2. What is a thriller?
The thriller genre has many elements to it such as tension, excitement and suspense. It
plays a lot with the viewers moods by giving them a high level of anticipation, ultra
heightened expectation, uncertainty, surprise, anxiety and/or terror. The thriller films are
usually fast paced rousing and have a lot of adrenaline rushes because of the plots in the
genre. Literary devices such as red herrings, plot twists and cliff-hangers are used
extensively. A thriller is a villain driven plot where the antagonist creates a lot of obstacles in
order to take down the protagonist.
A thriller provides the sudden rush of emotions, excitement, sense of suspense and
exhilaration that drive the narrative, sometimes subtly with peaks and lulls, sometimes at a
constant, breakneck pace thrills. In this genre, the objective is to deliver a story with
sustained tension, surprise, and a constant sense of impending doom. It keeps the audience
cliff-hanging at the "edge of their seats" as the plot builds towards a climax. Thrillers tend to
be fast-moving, psychological and threatening, mysterious and at times involve larger-scale
villainy such as espionage, terrorism and conspiracy.
Thrillers may be defined by the primary mood that they elicit: fearful excitement. In short, if it
"thrills", it is a thriller. As the introduction to a major anthology explains:
“...Thrillers provide such a rich literary feast. There are all kinds. The legal thriller, spy
thriller, action-adventure thriller, medical thriller, police thriller, romantic thriller, historical
thriller, political thriller, religious thriller, high-tech thriller, military thriller. The list goes on and
on, with new variations constantly being invented. In fact, this openness to expansion is one of
the genre's most enduring characteristics. But what gives the variety of thrillers a common
ground is the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and
exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill.
By definition, if a thriller doesn't thrill, it's not doing its job.”—James Patterson, June
2006, "Introduction," Thriller
3. Codes and Conventions of a Thriller
There are 4 main codes and conventions which are used in order to make a good thriller film. This includes camera
shots/movements, editing, sound and mise-en-scene. They are used to not only make the thriller films better, but to allow the audience
to feel all kind of emotions while watching them.
Camera shots/movement; thriller films are obviously made to thrill the audience. Using different camera angles to show a scene or
character allow the audience to understand the body language and emotions the scene is trying to portray. There are many different
shots but the most effective one is probably the facial close up shot. An example of this is a close up shot of the Batman in a scene from
the dark night where he is on the ground when fighting Bane. Even thought batman’s wears a mask due to the close up we can tell by
the squinting of his eyes that he's in pain. This shows the audience what his facial expressions would be if he didn’t have the mask but
also it makes the audience feel like they can feel his pain and like they are there with him. This makes the audience go through many
emotions and make the atmosphere tense. Another camera shot which makes the atmosphere tense is the panning shot. For example in
the film ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ the main character Jason Bourne wakes up after a bad dream breathing heavily makes the audience
feel nervous and they don’t know what's happening, but also it allows them to feel the emotions of the character. Another shot is the
tracking shot. In the movie the Goodfellas the camera tracks the kitchen of the Copacanbana in a fast paced motion. This makes the
audience feel as they are in that room as it makes their hearts beat faster, so not only does it play with the audiences feeling but it can
also make them feel the emotions in the atmosphere in the kitchen.
Editing; one example of editing is quick cuts. Quick cuts make the film fast paced which creates a tense atmosphere. For example this
occurs in the film Psycho, when the lady is being stabbed in the shower there are a lot of quick cuts. Not only can this show different
angles of her being stabbed from different of views of her body but it can make the audience feel like they are there watching it. Another
example of editing is fade to black. This is when there is a scene and suddenly the screen turns black. An example of this is in the film
Three Monkeys. There is a shot where a man is standing on top of a rickety building whilst he's looking out on a dark horizon and also
there there's a thunder storm, a train is then entered into the scene appearing to enter the side of the building which then the screen
fades. This is a very effecting convention to a thriller film as it brings out the most it could from the audience, it makes them
tense, nervous and makes the question what's going to happen next but not only that it makes them suspicious as well.
Sound; The sounds in a thriller plays a lot with in the film. There are two types of sounds, diegetic and non-diegetic. Diegetic sound is
sound whose source is visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film and non-diegetic is sound
whose source is neither visible on the screen nor has been implied to be present in the action. The sounds depend on the theme of a
scene as different themes create different feelings and emotions. In the film Psycho there is a scene where a lady is getting stabbed in
the shower. During that scene we can hear non-diegetic sounds such as high pitched screeches. As it’s a horror thriller, the sounds go
with the theme. This creates a tense and scary atmosphere, both in the film and for the audience.
Mise-en-Scene; mise-en-scene adds the thrill to the thriller genre. It has a lot of elements which are essential to make a good thriller film.
It plays a big effect on the audience as well because of the effects of the elements it contains. For example the lightings, if the brightness
of the light is low then it will create a dark and gloomy atmosphere furthermore create suspense for the audience, the lighting of the
setting in a film plays a massive role within the thriller genre. Props are a key element as well. There are a lot of weapons used in thriller
films to add all kinds of effects. In the film Train Spotting (1996) there are many props such as drugs, needles and cigarettes. The props
are usually used to show the characters lifestyle and personality to give the audience an understanding of the characters. Also the
setting of the film gives it the thriller title. If the set design/location has a dark atmosphere then it will match the thriller setting more that a
bright location would, as dark settings create a tense, suspicious and mysterious atmosphere.