Monday, April 20, 2009


Finally completed the assignment, im pretty happy with how its turned out, i had to throw some of my ideas regarding the titles out the window but ive come up with some new ones that im pretty pleased with. Im really digging the score in this now - especially when the volume is high - really seems to work well with the titles. Still would have like a less shaky camera move - i tried the stabilize the motion in after effects but that feature seems more suited to non moving camera motions. I hope you enjoy. Link:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Update 3 - Final Assignment

Finally finished my R&D on the title effects im going to use - im pretty happy with them. It was kinda fun just experimenting with the different filters within After Effects to see how one can combine them to get different effects. I havent touched the score in the assignment, im pretty happy with my attempts at it in update 2. As far as the final screams go - i left these in because i intended to use the titles to add a way of synching them in with the rest of the project. Im pleased to hear you like it! i have to admit, it was a very frustrating experience to finally get it to this point - because of the sparing use of sounds and their visceral and strange tambre.

My initial idea for the titles was to have them track to the footage - unfortunately though, because the footage builds up in speed - this would make the titles basically unreadable. So ive opted for these 2 sets of effects which when given priority to their placement on the screen should get the overall effect i was after - which was to lead the viewers eye.

Only thing left to do now is sych these titles into the rest of the footage then add some more audio fx to accompany them and synch them with the rest of the piece. I left my initial ideas over whether this would be a opening sequence or teaser open - and this has continued to the very end - im pretty sure this piece can be used as either - but ive leaned towards a teaser more because the score comes to a crescendo - which is a regular thing with most teasers.

Also im more of less happy with the color correction, although i have been playing around with a purely black and white scheme and am thinking of leaving only the titles in color - so as to make the piece all the more darker and atmospheric - not to mention this would further help the titles lead the vievers eye. Im quite sure ill probably end up making both versions and finally submitting one of them in the end.

Nevertheless here is a link and an embedded version:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Update 2

Finally got the soundtrack to synch with the visuals to some extent - more or less happy with the score for now. Im gonna move onto the titles now - so a lil R&D is gonna be needed in getting the effects im after and also seeing if i can stumble on some new ones. Ideally i would have like to have some sort of rig to get smooth pans across the content of the visuals but alas - doing the best i can with what ive got for the moment. With the score ive removed any high paced beats or upbeat sounds from the score entirely - basically thinning it down and making it really minimalist also - relying on the unnerving and jarring sound inbetween the coarse silence to bring about an earie and uneasy feeling within the audience. Ive also tried to support this dark mood through the high contrast and vignetting done in the color correction - which also changes with the score moving from an unsaturated and bleak - almost bleach washed look - into an oversaturated and hyper-real look by the crescendo of the score. Now onto the titles - i still have some ideas about the video i might try if i have time left over... finger crossed. Heres the Current Update:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Final Project Update 01

This project has got to be THE most frustrating in terms of pre-production. I think ive changed my idea like 5 times and as a result have lost alot of time because of it. I finally decided after much deliberation to make a opening title sequence. It would be a precursor to a project i can work on in my spare time during the holidays - based around lil creatures in the woods. I decided on a pretty slow and dark mood for the opener - kinda moody, wallowing and discomforting. Most of this up till now has been done through the score which has gone through numerous variations. I'd initially decided to make a score and then cut footage to that - but my score ended up too high paced and kinda cheery - so after gathering footage from the wooods nearby my place and cutting it to a rather slow rhythm - i did a bit of a tap dance between the score and editing, finally getting them to mesh to a certain extent. Im still not completely happy with the result as portions of the sound track still dont propel the editing. Also the cutting seems to all of a sudden get really fast when it gets near the end - but working with stock sounds has its limitations.

For the moment though its not all that bad, and ive completed the rough cut of the footage and the soundtrack. I'll be doing all the after effects portion of the work in the coming week - with titles and color correction at the top of the list. Ive found working in premiere very constricting with regard to the animation controls on the effects - its very confusing compared to After Effects and so im hoping to do most of my effect work in there. However it is really great for getting your timing and playing with sequences in the initial stages of a concept - where premiere seems to offer the most flexibility. I cant say i use soundbooth much at all - its a very limited package, and really offers little besides noise reduction for me as most of its effects can be duplicated in the other adobe packages.

The reason for the continual change in my concept was a result of trying to be minimalist in my approach - my initial assignment was very after effects oriented and had loads of content that went into it, but after having a look at the opening sequences of gattaca and eraserhead i can definitely see that one can put forward an idea and create a mood with the clever use of color and sound - this is what ive been hoping to do with this project. Its quite unnerving though as i cant see the final visuals until i get into the after effects portion of the work - but the soundtrack is really getting on my nerves coz i cant get it to roll with the cutting - definitely a cause for concern - maybe its just me, i could really use some feedback and suggestions guys Cheers.

Ive uploaded an update on where i am with the project on youtube and the link for it is: Ive also embedded it here - i hope it works:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A critical examination of the horror genre and its conventions in the construction of a framework for its study.

The horror genre can be traced back to as far as the 1900’s. It has been the focus of many studies conducted by film academics for the better part of a century. Yet, many questions pertaining to this category of film still remain with us to this day. What element or convergence of elements, distinguish a title as horror? Why do some titles stand the test of time while others fade into obscurity? Where do the boundaries of horror start and end? These are all questions that have plagued horror academia from its very beginnings, and still do to this very day. This study hopes to provide some insight into the horror genre and unveil its underlying principles such that this information may aid in answering these questions. To do so we propose the study of the horror genre within the confines of a framework based on four key aspects of genre studies. Initially we will examine the underlying visual motifs of the genre in an attempt to identify what part they play in positioning a film within the horror genre. Next further critical analysis of the structural conventions of the genre will be put under close scrutiny and their relevance to the genre examined. Furthermore the ideological conventions that underpin the genre will be looked at and their relationship to the genre. Finally the genre will be looked at from the perspective of audiences through a psychoanalytical approach in order to ascertain the existence of a unique identifier within the genre. In so doing we will have formed a framework for identifying horror films and also establishing reasons why some are more successful than others; while setting clear boundaries for the horror genre. Thus by identifying the underlying paradigms and principles that underpin the horror genre, we hope to gain a better appreciation for the genre and provide further insight into the successful construction of films within it.
The horror genre continues to be a pervasive and all the more difficult creature to pin down and define for academics – mainly because of its dynamic and constantly changing nature. Horror has been a pivotal source of inspiration for film makers for the better part of a century – and continues to be to this day. The 1930’s and the creation of films such as Dracula and Frankenstein heralded the beginnings of the genre. However as Weaver (1952) notes within the space of 10 years the horror genre had been brought to its knees with its over-saturation of recycled characters and themes. Had it not been for the emergence of the ‘Creature Feature’ in the 1950’s the horror genre would have come to extinction. Thankfully horror quickly adapted and changed, reacting to the changing currents and developments underpinning society – mainly the aftermath of World War 2. “Zombies, werewolves, and mummies were replaced by mammoth insects and alien beings.”(Weaver.I et al 1952, pp.34)Movies such as ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ became the bread and butter of any horror fan of the day.
By the 1960s with film regulators having relaxed classification rules - a whole new type of horror emerged – ‘Gore Films’. While the 30’s and 40’s had frowned upon shots of blood and dismemberment, the gore films of the 60’s reveled in them. Movies such as ‘Blood Feast’ and ‘Night of the Living Dead’ gained notoriety and became cult successes.
However in 1960 one film would change the direction of horror unlike any who had come before it and leave a wake in its passing that would reverberate well into its future – in fact to this very day. Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock – recognized by some as the father of post-modern horror – heralded the emergence of the “slasher flick” – and it has been with us ever since. Although it may have taken a further 10 years for its movement to gain pace – what quickly followed in the 70’s and 80’s was a succession of spin offs such as Friday the 13th, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Nightmare on Elm St – to name but a few. However the 90’s documented the slow down in horror trends – to this day very few titles that can be said to have changed the face of horror can be named. In fact what can be observed is ‘Problematically, the horror genre has no clearly defined boundaries, and overlaps with aspects of science fiction and fantasy genres.”(Wells.P 2000, p.7) It is because of this emerging trend that the need for a framework in identifying and distinguishing a film as belonging to the horror genre is needed now more than ever. Films have been around for the better part of a century – but what elements do we use in distinguishing and categorizing a film as a horror and distinguishing it from its peers?
Many have argued that the visual elements and motifs that are associated with the horror genre are what separate them from their peers in other genres. Werewolves, monsters, aliens, ghosts, castles – these are what spring to mind when one mentions a horror film. It can be argued that essentially all films are at the script level the same. They are all trying to express an idea/moral/premise – and hence at this level genre does not exist at all. Hence it is the visual embellishments and motifs one associates with the horror genre that the screenwriter uses in visualizing their ideas – that are responsible for a film being placed in the horror genre. This point of view may also account for the reason why so many films can be placed in several genres at the same time – for instance Alien (1979) is by all accounts a sci-fi film but it is also widely recognized as a horror film.
However if we accept this argument then we are forced to place films such as House of Frankenstein (1944), Nightmare Castle (1966), and the more recent Beetle Juice (1988) - which as (Grant & Barry, K 1977, p.125) puts it are “…nothing more than a stringing together of every horror cliché from dark castles and mad scientists to the return of the dead to terrorize the living” – but which are nevertheless accepted by the majority of people as comedies within the realm of horror. Furthermore, its may be true that many horror films do in fact contain visuals such as those cited above but there are quite a few films in recent history that don’t contain any of these visual horror cliché’s but have nonetheless been called horror films. For instance films such as The Kremlin Letter (1970) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) contain visuals to a lesser extent but are regarded as horror films nonetheless. Their mere acceptance into the horror genre and the existence of what can be termed psychological horror goes against the argument that visuals are unique identifiers of the horror genre. Visuals are merely motifs that help differentiate as (Wells.P 2000, p.26) puts it “Frankenstein’s monster from Norman Bates in Psycho (1960), or the zombies in Night of the Living Dead (1968) from Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs (1991).” They may be used in supporting the horror genre but are by themselves not unique to it.
Some sources have even gone so far as to cite the use of mise en scene that is specific to the horror genre as a unique identifier of it. Mise en scene refers to the design aspects of film; it includes everything from the camera – its arrangement and movement, sets, props, actors, and costumes to the very lighting. As Dick & Bernard (2005) states “the conventions of low-key lighting, shadowy surfaces, dissolve transformations …” (Dick & Bernard, F 2005) were established as far back as the 30’s and 40’s, the use of contrasting colors and muted color palettes was soon adopted in the 50’s and continues to this very day. However what Dick & Bernard (2005) and others of the same opinion don’t acknowledge is the use of these tools of cinema in other films which do not belong to the horror genre at all. Films such as even the recent Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Fight Club (1999) – both well acknowledged dramas in their own right and even the prized crime thriller of 1995 - Seven; all of these films also employ mise en scene qualities which are wrongly attributed only to the horror genre. Examples such as these only go further in supporting the argument that visuals and mise en scene which are attributed to the horror genre are also seen in other genre and are not unique to it – thus although they may to some extent help in inducing the feeling of horror, they are in themselves not unique to the genre nor wholly responsible for this emotional response.
Although our examination of the visual motifs of the horror genre have revealed that they play a role in it to an extent and thus must be considered in identifying a film within it - we are forced to look deeper in our discussion of the horror genre. For an explanation of what it is that is unique to horror and defines it as a genre in and of itself we must look beyond a visual explanation and pursue a structural oriented study of the genre.
Many academics believe that there are structural elements and conventions which can be used in defining a film as horror. For instance Stephen (2004) cites Modleski who refers to the use of “open-ended narratives, minimal plot and character development, and (relatedly) the difficulty of audience identification with undeveloped and unlikable characters” (Stephen, P 2004, p.88) as elements that are common to post-modern horror films – and by post modern he refers to post-60’s horror flicks. However by a simple inspection of movies from the post-60’s period it is quite easy to identify many a film that are not within the horror genre and still adopt many of these conventions. McKee (1999, p.57) identifies many films, most recognizably Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and Faces(1968) – both of which are not horror films, in fact far from it. Both these films nevertheless have all the qualities that Modleski cites as elements of the modern horror. They are minimalist in plot, they both have disagreeable characters and furthermore employ the use of open endings – so can we call these two films horror? I would say not. However one cant help but notice that there do exist some similarities in structure between some horror films – for example, The Thing (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and The Blob (1958) all share similar narrative structures. Stephen (2004, p.88) cites Tudor who lays out the narrative structure of these films: a violent disruption of normality occurs, the story revolves around peoples ineffective methods of stopping the representation of this disorder before finally employ some form of knowledge/violence in stopping this threat and restoring normality and order. However what Tudor describes has been interpreted wrongly – what is described is not so much the conventions that horror films share but rather the principles that are adopted by any scriptwriter in their craft in writing a story. With reference to McKee (1999) and Aronson (2000); all scripts employ principles in storytelling – one of the crucial principles being the introduction of an element that breaks down normality, which opens way to a struggle between disorder and normality and finally a resolution in the form of normality or otherwise. The elements described by Stephen (2004) are not unique to the horror genre – far from it – they are in fact employed in every genre and story – one need only examine any film in any genre and they will find the same conventions. Furthermore, by constructing a definition of horror based on such a rigid framework of rules rather than principles – we risk placing a formula on the construction of a horror film. And sure enough referring to the success of franchises such as the popular Friday the 13th series – a series which is quite formulaic by design - may give support to the argument of structure. However this series must be considered with respect to the myriad of flops that have copied and duplicated its structure but have to this day not reached the notoriety that Friday the 13th has received – one need only look at movies such as Prom Night (1980), The Prowler (1981) and Maniac (1980) as evidence of this. Furthermore it must be noted that Friday the 13th’s structure was based on the less popular Halloween franchise – so how do we account for one being more successful than the other – it is evident there is more to it than just structure. However we must stop here and make something quite clear – success or failure aren’t a measure of genre; good or bad, success or failure – films are still categorized into genres – what we are doing is bringing attention to the fact that many of the most high-profile horror films have distinctive structures; when copied they don’t yield the same results. Furthermore it can be argued that not all films in the horror genre possess the same structural elements. In fact on examination of the movie Psycho (1960) – a very high profile horror film – we find “in terms of genre icons and plot patterns, Psycho would seem to be more a crime film than a work of horror.” (Grant & Barry, K 1977, p.127) Other films such as the Kremlin Letter (1970) also differ wildly from the structure employed in the common horror film – so how do we account for these films and label them as horror if we use structure as a unique identifier of horror films? We cant, in fact the existence of such films leads us to conclude “perfect characterizations, plots with no loose ends, the perfect rendering of atmosphere, elegant camera work or editing may offer the possibility of evoking horror, but by themselves are secondary to its creation.” (Grant & Barry, K 1977, p.130)
With respect to the earlier argument put forward – It is true that films are at their very foundations the expression of an idea/premise which acts as social commentary. However it is how we categorize the subject matter that these ideas concern themselves with – which gives strength to genre – rather than the visual motifs used in expressing them nor the structure in presenting them. In our examination of the genre we must be careful not to neglect the ideas/premises that underlie the visual and structural elements of horror films – as these may in fact yield the reason why a film is categorized as a horror and if not – at the very least point us in the right direction by way of elimination.
Underpinning the visual and structural aspects of any film are ideas and themes - it is these that give a film its narrative. So how can we say one film is a piece of horror while another is a comedy? The answer lies in what aspects of the human condition that these ideas/premises target and on what topics they make social commentary. Hence, it is because a film concerns itself with societies and humanities underlying fears and tribulations that is it called a work of ‘horror’ and distinguished from its peers in other genres. All other aspects – visual and structural are merely tools in the expression of the underlying principles of the film. For example David Cronenberg referring to his work on the movie The Brood (1979) said: “It is a clear projection of my feelings about divorce; violent possessive emotions, and the decaying nature of what were once highly positive feelings of love and desire” (Wells.P 2000, p.18)It is evident, that Cronenbergs film dealt with issues of a personal nature – but there are many films which also offer social commentary on problems faced by society as a whole also. As Welles (2000) states “cannibalism, for example, used as a metaphor in 1970s horror to expose the ways in which a capitalist economic order ‘feeds off’ the less powerful and socially mobile, or 1980s AIDS anxieties in teen-vampire pictures like Near Dark (1987) and The Lost Boys (1987)”. (Wells.P 2000, p.20) These examples clearly outline the existence of undercurrents of ideas and premises upon which sit the horror genres structures and visual motifs.
However, although its evident by looking at these examples that horror films do in fact contain underlying ideas and premises that guide their overall visual and structural elements – one cant but question – aren’t the ideas stated by Cronenberg and the social commentaries offered on the issues of AIDS and capitalist economic disorder by movies in the 70’s and 80’s referred to earlier; the same ideas that are examined by films in the non-horror genre? For example Wall Street (1987) is a movie that clearly deals with the issues of capitalism and social class struggles – but is in no way visual, structural or idealistically a horror film. So can ideals stand on their own as a unique identifier of a film as a piece of horror – without its visual and structural elements being considered? I would say not, for many films also deal with the same issues presented in many horror films – but do so in the context of comedy or drama.
One question the underlying ideology of the horror film may account for is – why some horror films fail the test of time while others do not. This phenomenon may be accounted by the fact that certain horror films offer commentary on ideas that are relevant to the era that they were made in; while others offered commentary on more sustainable ideas dealing with common struggles faced by humanity in all ages and societies – i.e. issues that are common to humans as a whole rather than being bi-products of the societies they live in at a certain time in history.
Nevertheless, a film which possesses all the visual, structural and idealistic aspects that contribute to the construction of a horror film – may fall short of ensuring its success or recognition within the horror genre, if it fails to do one thing – provoke emotion. And in the case of a horror film – evoke an emotion of horror and terror. As Mast (1992) puts it so delicately “Genres are determined not by plot-elements so much as by attitudes towards plot-elements” (Mast, G 1992, p.551). One may argue that once the visual, structural and idealistic aspects are lined up correctly, that they guarantee this state – but as can be seen with respect to the films stated previously and the points made that this is evidently not the case. Hence to merely abandon our study of the genre at this point would cripple any chance of building a framework for the horror genre. As Grant & Barry (1977) says “To analyze horror films is to examine them in term of the causes and effects, the links that exist between them and the world that surrounds them, between mechanisms within them and mechanisms within us.” (Grant & Barry, K 1977, p.132) Thus far we’ve only examined the horror text but have done so at the expense of the second variable in any communication medium – that of the audience. You may have a great film, but if an audience does not respond to its content – it is nothing if not useless. So what aspects of a horror film are needed in triggering emotions of fear and terror within an audience? What underpins these emotions? Unfortunately the scope of this study does not allow room for segway into the realm of media studies and psychoanalytical studies – specifically examining the audience-text relationship, reception studies and the emotional and psychological aspects within audiences that lend themselves to being used as triggers for horror. Thus we must confine ourselves to targeted surveys of audience and observations made by previous academics who have had the luxury of reading further into these broad areas of study. This should not however impede out efforts in revealing that emotional response to a film is a factor in identifying a film as horror.
Welles (2000) states “Horror texts are grounded in the reproduction and creation of the emotion of fear which arises from these conditions.” (Wells.P 2000, p.11) Hence we can deduce from this that what we term as horror must create an emotion of fear within us – hence the use of visual motifs and structures must be checked against their emotional responses and directed by them in the construction of a horror film. Furthermore the subject matter and ideas that underpin the horror genre must also be relevant to the audience and connect with their internal fears. These are elements that come to play in the construction of a horror film – but can equally be used in the identification of one. Furthermore, the mere fact that the way in which we categorize films into genres itself shows that as an audience we are truly emotion based creatures – we have divided films by the very emotional responses they trigger within us. However, what is of concern is that – what may induce fear in one person may not in another – and the underlying reason behind this may very well hold the answer to a unique identifier for the horror genre. For instance in a survey conducted by Welles (2000) on four separate age groups (16-25, 25-40, 40-55, 55-80) all of which were chosen with issues of ethnicity, gender and social background taken into account – it was found that all the different age groups reacted differently to the chosen films in the study. All groups were asked a series of questions concerning their opinions on the horror genre – their most frightening moment from a horror film, the reasons for wanting to watch horror films and so on. The surveys results reflected that different age groups reacted differently to horror movies and had different motivations for watching them. For instance the 16-25 year-old group were more prone to watching movies made during their lifetime and surprisingly watched the films more so for their ‘gore’ and ‘comedic’ qualities as well as special effects rather than the feelings of fear or terror they were tailored to induce within audiences. It was found this groups motivation for viewing the movies had a direct correlation to how extreme, exaggerated and ‘bloody’ the events taking place within the movies were – rather than the actual narrative or horror response expected from them. This in itself goes quite far in refuting claims that horror films must induce horror and fear in their audiences if they are to be termed horror. However as the audience aged it was found that this reveling in the excesses and gore offered up by the genre as a motivation for watching it were slowly replaced by a serious longing for and appreciation of the fear that these movies incited within audiences. Furthermore there was a direct correlation between the audiences age and the movies year of production – i.e. the 55-80 crowd referred to movies from the 20’s-40’s while 16-25’s referred to movies from the 70’s and 90’s. This evidence shows that audiences are quite varied in their motivations for watching horror films and also that there exists a direct correlation to audiences’ motivations and fears and the context in which they watch these movies. For instance slasher movies of the 70’s and 80’s – which were incited by the rise in serial killings at the time - were not found to be as relevant to the older generations – presumably because they had not exposed to these fears – and so were less likely to react to them. This may also further explain the reason why some movies are found to withstand the test of time while others are not. Many horror films concern themselves with current events and the fears that those events induce in audiences – this is a common marketing ploy. However certain movies stand out from the pack when they tap into fears which are separate from current events and are common in all humans – for instance the fear of death – this fear is there whether the year if 1930 or 1990.
Unfortunately a great many analysts and psychoanalysts have studies human emotion and fear – Freud, Julia Kristeva, James Twitchell and Robin Wood are but a handful of the most influential in these areas. And although all cite certain fears which may offer insight into emotional triggers of horror – fear or death, fear of the unknown, fear of others - none have thus far agreed on which are common to everyone nor the reasons why they exist. Even the widely read author Stephen King quotes ten key fears that underpin most horror writing – citing “fear of the dark, ‘squishy’ things, deformity, snakes, rats, closed-in spaces, insects, death itself, other people, and fear for someone else.” (Wells.P 2000, p.11) Its evident having examines these various sources that psychoanalysts cants agree on which fears are triggers for creating horror within audiences. However this is of little concern to us – what we have observed is that the emotional response of fear is a requisite in horror films – the group studies are direct proof of this - how this emotion is produced is not relevant in our study of categorizing a film within the horror genre.
With respect to the above body of evidence we have examined the horror genre and the films contained therein from four different perspectives. We have examined horror films from the point of view of visual motifs and found that although visual motifs and clichés found within the genre do play a part in the classification of a film as a horror, they are themselves not unique to the genre and as such cant be used on their own as a unique identifier. In fact the existence of films which are categorized as psychological horror and also the existence of films which use visual motifs that are iconic in the horror genre for the creation of comedy were indicators that visual motifs weren't always the reasons for calling a film a horror. Thus we found that in certain horror films visual motifs played a greater role in the creation of horror while it others it took a smaller and less intense role. From here our studies turned to examining the genre from the perspective of structure and mise-en-scene and we also found that although conventions did exist within the genre in the use of these tools that they were not unique to the genre either – but nevertheless valuable tools in the creation of horror. We found structure was repeated in some franchises and looked as though it was a reason for their success however on comparison with other less successful horror franchises we found that there was more to it than just the structure – and that this was merely a tool used by scriptwriters in fashioning their stories around a skeleton and wasn't unique to the horror genre at all but nevertheless played a pivotal role in its story telling. As a result of our short comings in finding a unique identifier through these perspectives we were then forced to examine the underlying ideals and premises that were the foundation for stories on which the visual motifs, mise-en-scene and structure were built. We here also came up short in finding a unique identifier but nevertheless found that ideas and specifically ideas dealing with human fears were very important to the effectiveness of a film within the genre and its inclusion within its sphere. By examining the underlying moral and idea base of horror movies we found that they were geared to dealing with the human condition and its fears; but that this was not enough and that these premises needed to relate to the current fears within its audiences if they were to be successful in their utilization. Furthermore we answered the question of why some horror films stood the test of time while others did not – some films were deemed to contain subject matter/idea that was universal to human beings and not aimed at transitory fears associated with a society and its current social and political upheavals. To some extent we proved that there was no single identifier that was unique to the genre but rather that its individual parts that when combined in the right way, such that they were in support of each other and transfixed with a clear vision were the key elements that made up a horror film. However to conclude this without having examined the final avenue for a possible unique identifier would have been folly. Thus, our study turned to looking at the horror genre from the perspective of audiences and although the scope of this study could not delve into the specifics of psychoanalytical theories with respect to the human emotional condition – nevertheless we were able to make a connection between the creation of fear having a part to play in horror films. We also identified that the context in which films were watched and the ideals that they dealt with were required to be relevant to the time if they were to have the required effect in creating horror within audiences. By a thorough examination of a group of subjects that were separated by their age demographics we quickly ascertained it was not always the emotional response that audiences were after – in fact young people were found to look for the effects more so than reveling in fear related emotions that are associated with the horror genre. We also saw from this that horror films benefited from the utilization of resources from all these four areas of study in meeting their goals as works of horror. However after all our studies we could not come to one single distinctive attribute within the horror genre that could account for and be used as unique identifier in categorizing a film within the sphere of the horror genre. What we were able to find through a logical method of elimination – that no such quality that was distinctive to the horror genre exists. In fact we can conclude now that in order to identify a film as a piece of horror one is required to study the film individually from all four perspectives and with respect to the context under which it is being received by the audience in order to ascertain if in fact it is truly a work of horror. Hence through studying the conventions of the genre and the many issues surrounding it we were able to form a framework for its study – this would require any academic in forming clear and comprehensive conclusions about the genre to examine it from all four points of view as well as the conditions of the society in which it is being received. Only having done so – can an academic say that they have considered all the variables within this communication medium I.e. the text, the audience as well as the environment of the texts reception and examined them from all relevant points of view in coming to a clear and concise opinion of a film and the reasons why and how it fits into the horror genre.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Breaking down my approach to Assignment 1

My approach to the video collage assignment was quite flexible – the whole way through it I was chopping and changing my ideas – I'm pretty sure I must have changed the concept outline like 5-6 times. Because of this I chose to approach this assignment from the motion graphics portion of the work first. I knew that it would be the overall audio narration which would give meaning to the graphics so this seemed an appropriate place to start that would still give me opportunity later on to change the overall meaning of the piece by changing the audio. I quickly did a very rough sketch of what I wanted the HUD to look like and wrote up a sequence of things I wanted to take place from the loading screens and the television turning on effect to the cycling of numbers. I'd had some previous experience in after effects so I had some clue as to the direction I needed to take. Once I knew what I wanted I did some googling to see how I would go about getting these effects - found some quite good resources on creative cow and a few other independent sites. I quickly created the elements I would need for the HUD in illustrator while also shooting some footage with the help of a friend who also features in the piece. It took me about a day to cut the footage to what I would need and exported this also out to Aftereffects. In the meantime I was doing some tests on the effects I wanted such as the scrolling text and some cool looking background animation – some plug ins like text anarchy and trap code came in quite handy in creating these elements. Once I had all the pieces of the puzzle together – it was just a matter of putting in the time and grunt work required to bring it all together. This portion of the work took the majority of the time I invested in the project. The audio section came next – and I have to admit I used sound booth very sparingly in this project – only to get rid of some background noise and add a very few selected effects such as flanging. The audio was predominantly a Adobe Premiere piece of work - I found sound booth very limited in that it lacks the ability to mix several audio channels – I looked into other programs such as Sony cine score but also found the same shortcoming. Finally I found two packages which would give me the flexibility I needed – this was Premiere and Sony Sound Forge – but by this time I didn't have time to invest in leaning the sound forge user interface so just used Premiere – which worked out quite well. This section of the work must have taken about 3 days of just animating audio channels and effects and mixing them to the motion graphics. I'm quite happy with the result of the piece – the few improvements I probably would make if I had to do it again are too add a deeper sound to my own voice as the narrator – as I sound like a chipmunk general at the moment. Also I would probably spend more time on making the HUD clearer and easier to read and using the animation of the piece to lead the eye to what I want the audience to look at. Nevertheless I'm quite happy I took such a flexible approach to the work – it allowed me to undertake a lot of experimenting with all the software packages I used – and I learnt quite a lot this way. - link to youtube

A quick look into the approches used in two opening sequences

Both directors are quite similar in their approach in utilizing the opening sequence in presenting clues as to the overall narrative of the film. However while the The Island of Dr Moreau uses the opening sequence to introduce, hint at and promote the movie through the story content; The Good the Bad and the Ugly predominantly promotes the film through production values of the actors, director and other crew and people involved in the making of.
Although their approaches differ to some extent their use of techniques do converge on certain familiar ground. For instance both sequences have adopted a montage convention of cutting - more so in the case of The island of Dr Moreau. The use of cutting between images with the purposes of trying to create a relationship between them while utilizing the musical score to further support this is prevalent in both pieces. However while The island of Dr Moreau uses this form directly – the use of motion graphics and animation in The Good the bad and the Ugly also does this in a round about – but no less successful way.
The Good Bad and the Ugly obviously pointing at a western with a gritty storyline – and it tries to use cutting, score and motion graphics which are appropriate to expressing this idea. The use of a score that is light in nature but nevertheless fast paced leads one to think of it as a adventure. This coupled with the use of font which is specific to the western style and the use of motion graphics – the silhouette of a horse and rider only give further support to this theme. The monochromatic use of graphic filters over single frames of the movie which represent violence and all things western only give further support to this theme. This piece is more akin to contemporary motion graphics sequences which use color and contrast and design language in presenting their ideas. However there is a distinct difference in that this opener gives more weight to production values and less to introducing elements of the story narrative.
The Island of Dr Moreau points to a story about nature on a macroscopic and microscopic level – by showing images of cells mutating and contrasting that against clouds and images of animals. The fierce images of the animals combined with the fast score also points to a violent story. As does the change in the movement and content of the clouds and cellular images as the teaser progresses – they move from quite dormant and calm to violent and striking. Immediately the audience can begin to question what the movie is about before its even began – its a story about science and nature and possible manipulation of the one by the other that leads to violent results.
To an extent The Island of Dr Moreau also promotes production values - this is evident at the start but as the score of the teaser speeds up – the font used becomes cluttered and jittery – hence sacrificing the names of the people involved for introducing the style and content of the story through visual metaphor.
Both sequences have used similar techniques in editing convention – that of montage. And although they may differ in overall content and construction – they are nevertheless successful in their attempts at introducing the film to the audience. Yet it is their approach to how they were marketing and introducing this film and its overall content that has had the final say in how these opening sequences were constructed and what techniques were utilized.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Outline for Essay on the Horror Genre

Essay Proposal – A study of the Horror Genre in an attempt to identify its underlying principles and form a framework for identifying horror films.

This proposed essay will examine the history and origins of the horror genre in an attempt to establish a framework for identifying a film as a piece of horror. To do so I will examine the various reasons and theories used in identifying films as pieces of horror and differentiating them from their counterparts within other genres. I will examine how visual aspects of the genre, in an attempt to measure their significance in terming a film as horror – an event based study. I will then proceed to looking at their underlying structure in an attempt to distance them from other genres – a structurally based approach. Furthermore I will examine the underlying premise's and control ideas behind horror scripts and provide an event-based study of the genre. Finally I will try to approach the subject from a psychoanalysis point of view – in order to understand the subject from the audiences point of view – rather than looking at the text exclusively. In so doing I will have established a framework for identifying horror films and also establishing why some are more successful than others in their attempts. Hence I will to an extent identify the underlying paradigms and principles that underpin the horror genre – which are so useful in our appreciation and study of this genre and may provide further insights in the construction of films that are more successful in this genre.


McKee, Robert. 1999, Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. London : Methuen.

Aronson, L. 2000, Scriptwriting Updated: New and Conventional Ways of Writing for the Screen. Australian Film Television & Radio School ; [St. Leonards, N.S.W.] ; Allen & Unwin.

Dick, Bernard F. 2005, Anatomy of film, 5th edition. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.

Wearver, I. Et al., 1952. Horror films – History and Criticism. New Jersey.

Stephen, P. 2004. Horror films – History and Criticism, New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press.

Moine, Raphaëlle. 2008, Cinema genre, Malden, MA ; Oxford : Blackwell Pub.

Cohen, II. 2004, Film theory and criticism : introductory readings, 6th edition. New York : Oxford University Press.

Wells, Paul. 2000, The horror genre : from Beelzebub to Blair Witch. London : Wallflower.

Mast, Gerald. 1992, Film theory and criticism : introductory readings. New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Grant, Barry K. 1977, Film genre : theory and criticism. Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press.

Movies to Cite

The Black Cat (1934)

House of Frankenstein (1944)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Psycho (1960)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Nightmare Castle (1966)

The Kremlin Letter (1970)

Exorcist (1973)

Friday the 13th (1980)

Halloween (1978)

Blair Witch Project (1999)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Blood Feast (1963)

Alien (1979)

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Possible Websites (open to change – this will be added to probably in the course of writing.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Independents taking down the conglomerates

My contention is that the rise in technology combined by the entrepreneurial nature of youth with regard to the internet combined with stigma of mistrust around media conglomerates will eventually lead to the weakening of traditional medias. In fact data done in the world internet project points to the fact that the use of the internet and sites such as the ones observed are taking time spent on traditional medias in the past away from them. I do believe however that traditional medias such as the ABS and BBC are trying to keep up with the advent of independent video sites - but they are really straggling behind because they are still unwilling to let go of their old methodologies of providing content to audiences. This is evident when one looks at the ABC sites - all they've done is move their television format onto the web - the content and form of dissemination remains the same. Even attempts by BBC by providing avenues for interactivity such as "have your say" dont go far enough - to provide your views on something you can blog - in order to have your video on the site you need to give them personal details and its also open to their editing. Hence by not moving away from their approach which has done them so well with traditional medias like television - they are not utilising the capapbilities of the net - and in fact are only helping to support the stigma of mistrust around media conglomerates. Also it can be seen that the independednt sites are more specific in their content - they tailor to a smaller but specific demographic. For instance geek tv is an example of this. Whereas because the government networks make money from having and attracting large audiences - they provide generic content that appeals to all but is never as hard hitting as specifically tailored content. The methods of storytelling on both government and independent sites are the same - alsthough their objectives may differ from factual, news, entertainment - this is because the technology is now easier to access and utilise by all. The delivery of factual content in the independents is much more personalized - they talk to people on the street and get their opinions or raise issues tailored to a specific issue - conversely the government insitutions are more edited and filtered in their content - much more formal and cold - hence less appealing. But thats my two bits all the same.

Media Storm - i hope a sign of things to come

I was pretty skeptical going into investigating these websites to be honest – my initial thoughts were why would people bother to do this if they weren't in themselves benefiting from it in a financial way – I guess this is a view I've formed about media outlets; over the years I've formed a mistrust towards them. However websites such as media storm to a degree have changed my point of view – I have to say I've not seen a site that is so much about just creating change – within people and communities and bringing them insights into issues that appeal to us on a more human level. Most internet media sites are tailored to popular culture and things that are entertaining or amusing – yet quite mundane and are passing whimsies to say the least – a site like is a great example of this I think. Sure – such sites do have a place in the scheme of things, but there are quite a lot of them, and none of them in my opinion will ever change ones perceptions of the world he/she lives in or their perspectives towards it. Although sites such as may form communities around them, I don't think they encapsulate issues which are hard hitting and effect people as deeply – and as such will never produce and unite a community around it as strongly as a site such as media storm. I think media storm is a great sign of things to come in the future – I think in part – it is a mere reflection of current media platforms such as television and the documentaries it produces – however because its material is so specifically tailored and isn't trying to provide content that appeals to everyone (unlike and its many categories of content) - it has a greater impact on the person. Also the use of feedback platforms such as blogs, comments and email subscriptions on the site give a person a feeling that they aren't the only ones who are seeing this – and that they are part of a large community who support the ideals that this website garners. I think sites such as this which try to make a difference in the world for the better – are a load more value in the larger scheme of things – I only hope that they stay true in their mission and aren't corrupted by outside influences.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mod 3..... i think.... this assignments makin me lose sleep

A review of Run Lola Run by Atahan Zugul

At a first glance Run Lola Run seems to have a deceptively simple premise – Lola must find 100,000 mark for her boyfriend Manni before 12 o'clock – and yes, as simple as it may seem – that is all there is to the movie. What makes it highly entertaining and interesting is the way in which this simple premise is presented in a unique experimental style and non-linear narrative structure. Three separate versions of Lola's journey are presented – offering us 3 separate realities and outcomes to the same problem at hand. However each is separate and unique from the other two – Lola's contact with other characters in each changes and so does this narrative. Unlike classical script theory – which requires the need for some underlying moral to a story – Run Lola Run is either extremely cryptic in providing one or lacks one completely – its 3 versions of reality that play out randomly. In fact – if this movie has any such deeper message – it would have to be played out and presented through it overall narrative structure and editing; something along the lines of – life is a series of random events and there is no deeper universal truth. However, Run Lola Run is as rebellious in its editing scheme as it is, in its narrative structure. Run Lola Run makes use of both classical and montage editing techniques, using them to support the overall feel of the narrative wherever needed. For instance, one of the most memorable uses of montage editing would have to be in the “life in 3 seconds” clips – where literally our senses are bombarded by a mixture of images and sounds that they present a version of a characters future. These sequences are placed so well in the scheme of the narrative – when the story's rhythm is pumping and a large exposition needs to be explained within a very small time frame while still supporting the fast rhythm of the piece – nothing does it better than montage – and the director has acknowledged this. He has adopted methods – whether they are given the stigma of being labeled as either classical or post-modern or experimental – to the telling of the narrative. For instance while 'experimental' editing techniques such as montage, jump cuts, cross cuts and animation are used extensively through the piece – they are used sparingly and only when the scene calls for their support. For example, when the movie comes to intermittent lulls between the Lola's runs, we are greeted with what can only be described as continuity editing – no jump cuts or montage sequences or cutting so jarring as to make itself known – but these scenes of a private conversation between 2 lovers called for such editing conventions – the same way a fast and moving narrative when Lola is on the run called for much more experimental and jarring cutting techniques. Hence Run Lola Run, can be seen as a rebellious piece of work that bites it finger at classic cinema or possibly as a sign of whats to come in the new trend of narrative and editing conventions of the future – nevertheless a very entertaining movie all the same.

A review of Man with a Movie Camera by Atahan Zugul

One cant but help noticing the glaring similarities between Run Lola Run and Man with a Movie Camera. The use of experimental techniques such as animation, cutting to music, jump cuts, stop motion and montage editing are but a few of the tricks within the film makers hand bag which we are greeted with in this surprisingly interesting movie. Released in 1929 – this film was well ahead of its time in editing techniques – in fact one may go so far as to say it gave birth to the modern music video. The lack of any narrative or script structure is from the get go obvious – even its director Dziga Vertov acknowledges this with the use of a short disclaimer before it begins. However its intended purpose was never to explore narrative or storytelling – rather its an experiment into the use of cinema “at creating a truly international, absolute language of cinema based on its total separation from the language of theater and literature”, Yup sounds like the rantings of a film student whose just graduated from school and works at the local diner – but don't be so short as to throw this title into the bottomless abyss of the cabinet drawer. Although lacking all semblance of a story – this is a very craftily put together piece of film – especially when one acknowledges that it was made in 1929 – its use of cutting to music and montage sequences are all too similar to those adopted by todays music videos and television series. The use of setting rhythm through cutting to the duration of clips is overwhelmingly cleverly used; as are the use of fast cuts and montage. Every attempt is made by the director in exploring the many possibilities film offers us in expressing ourselves through visual images and the manipulation of time and space. And although at times the meaning of sequences of images become almost impenetrable and immersion in the images is broken – at other times the audio and visuals are so well put together and bounce off of each other so seamlessly that it is nothing short of entertaining and deeply moving. Thus Man with a Movie Camera may be seen as an old experimental film by many – but its mastery of the visual language which film offers us and its presentation of this, are nothing short of extraordinary and an absolute joy to watch and learn from.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ahhh Mod 2 stuffs.. here we go peeps


The Blair Witch project was amongst the first productions to embrace the wide range of medias and platforms which define what digital video is. On the one hand, the film/documentary itself was shot on digital camera (and 16mm film in part), which allowed the audience to identify with the characters more easily – giving the production a home movie type appeal and adding to its realistic documentary visual appeal. Secondly the use of an ARG like website used primarily as a marketing device well before the movie was ever finished was to say the least brilliant. For one thing the website acted as exposition for the story of the Blair Witch and heightened suspense for the release of the production. Furthermore it gave audiences insights into the story and allowed them to develop something of an urban-legend amongst themselves whilst filtering information back to the film-makers of what their intended audience was expecting. This only further helped to heighten interest in the project – which was for the time being had formed its own myth and was being perceived as an actual event that had actually occurred to 3 film students. In effect the Blair Witch production had formed a niche audience for itself and instilled it with an urban legend which was still unsolved. In doing so Blair witch aligned itself alongside a very short list of films which had used cross-platform marketing to raise interest in the production whilst forming a community of online peeps who would be loyal fans upon its release.


Visually the site is a mess – gotta say its pretty hard to get around – theres just so much content thats been packed into it like a sardine can, that it makes it unbearable to say the least. However, all the visuals aside, as a concept I think this is a seriously awesome site. It gives budding scriptwriters and film makers a chance to engage a niche audience whom they can get feedback from in order to better hone their skills and improve their craft. Furthermore it provides their material some serious exposure, while at the same time forcing them to review others work – something which would definitely benefit them in doing comparative studies with their own work. A further functionality it offers is keeping these potential employees in the film making community upto date with recent news that would be of interest to them; while allowing them an opportunity to meet other budding artists whom they could possibly collaborate with in future. I think this is a great site just to get exposure and meet new people while using its resources as a test audience for concepts and potential future collaborative projects...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Module 1 Blog Entry - what the heck is digital video?

What is your understanding of Digital Video?

On its initial conception and adoption by artists of the 1920's Film was seen as an experimental media. However over time it has come to draw on many different facets of traditional art, mixing and borrowing from them in developing its own language of expression. It has done so by borrowing from the traditional arts and conforming the principles in them to suit its own media and its boundaries which give it distinction from the traditional arts. And in much the same tradition which its progenitor did so before it Digital Video is doing the same. In the 60's Digital Video was seen as experimental but with the emergence of new technologies, has come to the forefront of mainstream contemporary art. In fact the lines distinguishing Film from Digital Video are everyday becoming more and more blurry as everything seems to be heading towards a digital platform. Current trends seem to try to identify Film and Digital Video as separate entities, however this seems to be a fruitless and frugal act. This is much akin to a traditional painter trying to form a distinction between a flat head brush and a round head brush - both of them are mere tools, but the end product is nevertheless a painting. Much in the same way Digital Video and Film are mere tools of the trade, it is their end result however which is becoming more and more identical; as such trying to find a difference between these two forms of media would in no way further the understanding of this form of media in any discernible way. What separates and distinguishes this form of media from the traditional arts is the addition of a new variable temporal movement, i.e. time. However there is no discernible quality or variable which would distinguish Film from Digital Media; in fact one could go so far as to say: Digital Video is merely the next evolutionary leap of Film.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ahhh... my first blog... hmmm

Well for all concerned - im still alive.... barely, running on snickers, 2 pints of V and alotta caffeine... my bodies gonna pay me back for this. Nevertheless - its great to finally start this course. Toodles