Dracula being pale, educated, strange eyes, with a tuxedo and a opera cloak
* Close ups on Dracula face
* Vampire is afraid of the crucifix
* The scream of the victim
* Tick fog
* No reflection on the mirror when the vampire looks at it.
* The stake that goes through the vampire heart
Now for the narrative of the film, we are going to talk about the Equilibrium or balance of the story, the narrative always begins with a initial equilibrium, that often gets disrupted causing a disequilibrium and to achieve or restore the equilibrium a transformation usually takes place, in the film the initial equilibrium is presented to us as Dracula, a vampire from Transylvania, moves to London in search of fresh blood with the help of a realtor who becomes ensnared in his web. This is when the balance is disrupted and the disequilibrium happens when Dracula tries to seduce Mina Seward to his dark ways, and he succeeds in biting her making her slowly under his control but is challenged by Professor Van Helsing, who begins to realise and discover the counts true nature, then the balance its restored when the professor Van Helsing finds Dracula weakness and succeeds in killing him, driving a stake trough his heart, saving Mina.
Dracula is the first horror film produced with sound, nowadays it would be classified as Gothic horror, the film has a fine mise-en-scene where the concept of “Mittel-Europe” was invented, land of swirling mists, howling wolves, frightened peasants and crumbling castles owned by heavily accented individuals with strange eyes and an interesting taste in evening dress.
Dracula is also used as a Euphemism for sex, at that time there was something very sexy about vampires, the intimacy of their assaults and the fact that they traditionally choose to appear in women’s bedrooms in the middle of the night, perhaps. As the movie that turned Bela Lugosi into a horror star as well as the initial film in Universal’s horror cycle of the thirties, there is no doubt that this is an important film.
Horror movies were reborn in the 1930s. The advent of sound, as well as changing the whole nature of cinema forever, had a huge impact on the horror genre. Sound adds an extra dimension to terror, whether it is music used to build suspense or signal the presence of a threat, or magnified footsteps echoing down a corridor. Horror, with its strong elements of the fantastic and the supernatural, provided an effective escape to audiences tiring of their Great Depression reality, and, despite the money spent on painstaking special effects, often provided a good return for their studio.
Audiences seemed even more enthusiastic about the horror genre than in the 1920s, and flocked into cinemas to be scared by largely supernatural monsters wreaking havoc on largely fantastical worlds, events far removed from the everyday realities of Depression and approaching war. Horror, then as now, represented the best escapism available for that precious few pounds it took to buy a ticket.
In terms of audience reading, there are three different types of reading, the preferred reading, which is how you are supposed to feel, the negotional reading, based on various experience and oppositional reading, as the name says is the opposite of how we should interpret the text, for this film I think it would be preferred reading, as there is no doubt the villain is the vampire Dracula that terrorises young girls and live on the blood of the living, as the film goes on he kills a lot of people, and his character really scares the audience, which is a relief when he dies at the end, and the professor saves the girl but it could also be a Oppositional reading as the count is a seductive character, with scenes of sexual euphemism, the way he bites the girls neck and he has style since he wears tuxedo and a cape, so it could provoke some kind of attraction to the girls.
Now about the theory of Uses and Gratification where the audience uses the media to satisfy needs and wants, the media is then consumed for various reasons and in a variety of ways, there are five different types of uses and gratification, we can use for learning and information, for entertainment, for self insight and affirmation of personal identity, for escape and diversion and social contact, the uses and gratification we can get from this film is that of escape and diversion, since at the time of the approaching war and the reality of Depression people found the cinemas the best escape route for the few pens it used to cost.
The film from the 70s that I choose was The Exorcist from 1973, voted as the scariest film of all times, as a sub genre can be classified as a Diabolic horror, the film was directed by William Friefkin, produced by William Peter Blatty, Jason Miller as father karras, Linda Blair as Regan, Screenplay by William Peter Blatty based on his novel, a film of 127 minutes and suitable for persons of 18 years or over.
The generic conventions/iconography (things that you expect to find in a genre) we can find in The Exorcist (1973) are:
* Tick fog
* Heaven against hell, good vs evil
* Phone suddenly ringing
* 360 degree head-rotation
* self-mutilation/masturbation with a crucifix
* the projectile spewing of green puke
* deep and sad instrumental tune
* levitation over her bed
* demonic voice
* Spider walk
* Girl being tied up on her bed
* Insults to the priest, mother and religion.
* Temperature suddenly dropping when priest starts the exorcism
* Regan’s injured face, the white face that appears only twice in the whole film
* The words marked on her body
* The light that comes out of the window, when the priest arrives at the house.
* the foggy breath
The narrative structure of the film starts with this normal girl Regan, living with her mother who is divorced, this is the equilibrium, which is disrupted when the innocent girl plays Ouija board and starts developing increasingly horrific behaviour. Baffled doctors suggest mental illness, but none of their tests can back this up. After witnessing several of Regan’s horrific acts and all medical possibilities are exhausted Regan’s mother, Chris McNeil, turns to the church. She approaches Father Damien Karras who is a priest/psychiatrist. He looks at young Regan and becomes convinced that she is possessed, after collecting the necessary evidence he brings this to the church’s attention and calls in Father Merrin, who is an experienced exorcist. They try to drive the evil spirit out, before it is too late, this is the disequilibrium, and to restore the equilibrium of the story, the father priest researches more about the demon, and after knowing about him, he tries a last attempt to drive the demon out by sacrificing himself and persuade the demon to possess the priest itself, after succeeding the priest jumps from the window killing himself and the demon inside of him, thus saving the girl, and that restores the equilibrium.
The film The Exorcist had a huge impact on the audience, there are ideas, ideals and images that are burned into our subconscious after seeing the film for the first time , what was it about the film that made it so culturally significant?
The basis of the film was simple. The Devil possesses a little girl and two priests struggle to free her from his evil clutches. A simple idea laid the groundwork for a complexly emotional movie that caused many people to question everything that they had learned in the past.
Vietnam was an issue that was strong in the minds of many people. People in the United States were witnessing evils that they had never seen before. The film reminded them of what evil might truly be. The Exorcist reminded people that there was a way to overcome any evil.
Sometimes, as in The Exorcist, the only way to truly overcome an evil is to commit an act of personal sacrifice. This was an important message for the time since America was on the verge of a stage in history were personal excess was considered the only way to overcome life’s obstacles.
There are some sociologists that have suggested that the excessive years of the 1970s may have been stronger if it were not for The Exorcist. They point to the number of children and teens that became more entrenched in their Churches after seeing the film.
This was a film that at the time all the special effects were physical and not computer generated and became a huge hit for his controversial content thus banned from England until 1999, the film was the only horror film to be nominated for Best Picture in Academy Award history.
Horror films of the 1970s reflect the grim mood of the decade. After the optimism of the 1960s, with its sexual, cultural revolutions, and the moon landings, the seventies were something of a disappointment. It all started to go horribly wrong in 1970; the Beatles split, Janis and Jimi died, and in many senses it was downhill all the way from there. However, when society goes bad, horror films get good, and the 1970s marked a return to the big budget, respectable horror film, dealing with contemporary societal issues, addressing genuine psychological fears.
One genuine fear apparent in the horror films of the 1970s is the fear of children.
Children are the focus of horror in many key 1960s films Village of the Damned (1960) really reinforces that kids can be spooky. And unwanted. And do bad things to their parents. Yet this theme dominates the 1970s, as the crumbling family unit becomes the source of much fear and mistrust. This time around “the enemy within” is not a shape shifting alien from another planet. This time the enemy is to be found in your own home.
It’s your Mum (Shivers), your Dad (The Shining), your brother (Halloween), your husband (The Stepford Wives), your little boy (The Omen) and your daughter (The Exorcist).
In terms of audience reading, for this film I think it would be preferred reading, as this film makes us feel fear from the evil, and feel sorry for the girl and with hope thanks to the priest that show us the way to overcome this evil, which makes us more believers, but can be also a Negotional reading because it depends on each experience, if we don’t believe in demons or the religion that other may not be scared and might even find it funny and comic some scenes.
The Uses and Gratification we can take from this film is that of entertainment, despite the controversial content, and being X-rated, people still wanted to see the film and be scared, because for the two hours you would truly feel alive.
The contemporary film that I choose from the era of 1990 to nowadays was 28 days later, it’s a zombie film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, Cillian Murphy as Jim, Naomie Harris as Selena.
The generic conventions/iconography (things that you expect to find in a genre) we can find in 28 days later are:
* the desperation of the people trying to survive
* sudden attacks
* the gore that represents the zombies
* eating people alive and its members
* the suspense music when a zombie its running after a human
* the silence
* the vulnerability of normal people to be killed
* confrontation of people against people as the real evil
* ever-present threats
* cities and streets deserted
* the fear of infection
* a double-edged assault the infected and the military
* religious apocalyptical imagery
* When someone dies, they come back to life, in this case infected
* “don’t go in there” and “don’t look behind that door” suspense scenes
* The infected actually running instead of just slowly walking
* The infected being immune to physical attacks unless on his head
In the narrative structure of the film, the equilibrium starts when Jim wakes up off his coma and wonders around a deserted London, then later he founds that a group of animal activists had tried to free animals that were infected by a virus in a laboratory, but one of the chimpanzee attacks one of the group, and the infection starts to spread and only few humans had survived, so after Jim encounters one of the infected he is saved by Selema, that teaches him the rules to survive, they manage to find two other humans in an apartment, a middle-aged man named Frank and his teenager daughter Hannah they hear from the radio that the military have the cure in North Manchester, from here on they try to survive and reach that camp, this is when the disruption of the equilibrium happens the message was a ploy by the military to get women into their compound so they can begin the repopulation of England. A plan by Major West’s they try to kill Jim and rape the women, including Hannah of 14 year old girl, then the equilibrium is restored back when Jim plans a assault with the infected over the military and kill other humans in order to save the women, which shows the twist in the human nature, in the end he save the girls and they are able to survive the infected.
28 Days Later brings the genre into a new era – an era with new real-world fears and post-911 danger.
Thanks to embedded reporters, live feeds, 24 hour rolling news and events in Iraq and Afghanistan, military images dominated the news – and global consciousness. Media and military technology combined to give the general public closes up view of war like never before, in a daily TV dosage. It was inevitable then, that, as the conflict dragged on and stories of less-than-heroism began to surface, that the rank-and-file soldier should begin to feature as a dominant figure in our mass cultural nightmare.
British horror films were ahead of the curve on this paradigm, rapidly emerging as the classic horror movie of the early 2000s, 28 Days Later is a low budget, digitally shot entry into the zombie apocalypse sub-genre, some of the film power, unusually for a horror movie, lies in its realism. From the news footage which opens the title sequence riots, lynching, hangings, sobbing mothers and police brutality, the action is placed firmly in the here and now. The digital footage the “home movie” effect, only enhances that sensation. Shot in 2001, before the 9/11 attacks, 28 Days Later proved to be uncannily reminiscent, both of familiar cities laid waste by disaster, and of global infection. 9/11 saw the normally crowded streets of New York closed and deserted, and landmarks plastered with “Have You Seen…?” posters. SARS devastated the Hong Kong economy in 2003 as the threat of a new, incurable virus shut schools and public offices, decimated tourism and business travel, and had the whole world wondering if it could happen to them. Whilst SARS receded as a threat, the global medical community is still on standby alert for outbreaks of its close cousin, avian flu. And, although at the time of filming the breakdown of West’s platoon might have been a cultural reference to Vietnam War movies, the representation of soldiers, flailing without any moral compass to guide them, was to echo loudly in news stories for the rest of the decade.
The audience reading I think is right its Preferred reading, because I think the director really wants us to feel compassion towards Jill that till the end he tries to protect those who are important to him, and helps others and he is a casual normal human too that is only trying to survive so he is vulnerable, instead of the military that pretty much tries to kill other humans and rape women for their “high” cause and the infected that are only there to kill and infect, the other possible reading would be that of Oppositional reading, where some would thought that what the military is doing it’s the right thing and its for the best of the survival of the species and they both are fighting against the infected.
The uses and Gratification you may get from the film is that of entertainment, with plot twists and a well written script.