Thriller (genre)

A common theme in thrillers involves innocent victims dealing with deranged adversaries, as seen in Hitchcock's film Rebecca (1940), where Mrs. Danvers tries to persuade Mrs. De Winter to leap to her death.

Thriller is a broad genre of literature, film and television, having numerous subgenres. Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety. [1] [2] Successful examples of thrillers are the films of Alfred Hitchcock. [3]

Thrillers generally keep the audience on the "edge of their seats" as the plot builds towards a climax. The cover-up of important information from the viewer is a common element. [4] Literary devices such as red herrings, plot twists, and cliffhangers are used extensively. A thriller is usually a villain-driven plot, whereby he or she presents obstacles that the protagonist must overcome.

Homer's Odyssey is one of the oldest stories in the Western world and is regarded as an early prototype of the thriller. One of the earliest thriller films was Harold Lloyd's comic Safety Last! (1923), with a character performing a daredevil stunt on the side of a skyscraper. [1]

Characteristics

Writer Vladimir Nabokov, in his lectures at Cornell University, said: "In an Anglo-Saxon thriller, the villain is generally punished, and the strong silent man generally wins the weak babbling girl, but there is no governmental law in Western countries to ban a story that does not comply with a fond tradition, so that we always hope that the wicked but romantic fellow will escape scot-free and the good but dull chap will be finally snubbed by the moody heroine." [5]

Thrillers may be defined by the primary mood that they elicit: suspenseful excitement. In short, if it "thrills", it is a thriller. As the introduction to a major anthology explains:

Suspense

Suspense is a crucial characteristic of the thriller genre. It gives the viewer a feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement mixed with apprehension, anticipation and tension. These develop from unpredictable, mysterious and rousing events during the narrative, which make the viewer or reader think about the outcome of certain actions. Suspense builds in order to make those final moments, no matter how short, the most memorable. The suspense in a story keeps the person hooked to reading or watching more until the climax is reached.

In terms of narrative expectations, it may be contrasted with curiosity and surprise. The objective is to deliver a story with sustained tension, surprise, and a constant sense of impending doom. As described by film director Alfred Hitchcock, an audience experiences suspense when they expect something bad to happen and have (or believe they have) a superior perspective on events in the drama's hierarchy of knowledge, yet they are powerless to intervene to prevent it from happening.

Suspense in thrillers is often intertwined with hope and anxiety, which are treated as two emotions aroused in anticipation of the conclusion - the hope that things will turn out all right for the appropriate characters in the story, and the fear that they may not. The second type of suspense is the "...anticipation wherein we either know or else are fairly certain about what is going to happen but are still aroused in anticipation of its actual occurrence." [7]

According to Greek philosopher Aristotle in his book Poetics, suspense is an important building block of literature, and this is an important convention in the thriller genre. [8]

Themes and characters

A common occurrence in thrillers is characters being taken as hostages and with a ransom in need. (Hostages, 1896 painting by Jean-Paul Laurens, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon)

Common methods and themes in crime and action thrillers are mainly ransoms, captivities, heists, revenge, kidnappings. Common in mystery thrillers are investigations and the whodunit technique. Common elements in dramatic and psychological thrillers include plot twists, psychology, obsession and mind games. Common in horror thrillers are serial killers, stalking, deathtraps and horror-of-personality. Elements such as fringe theories, false accusations and paranoia are common in paranoid thrillers. Threats to entire countries, spies, espionage, conspiracies, assassins and electronic surveillance are common in spy thrillers. [9]

Characters may include criminals, stalkers, assassins, innocent victims (often on the run), menaced women, psychotic individuals, spree killers, sociopaths, agents, terrorists, cops and escaped cons, private eyes, people involved in twisted relationships, world-weary men and women, psycho-fiends, and more. The themes frequently include terrorism, political conspiracy, pursuit, or romantic triangles leading to murder. Plots of thrillers involve characters which come into conflict with each other or with outside forces. [10]

The protagonist of these films is set against a problem. No matter what subgenre a thriller film falls into, it will emphasize the danger that the protagonist faces. The protagonists are frequently ordinary citizens unaccustomed to danger, although commonly in crime and action thrillers, they may also be "hard men" accustomed to danger such as police officers and detectives. While protagonists of thrillers have traditionally been men, women lead characters are increasingly common. [11] In psychological thrillers, the protagonists are reliant on their mental resources, whether it be by battling wits with the antagonist or by battling for equilibrium in the character's own mind. The suspense often comes from two or more characters preying upon one another's minds, either by playing deceptive games with the other or by merely trying to demolish the other's mental state. [11]

Story and setting

An atmosphere of menace and sudden violence, such as crime and murder, characterize thrillers. The tension usually arises when the character(s) is placed in a dangerous situation, or a trap from which escaping seems impossible. Life is threatened, usually because the principal character is unsuspectingly or unknowingly involved in a dangerous or potentially deadly situation [12]

Hitchcock's films often placed an innocent victim (an average, responsible person) into a strange, life-threatening or terrorizing situation, in a case of mistaken identity or wrongful accusation. [13]

Thrillers take place mostly in ordinary suburbs and cities, although sometimes they may take place wholly or partly in exotic settings such as foreign cities, deserts, polar regions, or the high seas. These usually tough, resourceful, but essentially ordinary heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world. Often in a thriller movie, the protagonist is faced with what seem to be insurmountable problems in his mission, carried out against a ticking clock, the stakes are high and although resourceful, they face personal dilemmas along the way forcing them to make sacrifices for others.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Riller
беларуская: Трылер
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Трылер
български: Трилър
català: Thriller
čeština: Thriller
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Deutsch: Thriller
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español: Suspenso
Esperanto: Trilero
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français: Thriller (genre)
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Кыргызча: Триллер
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日本語: スリラー
norsk bokmål: Thriller
polski: Dreszczowiec
português: Thriller (gênero)
română: Thriller (gen)
русский: Триллер
Simple English: Thriller (genre)
slovenčina: Triler
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српски / srpski: Triler (žanr)
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suomi: Trilleri
svenska: Thriller
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