Horror is a genre that has had even the strongest of men curled up in a ball with fright; it’s been scaring people for decades. There are two types of horror films, the first plays on the idea of tangible fear, which means that people get scared by things that could actually happen, for example an aeroplane crashing or drowning. In my case the example of a tangible fear based film is “Final Destination 3” co-directed by Penny Gibbs and Art Schaefer.
However, on the other hand, some horror films are based on irrational fears, like when people are scared of zombies ; vampires which don’t actually exist or situations in real life like being scared of spiders, there isn’t anything really to be scared of we just find them creepy. In my case the example of an irrational fear based film is “The Birds” directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The storyline for “Final Destination 3” starts at a theme park somewhere in the USA.
The films main characters are having their last night before graduation, and everything is going fine until Kerry tells Wendy that she’s going to break up wit her boyfriend (Kevin) after graduation. Wendy then has a vision of the rollercoaster crashing and pleads to get off, then in turn saving half the people on the rollercoaster. After the rollercoaster crash, Wendy and Kevin watch all their classmates that survived the coaster crash and piece together that there is a certain order that they are going to die by ‘accidents’, and the remaining few realise that they will have to fight fate to stay alive.
The storyline of “The Birds” is about a beautiful blonde socialite (Melanie) who pursues the hunky lawyer (Mitch) to a small isolated Californian town called Bodega Bay. Half way across the lake, after delivering a pair of lovebirds to the Brenner’s house, she is attacked by a gull that takes a little chuck from her head. Then chaos unfolds as we see the birds are not the docile animals we thought they were as we see numerous deaths and attacks on the town folks of Bodega Bay.
Although, both films are very different from each other, they both share some common features of horror. Firstly, in the opening credits of the “The Birds” we see lots of birds filling the screen flying from either direction, giving the sense of attacking or hysteria. The colours in the opening credits are also very important because it’s a stark image having a white background with the black of the birds flying across; the text is a light blue colour which looks like it’s getting ‘pecked’ away by the birds.
The noises in the background however are the most effective having the screeching and squawking of the birds and the flapping of their wings, these sounds put together are effective because it’s very uncomfortable to see/listen to for a long time, which gives the feel of claustrophobia; it’s also quite distressing as it’s chaotic and this makes the viewer feel helpless and lost, with no control. The opening credits to “Final Destination 3” are creepy and hidden hints of what the movie has install for us the audience. For example, the usual blue glow of The New Line Cinema logo turns an eerie red, signifying danger, the devil and death.
The music starts slow and we are confronted with a deserted fairground, which seem to be going slower than usual. When the title “Final Destination 3” comes on the screen, we are confronted with a mechanical fortune teller booth who points to a row of tarot cards and points to the death one. The font of the credits is in the style of the ‘wanted posters’ in the Wild West, this makes the viewer think of death because they always said ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’. The text disappears in a burst of red light or just fades away, symbolising that the deaths of the characters could be very dramatic or just simple.
Then there is an image of a carousel and its reflection both are going at the normal time then all of a sudden the reflection speeds ups but not in real life, which signifies that things are not as they seem and can easily go out of control. Everything that was moving slowly is now moving faster and faster. As you watch the title sequence again, you start seeing images that correspond to deaths that happen later on in the film; for example there is an image of a girl that is about to get electrocuted in an electric chair and above her it says ‘twin’ which may refer to the deaths of Ashley and Ashlyn who at the same time die on a tanning bed.
The sound effects during the title sequence are of people screaming but however, these screams are not of excited screams that you would normally find on a rollercoaster or at a fairground but ones of fear and terror. The next shot in the sequence is on of a metal ball-bearing rolling down a spiral frame that resembles a roller coaster. It rolls between nails (much like a pinball machine) and bounces off ‘luck’ and ‘fate’ (throughout the opening sequence there is reference to fate) and goes down the hole marked ‘death’.
As the ball-bearing goes through the hole, the camera cuts smoothly to three students on a ride. In “The Birds” there are many dark scenes throughout the film, which add mystery because you can never tell if there when there is going to be an attack, Hitchcock also uses music and loud sound effect to make the audience jump or shock them, because the storyline is so strong that you are engrossed and even if you watch it several times you still get shocked. In “Final Destination 3” there are many cliche eatures, which basically means a feature of a film that becomes over used. At the start of “Final Destination 3” in Wendy’s vision, there are over exaggerated creaking and groaning sounds coming from the rollercoaster and close up shots of oil leaking from the hydraulics. There is lots of red throughout which symbolises, the devil and death, there is also lots of signs pointing to death for example, when the ride “high dive” goes up you slowly see the ‘v’ in ‘dive’ flicker off to change it to “high die”.
There are references to other horror films in Final Destination, for example when Frankie says “look who’s back” this is a quote from “Nightmare on Elms Street” said by Freddy Crouger (the man who kills people in his sleep), this links to the inevitability of the up-coming ride bringing death to its passengers. All of this links to a chain of events; Frankie dropping the camera which then undoes the seatbelts and then inevitably the death of the students. Horror films don’t always have to have horror in them they also can use comedy in a sick and twisted way.
However, in “The Birds” it uses subtle comedy which is highly unusual for comedy in horror films. The only comedy in “The Birds” is when Melanie is driving to Bodega Bay with the pair of lovebirds in the back and as she goes round the corner, they both lean around. This is quite a trivial thing and puts the audience in a false sense of security. Other genres you find in “The Birds” is romance between Mitch and Melanie. There is also dramatic irony as at the beginning of the film in the pet shop they are giving facts about birds which then puts a false sense of security on the audience as we know what birds are meant to be like.
Final Destination 3″ also has multiple genres, for example there is dark comedy/irony when Ashley and Ashlyn who are obsessed with tanning, get trapped in a tanning bed and die. There is also an element of romance between Kevin and Wendy whom hate each other at the beginning then at the end its stick together or die so end up being really close. The characters in horror films are either attractive or quite creepy or villains. The main characters in “The Birds” are both attractive and both are faced by the horrors in the film.
The male lead is the typical hunky lead that is intelligent always there to save the women (damsel in distress) however; the female lead in “The Birds” is also quite intelligent but still needs the help of the male. The characters in “Final Destination 3” are all attractive and intelligent; this immediately gives a sympathetic link between the audience and the characters which makes us (the audience) sad when they die. Most of the characters in the film are stereotypes, for example Louis is the stereotypical ‘jock’ however, not all of them are like Ian McKinley who is quiet but too clever for his own good.
In “The Birds” there are no typical horror settings; there is only the pet shop, which isn’t very terrifying but this is only there purely to setup the characters and the plot. The next main setting is Bodega Bay, a small isolated Californian village. The use of isolation here is good because it shows that there is no help near by so if anything bad does happen they’re doomed. Another main setting is the small cafi?? this is the one of last main settings as this is where the first major attack happens on the citizens of Bodega Bay.
Another key setting is at the school, this is important because it shows innocence from the children. Melanie is having a cigarette on the bench and the camera is panning from her and back to the climbing frame in the playground, each time the camera goes back there are more birds on the climbing frame and each pan pauses longer and longer on Melanie. The end of the scene is the local schoolteacher and Melanie trying to get the children to safety with a huge flock of birds after them.