History of thriller Bulldog Drummond 1929 Perils of Pauline 1914The Thin Man 1930The 39 Steps 1935
The Big Sleep 1946Out of the Past 1940Dial M for Murder 1954Psycho 1950 ‘Hitchcock’ the godfather of thriller made a number of genre defining films.
The French Connection 1971The Long Goodbye 1973 Fatal Attraction1987
Se7en 1995Flightplan 2005Taken 2008Shutter Island 2010
Overview The two main characters from the outset and throughout are the villain (antagonist) and the hero (protagonist). Little is often known about either of the characters at the start of the picture but instead, the audience learns about the task the hero is faced with. The villain is often shrouded in secrecy. A thriller generally contains an ordinary setting, with an ordinary character, but the event makes the film extraordinary. For example, in ‘Flightplan’ there is a mother and daughter taking a flight from Berlin to America. During the flight her daughter gets kidnapped, but the mother works as an engineer and therefore knows about planes and flight regulations. The audience know as much information as the main character, so this keeps the audience on edge and keeps them guessing this is known as a restricted narrative. The term thriller is used to cover many sub genres such as: crime thrillers (Se7en 1995), psychological thrillers (Shutter Island 2010), drama thrillers (Panic Room 2002) spy thrillers, horror thrillers (Horns 2014) and disaster thrillers (The Day After Tomorrow 2004).
Thriller narrative The main narrative for thriller movies is that the audience is told the story from the hero's point of view. So we only know as much information as the main character does. Sometimes we might know a little more but for a general you wont know a great deal more than them. There are elements of a formulated plot for thrillers: The Beginning: The hero and villain are introduced to the audience. We discover what task the hero is up against. Then the hero arrives at the main setting for the thriller. A time limit is mentioned. The Middle: The main character has a near death experience. The hero learns more about the mystery and the task they are facing. We learn more about the hero and the villain. The continues to allude the hero and during this point and he almost seems unstoppable. The End: There is a plot twist. We learn about how the plot twist occurred and more about it and there is usually a conclusion. At the end of the film the hero may not be the hero after all. For example in the film shutter island The plot twist is that teddy Daniels was a patient at the mental institution. And that the whole time it has been a set up.
Character examples There are certain character types that generally appear in thrillers : Heroes The hero in a thriller is typically male., as in ‘Taken’ and ‘Shutter Island’ the lead hero is male. But on occasion the hero is a female as seen in ‘Panic Room’: Jodie Foster plays the hero. They are an average citizen with nothing special about them. Villains These characters generally have all the power in the situation that the hero is placed in. Little information is known about this character and sometimes we learn nothing about the character even at the end. They are often very intelligent and are known in society. Side kick They are usually a co-worker or they are just thrown together. The hero knows very little about the side kick and they have to workout whether they can trust them or not during the process of their task. Helper This character has no relation or has had no previous contact with the main hero. They usually just happen to be in the setting or the scene when a significant event occurs and then they inform the hero about it because they hear they are trying to sort out the situation. Victim This character is the person that the hero is trying to find or prevent from being killed. They are the result of the villain’s bad doing.
Mise-en-scene Typical mise-en-scene that appear in thrillers: The typical props that appear in a thriller movie are ordinary everyday objects. For example in the film ‘Dial M for Murder’ one of the murder weapons is a pair of scissors. This shows how even a everyday object can be used to kill someone. The typical lighting for a thriller movie is low level lighting or where the main proportion of light in the room is a sickly yellow (they create this by desaturating the image of colour.) to reflect the darker side of society. The typical setting for a thriller film is a quieter urban setting. For example in ‘Brick’ the film is set in the suburb of a small town so it is deserted. Or in ‘Shutter Island’ the setting is a mental institution so this place is active but the hero would always be wary for their safety. The most common costumes that are used for the thriller genre is everyday clothing. For example in ‘Brick’ the main character is wearing a shirt, glasses, knitted jumper with trousers and brown shoes, such as you would find in a high-street clothes store. But in other thriller movies the main character is wearing a suit and a beige trench coat as they are a detective trying to solve a case and that is their task.
Cinematography The typical shots that are used in thriller movies are: medium close ups, close ups, extreme close ups, wide shots, long shot, point of view shot and over the shoulder shot. The type of shot that is least used in thrillers is an establishing shot as then this leaves the audience with more questions than they have answers. The main location of the setting is not fully revealed until the end of the movie. There are not many aerial shots as this might give you hints as to where the character is. The one time that they have mainly focus on showing the audience where the main character is going to is in shutter island as they want to show the audience the fact that he cannot get away from the situation and that he is isolated. Where as in taken there is a constant change of scenery and there for you cannot keep up with the constant location change so you are unsure as to whether the two main characters are safe or not. The angles that are mainly used for the thriller genre are a wide range and that is purely depending on who the shot is currently depicting.
Sound The sound that is used in thriller films is usually atmospheric as build the tension gradually throughout the film. This informs the view as to what is about to happen or what is happening. Sounds and music can speak louder than words in some aspects. As in when there is a tense car chase sometimes all you need is a lack of music and then it heightened the suspense as it makes the audience on edge as there should be music but there is a lack of it. When there is a lack of what there should be it puts people on edge. In taken there is a great deal of atmospheric music throughout the movie. And the music and sound effects that are used though out the movie are typical of an action thriller. The typical sound effects such as : gunshots, car engines and everyday sound effects. These add to the whole atmosphere for the film as they inform the audance as to what is currently taking place in the movie. They give the audience a chance to react to the situation in the same way that the main character is reacting.
Editing The types of editing used for thrillers is fast pace in certain area but in other areas the cuts that are made are slow and they are just used to keep the audiences attention. For example in the beginning of flight plan there are a lot of longer scenes but when the action picks up the cuts become much faster and more frequent to give the audience an idea of how fast the main character is traveling up the plane. This is used for two reasons. One, at the beginning of the film there is no fast paced action and it is more relaxed and there is nothing for the main character to really worry about. It is also setting the scene. Two, when the action takes place and there are more cuts used this indicated to the audience that action is taking place but it is also a device used to unnerve the audience and to make them uneasy as there is no consistency and they don’t have enough time to formalise themselves with the setting.