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the Horror Genre

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Genre and its conventionsGenre of film is crucial to audiences as it allows them to have a pre-existing understanding of what the film will feature and the

stereotypical features that will be shown depending on the genre. As a result they will already grasp the concept of a genre and make a

decision on what they enjoy and therefore what films they will see as a result of the characteristics of the genre. On the other side of the industry genre makes marketing far easier for institutions. These

institutions will have a formula from which to market the film from in order to be successful. They will also have a pre-prepared audience as

to who they should market towards.

A main pleasure for audiences is being able to or trying to predict what might happen as a result of the conventions of a genre. The recognition

and familiarity of the genre enables them to make predictions as to what could happen.

Although the genres of film vary so widely and therefore the conventions are different, they are all centred around 3 main

characteristics; Narrative, Characters and Location. These will change from genre to genre.

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Genres and their elementsWestern

Narrative: Lone cowboy saves town from

antagonist/sLocation: Old west townCharacters: Protagonist,

Antagonist/s, Sidekick, love interrest

RomanceNarrative: Unlikely couple

finds love through strugglesLocation: Recognisable cityCharacters: Man, Woman,


HorrorNarrative: Group of people persecuted by antagonist

Location: remote/isolated or Suburbia

Characters: Protagonist (final Girl), Antagonist/s

ActionNarrative: Protagonist fights

evil while on a questLocation: recognisable

locationsCharacters: Protagonist,

Antagonist/s, Sidekick, love interrest

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Sub-genresAudiences find pleasure in predicting what will happen in film. However if all the films of a genre were the same then it would be really boring for an audience. As a result sub-genres are created for each genre to add a sense of depth to the genre and keep the films fresh and more interesting for the audience. As a result the repertoire of elements is changed and altered to fit with each sub genre to keep the films from

being the same although still following the same conventions. However these conventions may be altered to coincide with the sub-genre.

Horror sub genres:Gore

PsychologicalGothic/monsterFound Footage


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Conventions: SlasherThe Conventions of a slasher are as follows;

Narrative: A psychotic killer goes on a rampage killing a group of people one

by one usually associated in some way.

Setting/Location: Either a secluded, isolated place or a generic suburbia

settingCharacters: Protagonist (the final girl), Stock characters (teens), Antagonist

(psychopath) Props: Household items, Weapon of choice e.g. chainsaw for The Texas

Chainsaw Massacre

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Conventions: GoreThe Conventions of a Gore are as

follows;Narrative: A psychotic killer or group inflicts suffering and severe pain on

others. Usually a lot of bloodSetting/Location: Either a secluded,

isolated place or Abandoned locationCharacters: Stock characters

(variance of people) , Antagonist (psychopath/s who inflict the pain)

Props: Weapon/ traps e.g. SAW franchise traps and games

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Conventions: Psychological

The Conventions of a Paranormal are as follows;

Narrative: A family or group are persecuted by an unworldly entity

Setting/Location: Either a secluded, isolated place or a generic suburbia

settingCharacters: Protagonist (family member), Antagonist (demon)

Props: Household items, every day things, the mind used as a weapon

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The Conventions of found footage is as follows;

Narrative: Single person or group goes in search of a legend or myth, all

discover its real but die Setting/Location: A secluded, isolated

placeCharacters: Protagonist , Stock

characters (crew members), Antagonist (legend)

Props: Could just be the camera

Conventions: found footage

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Conventions: GothicThe Conventions of Gothic is as

follows;Narrative: Man creates or meets a monster, monster terrorises people

and is eventually stopped Setting/Location: A secluded, isolated

place located near civilizationCharacters: Protagonist (town

person), Stock characters (village folk), Antagonist (monster e.g.

Frankenstein) Props: anything, pitchforks used in


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TheoriesSlasher films were extremely successful as a sub-genre to horror. However as the

years passed audience required more, more blood, violence and gruesome images in order for them to become scared. Developments in special effects allowed this to happen. With the increased violence came strong criticism.

Slasher films were seen as misogynistic, and the killers were portrayed with these qualities. In the UK it was a issue as ‘the Yorkshire Ripper’ had still not

been caught.

The theory supporting this is from Molitor and Sapolsky. They identified the number of seconds showing males and females in terror. Often females were

shown to be in terror far longer than males. For males it was around 2 minutes and for females it was over 9 minutes quadruple the time males were shown. This linked with the killing and fixation on female killing in slashers links to the

idea that the slasher films had a very misogynistic approach.

Another theory was that often the viewer is placed in the position of the killer and this invites the viewer to identify with the killer. Carol J Clover agreed with this up to a point and she said this was the ‘Final Girl’. She stated that they are

resourceful heroes who confront the monster and defeat or escape them. Therefore the viewer associates with this character as wanting to see them


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There are multiple theories as to suggest why the audience enjoys horror films. One is the counter culture attraction of them. You are often

seeing the PoV of the killer so you are put in its place. This gives you the experience that we would never normally do. You defy morals.

There are also visceral pleasures such as Jump scares, the build up of nerves often through silence and the ever consistent scream. All are expected in a horror film yet all are pleasures for the audience. Along with these are intellectual puzzles, Barthes ‘enigma code’, where the

audience enjoys trying to decode the narrative.

Audience Theories