I am going to look at two films from the horror genre “The Blair witch” and “Panic room” to what extent do these challenge any of the following women’s roles, conventions of the horror, ideologies before September the 11th? The Blair witch project follows many of the horror conventions despite its originality and I am going to explain what some of the main key aspects are.
The location is placed in an isolated setting this creates suspense and danger of being trapped in a remote location of nowhere to go. The fact that this is filmed as a project documentary highlights the fact that they are investigating where they shouldn’t and are looking for danger already setting enigma codes that something bad will happen connoted further with bad whether conditions. Often it is made obvious that something is going to happen like the rain or the moon which often connotes loneliness or isolation which often is seen as hopeless for a change and many bad things do happen such as slime appearing on backpacks, maps lost, sanity doomed, tents shake, laughter from a distance etc.
So like most horror films it is fairly predictable we can even see this by the title it clearly states what the film is about it is a project to investigate the legend of the Blair witch but clearly don’t succeed in their task. Many films do this such as “long time dead” investigating and awakening those who have been dead for a long time. This film investigates the fear of the unknown of not visibly being able to see the killer creating great fear for the audience as the far and frustrations grow so does the pace of the film until its finale when the tension reaches its peak and although the killer is never seen and has an inevitable ending it is clear what’s happened and often it is more horrific not knowing the truth of a situation.
The film is genre defining and most horrific since The exorcist as like other horror movies it conforms to the mundane conventions of the genre it sets the scene and shortly goes through a series of killings but it doesn’t demolish the malefactor it is left open ended and the Malefactor wins, which connotes that society is becoming weaker and can’t fight for everything and that we can’t protect ourselves throughout the film nothing changes it is like a soap to the extent that it is left open ended and is left on a dis equilibrium they do not return to their daily lives as we presume that they are killed. So this has clearly connoted that we do not live in a world where we always survive sometimes things don’t go the way we plan them.
During the film we watch the changes of emotion as the chance of survival deteriorates with the characters used there is no sense of stereotyping used as these are fairly normal teenagers who aren’t speaking in dialogue using unique cinematography on cheap handheld camera all the way through where its jerkiness gives us a sense of eeriness keeping the audience on the edge of their seats especially with the lack of background music which makes the viewer believe the series of events in the documentary filmed could of really happened so anyone who has used a video camera are able to relate and identify with the characters in the film immediately.
The female is cast as the role leader who makes all the decisions and is connoted as calm and in control and stronger than the male characters. In the film “Scream” women are either shown as a love interest or a victim who has to be protected by a strong male regardless of character here it has completely gone against this which is quite challenging for an audience and adds an extra dimension to the rhythm of the film and as hope becomes pointless this does change but the males because of their beginning vulnerability are not seen as stronger in any shape or form we can relate this to Misery where the woman who plays the malefactor is masculine in her physique wearing bold manly colours, and is rather butch and here she also wears rather dull colours of clothes which aren’t particularly trendy so we can relate this to the character Annie from Misery.
However the film Panic Room is somewhat different to this one. This is focused right in the centre of the town Manhattan known to be very busy and fashionable which would consequently have many residents with a lot of money so it isn’t surprising that Meg wants to move in to a house so big but it still gives us that isolated feel as it amuses us at how huge it is, with the windows covered with curtains and lack of light it has its own character as it is almost detached from the outside world in the way that it is viewed, stuck in the past so that we almost know that something terrible will happen.
The highlight of the house is the Panic room which enhances this and is rather depressing with the neon kind lighting which is the most lightened room in the house which is not welcoming because of small space and is almost the mind of the house, this being the place where all the ability and power comes from. This reminds us of times of war where we need to protect ourselves we need somewhere to hide strongly representing how terrified we are since September the 11th which connotes ideas that we now are not safe wherever we are, even our own home we are not safe and it isn’t just the outside where all the danger occurs. Most of the film is set in this room as hiding from burglars who arrive rather like psycho where the majority is set in the Bates motel and does use similar atmospherics of suspense during the film.
The cinematography is rather similar to past films of flincher’s such as seven and fight club where the techniques the camera uses as moving through floors, doors, wall sockets and key holes create a sense of anxiety, tension and suspense eerily in the film. The light, sound and camera movement are largely important in the framing of this film. The music at the start if the film is played by strings played adagio (slowly) creating a sense of darkness that it is quite a depressing film of isolation, electronic sounds emphasise the clock to connote how time is crucial factor how every second feels like a minute and how every second is precious and at dramatic times and when coming close to danger there is tremolo and high pitched notes to build up the tension needed in these places.
The narrative is much more simple in this film in comparison to other films he has made as there are flashbacks this therefore allows us to focus entirely on the story and how the characters are to escape the situation as unlike the other film this one does end on a new equilibrium and follows both Propp and Todorov’s narrative theory. Again the representation of the woman is not stereotyped as some of the other characters are as even though she starts of weak she becomes stronger all the way through she’s getting over a divorce and the us being a country with a high divorce rate will have viewers who can sympathises with her and respect her for being strong.
We get to know Megs character really well as we see the real emotion inside her is weak as we see her crying in the bath as well as drinking, and having paracetemol, finding it hard to sleep. But on the outside we see her keeping strong for her daughter Sarah who has diabetes and in the case of danger we see how all along Burnham has generally cared about the safety of everyone and is seen as a hero who sacrifices his freedom by saving Megs life who is a hero in this case at a binary opposition to Raoul who only cares about the money and clearly is stereotyped as a Villain.
The police didn’t save anyone are not seen as helpful in keeping with how we don’t respect them as much as we used to as the only one who might be able to save us is ourselves She also is seen as courageous trying everything to escape which we almost see in relation to Jodie foster who is rather clever more than the character of Meg. So in conclusion both these films challenge the stereotype of the Women’s role even if other stereotypes are present which clearly in the panic room there is. These films are portraying very different types of horror both portraying the same issues in society that you can’t protect yourself however one ends positively resolving issues whilst Blair witch ends on a very negatively you assume being open ended which really defines the film as more unique and spontaneous which you could almost call genre defining.