The Cinematography in Friday the 13th

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Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is a horror film directed in 2009 by Marcus Nispel and written by Mark Swift and Damian Shannon. It is a reboot of a series of Friday the 13th movie, which began in 1980 (Norwell, 2011). In the film, the main protagonist is Jason Voorhees who wears a hideous mask carries all the murders. Jason kidnaps Clay Miller's sister while they were camping in woodland, thereby prompting Miller to go and search for her whereabouts. In this paper, a textual analysis of the movie will be conducted with the focus being placed on the critical theme, mise-en-scene, editing, lighting, cinematography, and sounds.


Mise-en-scene refers to the film visuals that the audience views on the screen such as elements of setting, the arrangement of scenery, props, and figure behaviors (Dickson, 2017). The director has used darkness in the scenes to establish a sense of mysteriousness in the minds of the audience regarding what hides amongst the shadows and where exactly is the killer. Also, the director has used the forest as a setting, which is tremendously exceptional in stimulating the minds of the audience in recognizing that it is a place filled with darkness and unpleasant things where the characters will be running in through as they try to escape from the murderer. The fact that also the characters are camping made them vulnerable and exposed, which is precisely where horror victims are likely to meet their doom. The director has also used props of torn and dirty clothes in the later scenes to depict the desperation and suffering that the victims were undergoing as they were being chased the killer; hence, the condition of their outfits.


Lighting is used to establish the mood and genre of the film (Cremonesi et al., 2018). The director has used subtle dark light in the campfire to depict the typical convention of a horror genre. He uses the lighting to create shadows directly behind the victims in the camping scene to assist in establishing an eerie atmosphere. The light also creates a dramatic irony since the audience tends to know more about what is going on in the scenes that the characters since they can see what is behind them.


The director has used diegetic and non-diegetic sounds in the movie to introduce the audience to the horror genre. Diegetic sounds usually have a source in the on-screen while non-diegetic ones have an added noise in the films (McArthur et al. 2017, p. 28). In the opening scene of the movie, the viewers are introduced to a man at the campfire, Wade, who tells the narrative of a scary story. He uses non-diegetic sound especially in low humming, which resembles ghost depiction; this assists in informing the audience that the action in the opening scene is about to commence and could be foreboding for them. The director also uses diegetic sounds to connote that the visuals are a horror movie. The diegetic sounds of loud shouts establish the impact that since they are making such noise, they may not be well aware of what is happening in the environment that they are in, thus giving the killer a perfect opportunity to come up behind them in the camping site to commit his atrocities. The diegetic music of Pop Rock genre can also be heard while the teenagers are driving, thereby connoting that they are rebellious teenagers, which is also a usual convention of a horror movie. This portrays their rebellious nature as teenagers; hence, depicting how horrors are conservative and dwell on traditional norms and also punishes those who deviate from them. The director tries to inform the audience that fears try to make people see their mistakes, thereby making them reflect on changing their behaviors.


Editing in films is used to ensure that the minor mistakes are avoided and also the elements are well portrayed (Serrano et al. 2017, p. 47). The director has correctly used this technique in drawing the attention of the audience, for instance, when Jason stabs the female victim, slow motion is used in the close-up shot that depicts her face full of fear and horror while dying, thereby adding shock to the viewers. Editing in the film is also conventional to other horror movies due to the location and the time of the night that the director uses in creating suspense and fear in the minds of the audience.


The establishing camera shot of the night sky that is archetypal of the genre of horror assists in creating a sense of fear amongst the audience. The camera pans across to the lake, thereby giving the viewers a hint that may have previously occurred in that place or foreshadowing that something terrible is about to happen. Also, the first person view technique is utilized, particularly when the mysterious villain is entering the campsite, thereby establishing an atmosphere of suspense and mystery. The first person shot or point of view shot is used to show the viewers what a character is doing or looking at in a film (Polan 2017, p. 146). At the camp, shot reverse shot is also utilized by the director during the song to depict the attraction between the two characters, thereby giving a positive feel of the scene; however, the viewers later learn that they are not innocent as portrayed earlier. In the campsite, a long shot that is inclusive is also used, thereby making the viewers feel s though they are also part of the victims around the campfire.


The major theme of this horror film is revenge. This can be portrayed in the opening scene as an old woman narrates the back story of the Camp Crystal Lake where Jason died after drowning, thus keep on taking revenge on those who caused his death. The woman is later revealed to be Jason's mother. Jason tracked his victims after Clay came back with his friends in the woodland to search for his missing sister. The directors placed a mask in the face of the protagonist to make Jason scarier. Even though his face is only shown when he was a teenager before it was disfigured, wearing the mask made his victims face a fear while dying. The notion of being killed by an unknown person wearing a mask for no reason is more tarrying than being murdered by a person who is known (Radford, 2009).


Through the juxtaposition and utilization of cinematography, editing, sound, and mise en scene, Friday the 13th portray how the theme of revenge can be used in developing a horror film. It also enlightens the audience on what causes horror in their lives and the things that they can do to avoid such occurrences.


Nowell, R., 2011. " The Ambitions of Most Independent Filmmakers": Indie Production, the Majors, and Friday the 13th (1980). Journal of Film and Video, 63(2).

Dickson, S., 2017. Mise En Scene and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art. Australian Humanities Review, (61), pp.N_A-N_A.

Cremonesi, P., Elahi, M. and Deldjoo, Y., Politecnico di Milano, 2018. Enhanced content-based multimedia recommendation method. U.S. Patent Application 15/277,490.

Serrano, A., Sitzmann, V., Ruiz-Borau, J., Wetzstein, G., Gutierrez, D. and Masia, B., 2017. Movie editing and cognitive event segmentation in virtual reality video. ACM Transactions on Graphics (TOG), 36(4), p.47.

Radford, B. (2009). Why Hollywood Serial Slashers Wear Masks. [online] Live Science. Available at: [Accessed 29 Dec. 2018].

Polan, D., 2017. Watchmen from the point of view of cinema and media study. Cinema Journal, 56(2), pp.144-149.

McArthur, A., Stewart, R. and Sandler, M., 2017. Sounds too true to be good: diegetic infidelity–the case for sound in virtual reality. Journal of Media Practice, 18(1), pp.26-40.

September 25, 2023




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