Suspense is the sense of feeling of enjoyable captivation and exhilaration assorted with apprehensiveness and tension. One gets anxious because of the unpredictability and occult arousal that comes from watching suspense films. Suspense mostly refers to ones sensing in a film or dramatic art. It occurs in both fiction and non-fiction films. It mostly takes place in the movies where tension is the core emotion felt. Suspense is an important feature that belongs to the thriller genre. The viewer of a suspense film gets aroused to the extent of thinking about the ending, therefore, alert and always anticipating for the turnout of events. Suspense and tension build so that the film grips ones attention as they look forward to the ending. Suspense films are films that make their audience get hooked to viewing them till the end when the climax releases the tension. Suspense films get mostly intertwined with thriller films. Suspense is crucial in creating the plot of a story or in this example, movies (Aristotle 8). He resolves that suspense is a significant pattern in the thriller genre. They evoke hope and anxiety at the same time. The audience keeps hoping that things will change for the better as tension and suspense grips them. They also fear that the crises might never get solved and this is what creates the anticipation of the ending. In other scenes, the audience may predict the ending, but still, they get evoked about how the actual events unfold. The aim of suspense films is to show a movie with the acquired tension, surprise, and a feeling of the lurking danger. A good example of a suspense film is Romeo and Juliet which got based on Shakespeares love story that goes by the same title ("Romeo and Juliet - IMDb"). The film goes through a series of cliff-hanging scenes. Once one problem gets settled, another one emerges. Therefore, the mounting tension and suspense are kept constant throughout the film.
The history and background of suspense films stem back to the nineteenth century when Alfred Hitchcock produced is the first suspense thriller. The name of the film was The Lodger which was full of suspense (Miller). The movie is about a landlady who suspects the new boarder as the lunatic who goes around slaying innocent individuals in London. Hitchcock went ahead to produce a chain of suspense films but mostly thrillers. During the 1940s, Hitchcock kept producing suspense movies, and even one ended winning an Oscar award. Hitchcock brought about a massive change in the suspense genre. He deployed technicolor to the films that he directed. The produced films were thus in the colored category. He changed the casting roles too so as to trap more attention from the audience. He had distinguishable methods of filming. He used motion-picture photography to mitigate and build suspense, expectation, and tension. The suspense genre has undergone gradual changes since then. The predictable plots have a new twist unlike how they used to get set back then. The situations involved also have a contemporary feel to it. Nowadays, soundtracks and sound effects are used to raise the audiences mood. Appropriate sound effects make the viewers feel tense and the grip of suspense. Perfect lighting and color correction facilities are now accessible to film producers. Appropriate lighting helps create a spooky atmosphere which rattles the audience and sets them alert. Suspense film producers tend to use dark and shadowy scenes and lighting so as to stress the evil side to characters. According to Cook, suspense films can include crime, thriller or even investigative (Cook 179). They note that features of suspense and thriller often overlap and intertwine each other in the films. Suspense films tend to be the least researched genre. One theoretician has tried to do a bit of research on this genre. Charles Derry specifies suspense films as crime films that pose a violent antagonism in which the agonist turns to be a guiltless victim or criminal, amidst a structure that is importantly direct by detection (Derry 62).
Suspense can get aroused by using the atmosphere and setting of a film. During the narration of scenes, the descriptions of certain objects are done thoroughly so that the viewers can feel as if they are in the scenes with the film characters. Every scene is set in appropriate time so that it can evoke maximum emotion from an audience at any given time. The viewers are expected to be able to puzzle out the mystery besides the movie characters. For example, if it is a film that revolves around a crime, the hero is expected to find the killer at the climax of the movie. Suspense elicits different emotions at different scenes. Hitchcock stated that suspense is not interrelated to fear, but it is the state of expecting something to happen. Suspense occurs when the viewers know a thing that the character has not yet known. The tension then is formed from speculating on how the character is going to make it. The audiences heartbeats increase line in line with the growth in tension. Due to the anticipation of the ending, the audience becomes part of casting as they feel the intensity of the film in the unfolding of scenes.
Suspense films can either be mystery or thriller. Mystery suspense has a lot of emotional components while suspense fiction has fewer details than thriller suspense. Paranormal and humorous components exist in suspense more than other genres. The suspense genre has sub-genres. The first sub-genre is closed-mystery which hides the identity of the antagonist till the end of the movie. The storyline is thus full of suspense as the viewers do not the criminal. The audience can only guess who the criminal is. A good example is a movie, Ten Little Indians. It is about ten guests who get killed one by one inside a first-class mansion in the hills. They do not know the killer, who might also be one of them. The other sub-genre is the open mystery. In this category of suspense films, the crime scenes get shown, but the perspective of the viewer is on how the crimes were committed and not who committed them. An excellent example of the open mystery suspense film is The Italian Job which is about a plan to hijack a convoy that is carrying gold and then stealing it from the Turin street by creating a snarl-up so as to create confusion. The focus here is how the crime is committed, and tension develops with the scenes.
Good film directors go an extra mile to produce standard films that can evoke the targeted audiences emotions. There are no standard criteria to measure the success of a movie, but there are a few aspects to look at, to tell if a suspense film is a success. A successful film has a subtle suspense. Suspense should build gradually with the scenes in the movie. Unlike the action scenes that occur quickly, suspense builds up slowly. In suspense films, main characters get presented in a way that they seem clueless of the looming danger that gets unexpectedly hurled their way. Hitchcock is one of the directors that gets recognized as the pioneer of suspense and thriller films (Derry 32). He manipulates the targeted audiences emotions, taking them on a strange journey where the film character is facing a set of virtual reality that evokes concern and hopes just like actual life situations. Hitchcock often tackled controversial issues in his films so as to arouse the audiences interest in relating to the movie. One example is the movie he produced in 1951, called strangers on a train. The movie is about a wealthy man who is sharing lunch with a married man. The married man is miserable in his marriage though. Homosexuality was controversial back then and got met with so much criticism. The films audience longed for the ending to see how conflicts are solved.
A good suspense film should contain physically fit and relatable characters. The antagonists should be engaging and convincing while being ahead of the main character. The setting is important too. Good directors set the mood to change together with each scene so as to evoke the maximum reaction from the audience. The narration uses a vivid graphic description of events and scenes so that the audience or viewers look forward to the ending. Conflict is in the heart of every successful suspense film. In fact, conflict is subtly integrated into every scene so that the main character faces obstacles in every step of their way. Conflict in suspense is tense and constant. Conflict can be verbal or integrated into the action, as the events unfold. The tension that builds from this is bound to make the audience at the edge. Successful films also set their scenes in such a way that the viewers can relate. The audience feels every emotion that the main character goes through in the movie. The pacing of events is also critical. The pace should go quickly with episodic letups. The lulls give room for tension to slowly build up to the movies climax. The quick pace coupled up with action ensures that the genre stands out.
In conclusion, suspense films try to evoke thrills and keep its viewers in anticipation towards the climax. The tension created emanates from protagonists when they get placed in baleful situations. The plot of most suspense films features characters that go through interpersonal or intrapersonal conflicts. Conflict can also arise from outside forces. Suspense films have to pace up and keep on revealing twists and turns till the movie reaches the lurid yet fateful end.
Aristotle, 384 BC-322 BC. Poetics. 1st ed., Project Gutenberg, 2007.
Cook, Pam. The Cinema Book. 1st ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.
Derry, Charles. The Suspense Thriller. 1st ed. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002. Print.
Miller, Christine. "Suspense - The Lodger (First Episode)". Escape and Suspense! N.p., 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
"Romeo + Juliet Reviews & Ratings - Imdb". IMDb. N.p., 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
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