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Santhujan Kugathasan

How are the how the themes of fear and isolation represented in The
Woman in Black (2012) and Paranormal Activity 4 (2012)?
In this essay, I will be analysing how the micro techniques are used to represent
fear and isolation in The Woman in Black (UK, 2012) and Paranormal Activity 4
(US, 2012).
The Woman in Black is a horror film, directed by James Watkins. The film was
released in 2012 and is BBFC rated a 12A. The narrative shows lawyer Arthur
Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) being sent on a journey to a remote village to sell a house
and if he is unsuccessful, he will be fired. When entering their village, he was
allowed to live in his clients abandoned mansion but eventually discovers the
presence of a vengeful ghost of a woman who is terrorising the towns population
and tries to escape but ends up getting killed with his son.

In The Woman in Black, there is a scene where the three young girls living in the
house become possessed and jump out of the window in the attic. It is evident
that fear is a major focus in this scene through the use of technical aspects,
mainly sound and mise-en-scene. A wide shot shows the girls faces, the fact that
the girls are standing on the ledge and show no fear builds suspense and tension
which in turn creates fear. This is because the audience are foreshadowed the
imminent deaths of the girls. Alongside this, non-diegetic, slow paced score music
is used to further build suspense and tension and the audience are unaware of
what is going to happen next, foreshadowing mystery. The use of a diegetic
dialogue allows the audience to recognise that the screaming heard is the mother
of the three girls as she says my babies, not my babies! The audience know,
even without witnessing the deaths, that the 3 girls are dead and that the mother
experienced a loss. The use of a scream is a common convention used in horror
movies as it creates a sense of fear within the audience. The location has low-key
lighting, making the white and pink costumes the girls are wearing stand out. The
bright colours connote their innocence as young girls and the low-key lighting
foreshadows their death. This creates fear as the darkness connotes danger and
death.

Santhujan Kugathasan

The themes of fear and isolation are important in the scene where Arthur Kipps is
making his way towards the mansion for the first time. A wide shot shows Arthur
in the middle of the frame with the house in front of him. This shows the isolation
as the audience see clearly that he is the only one in this location and that it is
deserted. The location used for this scene looks old and run down, again showing
that it is abandoned. Following the wide shot, a close-up is used of Arthur Kipps
face shows his facial expression as he walks towards the house. The audience can
tell that he is concerned because of his hesitant body language. The shots are
slow paced so that the audience can reflect on what is happening and connect
with the characters. Non-diegetic score music is used with this so that suspense is
built within the audience and this is a common convention used in thriller films.
There are many crow noises that are put within the scene which foreshadows
danger and death as the crows are black. All of these technical aspects used are
able to clearly show the themes of fear and isolation.
Paranormal Activity 4, released in 2012, as a BBFC rated 15, is a fantasy/horror
film directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. Alex Nelson (Kathryn Newton) is
living in her family home when she discovers their neighbours son, Robbie (Brady
Allen) living in their tree house. His mother falls ill and they let him stay in their
home, but over the course of a few days, supernatural occurrences begin to take
place. The supernatural being in the house is Katie (Katie Featherston) who begins
to kill the family one by one.

Santhujan Kugathasan

This
scene occurred in Alexs room when she begins floating on her bed in the middle
of the night because a supernatural thing has made her do so. There is no sound
used within this scene and this is often used to build suspense as when something
suddenly occurs, the audience are not prepared, giving a more thrilling
experience. This can be more effective than the use of non-diegetic music to build
suspense as it catches the audience off guard. Alongside this, low-key lighting is
used to create an even scarier scenario. The audience are unable to see anything
that is not enhanced by the lighting, meaning that anything can happen. This
creates fear as the audience are waiting in anticipation for something to happen.
The fact that Alex is in the centre of the frame makes her the main focus in the
scene so the audience can be caught off guard if something pops up in front of
her. The use of these common conventions used by the director allows the themes
of fear and isolation to be shown effectively.
If you look at this scene, you can see that they have used, two-shots meaning that
they have shown two people together in one frame. They then used an editing
skill called long take. In this scene, they continuously take a video of Alex floating
up and Robbie just staring at her floating all the way up. This creates tension
between the audience and the character, because they dont know whats going
to happen next and furthermore they are confused on why Alex is floating all the
way up for no reasons at all. Furthermore, if you look at this scene you can see
that they inputted the time in the scene to show when this scene was taken at.
This creates a spine-chilling scenario as the scene was taken at 12am, which is
usually known for where the devils and a ghost comes out and to see Alex float
makes the audience feel petrified.

Santhujan Kugathasan

In this scene from Paranormal Activity 4, Alex is walking around the house when
she hears a noise and sees something lurking in the hallway. The location that
was chosen was the house of Alex. Usually the director chooses to use locations
where people believe there is the most safety in order to create fear within the
audience and this was successful in this scene. The low key lighting throughout
this scene is used to create fear as it usually does in horror films, but also
highlight the isolation. It does this by using many wide shots where there is only
one character positioned in the centre of the frame. This shows the empty space
around each character and shows that in a time where they are in need of help,
no one can save them. The diegetic sounds of Alex screaming alongside the roars
coming from the shadow figure create a sense of danger, causing the theme of
fear to be highlighted. The use of the diegetic screams allows the audience to
sympathise with Alex and form a connection with her, meaning her death would
cause them to feel something. The connection they form can make the theme of
fear more evident as they are worried for her safety and well-being. The camera
in this scene was clearly handheld as it was constantly shaking showing
disorientation within the character. This creates tension between the character
and the audience, not knowing whats going to happen and making them
petrified, just like the character Alex is feeling right now. The audience and the
character (Alex), should also be feeling sad and angry, because one Alex had to
run away from her own house and two is that no one, not even the character in
the film can do anything about what happened to Ben and save him or Alex who
was currently attacked by Katie.
In this particular scene, they used hand-held camera technique. In this case the
camera man was holding the camera. You can see that because when Katie was
running after Alex in full speed, you can see that the camera was shacking and
the camera was going wherever Katie, was going. You know someone was holding
it because, the camera was shacking a lot, unlike if a camera was placed on tripod
or something.
In The Woman in Black and Paranormal Activity 4, technical aspects are used in
similar ways by the directors in order to represent the fear and isolation within the
film. They do this most effectively through the use of sound, both diegetic and
non-diegetic, and lighting. For example, they both use non-diegetic score music
in order to build suspense and further portray the theme of fear within the scenes.
Low-key lighting is used in order connote danger and death to the audience,
further enforcing the theme of fear within the films. Both films represent adults as
the ones that are vulnerable to danger instead of children who are usually
targeted. Overall, both films use microelements successfully to represent the
themes of fear and isolation.

Santhujan Kugathasan

WORD COUNT: 1534

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