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Horror has been a popular genre over the last 200 years. People enjoy
reading gothic novels and watching horror films because it injects
excitement into their lives. This may be because generally life is
safer and people may find it mundane; horror gives people a thrill and
knowing you're in safe surroundings lets you know you're going to be
ok after the short time you are being entertained.
Writers like Sheridan Le Fanu, Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe have
all been popular horror authors, however, the first great gothic novel
was 'Mysteries of Udolpho' written by Anne Radcliffe in 1794.
Then, film was invented and 'Nosferatu' was the first horror film made
by the Germans. This then encouraged more films to be made and they
have become increasingly more popular. Recently in films technical
advances have made films more realistic because people's expectations
are becoming greater, we want to believe what we see is real.
We watched Dracula, Prince of Darkness made by Hammer in 1965 and have
studied the conventions and techniques as they appear in the film and
in this essay it will be about the effect of them on the audience, how
they generate pleasurable fear.
Most horror films have a similar storyline. They are usually set in an
isolated place with a gothic setting and most of the scary parts take
place at night. The main characters usually consist of the monster or
'baddie', who may be a murderer and is not easily destroyed, which is
handy for sequels. A clever person or maybe a scientist, 'stupid'
people that often go off on their own and is more likely to get killed
first, and a beautiful women who screams a lot and may get injured, or
even killed for dramatic purposes.
There will be a number of tense chases and exciting near misses which
tend to happen in the middle of the film or near the end before the
monster is caught, if he isn't killed or caught then the film can be
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In vampire movies there can be a strong sexual element, this occurs in
our Dracula. After Dracula turns the women into vampires they become
voluptuous and the make up changes to be more attractive.
In films it takes a lot of technical work to make it perfect. However
when Dracula was made there wasn't as many special effects as we have
now so they don't seem that good, but for the time it was made it
wasn't too bad. Films wouldn't be realistic to the audience if there
weren't any technical conventions because these are what create
tension and fear for example the music and sound effects. There is
always music in films and when there is a particularly scary scene the
music becomes louder and more high pitched, this lets the audience
know something is about to happen, however in some films they play
dramatic music to build up the tension and then nothing happens. Then
a scary moment happens when you're least expecting it. There are lots
of different sound effects used like, thunder and rain, also
footsteps, when Alan is exploring the castle in a scene in Dracula you
hear the footsteps this creates tension.
The lighting and camera shots are a good way of generating fear for
the audience. When the camera just focuses on a person's face where
the light is shining down or if there is a camera shot and then
someone suddenly appears.
Make up and costume is important because that can tell the audience
about the character.
Then makers of Dracula used red, gothic print for the title at the
beginning to increase drama. The film was set in a castle which is
used in scary films because they can be found creepy.
There are a few scenes which may make the audience feel tense for
example, when we meet the group of individuals and they ignore the
expert, this tells us something is going to go wrong because the
expert is usually right.
When the group are driven to there destination the coach driver
refuses to carry on the journey towards the castle, this is a warning
to the characters but they don't realise this.
Helen is a character who moans quite a lot, she isn't stupid so when
she is warning the group about the place they are staying at and says
she is frightened but they pay no attention to this as they are used
to her moaning they think nothing of it. This can be frustrating to
the audience because we know something is wrong but no one listens to
Later on in the film after Alan leaves Helen in their room and goes
off alone, while he is exploring Dracula creeps up and kills him,
after this Dracula takes the body to the cellar and hangs him above a
After a while Helen appears to be worried so she goes to hunt for Alan
on her own, she goes down to the cellar where Dracula had killed him
and sees him dead, then Dracula comes and turns Helen into a vampire,
the audience doesn't get to see this bit because he uses his cloak to
hide it then it goes dark this creates fear to the audience for Helen.
Then, the next morning Charles takes Diana, his wife away from the
hotel because he's worried for her safety and he returns alone! As he
enters the castle's big, wooden, creaking doors Helen appears as a
vampire, her costume, hair and make up have all changed into a sexier
image, this is a sure sign she has become evil we know she is now a
vampire because her teeth have changed and now look like Dracula's.
The strange butler who was introduced to us earlier in the film brings
Diana back to the castle and then Dracula appears. This is a tense
moment with fighting but then Charles and Diana manage to escape.
There is lots of dramatic music at this point. From this, the audience
know it is tense for the characters.
They manage to find their way to the expert and we expect they are
safe at the Abbey of Kleinberg. But then one of Dracula's acolytes
invites him in. The audience know that Charles and Diana are in
trouble but they don't know that themselves.
Diana and Dracula end up in a chase and then in a room together and
Diana is kidnapped. The lighting becomes dimmer and there are several
close up shots for dramatic effect. Then the camera focuses on
Dracula's eyes and zooms in as they get redder.
The end scene involves Charles and Diana trying to kill Dracula. There
happens to be a large area of ice and Dracula and Charles end up
fighting on there, Charles manages to get away from it and uses a gun
to make hols in the ice because he knows Dracula can't survive in
running water. He falls through and the film finishes with Dracula
drowning but no one knows if he is dead. So there may be a sequel.
After watching this film, you can see how the technical side of it has
improved greatly. The special effects are much better and the film
isn't very realistic, however at the time it was made people would
have been satisfied with them standards. The reason why people like to
watch horror films or read horror books is because they want
excitement and they know they are in safe surroundings.
I didn't like Dracula, Prince of Darkness because I am used to
watching better quality films but I think it had a good storyline and
if it was made now it would be successful. I wouldn't watch it again
or a sequel but some people may enjoy it.