Scream Analysis – Ms Begum
In the opening of the film we can see the victim who is played by Drew Barrymore, as a young blonde innocent lady who is alone in a big house. She receives numerous amounts of phone calls from a mysterious man who later on reveals himself as being the killer. He also threatens to kill her boyfriend if she doesn't answer the questions that he asks her. At the end of the opening scene, we see the victim dead and hanged on a tree, witnessed by her parents.
How is the opening sequence of scream conventional to a thriller opening?
Mise en scene:
At the beginning of the scene we can see the setting as being at night time in a large house surrounded by trees. We can see the shot of the setting after the killer makes his first phone call. When there is a scene showing house in a film, it is normally referred to being a place of warmth and comfort, however in a thriller this isn't the case. The house shown at night, and the house being in middle of nowhere illustrates the fact that the character inside the house is vulnerable against an attack from the antagonist, and has a limited, if any chance of survival. The audience would be able to sense trouble from the start of the scene, her being alone means that there wouldn't be anyone to around help if there was going to be some sort of dilemma.
Throughout the beginning of the opening we see the young lady having a calm form of body language with her not being scared or intimidated, with slow walking and a normal form of tone. However as the scene carries on we can see the character panicking which leads to her to run away from the killer because she is left with no other choice. The quick change is used to display how the body language of the victim can change as she feels under threat from the antagonist, which is the killer. This creates a chilling response from the audience because we can see the drastic change in body language from the victim, which shows that that victim feels that she’s in trouble which she portrays through her body language.
Low-key lighting is used frequently in the scene. An example of where Low-key lighting is used is while the young lady is starting to panic when realising her boyfriend has been tied to the chair. The effect that the low-key lighting has is that all the other objects around the character are dimmed so therefore it makes the viewer understand the victim’s emotions in a more clearly. This immediately causes a feeling of suspense and this could lead to the audience to think something bad is going to happen.
The costume that the victim and the protagonist wore had a specific meaning which is conventional to a thriller. Throughout the opening we see the victim wearing a white jumper and the antagonist killer wearing a black hooded cloak. The white jumper is used to present the victim as being innocent and vulnerable towards the antagonist, whereas the use of a black hooded cloak is used to portray the antagonist as being evil and violent. This classic representation is a classic convention in representing characters because it causes the audience to understand that the female character wearing a white jumper is the victim and the character in the dark hooded mask is the antagonist.
The use of diegetic sounds are used as a convention in the scene. The first thing we hear while watching is the diegetic sound of the telephone ringing. It is also used at various other parts of the scene to imply that the killer is calling and harassing the lady. The reason as to why this particular diegetic sound has been used is so that the audience can acknowledge and experience the type of sound that the lady is experiencing and hearing. Therefore the audience would share the same amount of intensity as the victim because the audience and the victim aren't aware of when the telephone would ring.
On the other hand, non-diegetic sounds also are an important factor of sound in the opening. There is thriller specific music when the victim is running around and locking all of the doors which only the audience is aware of. The use of this non-diegetic sound adds suspense to the scene and signifies the point that the young lady is in danger. The audience is aware by this point that the intensity of the scene is increasing as well as the use of non-diegetic sounds.
There is use of an off-screen sound that has been used effectively. At the end of the scene the mother of the victim witnesses her daughter dead and being hung from a tree. We can tell she is devastated because she’s crying and screaming. As she does so, there is a imagine of her daughter while we can hear her scream. The director is doing this to address the shock that she’s going through by witnessing her daughter in such a horrific state. The audience then understands the emotions that the mother of the victim is going through by her screaming, whilst being able to see the victim being hung.
There is an extreme long shot used to portray the location of where the young lady is. This is at the beginning of the scene after the second phone call from the killer. This extreme long shot is used to show the audience the surroundings of the lady and where she is, we can see a swing slowly swinging and all the lights of the large house being open. The impact that this shot has on the audience is that it gives a feel of the surroundings and signifies that there are no other people near so the victim would be helpless if there was an attack from the killer
A close-up shot has been used on the victim to show emotion. During the phone call, the young lady is freaked out by the killer because she finds out that he knows her boyfriend’s name. The close-up shot then is used so that the audience can see the lady’s emotions after finding out this information. The close-up shot gives the audience a better idea about the feelings that the character is going through, in this situation the lady is helpless, and scared.
There’s also a POV shot that’s been used effectively. We see the victim looking outside after locking the door to check if the killer is close or nearby. At this point in the scene the victim is terrified and worried so she feels the need to check her surroundings. The POV shot is conventional to a thriller because it enables the audience to have an exact feel about what the victim is witnessing so therefore the audience shares the experience with the victim in the scene.
A frequently used editing technique would be the straight cut. There’s a straight cut used when the telephone rings for the third time onto the lady’s face to show her facial expression and her getting slightly spooked out. The use of this is to show the lady’s reaction towards the continuous phone calls she’s receiving. The reaction that the audience would have is that they would sense that the man on the phone is the killer is.
A jump cut has also been used. We see this when the camera is on the young lady, then jumps to the popcorn that she’s cooking. The popcorn starts to heat up and starts to get bigger and bigger. The impact this has is that it builds tension and creates suspense by giving the idea to the audience that the popcorn would explode. it creates a relation between the popcorn and the lady. This is conventional to a thriller because it leaves the audience at the edge of their seats wondering what would occur next.
The last piece of editing that I will be discussing is the reaction shot. This occurs when the victim lady realises that the killer had tied up her boyfriend. The reaction shot is used to effect to portray the reaction the young lady gives after finding out the terrifying action the killer took against her boyfriend. The audience would feel remorseful to the young lady, and the audience by this point knows that she is helpless.
Overall, this in-depth research and analysis into the opening of ‘scream’ has helped me understand about the micro-elements that are conventional to a thriller film. I've also understood that some elements such as low-key lighting and close up shots are conventional to a thriller because of the effect it has on the audience. This scene has helped me with the overall understanding of thriller openings by the use of thriller conventions, and the ideas i would take on board when filming my own thriller opening would definitely be the use of POV shots. This is because the POV shot displays the feelings of the victim in more of an effective way and the audience can have more of an understanding about the fright the victim is going through. This analysis had a significant impact on me developing ideas about my own thriller opening as I am now aware of what aspects of the micro-elements I should use that are conventional to a thriller film.