Capture and hold
The very first thing the audience sees when watching this film is a thick red liquid dripping onto a parchment. Because the audience expects the film to be a horror film, they automatically think the liquid is blood. Seeing this image makes the audience assume someone has been murdered or at least injured. This one picture spurs questions in a person’s mind like, ‘who does the blood belong to? ‘ and ‘Has someone been killed? ‘ The audience will want these questions answered, so they will continue to watch.
A little later, the audience sees that the ‘dripping blood’ is nothing more than sealing wax dripping onto a page. This surprises them because they did not expect it to be something as innocent as wax. This theme of blood is continued throughout film and represents a marker for the next victims of the Headless Horseman. Next, images of people’s hands are shown, but no faces. This keeps an air of mystery and makes the audience ask questions again. To whom do the hands belong? The opening sequence of this film is full of parts of images.
There are less camera angles showing a whole image than there are showing fragments of images. This makes the audience fill in the gaps so they can understand what is happening, but what they imagine is not always correct, so there are lots of opportunities for them to be taken by surprise. Behind the hands is a flickering fire that provides the only light and the only colour other than the sealing wax. The darkness and grey quality to the scenes makes the film look even more sinister. This means it lives up the expectations of the audience that know this is a horror film.
Making the blood-like wax the most colourful object in the opening sequence emphasises its importance to the plot of Caryl Sumner Year 11 the film. The actual parchment that the wax is dripping onto is someone’s Last Will and Testament. This instantly tells the viewer that someone has died, or perhaps is about to die since the same person that signed the document as a witness, signs it as the man that was supposed to have written the will. There is a huge close-up of the will with the camera sweeping down from the top of the page to the middle.
As the camera moves down, so do the viewers’ eyes as they read what is written on the page. There is a sort of sweeping sound effect mimicking the camera’s movement. After the will has been signed, it goes back to the dripping sealing wax and then a seal is pressed down into it. There is, again, a close-up of the seal being used and the sound effect is repeated. Since these sound effects would not occur in real life, they emphasis to the audience that the particular event they are heard with must be very important. Emphasis is given on an audio level as well as a visual level.
The seal is lifted away to reveal the name of the family regarding the will. The next shot is of galloping horses, but only their legs are shown. There is a sense of urgency in this scene because of the speed of the horses and their grunts of exertion. It is as if they are running away from something. Again, this is happening in the darkness and at night, while the horses themselves are black. These things are always associated with evil and death. Black horses are always used in funerals of important people, so perhaps this symbolises a coming death.
After the shot of the horses, the camera moves up to the crest on the carriage door. The name on the crest is the same as that on the seal of the will. This means who ever is in the carriage must have been earmarked to die. When we see the man inside the carriage, he looks very grey and Caryl Sumner Year 11 pale. It is obvious that this man is going to die because he already looks like a ghost. The carriage itself is being driven through a misty field in the dark just before a thunderstorm.
After various shots of the carriage, the camera stays where it is while it drives away and focuses on a scare crow with a pumpkin for its head. At this moment, the music in the background calms leaving singing voices. These voices are continually heard in the opening sequence, while the theme of pumpkins continues throughout the whole film. The whole of the audience will know that pumpkins represent Halloween, which is about witches and ghosts. This reference also reminds the viewers that the genre is horror.
The man inside the carriage is shown again, then an unnatural sound, the drawing and slashing of a sword, and the horses braying can be heard. The audience knows that it must be the Headless Horseman outside, but all that can actually be seen is the man inside the carriage that is starting to look very scared. The unnatural sound is a little like a horse, but it sounds more like a monster. When man then looks outside the carriage window, he sees the driver’s head has been chopped off. Although the audience never saw this, they could predict that this would happen because of the sound effects that could be heard.