‘west of memphis’ film review analysis (Empire magazine)

“An Unexpected Documentary” was believe it or not, a documentary film directed by Peter Jackson. I felt this was beneficial to analyse as part of my hybrid for a mockumentary was a documentary, and as it is completely non-fictional it may be written differently.


This layout is slightly different to ‘Sightseers’ as it is spread over three pages, with the majority of it being taken up by four large images that relate to the film: two being screenshots, one is posed (overleaf) and the other being a photo at Sundance film festival.


Above and below “An Unexpected Documentary” there are phrases such as “exclusive” and “inside story” to ultimately lure the reader in to the article. The term “exclusive” is layered on a small black box over the image, to allow this to be one of the first things the audience will be drawn t. Plus, it states that “Peter Jackson talks West of Memphis”, evidently meaning they have interviewed the rather well-known direction themselves – again, enticing the audience with an original interview.


As this film is evidently more serious contrasted with ‘Sightseers’ there is no ‘fact file’ or ‘verdict’ at the end of the review, portraying a perhaps more sincere side Empire could be portraying, as usually their articles are far more colloquial. In this review there is certainly a more formal tone to the text, mirroring the eerie content of the film, and overall keeping it more sober, as after all it is a “true story.”

I also noticed that the images on the page appear to be lacking in colour, especially the main image (above), as the woman is dressed in black, surrounded by a dreary environment. Whilst this may not have been intentional I can’t help but feel the three pages have a definite darker feel to them in comparison to the rest of the magazine and Empire’s more usual colourful and vibrant reviews.


‘sightseers’ film review analysis (Empire magazine)

Sightseers is a black comedy thriller film directed by Ben Wheatley, which Empire magazine recently reviewed.



The review is certainly very eyecatching, with half of the content being a large image (usually a screenshot from the film, however this one appears to be posed or perhaps from the film poster itself.) It is indeed very simplistic with the layout, with three columns and just the one image at the top, with the ongoing blue and white colour scheme within the font and symbols on the page. As Empire is for the more casual and informal reader, it is very easy to read, without a complex layout and easy to find information. They have included the typical film facts as an introduction to the review, such as the release date, film certificate, director, cast, running time and a small synopsis.


These facts may be a ‘decider’ for the audience, for example if they like the main cast members, or perhaps find out they are not yet old enough to see it in the cinema. At the end, to summarise, it has a small ‘verdict’ paragraph with a star rating. This way, you don’t even need to read the article if you do not wish to, making it easier for the audience to decide whether they want to see the film or not.



The way in which this review is written certainly contrasts with more formal film magazines such as Sight and Sound. Immediately you can tell there is more colloquial and chatty tone to it, tying in with the magazine’s overall theme. The writer also uses alliteration such as “selecting sexy underwear” and “unique British blend” to ultimately make the piece appear more laid back, easier and overall more engaging for perhaps a younger audience member. The author almost utilises a sense of wit and employs this within her writing, as if she is trying to make it more amusing than reviewing.

film reviews

What is the purpose of a film review?

Film reviews are everywhere. They are an expression of opinion, they promote, inform, publicise, persuade, and in some cases discourage people from watching a certain film.

Popular film magazines include Empire and Sight and Sound magazine. Empire tends to follow more mainstream conventions and films and offers rather easy reading, informal articles. Sight and Sound offers more formal reviews – perhaps for an older, more niche audience.


^ A typical Empire front cover. ^

Aspects of a film review to look out for:

  • opinions
  • star ratings
  • image (w/ caption) – could be a screenshot of the movie
  • title of film
  • written in columns
  • synopsis
  • running time of the film
  • popular actresses/actors/directors involved (unique selling points of the film)
  • phrases such as “a must see”, “film of the summer” and “if you liked ….. you’ll love this!”

I will be doing a film review as an ancillary task to tie in with my short film.

‘she’s out of my league’ film poster analysis

Below is my analysis for the comedy film ‘She’s Out Of My League’ (2010)

Synopsis: Kirk is a twenty something TSA agent working in a airport, he has extremely low self-esteem, he hasn’t accomplished much and does not have much luck in love. When the Molly comes along Kirk is shocked that a such an attractive female would be interested in him, however this school of thought tends to pick away at the relationship.

There is definite comedic elements within the poster (eg. the worried look to camera from the male character), I will most likely use direct looks to the camera, to allow the audience to relate to the characters. For my mockumentary, I will probably ask my protagonist to exaggerate their facial expressions (like this male character) to make it humourous for the public.

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‘food inc.’ film poster analysis

Below is my analysis for the documentary film ‘Food Inc.’ (2008)

Synopsis: The film examines corporate farming in the US, concluding that agribusiness produces food that is unhealthy, in a way that is environmentally harmful and abusive of both animals and employees.

As a mockumentary is a hybrid of documentary and comedy, it was beneficial to analyse a documentary poster. It clearly has a strong message attached to it, as it uses computer generation to super impose a barcode onto an innocent cow. It has inspired me that you do not need a lot going on in a film poster for it to catch your attention and be engaging, so I am hoping to use a simplistic theme like this poster. I am also considering using computer generation in my film poster, however this idea is not set in stone just yet.

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‘I’m still here’ film poster analysis

Below is my analysis for the mockumentary film ‘I’m Still Here’ (2010)

Synopsis: This film follows the life of Phoenix, from the announcement of his retirement from acting, to his transition into a budding hip-hop artist.

I felt an analysis of this poster would be extremely beneficial, as finding a successful mockumentary film poster is difficult, and since I am doing the same genre it would be extremely relevant to my short film. I admire the simplicity and originality of this poster, and would hopefully do something just as simple for mine in the future (eg. utilising the simple sans serif font for the actor’s names/film title/name of director)

Picture 1

my interview questions

As this is my first method of audience research, I wanted to ease the participants into aspects of comedy, followed by asking them about a mockumentary, then gather an opinion on my idea.

Here are my questions I will ask my interviewees:

  1. What aspects do you enjoy about comedy films?
  2. How important do you think the script/actors are?
  3. Are you familiar with examples of mockumentaries? (Perhaps mention some examples that have been aired recently)
  4. Do you know any features of a mockumentary?
  5. What do you think of a spoof of ‘Planet Earth’ that follows typical teenagers with a similar style narration?
  6. Any improvements on my idea?
  7. Do you like my idea of following chavs, hipsters and goths? Any other sub-cultures I could use instead?

Next I need to carry out my interviews with my participants. After I have done this I can write my questionnaire based on what they said and gather more opinions from my target audience.


chosen audience research methods

The two forms of audience research I have chosen for my early stages of planning is an interview and questionnaire.

I chose to start with some interviews because I feel like I can allow people to give their detailed, honest opinion on my ideas. Since I’m still at a very early stage with planning, through interviews I can gain ideas easily through asking numerous open ended questions. I will have a set of about 5-10 questions (depending on how long their answers are, and if any follow up questions are used) and ask roughly 3 or 4 people individually and edit the answers all together.

After gaining answers and opinions from the interviews, I shall devise a questionnaire tailored specifically to my answers received during the interviews. This way I can ensure the questions in the questionnaire are completely relevant to what my audience are interested in and would like to see.


What are the pros/cons of each method?



  • information can be collated from a large sample size – a good variety of opinions
  • if anonymous, participants can be more honest in their response
  • allows a mixture of open and closed questions


  • writing the questions, handing them out and gathering them back can take up a lot of time
  • people cannot elaborate on their points if there is not enough space
  • on paper, responses can be quite hard to understand



  • participants have the time to elaborate on their points, making it easier for the interviewee to understand
  • if the interviewer is unsure, they can simply ask a follow up question such as “could you give me an example of this?”
  • the interviewer can collect more detailed information
  • the questions do not have to be set in stone, they can tailor it to the appropriate candidate


  • they can take up a lot of the participant’s time
  • if alone with the interviewer, the interviewee may feel pressured to answer quickly or panic if they do not know what to say

The next thing I need to do is create a set of 8-10 questions for my interview. Following this, more questions for my questionnaire, making sure these ones are focused on what the people in my interview wanted in my short film.