Psycholinguistic and cognitive-semiotic dimensions of constructing fear in horror films: A multimodal perspective
Keywords:fear, horror film, meaning-making, multimodal blend, semiotic resource
This article addresses an integrative psycholinguistic and cognitive-semiotic perspective on constructing fear in English horror films. At the heart of constructing fear in horror film is the filmmakers’ presumption that viewers can potentially share their joint intention with the filmmakers, can share joint attention, and, as a result, share joint emotion. Drawing on the theory of intersubjectivity, fear in horror films emerges as the result of joint attention between filmmakers and viewers. Fear is viewed as a multimodal construct resulting from the synergistic integration of verbal, nonverbal, and cinematic semiotic resources via audial and visual modes. Each semiotic resource contributes to meaning-making by employing elements specific to horror films. The verbal system contains interjections, descriptive words, emotion-laden words, pleas for help, and violation of the sentence structure. The nonverbal elements include a contorted face, screaming, chaotic gestures, shaking, or stupor. The cinematic resource possesses the meaning-making potential to highlight various aspects of filmic fear through close-ups and middle close-ups, camera angles, dim light, and non-linear disturbing music. The meanings constructed by semiotic elements interact through cross-mapping, contributing to the formation of multimodal blends, which emerge in conceptual integration. Multimodal blends of fear in horror films include two-/three-component, non-parity, and consecutive patterns. From the viewers’ perspective, fear in horror films is perceived as a whole entity with a different level of intensity: from anxiety to horror. The experiment results show that the main indicators of fear for both males and females are pleas for help, voice and facial expressions, and music and close-up. However, while watching horror films, males feel interested more, while females experience negative emotions of fear, disgust, and tension.
Author: Tetiana Krysanova,
Bamberg, M. (1997). Language, concepts and emotions: The role of language in the construction of emotions. Language Sciences, 19(4), 309‒340. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0388-0001(97)00004-1
Barret, L. (2017). How emotions are made. The secret life of the brain. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Barrett, L., Mesquita, B., Ochsner, K. N., & Gross, J. J. (2007). The experience of emotion. Annual Review of Psychology, 58(1), 373‒403. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085709
Bateman, A., & Schmidt, K.-H. (2012). Multimodal Film Analysis: How Films Mean. Routledge.
Berkum, J. J. A. van. (2018). Language comprehension, emotion, and sociality: Aren’t we missing something? In S.-A. Rueschemeyer & M. G. Gaskell (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics. (pp. 644–670). Oxford University Press
Bound, K. (2016). 'Terror & tension' psychophysiological suspense: defining a framework to measure cinematic suspense in 21st century horror films. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313438411
Bradley, M. M., Zlatar, Z. Z., & Lang, P. J. (2018). Startle reflex modulation during threat of shock and “threat” of reward. Psychophysiology, 55(2). https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.12989
Branigan, E. (2013). Projecting a camera: Language-games in film theory. Routledge.
Cantor, J. (2004). “I’ll never have a clown in my house”—Why movie horror lives on. Poetics Today, 25(2), 283–304. https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-25-2-283
Clasen, M., Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, J., & Johnson, J. A. (2020). Horror, personality, and threat simulation: A survey on the psychology of scary media. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 14(3), 213–230. https://doi.org/10.1037/ebs0000152
Coëgnarts, M. (2017). Cinema and the embodied mind: Metaphor and simulation in understanding meaning in films. Palgrave Communications, 3(1), 1‒15.
Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain. Harcourt.
Fauconnier, G., & Turner M. (2003). The way we think: Conceptual blending and the mind’s hidden complexities. Basic Books.
Feng, D., & O’Halloran, K. (2013). The multimodal representation of emotion in film: Integrating cognitive and semiotic approaches. Semiotica, 197, 79‒100.
Foolen, A. (2012). The Relevance of Emotion for Language and Linguistics. In A.Foolen , U. Lüdtke, T. Racine, & J. Zlatev, (Eds.). Moving ourselves, moving others: Motion and emotion in intersubjectivity, consciousness and language. (pp. 347‒368). John Benjamins.
Hagenaars, M. A., Roelofs, K., & Stins, J. F. (2014). Human freezing in response to affective films. Anxiety Stress Coping, 27(1), 27–37. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2013.809420
Hall, A. E., & Bracken, C. C. (2011). I really liked that movie. Journal of Media Psychology, 23(2), 90–99. https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-1105/a000036
Hanich, J. (2012). Cinematic emotion in horror films and thrillers: The aesthetic paradox of pleasurable fear. Routledge.
Heimann, K. S., Umiltà, M. A., Guerra, M., & Gallese, V. (2014). Moving mirrors: A high density EEG study investigating the effects of camera movements on motor cortex activation during action observation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 26(9), 2087–2101.
Hirsch, R. (1985). Swearing and the Expression of the Emotions. In L.-G. Andersson & R. Hirsch (Eds.). Perspectives on swearing. (pp. 61-80). University of Göteborg.
Hoffner, C. A., & Levine, K. J. (2005). Enjoyment of mediated fright and violence: a meta-analysis. Media Psychology, 7(2), 207–237. https://doi.org/10.1207/S1532785XMEP0702_5
Izard, C. (1991). The Psychology of Emotions. Plenum.
Kendal, T. (2011). Introduction: Tarrying with Disgust. Film-Philosophy, 15(2), 1‒10.
Konijn, E. A. (2000). Acting emotions: Shaping emotions on stage. Amsterdam UP.
Krusemark, E. A., & Li, W. (2011). Do all threats work the same way? Divergent effects of fear and disgust on sensory perception and attention. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(9), 3429-3434. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4394-10.2011
Krysanova, T., & Shevchenko, I. (2021). Conceptual Blending in Multimodal Construction of Negative Emotions in Film. In A. Pawelec, A. Shaw, & G. Szpila (Eds.). Text-image-music: Crossing the borders. intermedial conversations on the poetics of verbal, visual and musical texts. In Honour of Prof. Elzbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska. (pp. 357‒371).Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b18012
Krysanova, T. A., & Shevchenko, I. S. (2022). Multisemiotic Patterns of Emotive Meaning-Making in Film. Alfred Nobel University Journal of Philology / Visnyk Universitetu imeni Alfreda Nobelya. Seriya: Filologicni Nauki, 2 (24), 238‒248. https://doi.org/10.32342/2523-4463-2022-2-24-20
Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2012). Horror film. In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acref/9780199587261.001.0001
Leeuwen, T. van. (2006). Introducing Social Semiotics. Routledge.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus. http://www.merriam-webster.com.
Mineka, S., & Öhman, A. (2002). Phobias and preparedness: the selective, automatic, and encapsulated nature of fear. Biological Psychiatry, 52(10), 927–937. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3223(02)01669-4
Osgood, Ch. E. (1963). Psycholinguistics. Psychology: a Study of Science. New York.
Rahmani, K., Gnoth, J., & Mather, D. (2019). A psycholinguistic view of tourists’ emotional experiences. Journal of Travel Research, 58(2), 192–206. https://doi.org/10.1177/00472875177530720
Roy, M., Mailhot, J. P., Gosselin, N., Paquette, S., & Peretz, I. (2009). Modulation of the startle reflex by pleasant and unpleasant music. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 71(1), 37–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.07.010
Scorolli, C., & Borghi, A. (2008). Language and Embodiment. Anthropology and Philosophy, 9(1‒2), 7‒23.
Smith, G. (2003). Film Structure and the Emotion System. Cambridge University Press.
Sparks, G. G., Sherry, J., & Lubsen, G. (2005). The appeal of media violence in a full-length motion picture: an experimental investigation. Communication Reports, 18(1-2), 21–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/08934210500084198
Turner, M. (2017). Multimodal form-meaning pairs for blended classic joint attention. Linguistics Vanguard, 3, 1‒7. https://doi.org/10.1515/linguvan-2016-0043
Zasiekina, L., & Zasiekin, S. (2020). Verbal emotional disclosure of moral injury in holodomor survivors. Psycholinguistics, 28(1), 41‒58. https://doi.org/10.31470/2309-1797-2020-28-1
Zlatev, J. (2008). The Co-evolution of Intersubjectivity and Bodily Mimesis. In J. Zlatev, T. P. Racine, C. Sinha, & E. Itkonen (Eds.), The Shared Mind: Perspectives of Intersubjectivity (pp. 215‒244). John Benjamins.
Zwaan, R. A. (2004). The immersed experiencer: Toward an embodied theory of language comprehension. In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation (pp. 35–62). Academic.
Bruce, L. (Producer) & Alvart, C. (Director). (2009). Case 39 [Motion picture]. United States, Paramount Pictures.
Cambridge Dictionary Online: Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus. https://dictionary.cambridge.org
Raimi, S. (Producer) & Shimizu, T. (Director). (2004). The Grudge [Motion picture]. Columbia Pictures, Ghost House Pictures.
Wright, R. (2006). Case 39. [Screenplay]. https://imsdb.com/scripts/Case-39.html.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Tetiana Krysanova
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.