Visual and verbal language features we associate with horror and gothic films

  • Colour – dull colors monochromatic
  • Music – suspense, play emotions, uses organs
  • Costume and makeup – dark formal clothing (time period dressing) dark eyes, pale, something physically uncomfortable
  • Sounds – doors creaking, glass breaking, screams, sounds that occur off-screen. non-diegetic sounds
  • Setting – Gothic architecture/ spicy fences arched doorways etc
  • Dark lighting – Low key lighting, shadows



  1. Make a list of expressionist film techniques that have become linked with Gothic horror?
  • German Expressionism is a film movement that emphasizes the expression of inner thoughts or emotions through the control of stylistic elements
  • Chiaroscuro Lighting (lots of contrast, very dramatic)
  • Dramatic shadows
  • Gothic Makeup & clothing, using uncomfortable makeup or costumes like scares on the face or rips in the clothes
  • Dramatic movements by actors
  • Symmetry, Distortion, Juxtaposition, & exaggeration
  1. One particular technique, chiaroscuro is particularly memorable in Sweeny Todd’s attic room. What are the key features of this setting that develop chiaroscuro?
  • Shadows that appear across his face in the attic, showing he has a dark side, using both light and dark colors
  • There is a big window in the room yet there is only a little bit a light is let into the room, always appears dark showing the contrast between light and dark lighting
  • The seat is placed in the light part of the room while everything else around is dark. The placement of the seat, I find quite weird, this is because the seat is where the majority of the dark sort of events happen, like the slitting of the throats. I would think that dark event would happen in dark areas, as they would in gothic movies as that shows uncomfortableness while in Sweeney Todd the dark event happens in the lightest part of the room.
  • The light from the window also creates shadows within the room, showing that the shadows are overshadowing the past
  1. Think about the same technique and its presences in sleepy hollow, can you describe a setting in SH that utilizes this same technique.

The Forest, sometimes there is light let in through the trees but usually, this setting is a dark place, the horse comes out of a tree in the forest and usually making it killings in there showing dark event happing in the dark setting, but then crane entres through the forest showing a positive event happening in the forest where light was present.

  1. Expressionist filmmaking also favors color to develop an idea. How is the color used in sweeny todd and sleepy hollow? Pay attention to the connection between past and present.

The use of color is used in the same way in both films. Throughout the majority of the films, they are dark gloomy colors as they are set in the present but as soon as we leave the present, and go into a flashback or a flash forward, we suddenly see a pop of color and the dark gloomy colors dispenser. We can associate that color is referring to happier times ion both movies. In Sweeney Todd

  1. A feature of gothic horror is the claustrophobic fear that there is no escape. Consider techniques that are present in both films that develop this fear.

The bird in the cage is the technique used in both movies. In Sweeney Todd, the bird in the cage is showed up in the daughter of Sweeney todds bedroom. She is locked away in there, as the bird is locked away in the cage. She sings to the bird and wonders how it never gets bored inside a cage as she is maybe afraid and sick of being locked away. Most of the time she is sitting at a window that can be represented as a cage shape and a cage itself. In Sleepy Hollow the bird in the cage is also used to show isolation. Crane has this spinney thing that has a bird on one side and a cage on the other and when you twist it, it looks like the bird is inside of the cage.

  1. What is the ‘hammer horror’ style? Describe its defining features and explain what influences you can see in the two films
  2.  The red blood is a distinct feature of both films. What is its purpose?

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Hi Jess,

    You have identified some strong examples of some of the techniques we are focusing on. I want to see you begin to expand your explanation of these examples.

    You have said that you found the fact that the seat is in the light in the attic weird. Why is it weird/why is the fact that it is weird significant?

    Mrs. P


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *