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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore tō tātou waka e ū ki uta

Captivating contexts: Horror movies

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teaching inquiry

How do I find contexts that will captivate my class?

Choosing a context

Kay le Comte at Hastings Girls' High had a year 13 class that was full of photography and design students. She thought that a film-making project could work well with these students and chose a genre known to appeal to many teens – horror movies. (Students who did not want to work with the horror movies genre explored musicals.)


The students examined Psycho, the famous horror movie created by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960’s. They viewed it in a traditional cinema setting and on cell phones, recognising that viewers now also watch movies on smartphones and tablets.

The class researched the conventions of horror movies, such as the music, the common themes, the character types, and the different techniques used to scare viewers.

Following a thorough examination of Psycho, the students looked at short horror movies that had been made by young directors and posted on YouTube. 


After the research phase, the students created concepts and storyboards for their own short movies. They photographed scenes and ideas. To make the project manageable, most movies only had three characters. The movies were required to include elements of green screen, still and moving images, free music or the students’ own music, and sound effects.

Horror movie by Charlotte Branden

The students supported each other in making the movies. Families and friends assisted with venues, actors, and props. Some students also created props and promotional products including badges, popcorn boxes, hats, and masks.

The year 12 digital media class were the stakeholders and they spent 5 minutes of each lesson giving feedback every few days. The movies were kept on a shared drive to allow easy access for the students.

The project culminated in the students showing the movies to the year 12 students for Halloween. 


The students were assessed using the following standards:

For AS 91617, the students looked at the movie Psycho and what makes a good horror movie.

Two students chose not to do horror movies and instead looked at musicals. They researched The Wizard of Oz and explored the old and new technologies in filming for AS 91617.


The students used resources that were readily available to them at school, but Kay says that in the future it would be helpful to have some equipment for creating special effects.

Kay found that it was useful to have students explore design criteria that worked in movies. She notes that it would be interesting for students to transpose design principals used by a designer in one medium into another – for example, using a Chanel fashion design approach in developing digital media. Kay says it is also important to encourage students to consider New Zealand’s approach to design.

Bee keeper working at bee hives
Related resource

Captivating contexts: Kiwi break 

A teacher describes key aspects of a context that engaged her students.

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