Tuesday, 26 April 2016

EVALUATION QUESTION 1 - Conventions & Representations

Part 1 "How does your product use or challenge conventions?"

We decided to do our film opening in the horror sub genre. The genre conventions of horror are very clear and it's normally very easy to identify when a film is horror. However, in terms of character, we decided to challenge this and have included a counter-type in our film opening.

Common conventions of horror genres:

After having done a lot of research into the common conventions in several horror genre films such as Halloween, Scary Movie, The Cabin in the Woods, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Insidious I found that there were a lot of common conventions in the horror/ slasher genre movies. These conventions are not only what characters do, but can also be anything from the mise-en-scene of the film, such as an empty house in the middle of nowhere to the costume such as a mask of the stereotypical psychotic masked killer in slasher movies.

Placing the characters in areas where no one is around to rescue or help them and they are all on their own is one of the most common conventions of horror movies. Often the places used by the director and the mise-en-scene that they create are abandoned places such as the woods, an abandoned house amusement park or a house out in the middle of nowhere. 

The Cabin in the Woods is a great example for this convention, when you see five central protagonists, which find themselves in a house in the middle of nowhere. When watching the trailer, it is already denoted that they will be cut away completely from society when one of the girl says: "Doesn't even show up on the GPS". 
Since it is a horror genre movie and she says that in the beginning of the trailer, it is already connoted that something bad is about to happen.

Like they say the whole point is to "get of the grid". Meaning that they haven't really considered the fact that something bad could happen, stereotyping them as the typical dumb teenagers who only care about partying. Stereotyping teenagers in horror movie is very common. Often the typical stereotypes are either scream queens or final girls. Scream Queens being the one's that always die and are killed by the killer and final girls being the clever one's who always survive. This stereotypical convention and how we challenged it in our own final rough cut will be discussed a bit further down the post.

In Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2003, the central protagonists end up in a small village, where Leather Face hunts them down with his chainsaw. In the first few minutes only of the movie, they meet a young girl who kills herself by putting a gun to her head in their van. She does this, because they drive past a building that she obviously doesn't want to go back to by saying "You are going the wrong way". It is denoted that it is a bad place and despite that, the 5 teenagers still stay there.
Also, they are quickly slaughtered by Leather Face one by one an are still staying there instead of trying to get away. The usual stereotypical teenager would probably run for his own life. However, in this movie they still try to figure out what is going on and therefore only one of them ends up surviving. Furthermore, the leather face also fits in with the typical convention of the slasher genre, where there is very often a psychopathic killer who is masked and kills young adults. In our coursework we were inspired by such a character and mask. Therefore we decided to create our own mask to represent the slasher genre. Also, it was an inspiration for our working title: "Not my Face".

Another typical convention of a horror movie is that the characters go look for a strange noise, when they hear it. When watching a horror movie, don't you always think "don't go in there" or "don't open that door" and then the characters end up doing it anyway and either end up dead, get chased or get hurt.
A great example for this type of convention is from the movie Insidious, when the mother hears that there are weird noises in her sons room over the babyphone. She ends up getting really frightened.

Again, a stereotypical teenager would probably run away if they were in an abandoned house and heard a strange noise. However, the horror genre, specifically focuses on what a usual teenager wouldn't do. If I, as a teenager would run away, the character within the horror movie would stay and get killed. In our final cut, our central protagonist, Casey, hears a strange noise behind her and immediately turns around. Instead of running away, because she is scared since it is dark and there are strange noises, she stays and ends up getting killed by our killer.


When discussing narrative, I can state that there are quite a lot of theories that can be applied to our movie.
First of all Roland Barthes concept of the narrative enigma can be included, since there are enigma codes in our film opening. For example when Casey Crane ties her hair back and then it flash
forwards to when her hands are tied behind the chair or the red nail polish flashing forward to blood being spilt. These are examples of our film opening where clues are dropped but there is no clear answer given to what is going to happen to her.
Furthermore, Propp's theory on character archetypes also applies to our film opening in the way that the killer is Propp's definition of the villain. For our film opening this is the only archetype that would fit, since the final girl is not being saved and there is no other character in the film opening besides those two.
Moreover, we could also apply Todorov's theory on the narrative formula to our film opening. However it does not go through all 5 stages. At the beginning when she is in her bathroom, there is a clear state of equilibrium where all is well and there has not been any harm done yet. After the church scene, there is then a clear disruption of the equilibrium, because the killer shows up behind her and the film opening ends with a scream.

Lastly I also wanted to apply the "uses and gratifications theory" from 1972, which looks at 4 different categories in a film:

  1. Diversion/Escapism
  2. Personal Relationship
  3. Personal Identity
  4. Surveillance

An audience might be able to escape into this movie since it is very dramatic. When showing it to an audience that had no idea of what the storyline was, the film opening made them jump at some points. Therefore, we can say that they might be able to escape into the horror world. 

Personal identity:

The female or even male audience might be able to identify with the final girl, because she is singing in her bathroom and a lot of people can identify with this. Furthermore, the identification is normal in the way that she is wearing a plain white T-Shirt and doesn't look glamorous. This means that it is probably easier for a wider audience to identify with her. For example, the scream queen is often killed off, because she is someone the wider audience can't identify with. For example if the final girl were a cheerleader such as in the movie "Bring It On" from 2000, it would be harder for the audience to identify with her since she is more a one of a kind, rather than a girl like Casey who is a normal looking a girl with not to much make-up or glamour. 

Characters (The Scream Queen)/ Countertyping Final Girl

The most common convention of a horror genre movie is the stereotypical scream queen as mentioned above. In the movie Scream, the main character is represented as the typical scream queen when she chooses a banana rather than a weapon. This clip shows a perfect understanding of how a scream queen is portrayed and stereotyped.

First of all, she has the exact physical traits of the stereotypical scream queen. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, she is good looking and in shape.
Furthermore she is represented as the typical dumb blonde, when she as mentioned above chooses a banana rather than a weapon but also decides to run towards death rather than safety.

In our film opening, we decided to challenge this convention by counter typing. We did this by choosing a final girl, Casye Crane, who has the stereotypical brown hair, and the other physical traits of the final girl and ended up killing her rather than the scream queen.
In the podcast below, I am explaining why we did counter type and in what way we went against the normative.

Part 2: "How does your product represent social groups or issues"

Social groups and issues:

There are a lot of different social groups, that exist in all sorts of different genre movies. Some of these include:
  • Age
  • Stereotyping
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Ethnicity
  • Pink Pound (gay audience) 
  • Disability
The representations and use of stereotypes in a movie are factors that decide, which audience the movie is targeted at. Whether it is a niche audience, such as an audience that might only speak Chinese, which was the case for the movie "She a Chinese" or a mainstream mass audience. A mass audience is when the movie is for example aimed to a larger audience with a wide release. An example of this would be the ROM-COM movies produced by the subsidiary, Working Title, who has produced several films such as Bridget Jones Diary and Love Actually, which had a wide release. It is important that the producer choose carefully, when deciding on which social groups should be in the film. Throughout this post I will explain and discuss the different social groups, their issues and how our product represents social groups.


Our target audience are 15-35 year olds, because it is a horror genre movie. Our product represents this as our central female protagonist in it is a 17 year old girl, who is portrayed as smart. People from this age group will be able to relate to this final girl stereotype. However, they might not be able to relate to is the fact that she is religional, because several young teenagers in the society we live in don't go to church anymore. The reason why we put in a church scene, was to denote that she is still a virgin and that she enjoys praying.
The fact that we counter-typed our final girl, to being killed anyway, even though a final girl usually would survive, makes it more interesting for our audience to watch the movie, because they might expect her not to be killed. Also she has some traits from the scream queen, which is that she cares about her looks, when doing her hair and painting her nails.

The fact that she is wearing nail polish, also helps to represent this age group, as people within our target audience are not only males but also females. The females are able to relate to how it is to get up in the morning and standing in front of the mirror to look at your hair.
Furthermore, we used the diegetic sound of her humming to create realism. When asking young people that age what they do when they go to a shower or when they are in the bathroom, a lot of them answered that they sing or hum. Therefore, I thought, when creating the sound, that this would be suitable in order for our female and male audience to be able to relate to her.


For this part I decided to do a podcast in which I am explaining which normative stereotype we challenged and why we did it. You will be able to see the script below the podcast

"This is my podcast in which I will be explaining how we counter typed the normative stereotype of the female protagonist in our media product. 

There are more types of social groups and issues raised in movies than people would usually think about. Some of the typical social groups include age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and most of all stereotyping. There are normative stereotypes, such as the usual scream queen, who is portrayed as a dumb blonde and then there are counter hegemonic stereotypes, where you challenge the normative stereotypes
This is what we specifically did in our film opening we challenged the normative stereotype of the final girl and scream queen

Again, the stereotypical norm of the scream queen is an unintelligent blonde, such as in the movie scream, who is sexually active and ends up getting killed in any horror movie.
Whereas the normative of the final girl is a character with brown hair, who is denoted as intelligent and clever and who is virtuous. Usually a final girl is always the one that gets away and doesn’t end up getting killed. However, we decided to get a girl with brown hair, all of these qualities, but who would still end up getting killed by our psychotic masked killer anyway. We did this on purpose to counter type the stereotypical normative of the final girl and got good feedback for doing so."

More about stereotyping

To understand stereotyping better there are these typical examples of how there is always someone with a strong accent, such as a Welsh accent or scottish accent that a lot of people can't understand. For example in the ROM-COM "Wild Child" there is the matron who is scottish and everybody makes fun of her and tries to trick her. Whereas in "Notting Hill", there is the Welsh man Spike, which is portrayed as dumb and silly. 

A monkey dust video called "Richard Curtisland", represents the common stereotypes usually represented in Richard Curtis' movies such as Love Actually. As you will notice there are only Caucasian character's in there and no black characters or characters from other cultures. Furthermore, there are no social groups with a gay character or a disability. From some point of views, this can be seen as racist. However, Richard Curtisland does apply to all of his movies. 

In our film opening we did not include any of these social groups either. However, if we were to have filmed an entire movie, we would have made sure to include characters of different ethnic cultures and backgrounds. A main reason for this, is because we specifically live in a country (Luxembourg) and society, where there are a lot of different cultures and religions, which is considered as a normative
What we did on the other hand was to include both a British (Casey) and an American character. Our killer, is American, and had it been a full length film, the audience would probably have heard his voice, whereas in our film opening they don't. Our film would therefore appeal to both an American and a British target audience. Moreover, we have no negative stereotypes, such as making fun of homosexuality or ethnicity, because it was important for us that our film opening would not be offensive to anyone in any way.  

As mentioned in many posts before a scream queen would be an unintelligent blonde, who is wearing  revealing clothes, such as Drew in this Scream Movie who has all of these qualities.

A great example of a final girl on the other hand, would be someone like one of the main character's from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who is portrayed as more clever, because she is the only one who get's away from Leather Face and survives at the end, denoting that she is a final girl. She is also not making out with her boyfriend as much as the couple in the back. It connotes that she might still be a virgin which is also a common trait of final girl. Our central protagonist, Casey, could be considered as the non-stereotypical final girl, because she is the one to be kidnapped at the end of our film. 

Our mise-en-scene, of her room also helped to stereotype her character, because there are several books. Allthough you might not see them entirely, we put a lot of schoolbooks such as economics in there and also a book about Steve Jobbs. We wanted these to denote her character about being a final girl who is clever. 


The social group that our media product represents is both a male and female audience

When we did a research on target audience we found these statistics from the British Film Institute from 2012, which showed us that the number of males and females below 35, that watch the horror genre is around the same. That was the main reason why our target audience ended up being from 15-35. To read more about our target audience, you can go to that post

I believe that one of the main reasons why a lot of young adults enjoy watching horror/slasher movies, is because it is not just romance, which is stereotypically just for females, and it is not comedy or action either, which is stereotypically more for males, it is something in between the two genders, that wakes an interest in both and is not just one-sided. 


As mentioned above, we only included Caucasian cast in our film opening. As we were a group of three, it was difficult to schedule the times so that we could all be there to film at the same time. In the beginning, at our group pitch 1 we had 2 female actors who were supposed to play the roles of the central protagonist and the character of the psychologist. However, it did not work out with scheduling it so that all 5 of us would have time to film. Therefore we decided to make it easier for our group by having 2 of us, Jonathan and Bronwen, playing the lead roles and one directing most of it, which was then me. 
Moreover, as mentioned before, if we were to have filmed an entire movie, we would have made sure to include characters of different ethnic cultures and backgrounds. A main reason for this, is because we specifically live in a country (Luxembourg) and society, where there are a lot of different cultures and religions, which is considered as a normative
However, there are some horror movies such as "The Conjuring", "Poltergeist" or "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", that do not contain any non-caucasian characters can have a success.


In some way or media product represents a certain aspect of sexualits, because the killer's weapon is a knife. We have filmed some scenes where he was holding the knife. However, the footage was either not good or we did not use the scenes because it was hard for Jonathan and Bronwen to act it out and did not come accross as real.
However, the knife is considered to be a phallic object, which is a terminology that comes from Freud's theory on psychosexual stages. It is considered to be a phallic object because it represents sexual assault. As you can see on this picture, we did try to include it. When it was filmed it did not achieve verisimilitude
Therefore we can conclude that some sexuality played part in our film opening. 

1 comment:

  1. This will be quicker overall if you take a vodcast approach and go through (1) openings (2) genre conventions and with each convention give 1+ example you've seen + compare to what you did
    See posts on Q1a + Q1b


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