Thursday, 14 November 2013

ALL Genre Openings: Codes and Conventions

This is our vodcast on the codes and conventions for the openings of horror films.

P: We looked at 6 film openings: I looked at Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Lost Boys, and Ginger Snaps 2.

S: I looked at I Know What You Did Last Summer, Psycho, and Trick or Treat.

P: There are usually about 2 idents at the beginnings of the horror films. They are either about 15 seconds long for studio films such as the Warner Bros. ident in The Lost Boys, or shorter for indie movies, such as I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.

S: The titles are almost always white or light writing on a dark or black background. There is usually red accents in the main titles or in the background. The red makes the audience think of blood and is a signifier of the horror genre. For example in The Lost Boys, the titles are shown over a dark sea and are white, and the main title has red accents on it. 

P: The titles are often seperate to the film, for example in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the titles are yellow with a black background or with a black and red background and are seperate from the main film footage. 

S: The titles, and also the opening, are usually split into two sections. There is usually 2 or 3 titles at the very start of the film, followed by a short first section of footage, then a second set of titles with the cast and crew names, then a second part to the opening.

P: The two parts of the opening are usually very different. The first section often shows the creation of a disequilibrium, usually in the form of someone being murdered or going missing. This goes against Todorov's narrative theory, as there is a disequilibrium from the outset of the film, rather than an equilibrium first. EG

S: The second part of the opening is usually after all the titles are shown, and introduces the main character. The character is unaware of the disequilibrium already created. EG

P: Usually a narrative enigma is created in the opening too. We don't know who has committed the murder or who the antagonist is, but we are usually introduced to the antagonist by way of the crime they have committed. For example in The Lost Boys, we see that the security guard is taken up into the sky but we don't see who or what does it. 

S: The opening shot is usually one of two shot types, either extreme long shot or extreme close up. The extreme long shot is used for exposition and shows the audience the setting, such as in ********. The extreme close up shot is used to create a narrative enigma because you only see certain parts and don't get the full picture, for example in Ginger Snaps 2, you see the close up of the razor and the girls hand, but not her face which makes you wonder who she is.

P: The representation of characters is usually very obvious and you can tell easily who is good and who is bad. For example in Trick or Treat, you see that the boy is an outcast through his bedroom, the fact that he has rock posters stuck to his walls and is writing to his hero also showing he is different to the other kids. His clothing and his haircut especially also shows he is an outsider.

S: There is usually an audio bridge between the idents, titles, and opening in general. It is usually non-diegetic music that is quite eerie and has long drawn out notes and sounds that mimic heart beats or footsteps. In Ginger Snaps 2, screams can also be heard which puts the audience on edge. The music is very jumpy and is designed to manipulate the audience's heart rate and breathing pattern to make them feel more scared or tense.

P: In the second part of the openings, however, the music is often cheerful and reflects the mood of the protagonist because they don't know about the disequilibrium that has happened in the previous scene. 

S: The main purpose of the openings is to set up the disequilibrium and introduce the main character. This immediately sets up a problem or binary opposition and makes the audience want to continue watching to find out how the problem is resolved.

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