Researching Fear in Films

For this task I am going to look into Fear, what creates this emotion and what different genres do to achieve fear.

There are many ways fear is implemented into films. Fear is in most genres as a tool for telling a story or developing a character whether it is a huge part of the narrative or if it is subtle part to just to keep progress the story further.

Fear can be transformed into many media platforms such as film, books, music and games. Fear is most commonly related to the genres Horror and Thriller. Horror and Thriller is made to create fear and tension in the viewer, people want to experience fear while still being in a safe and comfort environment so turn to watching, reading or listening to these types of stories to achieve this type of feeling and emotion.


The definition of fear according to the dictionary is ‘a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.’ 

There are many ways to present fear in film, specifically placed music or the perspective your film is shot.

A good example of changing the perspective to increase fear is ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (1999). The film was shot in first person from the perspective of three filmmakers filming a documentary in a woods, this was a new technique that not many people had seen or used before. It helped the audience put themselves into that situation by pretending it was real life footage recorded on a camcorder. After this film this technique became more popular and developed into its own sub-genre called ‘Found Footage’.


‘Paranormal Activity’ (2014) is another film which uses an interesting style, all the camera angles are fixed as if they are security footage set up by a couple that have moved into a new home and are experiencing strange paranormal events. It also uses the found footage style in the film as well which ties together well with the security footage to create a realistic situation.



Fear isn’t just related to the Horror genre, it could also be represented in dramas and other genres alike. An example of when fear is represented in a more normal day scenario is the film, ‘About Time’ (2013). In this film the main protagonist has the ability to travel back in time to visit his deceased Dad, however his wife want to have another child which will stop him from being able to go back and see his father. The reason for this is if he went back before the time the child was conceived, the child would be different every time he returns due to genetics. This ultimately leaves the protagonist with the fear of losing his dad and moving on. This is a great example of how fear is more than just horror and being scared, it can have a more personal meaning to it and be quite upsetting.



Another type of fear in a film is being alone, a good example of this is ‘The Martian’ (2015). The character Mark Watney played by Matt Damon is stranded on Mars when his team presumed he was dead and left without him. Throughout the film he is alone and is the main role in the story, his character is optimistic and continues to attempt to get off of Mars alive. He keeps his sense of humour, however this could be seen as a fear mechanism to stop him from losing his mind and freaking out due lack of social interaction.



The similarity between the four examples of films that use fear as a tool is emotion, however they are used in very different ways.
Media skills used to create fear are mainly presented through music and camera work, for example, a scene shot with a dutch angle could invoke the idea of confusion. Using the past examples of ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ they both have a specific camera angle chosen to provoke the idea of fear. ‘The Blair Witch Project’  uses handheld camera which creates a very erratic feeling once the character is being pursued. On the other hand ‘Paranormal Activity’  flipped the idea around and uses a camera which is in place to imitate security footage. This creates an opposite feeling as instead of it being jittery and erratic, it is somewhat calm and slow. This creates a false sense of security and from a viewers point of view, knowing what genre of film it is creates a sense of fear as a consequence of waiting for the inevitable.


In comparison to that, ‘The Martian’ and ‘About Time’ uses fear in a narrative sense as it invokes emotions in the audience. It uses fear as a tool to invoke other emotions such as sadness. ‘About Time’ is the best example of this as it uses the characters fear of losing someone and translates it into sadness for the audience to experience.

Films like ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ use techniques to try to create fear however films like ‘The Martian’ and ‘About Time’ uses fear as a tool to create other emotion instead of trying to create fear itself.  





Researching Fear in Films

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