The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Wizards, spells, and wands all sound fantastical to us, but in the world of Harry Potter it is completely ordinary. The Harry Potter series exemplifies a thriller set in a fantasy world with lots of action and drama. But what really is a thriller? A thriller is a specific type of genre which categorizes movies, books, or other literature. Genres have a lot of elements that help make each genre unique. Some of these elements include lighting, sound, costumes, dialogue, and even camera work. Thrillers have very distinct elements that are associated with it. For example, the lighting is usually very dark and the music is ominous in a thriller. The music will get louder at more intense parts to create anticipation and will have sound pops throughout to catch your attention. These elements will help guide how the viewer is feeling throughout the movie. Thrillers are also very exciting and suspenseful. All of these aspects should be present in a movie to consider it a thriller. The movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, takes place in the “wizarding world,” specifically in a magical school of witchcraft and wizardry called Hogwarts. The whole movie series is set around a boy named Harry Potter who stopped an uncontrollable super villain, Voldemort, as an infant. The specific movie that is the best example to exemplify what a thriller is, would be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which is the fourth installment in the series.
The prime illustration of how this movie is a thriller is towards the end of the movie at 1:56 to about 2:02. This scene is only six minutes long but packs so much uncertainty and action into it. It starts out with Harry and another character running through a maze while trying to not get grabbed by spelled bushes. This is evoking fear in the viewers as they want the hero to survive. The bushes end up getting a hold of Harry’s friend, but Harry saves him. They both grab the trophy that they had been searching for in the maze and it transports them to a graveyard. Now most of the viewers are suspicious as this is a new setting and it is quite eerie. Harry instantly recognizes the place from a dream he had. A man walks out holding something covered in cloth. He casts a spell and kills Harry’s friend, then traps Harry by animating a statue. The viewers are on the edge of their seats wanting to see what is going to happen next because their hero just got trapped. He drops the thing covered in cloth into a cauldron. He then cuts off and adds his own hand and Harry’s blood by cutting him with a knife. Then Voldemort rises from the cauldron and starts a fight with Harry. This scene is very suspenseful and creates a lot of apprehension in the viewers leading up to a good action scene.
There are many different elements in this scene that signify that this movie is a thriller. The setting in the first half is a scary, dark maze. The bushes are a dark green that almost look black and there is fog covering the ground and sky. When they teleport to the graveyard it is also spooky. The sky is filled with dark gray clouds and the fog remains all around. This signifies uncertainty and anticipation in the viewers from just the setting. The lighting the entire time is almost black and when there is light it is a blue glow. This keeps the cool and dim tones of the scene rather than warming it up with a yellow or orange light. Keeping the dim light retains that spooky nature that has the viewers on the edge of their seat. During this part of the movie the music is ominous and gets intense during the chase scene before dramatically cutting off as Harry and the other character are teleported. At the graveyard there is an eerie quietness with pops of sounds, such as the liquid in the cauldron bubbling. When Voldemort is being rebirthed the ominous music starts getting louder and louder again. The rebirth is very unsettling and causes a panic for viewers. You see almost a moving blob of flesh grow bones to become this man-like creature. This carries on that suspicion for what happens next. The way that the dialogue is portrayed also adds to the suspenseful and dark nature of the scene. One of the characters speaks slowly and in a scratchy voice which is unnerving and scary. All of the other characters in the scene are screaming which adds a level of intensity to the scene. Harry screaming at his friend portrays the worriedness and fear he is feeling. When Voldemort screams you can hear the excitement and joy in his voice to get his revenge on Harry. These opposing emotions make the audience intrigued to see what will come of the situation. This invocation of uncertainty and eagerness is a very important part of any thriller.
Along with the previous elements mentioned, there are some others that help bring the feeling of a thriller to the screen. The costumes help contribute to the aura of the scene as well. Harry and his friend are wearing dark tracksuits that are dirty from fighting in the maze. The man who carried the cloth and Voldemort are both wearing black. The man who carried the cloth has ragged clothes while Voldemort has a nice black robe on. The costumes help communicate details about each character to the audience. All of the costumes are dark to keep the dim tones of the scene. The dirty tracksuits show that the young wizards are tenacious and have already been through a lot of fighting. While Voldemort's nice black robe shows his status of being an untouched and uncontrollable wizard. The camerawork does a good job at capturing the mood of the scene as well. It focuses on the facial expressions of the characters and the setting around them. It zoomed in on each of the characters during certain moments and caught the fear or excitement on their face. The transitions are quick and almost choppy going back and forth to each of the characters. This keeps the tension and excitement of the scene. It also zoomed in on certain objects that added to the eerie atmosphere. Some of these items include a gravestone, the bushes, the fog, their wands, and even the cauldron. All of these different factors leave the scene very suspenseful, dark, and interesting.
Most of the movie and series is packed with scenes just like this that leave the audience on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next. It is evident that these elements together create the climactic and exciting nature that is a thriller. It is also clear cut that the Harry Potter series, specifically, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire fills the elements that make a thriller. The apprehension the directors create through their vivid settings, lighting, and sound is uniform throughout all of the Harry Potter movies. What was seen in just one six minute scene is demonstrated several times throughout the movie and other movies in the series. These suspenseful scenes in conjunction with action packed fights and a good backstory are the reason why the Harry Potter series are thriller movies.