Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Year 12 Film - Easter Holiday Homework

For anyone who missed my Film lesson today, here is the work I need you to complete over the two week holiday. Please look at the exam paper below and answer one question from Section C on American cinema. You MUST use your case-study films - American Beauty and Fight Club but may also draw upon other films in your cannon that deal with conforming to/and or subverting the dream (Pursuit of Happiness)


May I also suggest that you catch-up with the Section A work I set a few weeks ago and which no-one has yet completed. Here you were asked to choose a question from Section A and using the provided resource material coupled with your own case-study research into a Hollywood film, to write a detailed response. 

Answering these questions gives me an insight into your knowledge and understanding, and will help me to support you in the run-up to the exams. Persistent resistance to engaging with homework will inevitably lead to underachievement. It is in your interests to work through these essays as we head towards the exams to fully prepare for the experience. 
Have a lovely holiday. I look forward to your responses when we return. x


Good evening. Just a quick reminder that FRIDAY IS DEADLINE DAY FOR THE FOLLOWING:



We will be busy marking over Easter and moderating work on the first week back. If this is going to be problematic for any reason...come and see me as a matter of urgency! 

Good Luck! 

Here is the Year 12 Media Evaluation question document. I know some people have struggled to find it: 

Year 13 Media - Brilliant Horror Podcast Series with Accompanying Articles

I have found a brilliant website 'Left Field Cinema' with some brilliant articles and podcasts about the Horror genre as modern day morality tales. There is a series of five articles and five accompanying podcasts. I would urge you to take a look, and of course listen to these podcasts as they are superb and will really help you to develop your knowledge and understanding of this topic. I have posted a few here but you will need to access the site to listen to all 5. Enjoyx

Podcast 1 and Supporting Article

Podacast and Supporting Article


Podcast and Supporting Article


Site Address: http://www.leftfieldcinema.com/

Sunday, 29 March 2009

FS6 Gendered Film Studies - Easter Holiday Essay

The following questions are examples of 'debate' questions posed to students in past papers in the FS6 exam Film Studies exam (2 Hours to answer 3 questions: Shocking cinema; Censorship and Regulation & Gendered Film). Choose 1 of the following essay questions and using the three key films studied (Tomb Raider, Thelma and Louise & The Piano) and any other examples, answer one of these over the Easter holiday: 

  • Explore the benefits of applying a gendered critical approach to studying film with reference to specific case studies.
  • Is it too simple to say that some films target male audiences and other target female audiences?
  • How does a focus on gender contribute to the understanding of meaning and value in films?
  • What is the ‘male’ camera debate? Does film language create a gendered ‘look’?
  • What is to be gained by considering the position of a male or female spectator?
  • Does mainstream film represent male and female characters differently? Might this determine whether the spectator can identify with or objectify the character?
  • How might gender affect the construction of male and female stereotypes and/or stars?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Check out 'Glogster'!

I have found another brilliant online tool - Glogster. An interactive poster design space where music, video, podcasts and still images can be brought together to create a total interactive learning, caring and sharing experience. Here's one I found on 'Postmodernism' and another below on 'American Beauty'. Go create at: www.glogster.com
Have fun! 

30 Second Bunny version of 'Scream'

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Year 13 Media - Postmodernism Explained

What is postmodernism?

"Postmodernism isn’t really a single theory at all; it’s more a set of ideas used to describe the way in which culture and cultural artefacts (art, music, fashion, film, TV, literature and even architecture) have been produced in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. When we talk about something like a film or painting or a piece of music being postmodern, we are usually giving it certain qualities which some thinkers see cropping up again and again in the culture of the world around us.

Postmodern, then, is the term that is used to describe what comes after modernism. It is difficult to pin it down to a strict definition, but it certainly seems to be very different. Where modernist texts are very dense, serious and complicated, postmodern texts or artefacts seem less serious and more playful. The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought says that:

Postmodernism is often associated with a revolt against authority and signification and a tendency towards pastiche, parody, quotation, self-referentiality and eclecticism.

A complex definition. So what does it mean? Well:

– ‘revolting against authority and signification’ would suggest that postmodern texts tend not to reflect the established order of things, but rebel against mainstream ideas about what is appropriate and fashionable.

– it also means that they tend not to express any specific meaning or intention, such as a social or political agenda. Rather these texts ‘play around’ with ideas through the way they look and sound.

– ‘pastiche, parody and quotation’ means that these texts often refer to, borrow from and sometimes just outright copy other older or contemporary texts.

– ‘self-referentiality’ means that postmodern texts often refer to themselves – that is to say, that often these texts know they are texts and make fun of themselves. A good example of this comes from that most postmodern of TV programmes The Simpsons. During an episode in which Homer and Bart set out to film an alien that they believe is occupying the woods in Springfield, Bart asks what will happen if they don’t manage to film an alien. Homer replies:

Then we’ll fake it, and sell it to the Fox Network – they’ll show anything!

This joke is deliberately self-referential, as The Simpsons is made and distributed by Fox TV.

We might sum up the characteristics of the postmodern in the following way:

Postmodernism …

… is ironic – the assumption that the audience knows one thing about a cultural product but then says another.

… is playful – it may subvert or break the rules of particular styles or genres.

… is nostalgic – a desire for retro culture.

… chops things up and rearranges them (styles, narratives, genres).

… borrows from other styles (intertextuality, eclecticism and pastiche).

… makes fun of other genres, texts and narratives (parody).

… concentrates on the small details rather than the big picture, and looks to avoid anything that provides an answer to all life’s questions, for example religion, politics and so on. (This is called the destruction of the Grand Narrative.)

Good examples of postmodern texts might be:

Film: Pulp Fiction or Scream
TV: The Simpsons or The Sopranos
Music: The Streets or The Darkness
Art: Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can"

Steve Connolly is Head of Performing Arts and Media Studies at Haydon School.
This extract was taken from an article that first appeared in MediaMagazine 9, September 2004

Your task - EITHER

WRITE an in-depth critique of SCREAM. Your critique should respond to the following questions:

How are postmodern themes illustrated or brought to life in this film?
In what ways does this film transcend or transform earlier film styles or techniques?
What does it mean to view this film from a postmodern perspective?
How are your interpretations of this film different now that you have explored the principles of postmodernism?

You may want to show a short (video) clip from the film to illustrate your analysis.


CREATE a short postmodern horror film of your own using your mobile phone. This film should be scripted, shot, edited. Your 'screening' should include a Director's Commentary on the postmodern elements of the film.


create a 'Glogster' poster exploring postmodernism in Scream.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

WEDNESDAY - Year 12 Media Lesson

Morning all. There appears to be some confusion about 'Academic Tutoring Day'. Lessons are running and I anticipate teaching P3 tomorrow. Afterall - you have an essay on 'The Tudors' to submit and I would not want to miss that! Period 4 will be cancelled but I will be here P3 to go through the 'Foundation Production' evaluation process with you in more detail.

Also, I have extended the A/S Media Deadline to :


ALL WORK MUST BE SUBMITTED ON THIS DATE WITHOUT FAIL - BLOG (Research and planning & Evaluation) / Finished Film title sequence and continuity piece + any other evaluative work (DVD commentary / podcasts etc.) I will be marking all this work over EASTER and this is the absolute FINAL DEADLINE!

FM2 Hollywood Comparative Study: Fight Club goodies

An insightful interview with Pitt and Norton.

Fight Club can be considered a 'Zeitgeist' film. Like American Beauty, Fight Club explores the intellectual, cultural, ethical, and political climate, morals and ambience of the era. Zeit = time Geist = spirit

What 'cultural commentary' do these two films offer? Do they hold-up a mirror to life in the late 90's?


Monday, 23 March 2009

Textual Analysis of 'The 'Fruity' Tudors' - PowerPoints to help you with your essays

Thank you Year 12's for your excellent presentations on the opening sequence of 'The Tudors' today. As promised, I have posted your presentations here to support you with the writing of your first TV Drama analysis due NEXT MONDAY (for those of you I teach on a Monday) and Wednesday for those of you I teach on a Wednesday!

Here is the question again:
Discuss the ways in which the extract constructs representations of the Tudor period using the following:
•Camera shots, angles, movement and composition

Remember to write about all four areas and try to 'blend' your analysis of these areas rather than talk about each one as a seperate entity. Good Luck!
Period Drama - Sound

'the Tudors ' Cinematography by Kirsty, Ross and George

'the Tudors' - Editing

Tudor Presentation Mise en Scene

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Thelma and Louise Screenplay by Callie Khouri

Thelma & Louise, by Callie Khouri Thelma & Louise, by Callie Khouri Giorgos

Top Tips for Exam Success - TV Drama

Thelma and Louise - Positive or Negative Representation of women?

Everyone in 13 Film has now seen 'Thelma and Louise' and this week we will begin to critically examine the film and its wider reception exploring whether it can be deemed a positive representation of women in light of the film's closure? This reader will be used in class to examine some of the wider debates. If you get a chance, have a read before this week's lesson. Also, the link below offers an interesting insight into legal debates surrounding this film. Louise would have been tried for murder and been punished by 'death' in America. In light of the film's ending and Thelma and Louise's experiences of rape, this article questions the American legal system and its prejudice towards women. Interesting and worthy of a look!

Thelma and Louise Gender Representation Analysis
This is another useful article to further your study of Thelma and Louise with the author talking with screenwriter Callie Khouri about character development. 
Thelma and Louise Thelma and Louice bhaskarchow

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Year 13 Film - Butt Kicking Babes Display Competition

Butt Kicking Babes

Here's the challenge...I've got a pair of cinema tickets up for grabs for the best 'Butt Kicking Babe' poster created by Yr 13's doing Gendered Film Studies. Choose your favourite or most inspirational 'Butt Kicking Babe' and create a poster (A3 Pref) which gives some insight into the character and some of her distinct traits that make her iconic. She doesn't have to be an action heroine either - just a strong and empowering female character!


Butt Kicking Babes - If you liked our Lara Croft debate, read on...

Butt Kicking Heroines

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Year 12 Media - TV Drama 'Representation' study pack


Year 13 Media - Genre Booklet to help with your study of 'Horror'

Genre Booklet

Film Genre Handout

GENRE and 'The notion of the evolutionary process'

Influential film scholars, such as André Bazin, John Cawelti, Christian Metz and Thomas Schatz, described genre development as an evolution. A film genre goes through stages similar to a life cycle with birth, evolution and eventually and inevitably decline. Thomas Schatz, perhaps the most important advocate of the evolution theory describes four stages of a genre evolution:

1) The experimental stage (where conventions of a genre are established),
2) The classical stage (where genre conventions are reinforced),
3) The age of refinement (where the saturation of conventions gives way for a subversion of the classic conventions),
4) Opacity (which is a stage of self-conscious formalism, which often also gives way to parody).

What is very critical about the evolution theory is the idea of the evolution itself and a genre reaching and going through a “classical” stage. In this stage, as suggested, a genre evolves its characteristic and most refined elements, its harmonious sophistication. André Bazin describes the western Stagecoach (1939) as “the ideal example of the maturity of a style brought to classic perfection” and identifies the western films that followed Stagecoach as “superwesterns” that look for “some quality extrinsic to the genre. 

What comes after the classical phase? Critics have already suggested that a genre turns into a self-reflexive, parodic stage and, when the audience gets tired of this repetitive pattern or when the genre dilutes, it finally disappears. Are all new revivals a genre can experience in the history of cinema just cyclic nervous twitches of a former elaborate, “classical” genre form and represent a “post-“ or “neo-“ version of these genres? This idea must be questioned. Cinema is too young an artistic phenomenon and has only just reached age 100. Can it be that all genres had already gone through their evolutionary processes, that they all had already reached their classical phases, and that they all now and in the next decades and centuries in the history of cinema only will represent deconstructing and hybrid versions of what once was a pure and classical film genre? The cinematic evolution theory might work with genres whose commercial and cultural success had obviously peaked in the past already, such as the western or the musical genre. But genres such as horror, science fiction or more generally comedy obviously endure and appear in cycles, thus, defying an evolutionary process.

"Genres are constantly in the process of mutating in order to maximize their box-office potential and satisfy audience demand. This factor ultimately accounts for the genre’s cyclical appearances and disappearances within different eras and when audience demand wanes, the genre disappears altogether." Altman

Sunday, 15 March 2009

French and Saunders do 'Thelma and Louise' - Enjoy!

FS4 Small Scale Study Evaluation Support (2) with thanks to Matthew Hammond and John O'Grady

Good evening. I know most of you will have completed your FS4 Film Studies evaluations in readiness for tomorrow's deadline. John O'Grady has kindly tracked down an electronic copy of 'The' Matt Hammond's evaluation from last year. So here goes.....it might helps in these last few traumatic pre-deadline hours! Good Luck and Thank you John and of course Matt. x

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Some More 'Genre Theory' courtesy of my old mate 'The Mr B' at Hurtwood

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by hurtwoodhousemedia

Genre Key Concepts:

Repetition – the conventions and proven success
Difference – how these are used (& innovated on)

Organising concepts

Genres of Order:
Issues of law, contestation over space, individualism v society, explicit conflict (violence), lone hero (masculine)

Genres of Integration:
Issues of belonging, contestation over status, individual differences played against social norms, implicit conflict (melodrama), couple (domestic or romantic)

Genre of order – monsters are outside the law & must be destroyed

Can be very clearcut conventions (“rules”) & iconographies
numerous subgenres  successful formulae copies – often literary models) eg vampire, zombie, slasher

Deep issues around self/other: sexuality, body, difference, compulsion, punishment, regeneration/degeneration
& strong fantasies: sadistic/masochistic, of the body
“Monsters of the Id” (Robin Wood)

Genre characterised by specific cycles - often from specific studios (Universal, Hammer), or at specific conjunctures (50s space invasion ¬ Cold War fears; 80s slashers ¬ feminism)

1. of characters (against Other)
2. of audience (against representations of horrors & explicitness of violence)
3. of realism – emphasising power of the Other, represented often through SFX

Basis of film spectatorship in voyeurism: forbidden things
(= childish aggressive, misogynistic, sadistic & dehumanising fantasies)
Coping with body changes (ie body as Other) ® teen interest
Laughter as shortcircuiting embarrassment (& masculine bonding)
Strong fan base (as often relating to non-mainstream films) – connoisseurship (secret things/cultural capital)


FS4 Small Scale Study Evaluation Support

Good evening Film students. I have really enjoyed the Lara Croft debates this week and I am looking forward to exploring notions of gender in Thelma and Louise. As you are fully aware, your FS4 Small Scale projects are due in on Monday 16th March and some of you have asked for some pointers for the mini-evaluation that forms part of the assessment. So here goes:

The Evaluation (approx 500 words)

An FS4 Small Scale research project evaluation should identify the research and presentation processes that went into the project and should be able to identify the learning developed in these processes. Similarly, it should assess the product of the project (in this case the annotated catalogue and the presentation script) and should make value judgments on them. It is preferable to be specific. Candidates should use examples of the strengths and weaknesses of their project and should not be afraid to identify weaknesses, particularly if they can offer some corrective advice at this stage. This clearly demonstrates both reflection and the ability to problem-solve.

The evaluation may include:

• brief consideration of the relative success of the research project

• brief discussion of the research methodology (i.e., approaches to research) used,
highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of different forms and sources of
research (comments on using, for example, the internet, DVD additional
material, magazines and books)

• identification of research and problem-solving skills developed over the course
of the research project (problems faced during research with an indication of how
these were or could be overcome)

• brief discussion of how the candidate selected appropriate material for the
presentation script

• brief reflections on the findings from the research.

Have Fun x


Congratulations to all of you who achieved fantastic grades in your Critical Research Study paper in January. We are delighted with the results today and thrilled that so many of you succeeded in realising your A-C ambitions. In particular Si Pui, George, Leanne and Remdeep deserve a special mention for securing 'A' grades. Si Pui got maximum marks on the paper and should be feeling very chuffed indeed! Well Done - your hard work really paid off! 
For those you that didn't quite reach the desired grade...don't panic! You can re-sit in June and I might call back some papers to see what went wrong.  x

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Genre Theory

Film Genres
The profit motive driving Hollywood studios leads producers to repeat, with some variation, formulas that prove financially successful. This practice has led to the establishment of familiar categories of films, known as genres, some of which are first developed in literature and then adapted for the screen. Some genres, like the western and the screwball comedy, are quintessentially American, while others, like the musical and the melodrama, are popular around the world.

Genre Theory

As audiences become acquainted with particular genres, they come to expect a specific type of viewing experience from films of that genre.

Genres typically have a life cycle, progressing from uncertain beginnings to stable maturity and parodic decline.

Though generic similarities between films have existed since the beginning of cinema, it was the advent of semiotics and structuralism that gave scholars a sophisticated methodology with which to analyze film genre (see Film Theory).

Jim Kitses defined genre in terms of structuring oppositions, such as the wilderness-civilization binary found in westerns.

Rick Altman divided genre into the semantic (iconographic elements such as the cowboy hat) and the syntactic (structural and symbolic meanings).

Recent genre theory has emphasized the postmodern mutation of genres toward hybridity and reflexivity .

The horror film is organized by the division between self and other, which can be defined in sociopolitical or psychoanalytic terms. The emblematic figure of the genre is the monster. Monsters such as vampires and zombies often straddle (and therefore unsettle) binary oppositions that are used to define human existence, such as life/death, man/woman, domestic/foreign, and healthy/degenerate. While exemplary horror films, such as James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), portray the psychology of the monster sensitively, most cast the monster into abjection, expelling it from the world of the narrative in order to restore order and normalcy. More than any other genre, horror is defined by its effect on audiences, who expect to be frightened, shocked, or disgusted.

German expressionism provided the silent period’s greatest horror films, such as F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922). Classical Hollywood films, such as Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942), used offscreen sound, character reaction, and shadows to evoke a monstrous presence without violating the Production Code (see Classical Period).

American independent films such as George Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive (1974) combined horror conventions with social and political analysis.

Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) accorded the horror genre mainstream respectability.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, teenage horror subgenres like the slasher film, as in John Carpenter’s Halloween series, introduced the genre to a new generation.

Some of the most innovative horror films of recent years have been made in East Asia, such as Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) and Miike Takashi’s The Audition (1999).

"You can't kill the Bogeyman" - Studying John Carpenter's 'Halloween'

Last week, I screened John Carpenter's brilliant 'Halloween' as the first film to launch us into the study of genre. I will use the blog to post lots of useful resources about this film and developments in the genre. Here is a brilliant documentary where one of my film heroes 'Mark Kermode' interviews Carpenter on Halloween's 21st Anniversary in 1999. Enjoy.



What primal/universal fears does Myers represent?

Media Magazine - Have YOU been reading it?

The English and Media 'Media Magazine' is a fantastic read for all Media and Film students especially those of you wanting to widen and extend your knowledge and understanding of the subjects. We have a site subscription at school for you to be able online resources and in the LRC you will find hard copies for reading. I have just downloaded a couple of PDF versions of the magazine absolutely loaded with brilliant articles to support Film Studies FS4 work; FM2 Film Studies preparation and articles of relevancy to other aspects of both courses. You'd be a FOOL not to use this brilliant resource to support and reinforce your learning, and of course revision in readiness for those lovely little exams that are not too far away.

This PDF has got stuff for:

John O'Grady and Langford: Star image and construction
Grant Clarke: Terror on film
Dave: Christianity on Film

December Issue - Film

This PDF Version is good for gendered Film, TV Drama and a variety of other topics being explored at present:

Remember 'GEEK IS GOOD' - Get reading and indulge x

Scream, Scream and Scream Again - Year 13 Media Reader

Here is a fabulous article published in the English and Media Centre 'Media Magazine 22' in December 2008. It explores Wes Craven's 'Scream' as a postmodern text and will be essential reading as we begin to deconstruct this important film in our study of film genre. 

Scream, scream, scream again

And if we’re talking genres, what better way to unpick the time-old conventions of the Horror movie than revisiting the ultimate in Horror parody – the Scream trilogy. Tonia de Senna deconstructs.

During the 1990s, genre film production saw a multiplicity of remakes, sequels and adaptations. The Horror genre is no exception to the ‘rule of the remake and sequel’ during the 1990s and beyond. In his article ‘Same as It Ever Was: Innovation and Exhaustion in the Horror and Science-Fiction Films of the 1990s’, David Sanjek states that, although there seems to be an abundance of cinema screens, these offer nothing new or intellectually exciting or stimulating to the audiences.

Indeed, in the early 1990s the film industry seemed to return to classic novel adaptations and the Fantasy/Horror cycle of the 1930s, with films like Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh, 1994). By the mid-90s, we saw the release of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996), which revives the Teen Slasher Horror cycle of the 1970s and 1980s. This, at first, would seem to corroborate Sanjek’s assertion. However, the film actually refers directly, consciously and unashamedly to many classical Horror movies, such as Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) and Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), and invites its fans to engage actively in deconstructing key generic conventions along with the characters, who are themselves Horror film buffs. Based on an analysis of visual and narrative elements in the Scream trilogy, this article will argue that, rather than ‘intellectual understimulation’ , practices of self-referentiality, pastiche and parody (see glossary) have contributed to a redefinition of the Horror genre by offering its audiences alternative forms and levels of engagement with the texts:

inviting the moviegoer to participate in the construction of the Horror experience via modes of response which are increasingly self-aware.

Reading Scream

Scream starts with a murder sequence of a young couple about to see a ‘scary movie’. Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) is home alone, making popcorn and waiting for her boyfriend to arrive. An establishing shot informs us of the isolated location of the house, a stereotypical locale of Horror films, allowing for the unsuspecting and helpless victim to be terrorised by the killer without any witnesses. The means of terror is the phone, a prop that plays a key role throughout the film – and indeed in many Horror movies, as we are later informed by Randy (Jamie Kennedy), the Horror film enthusiast. The conversation between Casey and her murderer ironically focuses on (Slasher) Horror films featuring psychopath killers. Among others, we are reminded of Halloween and its killer, Michael, characteristically identified by his white mask. Soon enough, the killer in Scream appears, wearing a white mask and holding a rather sharp knife, which he motions in a very familiar Psycho fashion. Casey is stabbed several times and hung from a tree in the garden. The sequence finishes with Casey discovered by her mother, whose terrifying screams remind us once again of Jamie Lee Curtis’s memorable screams in Halloween. Apart from the thrill of the chase of the victim by the killer and our fear for her, the audience are, from the beginning of the film, encouraged to embark on a Horror-conventions-and-allusions-recognition game.

Establishing the survival rates

Throughout the film, many other direct visual and narrative references are made to Halloween, a seminal Slasher-Horror film – and by extension to other films of the cycle. Scream does not, however, just recreate or repeat those as a nostalgic or reverential statement; nor is it just another film following an established and tired formula; it self-consciously draws our attention to its own elements of pastiche through the dialogue and the mise-en-scène. For example, when Randy tries to explain to the other teenagers in the house – who are effectively an audience, like us – how to survive a Horror movie, he is in fact becoming a vehicle for the conventions he draws attention to. At this point, we know they have to survive metaphorically not only the killer in the film they are watching (not, coincidentally, Halloween), but ironically and literally, the killer in their house, who we have seen, but they have not. Randy recites the following ‘rules of survival’:

i. You never answer the phone – the detrimental effects of which we have already seen in the first sequence, described above, and we expect to see again bearing upon Sidney (Neve Campbell).

ii. You do not have sex – at this point we have a cut, taking us to the bedroom where Sidney and Billy (Skeet Ulrich) are having sex, conventionally a warning of impending death.

iii. You don’t leave the room saying ‘I’ll be right back’, ‘cause you’re never coming back – this is when Stu (Matthew Lillard) leaves the room and mockingly says he’ll be right back. This makes the other characters (and us) laugh, whilst our expectations are teased about whether he is actually coming back or whether he is the next victim.

In the first instance, the phone ultimately becomes a tool in the heroine’s hands, which exasperates the killers, who are incapacitated by their own means of intimidation. Secondly, not only does Sidney not die, but she gets to act out the role of the Final Girl to the end, even if not a virgin any longer. Randy, a male character, on the other hand, is the one who now appropriates the convention as he happily identifies his virginity as the reason for being alive. Finally, our expectations of the friend’s conventional death are subverted as Stu does indeed return, but as one of the psychopathic killers. Each of the rules, then, is established – only to be revised by later action in the film.

The conventions of the sequel

While Scream re-articulates key Horror film conventions, Scream 2 (1997), the sequel, does the same about Horror film sequels. The film-within-a-film referential structure is used again to provide the backdrop of the generic conventions explored, occasionally mocked out-right and redefined. The film that the characters watch and talk about while more gruesome murders take place is ‘Stab’, a film inspired by Gale Weathers’s (Courtney Cox) book Woodsboro Murders; in other words our Scream! In the opening sequence of Scream 2 we find ourselves at the cinema, watching, along with the predominantly teenage audience in the film, the opening sequence of ‘Stab’, which we know to be a recreation of the opening sequence of Scream. During the screening, a young couple is murdered: this recycling of conventions becomes an acute criticism of modern-day media – and more specifically Hollywood – practices, such as capitalising on repetition of formula, sensationalist violence and its influence on (young) audiences, and ‘sequelling’ or the ‘McDonaldisation’ of Horror; but at the same time we are still watching one of these products, i.e. the sequel. It appears that the film parodies its own essence, providing a sort of commentary on Hollywood production while reiterating its methods.

Indeed, as in Scream and then in ‘Stab’, we see another murder of an innocent blonde girl at home alone. Once again, we see her terrorised over the phone and driven away from the front door (a logical route or escape) and up the staircase where she hits a ‘dead-end’ and eventually gets killed. Although Scream had drawn our attention to this convention only to subvert it with Sidney, here it is re-enacted reverentially (the familiar staircase, the chase and the locked doors, the creepy sounds that enhance our sense of fear), reminding us that we are watching a Horror film. It is precisely this return to the generic convention that bewilders the audience; having seen Sidney escape her ‘genre-predicted’ fate in Scream, we are now unsure what to expect from the film. The thrill in Scream 2 comes not from the expected codes of Horror, nor from the direct subversion of those (as in Scream), but in the unreliability of the narrative. We never know if the convention is going to be followed or not.

One more time, the character who ‘guides’ us through the rules of the sequel is Randy; he prepares us for a ‘bigger body-count’, similarities in the killer’s practices, but also for a surprise: no-one would be interested in a sequel if it was exactly the same as the first film. In other words, Randy’s comments here reflect the position of many theorists, who suggest that ‘genres work on the terrain of repetition and difference’. Scream 2, in a playful manner, draws our attention not only to genre cinema, but also the genre theory that has developed around it, placing us at the heart of academic debates about film: a class in a Film School of an American university. The setting, in other words, is very carefully constructed for film-theory-aware and literate characters and audiences.

The final chapter

Similarly, Scream 3 (2000), the final part in a trilogy, refers back to the first film, thus bearing visual allusions to itself and the influential Halloween. The film once again starts with a double murder, which again takes place in the home. Cotton Weary (Live Schreiber) – who had been wrongly accused of the murder of Sidney’s mother in Scream – gets a phone call from the killer, who informs him that he is in Cotton’s house watching his (Cotton’s) girlfriend having a shower – all too familiar conventions. The sustained use of a subjective camera from the point of view of ‘the monster’ signifies the murderer’s approach and implicates the audience in the violence that follows. A medium, point-of-view shot of Christine’s Psycho-style silhouette behind the shower screen prepares us for the imminent attack...which does not happen. Instead, we cut back to Cotton still on the phone with the killer, and then back to the house, where we see Christine (medium-shot) coming out of the shower intact. Cue sense of relief and wry smile at the playful revision of arguably one of the most powerful scenes in the history of cinema. And then... a low level shot of Christine’s bare feet on her way to investigate a noise, and the stereotypical and much expected chase by the killer down the corridor. By the end of the rather lengthy opening sequence, both Cotton and Christine are stabbed to death in the same way as all the other victims in the Scream series.

Randy, our Horror film guru, has died in the previous instalment; along with the characters, we now no longer know where we stand in terms of the ‘rules of the game’. However, Randy does return to enlighten us through the use of a very significant prop: the TV. Randy has recorded a message for his friends, all too knowingly suggesting that the events could lead up to a trilogy. He informs us that previous rules, sequel rules, do not apply; and among other things, the past returns with a hidden secret, which holds the key to the motive behind these murders. Once more, the film self-consciously sets out the rules only to challenge them and reinvent them as the narrative unfolds.

Sure enough, ‘Stab 3’ is in production; the self-reflexive film-within-a-film formula is in use here, too. ‘Stab 3’ recreates through pastiche the house on the hill where the horrible Woodsboro murders occurred in Scream; at the same time, it is itself the last part of a trilogy. Despite pushing the boundaries of self-consciousness to the extreme, Scream 3 manages successfully to walk the fine line’it sets between parody (of itself) and serious Horror action. From a certain point onwards we see everything double as the suspenseful narrative unfolding in the ‘real’ world of Scream 3 is uncannily reproduced on the set of ‘Stab 3’. Self-referential humour combined with gruesome violence, as a Horror genre feature that is maintained throughout, reinvigorate the sub-genre by engaging the audience in a more complicated than expected storyline for a Horror movie. In Scream 2 Randy did emphasise that in Horror films ‘you gotta keep things simple; you don’t want to confuse your target audience’!

...and the final resolution?

In order to make sense of the trilogy as a whole, what remains to be found out is who the killer/s are in this final part. It turns out that Sidney’s ‘abandoned’ and unwanted half-brother Roman (Scott Foley) had been orchestrating the murders from the very beginning because of a grudge against their mother and, by extension, against his half-sister, who ended up being the ‘protagonist’ in what should be his triumphant story. Therefore, the revelation of Roman is the vehicle for the ultimate parody: his invention in the final episode of the trilogy redefines the trilogy itself, making us re-construe the story of the previous two films.

The allusions of the wanting and traumatising relationship between mother and son are carried throughout the series, replaying and reinventing a theme introduced in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Perhaps not coincidentally, the name of the arch-villain, Roman Bridges is a quasi-anagram of Norman Bates...

The last words

Not all Horror films of the 1990s have been as self-conscious as the Scream series. Neither have they as directly and openly offered:

pleasures of their own, with their own particular rules and conventions about the exploration of the rules and conventions of the broader slasher (sub) genre.

However, I believe that the Scream films are a useful and clear example of re-framing pre-existing codes, pastiche, self-consciousness and parodic humour, practices that led to the redefinition of the Horror genre, its boundaries, its function and its engagement with audiences. Each film in the trilogy pushes these elements further. Consequently, Scream and its subsequent sequels became generic blueprints themselves as they generated a particular type of Horror film – namely one that is both scary and humorously self-referential.

Rather than over-burdening the Horror genre, or the genre film production of the 1990s, postmodern practices of self-referentiality, parody and pastiche have instead enabled generic rules have been revised and reaffirmed.

Glossary of key terms

Final Girl: Stereotypically, the virginal girl that survives in Horror films. In her very influential text Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (1992) Carol Clover defines the Final Girl as a ‘phallic’ heroine, who is only acting as a male protagonist would, thus both undermining her feminine address, and her (often literal) role as ‘castrator’; however, this view has been questioned as these female heroines often distinguish themselves by rejecting the established codes of masculine behaviour and by enhancing their credentials as modern post-feminist women. On this you can further consult Paul Wells, The Horror Genre: from Beelzebub to Blair Witch (2000).

Intertextuality: The way in which (media) texts refer to and interact with other texts, assuming that audiences will recognise those allusions.

Parody: Mocking in a critical way, according to postmodernist critic Fredric Jameson.

Post-feminism: A position that suggests that women should take respect and equality for granted after the successes of the 1960s and 1970s feminist struggles, and should enjoy the ironic and playful pleasures associated with traditional ‘femininity’.

Postmodernism: The social, political and cultural attitudes of production and consumption of (media) products in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The term carries several meanings but is usually associated with the self-reflexivity of contemporary culture and media (see page 6).

Self-reflexive: Texts which display an awareness of their own artificial status as texts.

Self-referential: A text that makes a reference back to itself, usually in a self-ironising and playful manner.

Pastiche: Texts which are made up from different sources, favouring practices of copying or simulation and rejecting authenticity. The term is often used negatively for texts that do not display originality; an approach that has, however, been revised by many theorists.

Tonia de Senna is a Lecturer in Media and Multimedia at Amersham College, Buckinghamshire.

from MediaMagazine 22, December 2008.