During the silent film era, early filmmakers had to rely primarily on cinematography and mise-en-scène to establish setting and mood in order to engage the audience. Naturally, with the advancement of technology, films became more developed and complex, adding dialogue and making actors’ delivery and performances more important. But through all the developments of the film industry, one factor remains the same: a film must have great cinematography; and, a good cinematographer can make, or break, any film, especially on the independent circuit. John Carpenter knew this when gathering his crew for a small independent film titled Halloween, now historically preserved as one of the greatest films in history, and he chose a man who would end up changing not only his own career but Carpenter’s as well—that man is Dean Cundey.
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) presents a unique take on the slasher/stalker subgenre as it questions reality with the implementation of veracious nightmares throughout the narrative. Additionally, a door is opened with the underscored killer, Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund), as his supernatural origin opposes anteceding existential killers of the subgenre. Analogous to previous slasher films such as Halloween (1978), Craven’s film proves worthy of its similar subsequent laudable franchise. However, during the time of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s release, the slasher film model had been stretched thin with repetitive exploitation of the framework. From less recognized films such as Prom Night (1979) to highly praised films like Friday the 13th, the narrative of the film model was becoming more quotidian with each new release. It was up to Craven to resurrect and restore the viewer’s faith in the sadistic subgenre. Through Freddy Kruger’s introduction to the established slasher film structure, Craven provides his viewers with the antidote to their boredom. While Craven intermittently relies on special effects to construct his killer’s full transcendent potential, Jacques Haitkin, the cinematographer, artfully complements these effects by contextualizing colors and sound; pressing the significance of key scenes on the viewer. As a result, the terrifying film grossed $25 million in the United States box office while leaving the horror fan-base with a venerable killer who would be a mascot of the genre for years to come.
I feel lethal, on the verge of frenzy. I think my mask of sanity is about to slip. – Patrick Bateman.
Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000) is a captivating slasher film rich with intertextuality, allegories and novel slasher-film conventions. With the addition of Christian Bale’s mesmerizing portrayal of the deranged Patrick Bateman, the audience is gifted with a complex, psychotic killer, constantly holding the viewer’s interest. Straying from traditional slasher films, Harron immediately aligns her viewers with Bateman by presenting the film through the underscored killer’s perspective. Through incorporating cinematographic techniques such as frequent internal diegetic dialogue, various allegories and diverse camera angles, Harron immerses the viewers in Bateman’s methodical routine along with his unhinged, loathsome thoughts alluding to his psychotic condition which complicates the slasher film killer trope.
Directed by George Tillman Jr., The Hate U Give is a film adaptation of the novel by Angie Thomas, a novel that rocked the world of contemporary young adult literature as it foregrounds the dark realities of police brutality and the ripple effect it can have on a community, and even a nation. The narrative follows Starr (played by actress Amandla Stenberg), a young black woman who witnesses the murder of her friend Khalil (played by actor Algee Smith) at the hands of a white police officer. From that point on, the audience witnesses Starr’s internal battle between wanting to remain silent in order to maintain a life of normalcy, or speak in honor of Khalil, and other black men that have fallen victim to these unjust crimes. As an audience, we are immersed into this complex narrative through the cinematographic moves of the close-up and color. Through the use close-up shots, and a varying color scheme, we are no longer allowed to be voyeurs, distantly observing Starr’s hardships. Instead, we are forced to engage with the characters on screen, empathize with them, and face the issue of police brutality head on.