Horror films are made to grip and scare the audience in many different ways in the opening extract. I am going to be using two examples of classic horror movies and how they have scared their audiences. My first example of a horror movie is a film called ‘I know what you did last summer’ it was released in 1998. It starts with two couples talking about a rumour but they begin to argue about the rumours being true, that they actually happened. This makes the audience feel uncomfortable, they believe whatever happens in the so-called rumours could happen to them.
They begin to talk about the gruesome ways in which people are killed after having sex, dieing after having sex in horror films is a typical convention. At this point mysterious and creepy music starts, which make the atmosphere very tense making the audience feel like something is going to happen. Therefore this grips the audience, as they know that something is going to happen but do not know exactly when it is going to happen. Each couple then has sex, breaking all of the rules of horror films, and it seems a stupid thing to do after they were all talking about horror stories and what happens after having sex.
Even though the audience feel very tense and worry because something might happen to them, the atmosphere generated from the scene is very romantic and the music is peaceful and comforting. The couples then drive off, one of the men being really drunk. As they start their journey home the drunken man sticks his head out the sunroof. The music is very fast and grips the auditions attention, the audience are knows led to believe that it’s not long until something bad happens. He drops his drink, which causes a disturbance in the car, and the driver takes his eyes off the road.
The driver looks up and something is thrown over the bonnet of the car hitting the drunken man standing through the sunroof, which causes the car to spin. The ending of the opening extract shows the drunken man falling back into the car but he has blood on him from when the object went over the bonnet he wipes the blood from his face and realises that he is not hurt he says, “That’s not my blood”. This leaves the audience wondering who’s blood it was, and as the music comes in they become scared as to what the ‘thing’ he hit could’ve been.
The film ‘Jaws’ was released on the 20th of June 1975 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. This film had an effect on the public Straight away as it was released just before the summer holidays started. The holidays are a time when people spend time sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the sea, but as Spielberg had released a horror film about giant shark terrorising beach lovers, the public became too afraid to swim in the sea and get in a boat. So many people were already scared of watching the actual film after only seeing the trailer.
This created an element of tension in the audience before the film even begun. In the film, the beginning shows the camera looking through something’s eyes moving through the sea, and the music is very strange and chilling. This is the first time that the audience is introduced to the music. It is building up suspense, as you can’t see what is moving through the water. There is then a sudden change of atmosphere as the audience is shown the friendly environment of a group of young adults sitting around a campfire singing, playing instruments and socializing.
We then see a man and a woman flirting with each other they run off together for a midnight swim. The male believes he is going to have sex with the women so follows her stumbling around the sand dunes. On the way to the water the woman strips, and in horror movies getting naked results in death. She jumps in to the sea and the drunken man still trying to take his clothes off collapses on the shore. The audience is taken underwater again and the scary music starts again to the chilling music. So the audience now relate to this music knowing that something is going to happen.
The thing that grips the audience most is that the woman is all on her own in the dark waters she has now made herself so vulnerable. The camera moves closer fro underneath to the female as she swims peacefully along the surface, she turns to look at the shore and then she jerks upwards slightly at the same time making a horrible grunting sound. The shark begins its attacks, she is thrown around the surface of the water a number of times screaming and throwing her arms into the air in panic. The camera still stays sea level so the audience is still unaware of what is attacking her.
The audience can now think to themselves about what the creature is, leave it to their imagination. At one point in the vicious attack the female grabs hold of a floating buoy. The screaming stops and all you hear is her panting. This makes the audience believe that the attack is over, but she is dragged across the surface screaming as she goes. She stops jerking around then is dragged under the surface. Before she goes under she looks as if she has given up, knowing that she is done for. Once the water settles there is complete silence, this creating an effect of normality once again as if nothing had happened.
There are so many different emotions being generated from the audience during this opening sequence, there is a state of tranquillity then the sudden change to a ferocious attack. The audience may be scared but they enjoy it. This is the way in which Spielberg grips the audience, to a point when the audience doesn’t know when the situation is safe or dangerous. The sudden change from peace and normality to then disaster is very quick and I think that along with the other factors that were mentioned, the audience are genuinely scared by the opening extract of the film.
As you can see from the two examples above many techniques have been used to grip and scare the audience, it comes down do the use of music, suspense and the point that the audience know that something is going to happen but the actors in the movie do not. The one thing that gets the audience sitting on the edge of their seats is the way in which the director and scares the audience when they least expect it creating more of a tense atmosphere.