How Iconography and Narrative has changed in 50 Years

Through the years the thriller genre has changed, as well as expanded in scale rapidly. Over the course of fifty years these changes are noticeable through Iconography, Narrative form and Audience expectations. I will be explaining the transitions of the thriller genre by breaking them down into separate pieces. ‘Psycho’ (1960, Hitchcock), ‘The Shining’ (1980, Kubrick) and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ (1991, Demme).

The usual Iconography which is used when looking at the thriller genre is usually something dark, such as a jail cell in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ to a secluded shower room in ‘Psycho’. Dark settings are important for the thriller genre as they make the movie the intense, heart stopping experience that they wish to give. Iconography is: clothing, props, settings and costume. Weapons are a key prop for the thriller genre as they always seem to be present and have a task to carry out for a vital role in the film. Blood seems to be a high scale of importance in the thriller genre as blood is something you love or you hate, blood adds to the notion of the film making them scarier, yet always wanting more and more. It raises your expectations and can truly make the film stand out and become unique.

It is clear that Iconography has changed over the years. In ‘Psycho’ blood is less vital, where as the story is more vital. The shower scene is good to digest as we don’t really see much blood and never see the Blondie getting stabbed to death where as in ‘The Shining’ when the jolly old caretaker walks in to save the day; Jack comes in with the axe to chop the audience expectation bars to a whole new level. Blood is used throughout the psychological thriller ‘The Shining’ is small cuts like the elevator opening with gallons of blood pouring out. It is clear the props and costume have changed dramatically over the course of ‘Psycho’ to ‘The Shining’ but with ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ in nineteen-ninety-one we are given a new level of gore with the suit made of women’s skin and more settings from all over the globe compared to the two secluded hotels.

The usual Narrative form in thriller films that you expect is: a problem occurs, characters try to resolve problem, another greater problem occurs and finally problem solved and usually all live happily ever after… These three films are exactly what this narrative form is just with loads of bits entwined within it. All three films revolve around murder, such as the crazy young man who dresses as his mother, the father who goes crazy in an old empty five-star hotel and the buffalo guy making suits out of women’s skin, not forgetting Dr Lector who eats people breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It is clear that Narrative form has stayed relatively the same over the years for the thriller genre, however like stated above there are loads of sections and plots entwined within them. The narrative form for ‘Psycho’ is a women we become to know so well stealing some money from her job only to be immediately killed by what appears to be a women. That’s the problem that occurs  a bit. In ‘The Shining’ the ‘red rum’ kid contacts the caretaker for help and save them. That the characters try to resolve problem bit. In ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ the well-talking and all-knowing Dr Hannibal Lector escapes by wearing one of his captors face and simply disappearing. That’s the greater problem occurs bit. Finally, the crazy young man who dresses as his mother is locked up, the father who goes crazy freezes to death and buffalo bill is killed, while Dr Lector escapes to a foreign country in the hope to make more money off a sequel. That’s the bit where they all live happily ever after.

‘Psycho’ is simple and you kind of understand what is going to happen. The narrative form is straight-forward yet smaller plots are not. We understand that all characters have deep dark problems such as: drugs, drinking, affairs and stealing. We are introduced to insanity, as the young man begins to think he is his own dead mother. In ‘The Shining’ we are introduced to supernatural powers as the young boy can somehow contact the caretaker by using telepathy with his mind. ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ just showed us how crazy some people can be, from eating people once on a day-to-day basis and a murderer desperate to be a women tucking his penis in-between his thighs.

The usual Audience Expectations when going to watch a film in the thriller genre is to be nervous, frightened, full-up with gore, violence and a warm heart at the end. My personnel expectations are to understand how characters become who they are and of course to a heck load of blood and gore. Audiences always go to be positive about the film however there has always been controversy. In ‘Psycho’ the affair scene at the start was seen as completely wrong and ordinary, today however it is seen as something that we just accept and understand like the back of our hand. I’m not saying that we understand why a Doctor eats his patients, but you get the grasp of it.

It is clear that Audience’s Expectations have changed over the years as in ‘Psycho’ there really is no blood or gore compared to that of ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’. In ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ we are given loads of locations from the jail cell at the bottom of the earth to a natural American suburb, where as in ‘The Shining’ we are given some scenic views of the mountains surrounding the beautiful hotel and the secluded dark motel by the swamp in ‘Psycho’. It tells us that the Audience always want more locations either being somewhere that would usually be safe giving you more of a thrill ride or a horrible scary location you never want to lay your eyes on again.

The thriller genre has changed dramatically through the years that use suspense, tension and excitement all being shown in many different ways from film-to-film, through years-and-years. Iconography has become more distinguished and easily recognisable, Narrative form is simple but always being testing with sub-plots and Audience expectations keep growing and growing. Yet all films are different and dare to test the thriller genre, in fifty years when Saw one-hundred-and-two comes out, the thriller genre is sure to be once again, changed completely.

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