Sunday, 20 March 2011

Evaluation Question One

In what ways does your media product use, develop, or challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

1. Title of the film

This is the contact sheet for our opening sequence. The first frame is of our main title. The title appears at the end of our opening, just before the main part of the film would continue. We decided to position it here because it is the point with the most tension, just after the girl has been killed. Here we have developed the dramatic effect where each note is extended to hold the sense of tension. We have synchronised the text to fit in with the rhythm of the music by making each word appear onscreen separately. The font we used for this was provided by iMovie called Batang, regular.

They are in quick succession of each other and jump out at the audience, in time with the accompanying music. Another reason we chose to place them here is because the picture changes from a shot of the outside of the house to a black screen grabbing the audience's full attention as nothing else will be onscreen.

We chose the title ‘Last One Standing’ because we based our main character initially on a final girl, the only survivor. By the end of the sequence all her friends have been killed and she is the one left alone with the killer. We thought that this title would be appropriate as a common theme for the remainder of the film is our character ‘being left as the last one standing’.

2. Setting/Location

The second frame is one of the locations we used for our opening. We chose to start it in a bedroom, slightly messy, signifying that it belongs to a typical teenage girl. It looks as if everything was normal, in order to lure the audience into a false sense of security. Other films in this genre such as Black Christmas (1974, Glen Morgan) use this form of normality. I thought it was a very successful way of beginning a film because the audience was more unsuspecting of what was about to happen. I think that the room we chose fits the requirements particularly well especially with the mirror that is in the bedroom. We got a few of the ideas using mirrors from the opening to The Last House on the Left, directed by Wes Craven in 1972.

We decided to film the flashback in the woods, similar to the scenes in The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) showing intertextual references. This was a suitable setting because it is really dark due to the trees blocking out any sun or moonlight making it more eerie. The tree branches cast shadows and the sense of looking around the woods in the dark can be rather disorientating adding to the idea of isolation and vulnerability. Our final location was a bathroom where our girl got killed. We loosely based this part on the shower scene from Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). By being in the bath she is naked, connoting her vulnerability. As a convention, warm baths are meant to be relaxing so, along with the audience, our character is unsuspecting of what is about to happen.

3. Costumes and props
We used very few props in the making of our film opening. For the bedroom scene Ellie is wearing tight, revealing clothes to signify that she has been out enjoying herself, maybe hinting that she is rather promiscuous and that there is a sexual perspective.

For the bath scene a hair bobble is used to tie up her hair before she gets into the bath. Our actress is wearing a bikini in the bath, as she wasn’t comfortable filming it completely naked but we have used bubbles to cover it up to give the impression that she isn’t wearing any clothes. As in the majority of slasher film openings, we have used a murder weapon. However, rather than using the stereotypical blood-stained knife or axe we have chosen to use the cord of a dressing gown. As Ellie is getting ready for her bath and tying up her hair she wears the robe which gets dropped on the floor as she steps into the bath. Once she is in the bath and has closed her eyes, the unidentified murderer pulls out the cord and strangles her. This is not the expected method of death in this genre of film so here we are challenging the conventions of horror. In both the scenes she looks in a mirror showing her vanity. This, along with particular camera shots and the clothes she is wearing, contributes to her scream queen characteristics.

For the woods scene we used torches as a method of additional lighting because we were having to film in the dark. This worked better than initially planned because we were also able to add them into the narrative, having the actresses hold the torches up to their faces as if they were telling ghost stories. We used them in particular to light up Ellie’s face when she is doing the documentary for the camera and when we converted this footage to black and white it turned out even better. When filming the opening no production make up, such as fake blood, was used as it was not needed. However the girl is wearing the makeup that she went out for the night in.

4. Camerawork and editing

Our establishing shot is of the outside of a white detached house, an intertextual reference as a similar one is used in the opening sequence of Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978). It is viewed with branches obstructing the shot connoting she is being watched and the non diagetic sound we have added here adds to the tension. This frame is also taken at a slight dutch angle signifying that something is not right, foreshadowing what is going to happen later in the film. Our next clip is a medium close up over Ellie’s shoulder looking into the mirror. Her face is reflected in each of the sections of the mirror and her chest is focused on as well in this shot. The use of the mirror provides good exposition in the room and emphasises the idea that the main girl is a scream queen, as looking in the mirror is one of her vain characteristics.

At regular intervals within our opening we have used a long shot from the point of view of the stalker approaching the house. For this we filmed it hand held so that it made it clear that the stalker was getting nearer to the house. It also gave the effect that the audience were looking onto the scene as if they were the killer, involving them more in the action. Whilst editing this footage we added some pre-recorded diagetic sound of footsteps crunching on the gravel. We could alter the volume levels of this which again adds tension. These sections of filming were cross cut with shots of Ellie in the house getting undressed showing she is unaware that she is being watched and signifying her vulnerability in the situation.


Next we have a medium long shot of the main character's legs as she is discarding more of her clothes. This shot denotes a slim, pretty girl and, as she is getting completely undressed, it again signifies her vulnerability. The shot is framed by the drawers and we can see that in the bottom left hand corner there is an empty bottle of vodka hidden at the side. The bottle of alcohol is a signifier that she has been out drinking at some point which is seen as rebellious and its consumption could perhaps hint at promiscuous acts taking place. This was then followed up by a clip of Ellie, completely naked, getting into her dressing gown which focuses on her body again, complying with the suggestion that she is more of a scream queen rather than a final girl.


The next shot we have used is a point of view shot from the stalker, now very close to the house, looking at the main girl through the window. The subsequent shot is a medium close up/close up of the girl's face showing how calm and still unaware she is of being watched. We then have an extreme close up of her hand turning on the tap which, paying attention to detail, confirms how she is not worried at all.


When the girl is laying in the bath, we used a high angle, looking down on her to signify her vulnerability. We then leave this location and cut to the flashback scene in the woods, opening with a pan of the trees and the surroundings which sets the scene, emphasising the darkness and isolation they are experiencing; a conventional setting for horror movies. Here we see a close up of Ellie’s face which now is panic stricken and it is clear that she is scared and uncomfortable with the situation she is in.


We have chosen to introduce her three friends with a long shot to show that they are wearing tight and revealing clothes, signifying rebelliousness. We have used torches as additional lighting for this scene and employed them to light up Ellie’s face. Although half her face is in shadow giving a feeling of suspense, we can still see all the emotion on her face and how increasingly scared she is becoming as she is left alone in the woods.

As Ellie turns to run we have a tracking shot following her which gets the audience involved. This is still a close up shot so that we are able to continue to see the emotion on her face. The final shot before her death is an extreme close up of her eyes opening which is followed by a scream. Again, we chose to use this shot to show all of the emotion on her face and to emphasise how scared she is.

The style of editing we have used is slower in the beginning but it increases to add tension as the situation becomes more terrifying. A variety of camera shots and angles have been used to tell the story and to focus on certain parts of the narrative, combined with a variation in the lengths of shots to keep it interesting. We have used cross cutting editing to jump from the outside of the house to watching Ellie in the bath which adds even more tension. The majority of the opening is filmed with steadicam but we have included some handheld to show the point of view of the killer. The whole of our film is continuity edited to make it flow smoothly and connect everything together.


5. Title fonts and style

For our titles we have used the sans serif font Lucida Bright, regular from the iMovie selection. By researching film openings from the slasher genre, we found that it was conventional and that the majority of titles used a sans serif font because it was more serious and in keeping with the rest of the movie rather than, for example, using a bubble font which would perhaps be more suitable for a romantic comedy.

The colour scheme we used for the titles was white words on a black (or dark) background which denotes binary opposition, representing good and evil which could be linked back to the characters in the opening. The simplicity of the titles was intentional because we didn’t want to take the attention away from what was happening on screen to them.

6. Story and how the opening sets it up
A typical convention for the opening of horror movies is having at least one death. This generally sets up the rest of the film and this is something that we have adhered to. The three girls featuring alongside Ellie are her friends and get killed one by one in the woods. Ellie survives this initial event but is later strangled at her own home in the bath. If our film were to carry on, we had an idea that it would be based around a police investigation into the deaths of the girls where the murderer had got away so more similar cases keep suspiciously appearing.

7. Genre and how opening suggests it

The film opens watching the outside of a white detached house, similar to the one in the opening scenes of Halloween, an iconic and extremely influential movie in the horror genre. We chose this particular house because its location was surrounded by various hedges that could be used to look through to emphasise the fact that the girl is being watched. Our soundtrack that accompanies the film footage is rather creepy and fits well together. As the tension builds the tempo of the music increases along with the volume and different groups of instruments are added in as it goes along, building even more tension.

The footsteps approaching the house cross cut with the clips of Ellie acting completely calm and not knowing what is about to happen creates tension. Throughout the opening the killer’s identity is kept a mystery, another typical convention of movies in this specific genre. They can usually be split into two separate sub-types: one type where the killer’s identity is known and he is shown openly (even though sometimes in a mask), and one where the killer’s identity is not known, employing a whodunit angle often with a twist at the end. We chose the latter.


8. How the characters are introduced

We are introduced to the main character Ellie in her bedroom as she is getting undressed which gives us an immediate insight into her life and makes us, the audience, feel like we are stalking her as well yet she is blissfully unaware of it. At this stage we don’t really know anything about the characters and it isn’t until the flashback that we are properly introduced. Each of the friends use their names as they call out to one and other however the minor parts are not really introduced thoroughly because they are only briefly on screen. It is confirmed that they are not the main characters when Ellie labels them as ‘the extras’ in her own documentary. Ellie fully introduces herself to the camera lens as ‘the lead, Ellie’ and it is clear here that she is the leader of the group and the one with the most power.

9. Special effects
The majority of the special effects we have used throughout the opening of our slasher film are regarding the flashback scene in the woods. From the rough cuts feedback we received it indicated that it was rather confusing and we needed to come up with a way to make it more obvious what was happening, why it was there and that it was switching back in time. First of all we added a black and white effect, contrasting with the rest of the film which made it more obvious. This is a technique that has been used in various other film openings in the horror genre and the sub-genre of slashers. However again from some class feedback, it was still not clear enough so we used a blur feature from iMovie. This worked for the opening of the sequence but it didn’t fit with the end so we continued to play around with it.


The flashback scene, where Ellie is doing a Blair Witch style documentary, is cut into a few different stories. To break up Ellie’s commentary and the other sections where Abi runs off, ultimately getting herself killed, we have used on screen static fuzz which represents blank tape or where the camera has been switched off. With the accompanying sound effects it is pretty successful.

After the idents at the very beginning of our production we used a fade out function to lead smoothly into the opening of the film. This was used again at the end of our film on the final shot and has featured at various other points throughout. This is a very common form of editing for this genre, especially at the beginning and the end. We have developed this in our film.

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