1. Task 4 Adam Andrade Horror essay
Horror Films are 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
effectively center on the dark side of life, the
forbidden, and strange and alarming events.
They deal with our most primal nature and
its fears: our nightmares, our vulnerability,
our alienation, our revulsions, our terror of the unknown, our fear of death and
dismemberment, loss of identity, or fear of sexuality. Whatever dark, primitive, and revolting
traits that simultaneously attract and repel us are featured in the horror genre. Horror films
are often combined with science fiction when the menace or monster is related to a
corruption of technology, or when Earth is threatened by aliens. The fantasy and
supernatural film genres are not synonymous with the horror genre, although thriller films
may have some relation when they focus on the revolting and horrible acts of the
killer/madman. Horror films are also known as chillers, scary movies, spook fest, and the
macabre. See also Scariest Film Moments and Scenes (illustrated) - from many of the
Greatest Horror Films ever made, Best Film Death Scenes (illustrated), and Three Great
Horror Film Franchises.
Introduction to Horror Films Genre:
Horror films go back as far as the onset of films themselves, over a 100 years ago. From our
earliest days, we use our vivid imaginations to see ghosts in shadowy shapes, to be
emotionally connected to the unknown and to fear things that are improbable. Watching a
horror film gives an opening into that scary world, into an outlet for the essence of fear itself,
without actually being in danger. Weird as it sounds, there's a very real thrill and fun factor in
being scared or watching disturbing, horrific images.
Horror films developed out of a number of sources folktales with devil characters,
witchcraft, fables, myths, ghost stories, Grand Guignol melodramas, and Gothic or
Victorian novels from Europe by way of Mary Shelley, Victor Hugo or Irish writer
Bram Stoker, and American writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Edgar Allan Poe.
Oscar Wilde's 1890 Faustian tale The Picture of Dorian Gray and H.G. Wells' 1896
story of The Island of Dr. Moreau were adapted into early film versions. In many
ways, the expressionistic German silent cinema led the world in films of horror and
the supernatural, and established its cinematic vocabulary and style. Many of the
early silent classics would be remade during the talkies era.
2. 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 1930’s, with Dracula and
Frankenstein which were developed out of folklore and myths. The vampire myth began to
surface during the time that writer Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula was written. In the
1960’s, 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
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 usually end up with similar
plotlines. These are called ‘Twinfilms’. 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 contrasts 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.
3. 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 90’s 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 Jennifer's
Body we see all the male’s that she comes in contact with becomes
It is an idea that any text has been influenced and shaped by texts that have come before it.
(anything read or seen in the case of movies) Therefore, no film exists on its own and
consciously or not all films borrow ideas from other films, past or present. Nothing exists on
its own. Intertextuality is important writers, director’s audience and intertextuality exists
because any kinds of media can use it, it’s not just in film. Posters, adverts etc. all get their
ideas from somewhere or use previous ideas as a guideline. influences on intertextuality
within a film can be creativity as it inspires you to create something. Every media text is
inspired by the world around you. Sometimes the media don’t even realize they are doing it.
Some examples to prove my point
-the simpsons and family guy are a good example of TV programs that use intertextuality
But they use it in a more comedic way to take the mick and gain humor from their audiences.
Here’s an image from family guy copying the north by northwest scene.
The Simpsons have done a similar scene but have used a music video
from the Beatles
4. Shrek is a well-known animation series of films, distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. In the
film there is a lot of Intertextuality and references to characters from different Disney films.
This Intertextuality makes the film more familiar to the audience especially the young
children who would know these characters and these characters are used to intertwine with
the story lines. The characters nature and personality are borrowed and transformed into a
different take to make the connection with the character and the audience, for example
Sleeping Beauty may not look like the Disney original but in Shrek she is always portrayed
as tired, Rapunzel has the long hair, Snow White is accompanied with her seven dwarves,
Cinderella wears glass shoes and the Ugly Sister is ugly. These intertextual references
repeat in all the Shrek films to familiarize the characters with the audience. Early on, the
horror genre was not known for its intertextuality. In more recent decades, particularly with
the growth of horror fandoms on the internet and the release of films like Scream and Cabin
in the Woods, intertextuality has become a staple of the genre. Many horror films include
posters and props and other items that reference older works (not always other horror films).
Cabin in the Woods included monsters, locations and plot devices that referenced a whole
host of horror films – from their own version of Hellraiser Lament Configuration and
Coenobite characters, to the ubiquitous Werewolf in reference to classic horror films such as
the British Hammer Horror movies. This is mainly in aid of the film’s purpose as a huge
deconstruction of the horror genre.
You will also get a lot of “spoofs”. Spoofs are humorous imitations from a specific film or
genre, with exaggerated characteristic feature for comic affects. Conventions of spoofs tend
to be where the villain is clumsy, for comedic purposes unless they are trying to be scary,
but the violence is extremely over exaggerated or stylized. Some horror spoofs can include
Shaun of the dead, zombie land, this the end and scary movie. Scary movie has imitated
and used many intertextual references from many different films, just as scream, I know what
you did last summer, the exorcist, the Blair witch project, the shining and the list carries on.
Horror movie spoofs tend to incorporate the stereotypical conventions of a horror film.
Including low key lighting, graphic violence, jump scares and props with large connotational
value but with aspects of comedy blended into this. The purpose of a horror film is to scare
the audience, whereas a horror spoof is to make the audience laugh at what once scared
them. Themes of a horror spoof can vary but will most likely follow the same values, which
can be seen as a link to the conventions of a typical horror film. These can include: good vs
evil, serial killer envy, insanity, supernatural forces and so on.
5. Films can have a huge amount of effects on audiences from simply causing an emotional
response to some would argue much worse effects such as causing copycat violence.
Audiences however can also affect a film and particularly the longevity of its popularity and
its status in our culture. Audiences are made up of individuals however and it is impossible
to say that a film will have the same impact on every single viewer and that a film will be read
or understood by each viewer in the same way.
One of the fundamental debates in media theory is over whether audiences are made up of
individual active spectators or a passive mass of unthinking consumers who watch what we
are told to watch and fail to question what we are told or the messages of the media we
consume. Active spectatorship theory suggests each viewer is different and many people in
the audience will question the film and react to it in different ways to others, not just blindly
accepting the messages. Active spectators do not just consume what they are told to watch
by marketing that is aimed at them but instead choose different films to watch for different
reasons. The passive spectator theory on the other hand suggests we are all the same and
our intelligence, life experiences and everything else that makes us individuals does not
affect our reception of the film. The horror genres are filled with numerous subgenres – with
different ways of inducing terror in audiences. Some do not encourage active spectatorship
very much – and tend to be very straightforward affairs that make plain the meaning of their
content. Slasher films (such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween) for example
tend to be basic affairs, without much thought provoking material. They rely on shock value
and jump-scares to frighten viewers. It is for this reason slashers tend to have a lower critical
reputation and are usually regarded as ‘cheap fun’ by the movie-going public. Meanwhile,
psychological horror films, such as Sixth Sense, or The Blair Witch Project rely on active
spectatorship to produce the scares expected of the genre. This is because much of the
terror within these films is implied or otherwise hinted at – rather than being openly
displayed. This forces audiences to think about the meanings of the things they see and
reach the terrifying conclusions in their own minds.
6. This plays off of the principle that the human imagination is a more powerful tool for creating
fear than any physical or visual demonstration can be. Horror films may rely almost entirely
on active spectatorship to be successful, or they may seek to create passive audiences.
There are many subgenres of horror, and no two films will fall in the same place on the
spectrum of active vs passive spectatorship.
Audience reception theory
The Studying of Semiotics Stuart Hall claimed that media texts go through stages of
encoding and decoding. this theory states that media texts are encoded by the producer and
that the texts contain only the ideologies of the people who made the media text. Decoding
is when an audience views the text and interprets their own ideologies into the text. Not all
audiences will respond in the same way, and in some cases, not how the producer intended.
An example of this could be Miley Cyrus and her world-famous video 'We Can't Stop'. The
video was produced by the producer to make people forget about the Hannah Montana girl,
and create the new Miley Cyrus, but when it was decoded by the audience, the reaction was
that she was 'slutty' and 'disgraceful' in most people’s views, but again, not all the audience
will interpret the video in that way. Numerous factors add to whether we take the dominant,
oppositional or negotiated reading. The areas are as follows: Life experience, Mood at time
of viewing, Age, Culture, Beliefs, Gender.
Stuart hall's reception theory
Encoding/Decoding model of the relationship between text and audience, the text is encoded
by the producer and decoded by the reader.
There may be major differences between two different readings of the same code created by
situated culture- social class, gender, ethnicity,etc..
Using recognised codes and conventions and drawing upon audience expectations relating
to aspects such as genrean use of stars, the producers can position the audience and thus
create a certain amount of agreement on what the code means. This is known as a preferred
7. Understanding encoding and decoding
When a producer creates a text it is encoded with a meaning or message that they want to
convey to a mass audience. This is called preferred reading. Sometimes the producer can
encode a message that is not correctly understood by an audience making the message non
Conditions of Reception
The format in which audiences view a horror film can arguably have a great deal of effect on
the experience. Traditionally, these films were viewed collectively in theatres – a large
darkened space, where your vision is dominated by the film’s projected image, and the
sound booms through powerful speakers. But now there are many options for viewing films.
While a theatrical viewing can be a frightening and immersive experience, home viewing via
DVD/Blu-ray can allow different experiences. Either a relaxing viewing among friends,
watching the film for reasons of nostalgia rather than catharsis, or a genuine attempt to
recreate the terror of the cinematic experience, with no lights and surround sound. It’s also
become quite common for people to watch home video formats alone on computers,
spawning the idea of watching a film alone in the dark, with the sound on speakers, fully
immersing a lone viewer in the experience. Online viewing is also becoming much more
widespread today, and due to the interconnectivity of many technologies, online video allows
independent films distributed on YouTube to be viewed on a HD screen with relative ease
and no requirement for a custom DVD or VHS cassette
Male gaze theory
As it would be impossible to discuss the entire history of the horror genre and woman's
relationship to it within the space available, so two chosen films will support the discussion.
In all cases these films are regarded as 'classic' horror films and, importantly, landmark and
watershed moments in the horror genre.
Psycho (1960), The Exorcist (1973 both represent meta statements in the history of the
genre and provide essential examples of the arguments discussed here. It should also be
noted that both films contain also ambiguous female characters for example; Mrs Bates in
Psycho, and the possessed Regan in The Exorcist.
Significantly the films were produced and released during periods of change for women's
rights, including the beginnings of the women's liberation movement in the early sixties
through to the publishing of The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer, and Spare Rib
magazine in the seventies. This help to fuel the debate more significantly as the selected
films span a time when women in the real world (as opposed to the constructed world of the
cinema) had made great steps toward equality through the feminist movement. Horror films
are told as stories of good versus evil. The drama of their narratives tends to derive from the
clash between a monster and an innocent, analytical and theoretical analysis has been
informed by the writing of Laura Mulvey and in particular her discussions of the male
gaze.The male gaze is the act of depicting the world and women in the visual arts and
literature from a masculine and heterosexual point of view, presenting women as objects of
male pleasure. The male gaze has three perspectives: that of the person behind the camera,
that of the characters within the representation, and that of the spectator. These
assessments of the slasher genre and the male gaze leave the question whether the
longevity of the franchise will change altogether the representation of women.
8. Social media effect
Today, social media is a major consideration for film promotion, no matter the size and
budget. Universal Pictures is getting creative, particularly with the release of “Despicable Me
2.” Creating an interactive marketing campaign around their “Minion” characters, Despicable
Me 2 tapped into fans via mobile. Spanning five European countries are mobile-controlled
digital ads with personalized skits from the Minions themselves. Fans are then encouraged
to share their personalized videoclip across their own social profiles. In other words,
Universal Pictures has their fans doing the marketing for them.
Blockbuster success and household name “Twilight” was the first film to reach 1 million
followers on Twitter. Enticing fans to follow the film on social media is half the battle. After
that, they have a massive captive audience to whom they can market, build hype and
entertain with engaging content. But fans don’t follow films on Twitter to be bombarded with
marketing campaigns. They want to be a part of a community and greater experience, where
their favourite characters, producers and filmmakers are listening and engaging. Social
media provides a space for communities of fans to connect over their shared love of film.
Zooming in on Custom Analytics enables film marketers to visualize how best to engage and
target messages that will resonate. Using social media management tools for active listening
is essential to maintain a film’s longevity – especially for sagas like Twilight or Harry Potter.
Films can use social media to listen to what their loyal fans want, and hopefully find a
creative way to do just that For example, after 1 million social media “demands” for a
nationwide release of the film Paranormal Activity, Paramount gave in. Their active listening
across the nation allowed them to effectively meet the needs of their audience. Just like
other genres there are groups within social networks dedicated to horror films. Horror films
promote themselves just as much through social media as any other modern film genre
does. There are even horror films now being released based upon the social media
phenomenon and its inherent dangers such as the movie “friend Request”.
9. Pre and post-viewing experiences
The enjoyment of a film can also be affected by the pre and post-viewing experiences of the
person who watches it and where and how they watch it. For example, if a viewer watched
all the trailers, promotional clips, interviews with the stars etc before a film is released, they
may have extremely high expectations of the film. This might mean the film fails to meet
these expectations. Comedies often have many of the best jokes in the trailers of the films
and these jokes will not be as funny when they are in the final film if you have seen the trailer
a few times. Similarly, many trailers give a great deal of the story away and show many of
the best stunts. The recent Fast and Furious 6 trailer seemed to have clips from all the major
set-pieces and therefore there was no sense of surprise when watching the film. Prometheus
was also a victim of its excellent marketing because people had huge expectations and the
film was not as good as many had hoped.
Before or after a film, reading reviews might also affect a person’s enjoyment of a film.
Sometimes I read a review and I can’t get the words of the writer out of my head and it ends
up affecting my opinion. For this reason, many wait till after they have seen a film to read
any reviews. Also discussing a film after it has finished can potentially change your opinion
How you watch a film is also important as watching a film at an IMAX cinema with state of
the art sound is a very different experience to watching a film on a mobile phone or a dodgy
pirate DVD copy. Blockbusters particularly are supposed to be seen on a big screen in a
dark room with the sound up loud to get the full audiovisual experience. If an audience is
laughing in a comedy or screaming in a horror, it will likely influence other viewers. Watching
a film with mates is different to watching it with parents or on a first date and watching it
alone is very different to watching it with a large audience. All these factors can affect
enjoyment and interpretation. 3D is supposedly more immersive, but many hate it and some
people have home cinema setups because they would rather watch a film in their own home.
I also find that if I see a good film early (at a preview before it is released) I think I often love
it even more than if I was (seemingly) the last to see it. I certainly feel the need to talk about
it more to convince more people to go and see it
The horror genre is equally as capable of offering narcissistic and escapist pleasures to
audiences, if the characters fit certain types, or the narrative and setting is well-crafted, but
without a doubt the reason why people believe the greatest pleasure when watching a horror
film is a sort of personal challenge – they want to prove to themselves and others (it is quite
common for groups to view horror films together) that they are not too scared to watch the
film, and that they can withstand the horrors within. It is a challenge to expose one’s self to
frightening sights, sounds and suspense without hiding or running away – an exercise of
control over instincts. There is also the entertainment some will draw from seeing their
companions who do not handle the terror as well as them react, in what could arguably be
called a form of emotional schadenfreude (the pleasure of someone’s misfortune). This
10. competitive and cathartic experience undoubtedly creates the primary draw of the horror
genre for audiences while also leaving a lasting impact on the audience for years after.