Film Editing: Task 2

Editing in a Specific Genre

Assessment Task 2 – (Criteria 1.3)

Critically Analyse how Editing Practice is used in a specific Genre

As film and editing have evolved, editing techniques have become not only an essential part of almost all films, but also a useful tool that can be used to portray emotion, tension and emphasis. I will be looking into the effects that different editing techniques have on certain genres of film, specifically horror.

The main role of editing in horror films is to create an atmosphere. Most horror films use lengthy, static shots or shots with little movement and very few or no cuts in order to represent calm and a safe situation, thus lulling the audience in to a false sense of security. When any movement is introduced, the audience become unsettled and suspicious of the environment, making the viewer very susceptible to fear and surprise.

Shown above is a clip taken from the 2012 film Paranormal Activity 3. The clip is an excellent example of how a seemingly normal environment can provoke fear and anticipation to viewers without using cuts or transition in any way. The story follows a family that have set up cameras in their house and in order to get a wider view, the camera is attached to an old fan stand that slowly moves from side to side. This slow and gradual movement of the camera combined with the silence of the house is the perfect set up for an unexpected turn, in this case the sudden appearance of a ghost. This film is also a very good example of how the mere suggestion of fear is a much more powerful tool than showing a physical being to be afraid of.

Even though the lack of cutting can create a frightening atmosphere, other cutting techniques are also employed in horror films. A commonly used technique is cutting rhythm; this refers to the speed and frequency of the cuts. Tension is created as the number of cuts increase throughout the scene. The rhythm of the cuts can control the pace of the scene and in some cases suggest the increased adrenaline or heart rate of the characters, for example as the heart rate of the character increases, the cuts will become faster and more frequent to portray their fear or apprehension. One of the best known examples of this technique comes from Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 film ‘Psycho’ (Shown Below). The three-minute scene in which Marion is stabbed in the shower features 77 different camera angles and uses 50 cuts, this is a perfect example of how effective the cutting rhythm technique can be.

Another editing technique commonly found in horror films is parallel editing. This is where a film cuts between two scenes that are happening at the same time, usually resulting in the two scenes meeting or crossing over in some way. This can be an extremely effective technique in horror as the two scenes are usually the ‘good’ entity and the ‘bad’ entity. A good example of this technique being used is in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film ‘The Shining’ (below). The scene where Jack Nicholson’s character Jack Torrance is chasing his son Danny through a maze demonstrates how cutting between two scenes can build suspense, tension and fear in the audience. Although in this particular scene the two characters don’t meet, the minds of the audience are influenced into thinking the worst through the power of this suggestive editing.