The first opening sequence I have decided to analyse is from the film Psycho. This movie was
directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was released in 1960.
Looking on IMDB the film is described as a hybrid of horror, mystery and thriller due to the
gory scenes and detailed violence. Its target audience is aimed at adults as it is rate at 18,
meaning it is inappropriate for anyone under the age of 18. Therefore it does not target a
wide audience, only adults.
I have chosen this particular film as my first analysis due to it following a similar genre as I
am planning to follow. My opening sequence will be based on the thriller genre, similar to
In my analysis I will look at the different types of camera shots and movements that have
been used. I will also research how the narrative has been set up, how the characters are
introduced and represented and how the film genre is established. By carrying out his
research I am hoping it will influence me in doing my own opening piece and improve my
knowledge on the thriller genre and the introduction of characters.
How the Genre is established
As the clip comes to an end an interesting angle has been applied to a camera shot to make
a creative effect for the audience. The camerawork used is a cantered angle and an extreme
close up. These are both applied to the young women’s eye as she lies soullessly on her
bathroom floor, shortly after being attacked. The use of the camera work creates a
disorientated effect on the audience making them sympathise with the character as they
have been made to feel slightly disorientated too. By applying a close up of the ‘open eye’,
the audience are made to believe that the character is still alive as they naturally associate
an open eye with being awake and well. However as the cantered angle is centralised
through using a zoom, the realisation is expressed that, in fact, the character is very much
dead. The audience are then made to feel sad and sympathetic as the film continues.
To begin with it is simply just diegetic sounds which are used. These involve the flushing of
the toilet, the shower being turned on and the running water coming out of the shower. As
the clip reaches its climax a lot of suspense is built due to the backing track applied. The
music is very fast and high pitched as the young lady is being attacked. This creates a
dramatic effect gripping the audience to their seats. It is not a pleasant scene which can be
seen as slightly frightening and daunting and the music adds to this effect. This is typical for
a thriller genre as their aim is to make the audience feel uncomfortable and frightened. As
the drama continues and the attack comes to an end, the music begins to deepen and slow
down. This is to express that the attack has been made which has resulted in devastating
consequences. The deep sound creates a miserable feeling for the audience as they watch
the character lying dead on the floor. They do not know what is going to happen next but
they want justice for the character.
The genre is established through the camera shots and angles applied. Throughout the clip
the camera shots emphasize the mysterious actions occurring in the thriller genre. They
highlight the emotions of the characters, for example by using a close up, expressing the
fear the character is feeling. It is also established through the use of sound, either diegetic
or non-diegetic (backing music and sound effects). The diegetic sounds used are commonly
used in the thriller genre. These include knife stabbings, water running and gunshots. The
non-diegetic sounds are what the characters are unable to hear also known as the backing
track, which usually has a pace as it reaches the climax.
The most interesting aspect I have come across was the setting of the scene. It is not usual
for a film, classified in the thriller genre, to be set in a hotel bathroom. The action commonly
occurs in an abandoned gloomy setting as it adds to the effect. Also the setting was not
introduced by an establishing shot.
Throughout the short clips many signs have been applied which link to the thriller genre.
This also links to Charles Pierces theory, who built on the theory of semiotics; however he
defined the different types of signs, giving them individual names. These include symbols,
signs that have relation to their meaning, such as words or colour. For example the blood
shown being washed away in the bath is the colour red. This is a sign of danger and pain.
Icons, signs which resemble what they stand for, for example the lady screaming is a sign of
pain and fear. Indexical, the link between the sign and what it stands for, the knife
represented danger and criminal behaviour.
3. Another theory that has been applied to the thriller is Binary opposites. A clear binary
opposite was good and evil as well as the hero and the villain. These are common opposites
used in the Thriller Genre.
For my own thriller opening sequence I do plan to include aspects of this clip to it. The point
I am likely to include is the common camera work used, such as close ups and camera
angles. I will also like to include the theory of signs to help engage with the audience.
Common signs will include colour and words. By applying pieces of this clip to my own work
link it more to the thriller genre and engage with my chosen target audience.
The first opening sequence I have chosen to analyse is the Purge, directed by James
DeMoneco and originally released on the 31st May 2013. This film is also a hybrid of thriller
and horror age certified at a 15, making its audience a slightly smaller range. It is not
appropriate for anyone under the age of 15 due to the severe violence and occasional
swearing used throughout. Its target audience is likely to be those in their final years of
education ranging from ages 15 – 20, either at school or university. It also is likely targeting
young adults who are interested in the thriller genre and are open to testing new media
texts and genres.
I have chosen to analyse this opening sequence as one of its hybrid genres is thriller, which
is the genre I will be following in my own work. By analysing this film I can interpret some of
their techniques into my own opening sequence making it more suited to the thriller genre.
I am interested in how they introduce the narrative and characters. It is unusual and unique.
During the analysis I will be researching how the characters are introduced, how the genre is
established and how the narrative is set up. I will also be looking out for the theories applied
as well as the camera shots, sounds and its mise en scene.
How the narrative is set up
The very beginning of the film is set up in an unusual way. It rapidly flicks through a number
of old recordings’, setting up the storyline, showing the audience what has previously
occurred on the night of the ‘purge’. For example the image below is a screen shot of one of
the recordings displayed in the opening sequence, with the time and date present in the top
right corner of the screen evident for the audience to see and read. This gives the audience
a little taster of what is likely to happen throughout the movie. This is uncommon in most
films; therefore it is an interesting way to set up the narrative.
From watching the opening sequence it is clear that it is not following the traditional
equilibrium theory, founded by Toderov. For example the theory suggests that the majority
of films begin with an equilibrium, which involves the main character being introduced who
4. lives a normal everyday life. However this particular movie does not begin with the
introduction of the main characters, but a flash back of past events. Although after a short
while it leads onto the introduction of the main characters, the equilibrium is delayed. This
meaning that the movie follows a non-linear narrative. This is an uncommon aspect of any
film, including ones of the thriller genre and is not traditional.
We learn the identity of the central character almost 3 minutes into the film. He presented
using a medium shot, from a side view angle, as he drives his car down a road full of houses
which seems to be his neighbourhood. The medium shot allows the audience to identify the
character making an immediate judgment on the way he looks and talks. The camera shot
soon changes to an over the shoulder shot, focusing on a bunch of flowers lying on the
dashboard. This suggests that the male character has bought the bunch of flowers for
someone close to him due to a special occasion. Whether this occasion be negative or
positive, a clue is given to the audience that it is not just a normal day. As the opening
sequence continues a number of wide shots are applied showing others also with flowers in
their hands which they then place on the ground. Like most films in the thriller genre, it is
never just a normal day.
As the male character reaches his destination, we learn he is on his way home to his wife
and family. Before we witness the character entering his home digital writing appears on
the bottom right of the screen. This displays ‘March 21 2020, 5:58pm’ which is soon
followed by a precise timing of when the main event is about to occur, ‘62 minutes until the
start of the annual purge’. By giving away this information a lot of tension is built as the
audience are aware a disruption is going to occur and are just awaiting its arrival. This is
unusual for a thriller genre to have in their opening sequence as the story is almost given
away in the first 5 minutes of the audience watching. This proposes there will be a twist to
the storyline which is unexpected and unique to the thriller genre.
The introduction of Characters
The introduction of the first male character suggests he is of the upper class population. In
this medium shot it is easy to identify the costume the character is wearing which consisted
of a smart suite, a watch and a pair of sunglasses. This is accompanied by the dialogue of the
character as he makes a number of important phone calls as he is driving which gives the
impression he is in control of a number of people, congratulating them and reassuring them
of their safety. With the combination of the costume and the dialogue a sense of
importance and dominance is expressed to the audience. This is a common representation
of male characters as they are commonly perceived as the stronger sex.
The second character introduction involves a female, who seems to be another lead
character. As the male enters the large house, linking to his upper class status, he calls for
his wife, who replies ‘I am in the kitchen’. This links to the typical representation of women
who are known as the weaker sex and are to stay at home to take care of things at home,
whilst the male works and provides of the family. The sequence continues displaying the
male character entering the kitchen to present his wife some flowers, suggesting he
respects his wife.
How the genre is established
The main way the genre is established is through sound. The opening sequence begins with
clips of past events on the night of the purge, accompanied by background music. This music
is slow but high pitched creating an effect which makes the audience feel sad and anxious. It
helps build the suspense whilst giving a slight taster of what is to come further on in the
film. The music used represents death and sorrow, which could make the audience feel
6. uncomfortable when watching, which is a common aim for many films within the thriller
Another way the genre was developed was through the use of props, such was guns, bats
and blood. Again this was presented right at the beginning of the sequence, when the past
events are shown. The props used are commonly applied to many thriller films to create the
jumpy effect needed. They like the audience to feel on edge and ‘thrilled’. By using such
props so early on, the audience feel uncomfortable from the beginning. This is not a
common aspect of many films; however does reach the aim of thriller films.
The most interesting aspect of this particular opening sequence was the flash back at the
beginning. It gave us, as an audience, a taster of what may occur in the rest of the film;
therefore making them anxious from the start. This was also displayed in an interesting way,
like a recording.
Throughout any opening sequence it is difficult to identify key themes which have been
applied and would be developed during the rest of the film. However in this case one key
theme is clear to me, known as binary opposites, founded by Levi Strauss. The obvious
opposite applied is the rich against the poor. When combining the introduction of
characters and flash back together, which makes up the majority of the opening sequence,
you can see that there is a clear divide between the rich and the poor. Those of a lower class
are more likely to be targeted (the ones being attacked) as they do not have the money or
the resources to protect themselves; whereas those of the upper class do. During the
dialogue, in the introduction of the first character, a ‘security system’ is mentioned on the
radio and by the male character. As he drives down a gated road entering his street full of
large, well maintained houses, suggests that the ‘security system’ they are discussing is not
at all cheap. This also refers to the divide between the rich and the poor, as it is only likely
that the rich will be able to afford such protection.
For my own opening sequence I do plan to use a feature which was applied to this particular
film, known as a flash back. This is a common aspect of many thriller films, meaning it would
be well suited to those of my target audience as well as defining my genre. I plan to include
a violent scene to the flash back, just like they have applied in ‘The Purge’ opening
sequence. The reason for this is to give my audience I slight taster of what the entire film
would consist of, ensuring them it will be of their taste.