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Thriller. Typical Characters. For example in Batman. The main typical Characters, as according to Propp's theory of narrative, are:. Usually the typical Thriller hero is a man in a totally normal society but who is then confronted with a life threatening or changing situation.

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Typical characters
Typical Characters

For example in Batman. The main typical Characters, as according to Propp's theory of narrative, are:

Usually the typical Thriller hero is a man in a totally normal society but who is then confronted with a life threatening or changing situation.

The Antagonist (villain)

Protagonist (Hero)

The Dispatcher

The Helper/Doner

The Princess

Typical characters1
Typical Characters

The typical Antagonist in a Thriller film is usually incredibly intelligent and is mostly hidden until the build up of the climax of the film. An example of this type of antagonist is 'John Doe' (Se7en).

The typical Protagonist, or hero, is usually an ordinary man trapped in an inescapable situation with multiple obstacles placed in the way of the protagonist by the antagonist. In some cases, for instance also in Se7en, it could be a team or a duo of heroes.

Narrative themes
Narrative Themes

Candide – 'The innocent abroad', usually a fairly normal person maybe on holiday or an archaeologist unintentionally or unwillingly brought into an extraordinary situation. For instance in Indianna Jones or even in 'Cloverfield' where it was just an ordinary leaving party, and then catastrophy happens.

The traditional narrative themes can be: Achilles and/or Candide.

More commonly these days the narrative themes that are usually used is the fear and apprehension of 'the unknown'. This is identified when it contains numerous questions building up throughout the film and then...BAM! All answered at the end. An example of this would be in Shutter Island where at the end, there is a twist and where all enigmas and questions are revealed.

Achilles – The fatal flaw that leads to the destruction of the previously flawless individual. for example in Shutter Island – Teddy Daniel's flaw is his hallucinations of his dead wife.

Narrative themes1
Narrative themes

Thrillers have narratives that are full of enigmas – puzzles, riddles and questions to be solved by the end of the film; and the characters are as complex as the narrative – for example, Se7en, with the unknown protagonist until a certain point where he is revealed where most enigmas are answered. However not all...

The Thriller Genre – The term Thriller refers to any film that creates a feeling of tension and excitement as a core part of its narrative. There are many sub genres such as: comic horror, sci-fi and most adventure films.

The narrative theories are often to do with Todorov's theory of narrative, Syd Field's and Propp's.

Mise en scene

The typical Mise-en-scene tha you'd find in a Thriller are: Location and Setting, Lighting and Colour, Costume, Props and finally the facial and figure expression.

The typical Thriller would usually have guns and knives, if its a detective, crime or horror sub-genre of thriller.

Quite commonly the lighting for Thriller films is usually Low key lighting, especially in hybrid horrors and crimes. An example of this would be Se7en; for instance it's always raining and dark.

Shutter Island and any other film with the typical detective in it, they always have the gun and badge (props) and the suit and trench coat (costume).

Location and setting can tell loads about the narrative! It can tell time of day, what tense its in; like past, present or future. For example in I, Robot location is in Chicago, but it's all futuristic with robots, futuristic monorails and enhanced scenery (setting).


Point of view shot – a POV shot shows a view from the subjects perspectives - what the person is seeing.

However in an Associated Point Of View the camera positioned behind the subject, so it can be ours and the subject perspective.

The uses of camera angles and techniques are vital to a good Thriller film. The camera shots used are:

The establishing shot – this is what is used to set the scene in a film. It shows the Mise-en-scene in this scene. However some films don't use an establishing shot, to restrict the narrative.

Mid shot/medium close/ close up.

MS – subject and surroundings fill roughly equal parts of the frame. Shot finishes above the waist

MCU – Head and shoulders

CU – Shows small part of either face or specific object.

ECU – Used to express emotions (usually on eyes).

The wide angle shot is where the subject takes up the full frame, with a little 'safety room' above and below it. It's often used to show spatial difference between characters.

Camera Shots

The aerial shot – directly over head, its used for a clearer view.

A Long shot is similar to a wide shot as the object is shown fully in the film.


Pans and tilts – a pan is a horizontal camera movement and a tilt is a vertical movement.

The camera angles are also important, which are:

The high angle shot – looks down on subject and its used to make subject look weak. The low angle shot – looks up at subject, its used to make the subject look powerful. The high and low angle both connotes the power of each subject and can be made to make victims look vulnerable.

Camera movements can create so many feelings that link with and empathise the feelings expressed within the scene. For instance the hand held camera movement can be used in chase scenes to make the viewer feel as if they are running with them.

A tracking shot moves with the action – goes parallel/goes along side. A reverse tracking shot/dolly zoom is when the camera is moved out on the track and the lens zooms in.

Camera angles

Camera Movements

Codes and conventions editing
Codes and ConventionsEditing

The typical editing conventions of a thriller film are: obtrusive editing, quick cuts, changes in camera angles, flashbacks, use of photographs, disorientation of time and space, montage editing.

The cinematic codes generally are fast paced camera angle changes that add that extra tension and mystery to the thriller.

Codes and conventions sound
Codes and ConventionsSound

There are two types of sound – Diegetic and Non-Diegetic.

Diegetic is naturally occurring sound within the diegesis of the film. e.g. dialogue, ambient sounds etc


Non-Diegetic sound is the Artificial sounds put in during post production e.g. voice-overs, soundtracks, SFX, theme music etc.

Dialogue in films often can give characters in films legendary catch phrase. For example “Yippie Kay Yay” from 'Die Hard' or “I'll be back!” from 'The Terminator'

Voice-overs are used to state what is happening in he narrative or is used to know the thoughts of a character. For example this is used in 'Shawshank Redemption'. When Morgan Freeman is the person narrating.

An example of the typical thriller theme music would be Jaws, James Bond or The Terminator. They each posses recognisable features, because if you heard the music, you would know what their from.

Codes and conventions sound1
Codes and ConventionsSound

Pleonastic sound – pleonastic sound is non-diegetic sound that imitates or reinforces what's on screen. This is famously used in 'Psycho'. The music a sound that is metaphorically similar to a stabbing sound at the same time the villain stabs the woman in the shower.

Often used in thriller films is the use of silence. I's used to keep the viewers on he edge of their seat and to make them hold their breath and to create tension and apprehension. .

Contrapuntal sound – Contrapuntal sound is non-diegetic sound that is in opposition to what we see on screen. It contradicts what we see in the action, which creates disharmony and makes the audience feel uncomfortable. This is used in 'Clockwork Orange'.

Thriller audiences
Thriller Audiences

sU Suitable for all

sPG Parental Guidance

s12A12 Suitable for 12 years and over

s15 Suitable only for 15 years and over

s18 Suitable only for adults

sR18 To be shown only in specially licensed cinemas, or supplied only in licensed sex shops, and to adults of not less than 18 years.

Generally the age certificates range from mostly 15s to 18s. For example Se7en or Shutter Island. These are good example of psychological Thrillers, which are clearly too graphic and shocking for minor ages.