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How Thrillers Build Suspense

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Beverley Bruce-Mills

on 1 May 2015

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Transcript of How Thrillers Build Suspense

How Thrillers Build Suspense
Codes & Conventions which build suspense

Different techniques are used in order to create suspense within a thriller, and these include:
Camera Angles
Mise en Scene
A thriller film is a genre that creates a suspense. The idea of a thriller is to keep the audience alert and preferable on the edge of their seats. The central characters in these thriller films are either set against an escape, mission or a mystery. Tension is built throughout the film and eventually leads to a stressful climax. For example, Action Thrillers use physical action to create a form of suspense. The sub-genre would often have continuous action, including stunts, chases, fights and races.
What is a Thriller?
These codes and conventions are some of the reasons why the audience enjoy suspense. Eventually, they all build up, resulting to a surprising/dramatic ending.
Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock isn't just 'The Master of Suspense,' he's one of the trail-blazing and more influential filmmakers who was active in the twentieth century.

In 1925, he directed his first film and began making "thrillers" which he became popular for his work. Hitchcock directed the films 'The Man who Knew Too Much (1934) and 'The 39 Steps (1935)

Overall. Hitchcock, I would say was a successful director within thriller films, as he clearly showed and represented the codes and conventions very well.
Suspense is Information
One key feature from Hitchcock's theory of suspense within thriller films, is 'Information'. This shows the audience what the characters don't see.

For example, if something or someone is about to harm a key character, and the audience are the only source to witness them, it builds a mass suspense for the audience as they would want to know, whether the characters will escape this mysterious person /thing or not. A continuous reminder of this looming danger is bound to build suspense, and this is what Hitchcock loves to portray in his own films. This method of 'Information' has been used in many films directed by other directors who have come to learn that it truly creates suspense.
Sound: Hitchcock's Third Dimension
Hitchcock accepted that sound brought ab alternate measurement to his thriller films when it came down to building anticipation. Sound assumed an immense part of building tension in hitchcock's thrillers, as it set the disposition and the air for the scene. It was additionally a type of sign to the audience that they should equip themselves for real suspense.

'I think sound brought of value to the cinema was to complete the realism of the image on the screen. It made everyone in the audience deaf mutes"
-Alfred Hitchcock
Old Films;
Jurassic Park & DR. NO

Jurassic Park
During the scene, Alan Grant, Alexis Murphy and her brother Tim are shown climbing up and then down a wired fence. The fences are about ten to thirty feet tall and had a minimum of 10,000 volt of electricity to stop the dinosaurs from attempting escape. Meanwhile, John Hammond and Dr Marty Guiltierrez are giving Ellie Sattler instructions to reactivating the electricity around the park. The 'Information' of this scene would be, the audience would know that Tim and the two Murphy's are climbing down the wired fence, however Ellie and John don't know that. The suspense feeling from the audience would make them wonder if Alan and the Murphy's would make it down on time before the electricity is turned on. .
One scene in particular, demonstrates suspense within sound. This scene is when Alexis and Tim are hiding in the kitchen from the Raptors who were able to detect the kids movement. The music tempo starts very slow and quiet as the raptors haven't yet seen the kids and vice versa. Each time the kids move around the kitchen an the raptors knock over an object from the kitchens supply the music start to build ad build, indicating that they re coming closer and closer to another.
Dr. No is a 1962 British spy film, staring Sean Connery. In this film, James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow British agent.
I think, because this film is linked with James Bond, the use of suspense will be good, as he is well known for his mysterious behaviour and his set of skills.
In this scene of Dr. No, we are introduced to some people exchanging dialogue around a table , whiles a game of cards is present. One character in particular is intrigued to know the name of the women dressed in rose red. At this point, she is dealing money for this unknown man, which he is yet to be identified. The camera immediately switches to him as he then says the name 'Bond. James Bond'. The infamous tune that the audience will be familiar with starts playing. This tune symbolises James Bond as he has statues and is shown as inferior to the other men amongst him.
In this scene where James Bond meets Dr. No, two characters are making their way down a left. The lighting that is shown at this point is very shallow and dimmed. This is effective as it builds suspense because they don't know what their in for as soon as the left opens and by having low key lighting it almost emphasises their wait.
The idea of dim lighting is then continued onto the next scene as the two walk out of the lift into a basement like room, which consists of the objects of a lamp, staircase, table, and candles. The atmosphere has a feeling of unsureness and dangerness . This allows the audience to ponder as they wait for something strange to happen suddenly.
Jurassic Park is a 1993 American science fiction adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. In this film the use of Hitchcock's method of 'Information' is used and Sound is focused a lot.
This film involves dinosaurs, which we know don't exist in this day and age, so by making a film about them and knowing they are very dangerous creatures, this film will definitely have a lot of suspense built within in.
Inception is a 2010 science fiction heist thriller film. I believe this film is very confusing yet brilliant because each scene will get you thinking as to how things happen. I also believe it builds a lot of suspense because your not exactly entitled to know what happens next. They create this effect through clever editing, awkward camera angles and sound.
During this scene, Arthur is shown fighting the enemies, however no gravity is present. Due to this, him and his enemies are finding it difficult to more around efficiently. It also limits the chances of Arthur escaping, as his enemies are determined to kill him.
This builds suspense as his position in the clip is life threatening. The audience will eventually become anxious, as they don't know how Arthur will manage to escape in such conditions.
Meanwhile, a car chase is taken place during the fight, and the car consists of a driving and a few unconscious bodies. One being Arthur's. Suspense is also been built here because, the car's are dogging people, buildings and other objects which could potentially lead to a horrible accident. The audience would be on the edge of their seats because they would want to know whether the car and the bodies inside the car make it to safety before the chasers attack.
Parallel and non-diegetic sound is used in Inception to build up tensions and suspense. For example, during the scene where Arthur and Dorn are asked for an envelope involving top information, there's a soft but edge like music playing in the background which compliments the scene as Dorn is also asked to put down his gun slowly. As soon as Saito says "Or are we actually asleep" the music begins to become louder and mysterious. This is effective as the film portrays the idea of sleeping and waking up again in a different place. Arthur is then shot in the leg,by Saito's assistant who acts like she is very professional and has a higher status which suits the style of the music very well.
The music gradually builds up when Arthur is shot in the head by Dorn, who knew Arthur would wake up in a different place. The scene changes, however the same music carries on playing from one scene to the next. This is known as the 'Sound Bridge' . Weapons are then used, guns start to fire and the building caves in which emphasises the reason for the build up of the music.
The Dark Knight-2008
The Dark Knight is a 2008 superhero crime thriller film directed, produced and co-written by Christopher Nolan. This film really knows how to deliver suspense to the audience through two different film elements. Editing and Camera Angles. I think that over a period of years, many films have been able to improve the idea of suspense through build ups and The Dark Knight definitely shows this.
In this scene, the joker falls out of a upside down car, which is shown to be all burnt up and smashed. He struggles to stand up, and control himself when he fires a few gunshots by accident. This suggests that he had been involved in a accident which included guns and an attempt of escape perhaps.
Meanwhile, the camera cross cuts between Batman, who is driving towards the joker in full speed from a far. The joker stuttering towards the batman's direction in a uneasy way. Eventually they both meet, which nearly concludes the Batman hitting the joker with his motorbike. This builds suspense, as the audience struggle to decide whether the batman does or does don't hit the joker out of his frustration. The joker convinces and provokes the batman to hit him, however batman doesn't want the joker telling him what to do.
Camera Angle
In this clip, Batman manages to save the joker from plunging to his death. The use of a high angle on Batman and the Joker suggests that Batman is superior and is in charge, and the joker shown beneath him, makes it look like he is in control of him.
When Batman pulls up the joker, a medium shot is shown when he uses his arms to pull upwards. Here, the audience can clearly see his muscular arms suggesting that Batman is very muscular and manly.
After Batman had pulled the joker up, a close up is shown of him still in a position which shows that he has been held as a hostage, whereas Batman, is safely on the building ledge where he has full control and power over the joker.
New Films;
Inception & The Dark Knight

Influence by Hitchcock
Both 'Inception' and 'The Dark Knight' have demonstrated that they have been impacted by the work of Hitchcock in building anticipation as they both utilize the importance of sound to make tensions which unmistakably demonstrates that if it wasn't for Hitchcock, sound wouldn't be put as an essential part in making anticipation in Thriller films today.
To conclude it is shown that techniques used to build suspense has been portrayed in thriller films today, due to the good works of Alfred Hitchcock. This has inspired other film directors to produce good narratives and well thought out story lines. This shows that his work is very effective at building suspense.
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