Sunday, 23 January 2011

Analysis of the Opening of ‘The Stepfather'

The first thing the audience sees during the opening of The Stepfather is an ident for the production company Screen Gems. It fades in from a black screen, like a drop of blood falling into dark water.

The screen then cuts to a medium shot of a truck in a suburban street, with a man inside delivering copies of the ‘Salt Lake City Gazette’, throwing them out of the window onto the driveways of the houses. The truck then stops outside one of the houses, looking down a clipboard to see that the house’s subscription to the gazette has been cancelled, and drives on. In the top left of the screen, the names of the other production and distribution companies are shown in a black, bold font. In the background, quiet, sinister music plays, creating feelings of tension and suspense, even though the film has just begun.

The film then cuts to a slow tracking shot, moving from right to left focusing on a shaving kit, presumably inside the house seen in the last shot. A man then appears in the mirror, while the name of the film, The Stepfather, appears in the bottom left. 
He continues with a normal morning routine, including shaving, and showering, but then, when he changes his contact lenses to alter the appearance of his eyes, we realise that he is deliberately trying to change his appearance. Throughout this routine, the names of the main actors fade in and out in different corners of the screen, appearing for a few seconds and then disappearing.

The next shot is a tracking shot showing a collection of family photos above a fireplace. The man picks up two suitcases and carries them downstairs. As he reaches the bottom, he turns on the radio, and the song ‘Silent Night’ begins to play, as the names of the casting directors appear in the bottom left of the screen. 
Walking into the kitchen, he notices that the phone has been left off the hook, and replaces it before putting some bread in the toaster, as the name of the costume designer and then the music supervisor are shown the top and bottom right corner of the screen, one after another. As he takes out and eats the toast, the names of the editor, production designer, director of photography and then executive producers appear.

The man then walks out of the kitchen and around the house, and is followed by the camera, which then tilts to the side to show a dead child leaning on the kitchen table. The original sinister music then comes back in with a sharp high-pitched stab, to make the audience jump. The camera then pans around the house to reveal more dead bodies lying around, on the floor and on the sofa. The man calmly walks around the house, collecting his things before leaving. As he reaches the door, he has a flashback, and there is a cut to a close up of a girl screaming, then back to the man. He picks up his suitcases and walks out the door, while the camera cuts to a close up of the same girl lying dead on the floor.
We then see the man in his car, adjusting the rear view mirror.

As he looks in the mirror, the names of two more executive producers appear below it, and the man then drives away.

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