Monday, 20 February 2012

Codes and Conventions Related To Narrative

In order to support our questionnaires, we researched the codes and conventions of typical possessive horror films and decided how to relate these to our story line.

The homes of the protagonists or other areas that they frequent are common settings. For example, other settings could be the school they attend or their church, although the main location is often their home. This is a common theme in supernatural films due to the subversion of the security that is usually linked with being at home. When an area that would usually be considered safe has been breached and become threatened, this creates feelings of unease and heightens fear, thereby inciting feelings of fear in the audience as well as the characters of the film. Homes are also used in possessive films as they make it feel more personal to the viewer and more realistic. This can create the idea that it could happen to them and create a more intense dependency on the outcome of the film as they hope that the antagonistic being is defeated. Other common locations can be abandoned houses, woods or graveyards. These kind of locations are seen in films such as 'Insidious' and the 'Paranormal' franchise.
We decided to set our film mainly in the home of one of the protagonists, and include few other locations in order to create the sense of imprisonment and isolation from the real world. This is aimed to incite feelings of claustrophobia and discomfort in the audiences as the characters experience a lack of control and cannot escape the events as they occur. We decided to include another location at the beginning of the film in order to introduce the characters, showing their school. The school establishes the girls as teenagers, applying to our target audience and also making them appear somewhat more vulnerable.

The main characters are commonly shown to be normal before the events of the film, making the events of the film appear more shocking while also allowing the audience to identify with the characters so that they are more invested in the outcome. The characters are usually females. Combined with our own research it became clear that the females are commonly young, typically attractive girls. This can make them appear more vulnerable while also appealing to audiences. We found that the main characters are often seen as kind or moral people, making them easy to relate to, although perhaps plagued by a secret or past event.  This kind of character is seen in films such as 'Paranormal Activity' and 'The Ring'.
We have decided to include a group of five teenage girls and include them all as protagonists of the entire film. This allows us to examine stereotypes in characters and expand the focus to a larger group as a twist on some supernatural films. This kind of group-haunting is seen in some films such as 'Night of the Demons' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', and is successful as the audience can watch the group struggle to survive and relate to them, while also allowing some sense of justice if an unsavoury character dies. There will be no adults in our film, as although typically some form of authority such as a priest is often called, we enjoyed the convention linked with slashers in that the adults are useless and the teenage characters are left to defend themselves. We have therefore combined and used inspiration from other sub-genres.

Character costumes:
  • The costumes of the characters before the events are usually stylish and attractive, showing them to be appealing and aspirational people. The costumes are usually conservative such as trousers or business attire, in neutral colours that do not make them stand out. This acts to suggest the character is moral or normal, and contrasts with the completely unnatural events to come. this can be seen in films such as 'Drag Me To Hell'.
    We have decided to go against this convention by making our teenage girls appear more promiscuous and sexually appealing. This links with their ages and the trends of current fashion to sexualise fashion, therefore making their characters more realistic. However, we will be using more conservative costuming for the main protagonist that will survive the events of the film, in accordance with the Final Girl Theory, by making her apear less immoral and bearing masculine traits.
  • As the events unfold, the costumes of the characters usually become more unkempt and dirty, relating to their struggle to survive and lack of control. For example, their clothes may be ripped or bloody.
    We are going to adhere to this convention by giving the protagonists injuries.
  • Although the antagonistic being is not always shown, when it is there is usually dark costuming or shadows, with pale make up and perhaps some injuries. This is also true when a protagonist has been possessed, their make up usually being used to pronounce circles under eyes or white/disgusting skin.
    We are going to adhere to this convention, as we mean for some of our protagonists to be possessed by the spirit. We will use make up to achieve the look, although most of the possession will be shown more through their actions rather than their appearance. The make up will be used to create one main shot that will be used to shock audiences as the extent of the possession is shown.
The weapons used by the protagonists to protect themselves is similar to other horror sub-genres in that they are picked up from the surroundings in desperate attempts to protect themselves. This relates to their lack of control and desperation, making the events appear more realistic. These could be bats, crowbars, knives or in some cases home-fashioned weapons such as crosses. The use of normal everyday objects makes the events seem more possible, so incite more fear in the audiences as they consider what weapons they would use in the same situation. The antagonistic entity often does not use weapons in the same way as in slashers, in that they often cause death by possessing protagonists or making unnatural events occur that lead to death.
Most of our protagonists will not have the chance to use weapons, but the main protagonist, who is the survivor, will at one point be seen with a knife trying to protect herself. The spirit will not use conventional weapons and will attack by possessing the victims.
Low level lighting and shadows are often played with in supernatural horrors. This could be linked with the weather, such as storms or night-time, or could be due to blackouts caused by the spirit. This lighting shows the desperation and entrapment of the characters, while also enhancing the sense of mystery created by the unseen antagonistic entity. The use of darkness can also enhance vulnerability as the character is unable to see, and this can create ominous tones as the audience fears for what is hidden in the darkness.
We will contrast natural and normal lighting at the beginning with darker lighting and silhouettes once the spirit is attacking in order to contrast the equilibrium of the characters at the beginning with the disequilibrium created by the supernatural events. It will also show their helplessness and inability to protect themselves.

  • A mixture of parallel and contrapuntal music is employed in the genre depending on the events in terms of the soundtrack The use of parallel soundtracks can be seen through the use of intense music during confrontation or battle scenes (typically towards the end of the film) or through whining strings to enhance an ominous tone (usually used to build tension throughout the film). Contrapuntal music can be used to contrast situations such as the use of childish music during unnatural events, often linked with child ghosts. It could also be used through the unnatural use of the characters possessions, such as if their radio keeps turning on to a particular pop song to build tension.
    The soundtracks we use in our teaser trailer will be parallel in that they will match the tone of the scene, although they will act to contrast with one another. The first will be club music during their introduction as teenagers, relating to their interests and lack of morals. The second soundtrack will be introduced once the unnatural events start occurring, and will be industrial music with a metallic sound to relate to the uncomfortable and intense events unfolding. Editing will be used to make the soundtracks reflect the tone even more, such as making the club music somewhat distorted to show the characters to be drunk, and thudding booms in the industrial music to create tension and emphasise fear.
  • Unnatural sounds are used in possessive horrors, such as disembodied whispers or laughs that refer to the spirit and their unnatural presence. These enhance the tension of scenes and are used to subvert normal understandings of sounds to make the audience feel uncomfortable. For example, laughter is usually considered positive, but in these situations it is seen as threatening.
    We will use unnatural sounds to relate to the spirits, working with the soundtracks to emphasise certain events and enhance the atmosphere. 
Common motifs:
Creaking doors and curtains blowing are often used to create tension towards the beginning of the film, before the true nature of events is shown. They can also be used later on to show that the spirit is coming to create fear for the protagonist. The linking of every day noises or events to the spirit creates fear as it incites a reaction in audiences in their own homes upon experiencing these events, making them feel more afraid even after the viewing of the film is over. Other such events could be candles flickering or going out, lights turning on and off, patches of water with no clear source, or shadowed hiding places with peepholes to look through.
We will use some of these common motifs to enhance the tension, such as having characters hide behind doors and the use of noises with no known source.
Seances are also commonly seen in possessive films, as the characters attempt to contact the spirits in order to communicate and find out the reasons for their haunting. If not during the seance, some form of communication is often seen from the spirit as they show the protagonist what they want from them. This is seen in films such as 'Drag Me To Hell' and 'The Haunting in Connecticut'.
We will use this motif as the basis of the haunting, as it is the seance through a ouija board that seems to summon the spirit to the protagonists. Communication showing what the spirit wants will also be shown as a repeated theme throughout the trailer.
The protagonists often make some form of discovery of the spirit's past or the reason for their haunting, and this can be through the seance or through exploration of the haunting area. This is seen in 'The Haunting in Connecticut' as the ghost leads the protagonist to discover their past.
We will not show discoveries of the spirit's past in order to make it appear more mysterious and also threatening through lack of understanding. This will also lend to the feeling of helplessness that we want to incite in audiences. However, as mentioned above we will include some form of explanation as to what the spirit wants.  


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