There is one shot type which is common place in horror films, this is a point of view shot, from the killer. Often it will be filmed with shakey camera work to signify realism, and will also often zoom in from a distance to signify that they are approaching their victim. The opening scene of 'Halloween' is a perfect example of this. That scene was shot by somebody wearing a camera themselves, filming whilst walking around and also acting out the killing. But it is also seen numerous other films such as; Severance, Friday the 13th, Cry Wolf, etc.
A specific style of music is associated with films of a horror genre, the aim of the music is to interfere with the viewers heartbeat therefore making them tenser. Not one horror film doesn't use music o build up tension which shows just how much of a dramatic affect it has.
Horror films frequently use the same settings over and over again, these key settings are; graveyards, woods, houses, motels, country lanes, dark night time, stormy weather, full moons. These are unsettling locations as they are often remote, and the lack of lighting prevents the characters from being able to see what is going on. Full moons and graveyards also have links to the supernatural.
The film 'Halloween' is based around the night of 'Halloween' itself as it has spooky, supernatural routes, associated with terror, as is the date Friday the 13th as it's associated with bad luck.
Some films have taken normal everyday settings and turned them into horror films, which makes the films unusual. Films such as:
- Creep [Set on the London Underground]
- Prom Night [Set in a prom venue]
- Sorority Row [Set on a university site]
- 28 days later [Set in London in daylight]
Many horror films use 'false scares' or as they're sometimes known, 'Cat scares'. They're put into moments of high tension to make both the victim on screen and the viewer believe that something is about to attack the victim. This is seen in the following films:
- Club Dread [In the opening scene, a monkey jumps out trees]
- Bride of Chucky [In the opening scene, the radio goes off when everything is silent]
- Halloween 2
In many slasher films the killers are stereotypically similar;
- Most are male
- Most conceals their identity, often with a mask
[Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th]
- Many wear black/dark clothing, and in the style of scream, full length long cloak type of clothing
- Many killers opt for hand held weapons such as, blades, axes, chainsaws, machetes, etc. And also use the same one throughout, for example in 'Nightmare on Elm Street' the killer uses the razor sharp glove for every killing
The documentary 'Going To Pieces' outlines an idea, whereby the male killer is in some way sexually jealous and/or frustrated, and takes it out on the female victims who are sexually active. This is why the virginal final girl is capable of outsmarting the killer. It also suggests a clearly sexist view behind many slasher films, telling women that they shouldn't be sexually active.
Blue or green colour filters are frequently used in films to signify horror as they create a cold atmosphere. They're seen in films such as, 'Cry Wolf' 'Bride of Chucky' and 'Halloween'.
The conventions of horror are so clear cut, there is even a book called 'How to survive a horror movie', by Seth Grahame Smith. It is based on the most famous horror movies such as 'Halloween' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street'. It outlines the 7 deadly sins the characters who are destined to die, embody. These are:
- Doubt - Those who believe the horror stories are further down the road to survival that those who doubt them
- Machismo - believing that you are capable of defeating the killer with, for example, 'football skills'
- Independence - going off on your own = death
- Ugliness - being unattractive makes you a target to any killer
- Curiosity - investigation = mutilation
- Irresponsibility - you must carry out the task you've agreed to do or you or someone else is going to die
- Vehicular Sex - do it and die, having sex in a car is guaranteed to result in death
The film 'Scream' plays on the fact that most teen audiences are well aware of the codes and convensions of horror movies. This clip from the film shows just how clear their understanding of the genre is:
A successful horror movie will ususally include the following aspects:
- Teenage characters
- Drink and drugs
- False scares
- A scream queen
- A virginal final girl
- An unidentified psychopathic killer
- A figure of authority
- A and help penatrative weapon eg. knife
- Steroetypical quotes "Who's there?"