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The Thriller Genre

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The Thriller Genre. The Thriller Genre- Overview. Stories are often complex filled with twists and turns to keep audiences guessing.

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the thriller genre overview
The Thriller Genre- Overview
  • Stories are often complex filled with twists and turns to keep audiences guessing.
  • Characters in the Thriller genre are interesting, both antagonist and protagonist are well develop with deep backgrounds that add flaws and personality that make each character unique.
  • Settings of story can be in any location, most thrillers take place in ordinary places with ordinary people, however the events are nothing but normal.
  • Atmosphere in Thriller films are dark and sinister; music and lighting are used effectively. Greyscale, shadows with haunting sounds make the general mood, theme and style of the film.
history of the thriller genre
History of the Thriller genre

A name synonymous with the thriller genre is Alfred Hitchcock. His first film The Lodger (1927) lead the way of plots and story narrative thriller genre. The plot involved that A serial killer is on the loose in London, murdering blonde women.

Other Alfred Hitchcock films such as Phycho, Rear Window and The Birds are famous within the thriller genre. Many of Hitchcock's films have twist endings and thrilling plots featuring themes violence, murder, and crime.

many of the mysteries function as decoys meant only to serve thematic elements in the film and the extremely complex psychological examinations of the characters.

narrative themes conventions
NarrativeThemes & Conventions
  • Thrillers narrative often follow a certain pattern of story arcs; usually we are shown the outset of the film. Then we are presented a disruption of the equilibrium, disruptions in the thriller genre is often associated with crime or mystery . The result of the film is the equilibrium being resorted or a conclusive answer to the story.
  • When attending films at cinema, we as an audience aspect certain themes within different genres for example in Thrillers we aspect intense, gripping situations, sitting on the edge of your seat, suspense of not know what's going to happen next.

A good example of suspense and panic is “the gas station scene” in “The Birds” (1963) link below

characters of thriller
Characters of Thriller
  • The Thriller genre have fully fleshed out characters with strengths and weaknesses to make characters relatable.
  • Antagonists are hidden ,shady characters. Usually these characters are revealed at the end; justice will always prevail is the final message of the film.
  • Protagonist can be diverse, form a police man to the everyday bystander. Flaws and deep backgrounds make protagonists innocent and likeable
  • When the protagonists are in danger, we as an audience feel engaged in the drama and action.

In the film Rear Window the main characterL. B. Jeffries is a photographer who is confined his apartment after a accident leading him to watch his neighbours out his window. He notices one day that one of the neighbours is missing and he investigates coming to the conclusion of murder and taking matters into his own hands.

mise en scene

Mise-en-scene refers to:

  • Setting/location ( atmosphere, emotionally and geographically )
  • Props (& décor) e.g. guns, handcuffs, books.
  • Lighting and colour
  • Figurative expression e.g. standing up straight head held high would express pride. Eye contact shows relation and facial expression shows emotion .
  • Costumes and make up

All these factors contribute to add hints to the narrative and to the characters e.g. social status, personality and career.


We expect to see certain objects within the mise-en-scene in certain genres e.g. Thriller we aspect see objects associated police e.g. guns, forensic detectives e.g. white boiler suits or just everyday objects like books and bags.

Denotation imagery - literal meaning

Connotation - deeper meaning, hidden symbolism.

sound and music of thriller
Sound and music of Thriller

In all films, music and sounds convey the emotion and response of the scene. Diegetic and Non-Diegetic sound make the soundtrack.

Diegetic sounds are sounds natural happen in a scene e.g. dialogue or bird outside chirping.

Non-Diegetic are sounds that have been added in post production e.g. musical score or voice over.

Music can contrast or match with the scene making the mood the scene. Music adds atmosphere e.g. the opening of se7en uses manufactured mechanical sound effects with give a haunting, unknown feel.


Cinematography is the art and technique of motion photography.

Camera perspective can be altered by using different angles and lenses . Using different shots can express different emotions e.g. Low angles make characters look intimidating and dominate while high angles can character weak and helpless.

Point of view shots are to show what the character sees by placing the camera behind their head or show their perspective.

Establishing shots are used to show a new scene and the action on screen.

Wide angle shots take the main object of a scene a fill the screen and to show spatial distance between characters and props.

Long shots are to show the object with the background usually at a distance.

Mid shot is the character’s head and shoulder .

textual analysis of brick
Textual analysis of “Brick”


the music heard at the beginning is low guitar string sounds and ringing bells to me almost sounded western.

Brendan is a bystander trying to save Emily from danger.

Diegetic sounds like the car tearing through the scene expresses emotions of fear, shock and unknown.

Thriller and Neo Noir

Brick stay conventional to both genre’s for example the opening tells very little detail of what has happened giving us the mystery of the plot. We see a young teenaged girl lying dead in the gutter. So the film starts at the end and goes in to flashback. All the conventional and unconventional technics are used to the film advantage in delivering a good story

Camera work

The camera is used very effectively in “Brick”. The very first shot is a tracking shot to Brendan feet, then shows his expression then cuts to a establishing shot .

The use of Dutch tilt and unusual camera placement and tracking express a feeling of distortion and unfamiliarity, This is Neo Noir.

Camera work was also used to show emotion e.g. Brendan franticly searches for Emily through the door of the phone booth . This is shown by a jerky POV shot.

Character costumes and props

The character Brendan looks to be an ordinary bystander with normal wear of someone his age group.

Emily clothes are light and colourful but this is counter-balanced by the plotting and overall theme of the film.

Emily’s bangles can be subtle symbolism as the bangles are dark and blue, these colours are depressing colour that the idea of dark society. The bangles are also used in a Match on action shot.



A typical urbanized area.

Common in the thriller genre also the area Is not isolated so there can be many suspects. The gutter setting matches the mood of the film , grey, murky and unfamiliar.

The blue bangles, symbolizes dark society and blue depression.

Mid-shot of Brendan in the phone booth

The use of Dutch tilt ( not from Brick).

The establishing shot used in the opening. Notice the blue hues and lowlighting

Lighting and colour

The first thing we see is an extreme-close up of a ladies eye in grey scale, and then suddenly it turns from grey scale to blood red. Then we see the title followed by coloured swirls which express vertigo.

Camera Shots, angles and movement

A series of long shots and panning where used to show that the roof tops are large and very high up, this gave the chase the sense of danger.

On the roof when the journalist is hanging by the gutter, the police man tries to reach out to him. A low angel is used for a POV shot and to show that the journalist is in a weak position.

The zoom out when the journalist looks down from the roof, is effective in giving the sense of Vertigo

Appearance of the Characters

There two main characters, the first man are wearing a police man’s uniform and the second man is wearing a brown suit with a hat and tie.

The first man is a police man. Detectives and police are common in the thriller genre as they have a strong authoritative figure and are the image of justice.


editing in film
Editing in film

Editing is cutting the film in to separate shots, this is so the film is presented smoothly with no awkward moments. The editing takes very fine detail so scene appear convectional with the film. An example of this would be the use of continuity editing.

Continuity editing is editing that allows the audience to become fully immersed within the story and characters. This type of editing is virtually unnoticeable when watching the film (“suspense disbelief”).

techniques that are used in editing are:

Match on Action, when a cut continues the action on screen via a different shot of the same action.

Eye line match, is when a character is looking at something off screen, then the camera cuts to what the character is looking at.

Example of eye line match:

Parallel editing, also known as cross cutting continually between two or more scenes usually happening at the same time. This technique can be used to create thrilling suspense that keeps audiences guessing, which is essential in the thriller genre.

Shot reverse shot, is used to show a conversation using various shots. The first shot usually is a establishing shot to show that two people facing each other, them the camera will switch from one side to the other.

Example of shot reverse shot:

180 Degree rule

180 degree rule is a very essential rule in camera work and film. This rule is used to show spatial awareness and direction. If this rule is broken the scene can be very disorienting and confusing.

Example of 180 degree rule:

Graphic contrast is were after one shot the next shot is so different that it catches your attention very quickly typically giving the audience a certain emotion.

Graphic match, is connection between two shots via a character position or an object. The drain slowly fades into the images of the victims eye in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

Rule of thirds

The frame is split into 9 sections, this would be used composition and framing. Like other rules of filming this isn't always necessary but you must follow this rule carefully with out breaking it.

audience expectation
Audience expectation

When watching certain film genres, audience’s watching a thriller for example will expect to see interesting climactic story and thriller tension.

Thriller tend to have adult plot line with some violence, haunting atmosphere and unexpected twist and turns. Audiences when watching thriller film they expect gripping story line and well developed characters.

target audience
Target Audience

Thriller often have adult themes and conventions such as murder and crime, not necessarily suitable for younger audience members. Thrillers are typically watched by teenagers and adults also thriller can be viewed by any gender.

The thriller genre is catering to the kind

of audience‘s who are interested in dark

stories and the sense of being involved in

develops of character and plot points.