Suspense thriller is one of thesubgenres of a film that is popular for its excitement and tension. It usuallyincludes crime scenes that trigger audience’s curiosity. Not only that, it alsohas been known to give a sense of tension that can cause the audience to feeluneasy and disconcerted.
One film that can be taken as an example is a filmtitled Fracture (2007) by GregoryHoblit. This film tells about an attempted murder case of the wife of anaeronautical company owner named Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins). He shoots his ownwife after he discovers her affair with an LAPD detective. The case is broughtto the court and is prosecuted by a district attorney named William Beachum(Ryan Gosling). The well-planned murder causes Beachum to have difficulties infinding the evidence as he struggles to find the murder weapon to prove thatCrawford is guilty. As the story goes, both of them try to outwit one anotherin order to win the trial.
Despite the intriguing plot, the film also uses mise-en-scène elements—the technical elements of a film—to support itsthrill and suspense by creating dark atmosphere and build up the tension. Theyare also used to signal the danger by showcasing the act of crime in thebeginning of the film and to strengthen the suspense and tension by giving agritty depiction of the crime scene. By showing the characteristics of a suspense-thrillerfilm, such as the dark atmosphere, the early action, and the gritty depictionof the crime scene, through its mise-en-scèneelements, Fracture (2002)can be categorized as a suspense-thriller film. Firstof all, one of the characteristics of a suspense-thriller film is a dark,threatening, and tense atmosphere that emphasizes the danger (Saricks, 2009). Thischaracteristic is supported by the tension that is built up and developedthroughout the story which makes the audience feels uneasy and disconcerted. Asan example, there is a scene in the film in minute 14:10-15:58 where Nunally,the LAPD detective who has an affair with Crawford’s wife, is asking Crawford aboutwhat happens to his wife inside the house. In this particular scene, the filmuses low-key lighting technique which creates a contrast between the dark andbright parts of the image and shows a dark shadow on the actor’s face;resulting in only half of the face that looks bright and the rest is left dark.
With this lighting technique, it creates a darkatmosphere and gives a sense of threat as they are at the crime scene whereCrawford’s wife is dying. Also, regarding the setting and the camera technique,the film uses tight framing and close-up shot to emphasize the tension, strongemotion, and crisis during the conversation. These capture Crawford’s facialexpression which looks suspicious yet shows satisfaction after shooting hiswife. Furthermore, the dialogue between Nunally and Crawford makes the sceneeven more tense and threatening because they are talking about the condition ofthe wife, and Crawford admits that he has shot his wife. Thesecond characteristic of a suspense-thriller film is that the action beginsearly in the beginning of the film to set up the danger so that it makes theaudience anticipate further conflict, confrontation, and resolution as thestory goes (Saricks, 2009). In the beginning of the film Fracture (2007), there is a scene in minute 08:33-10:46 whereCrawford is having a conversation with his wife and eventually shoots her.
Thisscene becomes the key conflict and danger in the film. It is shown in thebeginning of the film to evoke the audience’s curiosity about what are comingnext in the film. Moreover, this crime scene and the image of Crawford’sshooting his wife are supported by the mise-en-scèneelements. For example, there is a use of camera techniques inthis scene: shot-reverse shot to indicate that Crawford and his wife are havinga conversation, close-up shot to show Crawford’s facial expression which isfull of anger towards his wife, and shallow focus which shows the gun at theforeground clearly and makes the background blurry to emphasize that Crawfordis about to shoot his wife which gives a sense of dangerThere is also the use of the low-key lighting techniquein this scene to create a dark and threatening atmosphere where an attemptedmurder is happening. Besides that, an element of sound also supports the scene.There is a use of diegetic sound of a gunshot which can be heard at the momentCrawford pulled the trigger. This sound associates with the act of Crawford’sshooting his wife which makes it more realistic to become a crime scene.
Anotherexample is the dialogue of Crawford’s before he pulls the trigger. it signalsthat he is furious and about to take revenge on his wife for betraying him. Thethird characteristic of a suspense-thriller film is that it features grittydepiction of the crime scene (Saricks, 2009). By showing the crime scene,usually with weapons and blood splattered everywhere, it functions to create tensionand make the film even more suspenseful. In Fracture(2007), there are two crime scenes that have tense mood and atmosphere inthe film. The first one is the crime scene in which Crawford’s wife is shot andthe second one is when Nunally shot himself to death.
In the first crime scene,it uses tight framing to focus on the bloodied body of Crawford’s wife on thefloor which creates tension. It also uses POV shot from Nunally’s POV toidentify the audience with him as he discovers Crawford’s wife’s body and togive a sense of his being under pressure. However, inthe second crime scene, although it uses tight framing to focus on Nunally’s bloodiedbody and his gun which creates tension just like the first one, it also usesloose framing and God’s Eye shot to show the location of the crime scene (seePicture 3.2), which is at a court, and to display how the tension is felt by alot of people who are present at that court.
Another thing is the element ofsound in both crime scenes. They use different background music, but both ofthe music sound intense and give a sense of surprise yet sorrowful. They areused to create the tense atmosphere when both of the bloodied bodies arediscovered lying on the floor. Toconclude, the film Fracture (2007) iscategorized as a suspense-thriller film because it shows some of thecharacteristics of a suspense-thriller film, such as the dark, threatening, andtense atmosphere, the action that begins early in the beginning of the film toset up the danger, and gritty depiction of the crime scene. Moreover, all ofthese characteristics in the film are supported by the elements of mise-en-scène, such as the low-key lighting techniques, camerashots, element of sound, setting, and the dialogue of the film itself.
All inall, it is proven that a suspense-thriller film like Fracture (2007) involves tension and gives a sense of danger which makesthe audience feel uneasy and disconcerted, and it also includes crime sceneswhich evoke the audience’s curiosity.