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Codes and Conventions of Three Different Film Genres

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This paper discusses critically the codes and conventions of three different genres of film and how they effectively communicate to an audience. You might wonder, “What is a film genre?” Well, simply put, a genre is a category/group of films characterized by a particular style, form or content (Merriam-Webster, 2018). The three groups/categories of films being discussed will be gangster, horror and science fiction.

Gangster

Gangster films portray persons as rich, powerful and highly respected among Americans and the rest of the world. They often involve powerful families and the mafia engaging in organized criminal acts and involvement with cocaine, killing and money to provide for their family. (Prezi, 2013). These films are more targeted towards mature persons of ages 15-24 (Aimad, 2014). The characters are usually well dressed in this genre of film. They often have scars and blood as markings from the use of make-up in these films. The women usually have pretty dresses and red lipstick on (Akers, 2013). The male characters are usually the ones who engage in criminal acts while the women takes care of the family at home as these were stereotypes of these types of films. They often portray the women as the weaker gender and dominated by the males (Brammer, 2014).

The Usual Suspects (1995), is the gangster film being discussed. The film is about a survivor narrating his story about events that took place before a horrific gunfight on a boat which began when a group of five criminals met at a police line-up. The movie takes place in Los Angeles California, USA. The movement of the camera angles zooms in on each individual’s face particularly in the beginning scene where the police is asking the five main characters (Michael, Dean, Fred, Todd & Roger) questions about a robbery. The director Bryan Singer, achieves showing the body language of each character as the camera zooms in and out on each character’s face. This gives the audience a clear understanding of each character’s personality in the movie. The is a clear example of the scene where the police asked number three (Fred) to step forward and repeat his phrase, he just laughs and makes fun out of the situation giving the audience the idea that he doesn’t care about what is going on. The iconography of gangster films are usually guns, cigarettes, drugs and money (Akers, 2013). The lighting usually used is high-key and low-key lighting to as these types of lighting is used for contrast and low-key is used for mysteriousness/suspense (Gabriel, n.d.).

Science Fiction

Sci-fi films are based upon fiction and fantasy such as things like aliens, ghosts, time travelling to the future/past and fictional creature/monsters (filmsite, n.d.). It is targeted towards persons of any ages preferably ages 13 and up, sci-fi critiques and persons who grew up watching terminator and other sci-fi films. Sci-fi films usually include some kind of hero or villain as well that the movie focuses on mostly which is the protagonist/antagonist of some sort (Buffam, 2011).

Terminator 2 (1991), directed by James Cameron, is a perfect example of this sci-fi genre. This movie features a man named John Connor who sent a cyborg named Terminator 800 (T-800) back in time to protect his younger self from another cyborg named Terminator 1000 (T-1000) from killing him. The scene from the movie in which T-1000 had found young John Connor in an Arcade and was about to kill him when T-800 came and shot T-1000 then he heals back himself from the gunshot wounds. The audience get a feel of excitement, confusion, creepiness and mysteriousness at the same time with this scene as this is what sci-fi films aims to accomplish with their audiences (atam1663scifi, n.d.). In this films examples of iconography used were guns, robotic technology & vehicles. Lighting also plays an important role in this movie as it gives depth and dimensions (Jordan, 2014).Just as discussed in the gangster genre, this movie uses low-key lighting to show desperation and fear (Jordan, 2014).

Horror

Last but not least, Horror films. These films are usually made to instil in the audience fear and anxiety and overlaps sci-fi and film noir i.e. Gangster films (Encyclopedia-Britannica, n.d.). It is mostly targeted towards a more mature audience of ages 15 and over (Randall, n.d.). This type of film is made for persons who enjoy watching the unknown, demonism, bloody and gory content and delve into the realms of our fear of death just for the fun/thrill of it. (Crowder, 2017). The evil characters (antagonists) in this genre of film are usually some sort of supernatural dark & unknown entity/demon/ghost, or even some mythical creature that haunts, chases, torment and kill the protagonists of the movie. Although this is not always so, the antagonists can sometimes be humans as well such as murderers/killers (D., 2000).

The film, Final Destination 4, (2009), directed by David R. Ellis, gives an example to this unknown entity (death) chasing the main antagonists of the movie. This film shows a young man’s premonition of a deadly race-car crash helped saves the lives of his peers. Soon they realise Death sets out to collect those who evaded their end. In the opening scene of the film, a car crashes and causes a chain reaction of destruction in the stadium killing several persons in the stadium. The scene then ends with Nick realising that he saw the future and what was about to happen so he quickly escapes with his friends. He realises that this unknown entity (death) is chasing them and they cannot stop their deaths from happening. This clearly gives the mood of the show a feeling of anxiety and fear to the audience because of accidental horrific deaths which can relate to deaths in real life. This is what makes the movie horrific. The iconography in this movie are race cars, ceiling fans, metal, lawn mowers etc. The lighting that are used in horror movies are usually dark and gloomy to instil emotional tension which is called up lighting (Renee, 2016). We see throughout scenes in the movie.

Each genre discussed has a purpose/meaning to them. Horror movies represents the inner fears and anxieties in humans that need to be conquered. The Sci-fi films represents capabilities or fantasies of human beings that is beyond human thinking/comprehension. Finally, gangster films represents harsh realities of life and the type of people we live with in this world. Each genre has its own purpose and life lesson persons can learn from.

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