Mystery film is a sub-genre of the more general category of crime film genre. It focuses on the efforts of the detective, private investigator or an amateur sleuth to solve the mysterious circumstances of a crime by following clues, conducting an investigation, and/or clever deduction.
The successful mystery film adheres to one of two story types, known as Open and Closed mystery. The Closed (or whodunit) mystery conceals the identity of the perpetrator until late in the story, adding an element of suspense during the apprehension of the suspect, as the audience is never quite sure who it is. The Open mystery, in contrast, reveals the identity of the perpetrator at the top of the story, showcasing the “perfect crime” which the audience then watches the protagonist unravel, usually at the very end of the story, akin to the unveiling scenes in the Closed style.
J.J. Abrams talks about the importance of “mystery” here:
- International Hero.co.uk, URL accessed January 28, 2010
- Jon Tuska, The detective in Hollywood (Doubleday, 1978), p.1
- Jim Harmon, Radio Mystery and Adventure and Its Appearances in Film, Television and Other Media (McFarland, 2003), p.176