• The first horrors that came about tended to be silent
movies produced right at the beginning of the 20th
• These Horrors were very surreal, they were set in dark
and gloomy places.
• Castles and abandoned houses were the perfect stock
location for these types of horror films and they did not
really have colour and were filmed in the basic black
• This means that the directors and filming team had to
heavily rely on the costume and evil being itself to
create fear for the audience as sound was not possible.
• Early horror films used folklore and legends from
around the world to create a scary horror film as at the
time this is what scared the audiences. Things such as
monsters, vampires and werewolves.
• They rendered the monsters into a physical form and
then built upon these myths and legends to create terror
and suspense for those watching the films.
• German expressionism of the time created a strong
visual style of these early horrors, as they used distorted
worlds and strange angles to build upon the fear and
•Examples of films from this decade can include the
first horror film that included vampires Nosferatu, other
films that came about at this time were things such as
• Horror films in the 1940’s progressed a little from the typical
mythical films that were made in the 20’s and 30’s; these were
around the time when the second world war had started.
• Wartime horrors were produced in this era but were purely an
American product as Wartime Horrors were banned in Britain; this
was due to the fact that Britain wanted their soldiers to focus on
winning the war rather than seeing all the horrors that they were
about to face.
• This era was when animalistic horrors were born, which focused
on the "animal inside“ generally a human who was able to change
into either a mythological being or some type of animal.
• Two of the most popular Horror films at the time were ‘The Wolf
man’ and ‘Cat People’, these tended to show animals who have
transformed from humans then go around and murder and mutilate
other humans. They also followed the typical codes and conventions
of Horror and the same dark and gloomy places were used for the
• Hitler himself is strongly identified with this type of iconography
and legends of the wolf. The name Adolf' means "noble wolf" in Old
German and Hitler can be closely linked to this, as he was like a
wolf and hunted the Jews so get rid of them although he is not seen
to be a very noble character and many people and audiences today
are able to identify Hitler with Horrors and Horrific imagery .
• The first sound movies were finally coming about , dialogue and
music was finally becoming a big thing in Horror films, which led to
a bigger effect on the audience as they use of sound create more
tension and fear for the audience.
• Female monsters first came to light in this decade as well as the
introduction of sound, but rather than the female monster
frightening or scaring the audience; the audience fell in love with
her as she was beautiful and elegant rather than a hideous monster.
An example of this is the bride of Frankenstein, when Frankenstein's
• There were extremely big changes between the 1940’s
and the 1950’s.
• The Second world war had finally ended and the genre
of Horror developed once again.
• The monsters in Horror films were now humans but
they seemed somewhat mutated and mutilated but mainly
consisted of science fiction. This idea came from the end
of the war when the soldiers came home from war and
many had gone mad or had been badly injured this scared
• But the war led to the neglect of horror films and the
soldiers had their own Horrors to tell as they has
witnessed real and true Horror before their own eyes.
• This then led to the studios trying to incorporate colour
and TV so audiences were able to watch these Horrors at
home. The 1950’s shifted completely from gothic to
contemporary concerns, films such as ‘The Fly’, ‘The
Blob’ and ‘Godzilla’ were all big films in the 50’s as they
focused on the mutation effects from this such as nuclear
war as nuclear warheads and weapons were starting to
come about around the world and the audiences were
again scared by the genre of Horror.
• There was many science fiction that was incorporated
into the Horror films of the 50’s and this terrified the
audiences as well as the public.
• This was the first time that Britain had fully emerged as
a Horror film producer and there was great international
• 1960’s was a big change for Horror, the audience were
no longer scared of monsters or mutilated beings as they
realised that these ideas were not realistic and were just
myths and legends. They wanted reality, they wanted real
life Horrors that were more believable, and much more
sophisticated, and that dealt with some of the issues they
faced in a real world.
• Thrillers and horror were intertwined together; there
was a lot more onscreen violence and nudity in Horror
• Films like Psycho and The Shining were made in this
era these films both played around with the idea that
rather than there being a scary monster, humans were the
antagonists. Both of these films showed the killer to be a
normal everyday person but they always tended to be the
antagonist trying to or succeeding to kill everyone, this
usually stems from insanity and madness.
• The beginning of the 1960's the first slasher film was
introduced called ‘Peeping Tom’ this combined both his
professionalism as a photographer and his lust for killing
•The mid and late sixties then started to use the ideas of
ghost stories such as The Haunting. Using black and
white photography and minimal special effects to create
terror and panic.
• These ghost stories throb with psychosexual tension,
and take a sadistic satisfaction in the suffering of the
beautiful heroine. The protagonist is a final sacrifice
• Due to the success of a cult film, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ many
other cult films were being produced films such as the
Exorcist, 1973 which was a big hit and was also voted the
‘Scariest movie of all time’ in 1999 by Total Film magazine.
• These films tended to be based around supernatural
elements, leading the audience to fear the unknown and the
• One of the biggest fears during the seventies was the fear of
children, the thought of children becoming possessed and
inflicting the harm and even death onto to others was
terrifying this is shown through the film ‘The Omen’ where
many say it is like the devil reincarnated himself.
• Many women became afraid of child birth after Author
David J Skal identifies this fear with the introduction of the
contraceptive pill and the birth defects if had by thalidomide.
Women were scared to give birth and scared of their own
• The family and the home is where most fear is created as
this is where they are supposed to feel safe but knowing they
have their own Horrors as home created panic for many.
Now the enemy is in your own home father than the
• This decade introduced a new wave of monster horrors with
more realistic monsters, such as ‘Young Frankenstein’ and
Leather Face from ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ which was
based around true events of a real life mass murder called Ed
Gein this was the first time that real life elements were being
brought into film.
• The eighty's were a big decade for slashers as many big
hit films were made during this decade.
• But the 1980s also saw a wave of gory "B movie"
horror films these were films that were very low
budgeted and often a lot less publicised. At first of which
were very highly criticized by critics and dismissed by
critics but then later sae them become cult classics and a
big success with critics. B movie films included films
such as Fright Night, The Lost Boys and Poltergeist.
• Special effects (SFX) has finally caught up with the
imaginations of horror directors and the audiences. This
began with Alien, which was actually released in 1979.
Everything that lurked in the shadows in films of the
1950's was now out in the light, all bigger, better and
more gruesome than before.
•The main demographic for audiences of horror movies in
the 1980s was 15-24 year old men; an audience seeking
thrills as a rite-of-passage, to prove that they have strong
enough stomachs to sit through these gut-wrenching gore
•Horror films of this era included A Nightmare On Elm
Street and slashers, Halloween and Friday 13th.
By the end of the 1980's the gore that once
terrified the audiences had worn off; by this time
some spoofs were being made so the audience
did not feel scared by these things anymore.
A lot of dark, disturbing films at this time were
labelled as psychological thrillers, yet they
shared an awful lot of the same codes and
conventions used in horror films.
The psycho’s are introduced in this decade with
The Silence of the Lambs and The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre. The Silence of the Lambs
was a psychological Horror where the antagonist
used sick and twisted way to kill his victims, he
gets into their minds and uses their own minds
In 1996 Scream was released; this mixed the
slashers from previous decades and the new
psychological horror together which produced a
parody for those that had grown up with the
original slasher horrors and now had something
new to fear. .
The beginning of the 2000's gave us blood guts and
gore movies and portrayed the moral panic around
gore-nography or torture porn, where the victims
bodies are completely mutilated. Films such as Saw
and Final Destination mixed gore and phsychological
horror together and produced a films where death
takes the form of the antagonist rather than an actual
person. Final destination shows how you cant escape
death and how death will get everyone in the end, it is
like fate. Saw it about the bloody mutilation of many
unsuspecting victims who are hacked at and cut and
slashed by the psychotic antagonist.
As the gory era was coming to a halt the audiences
were then enticed by the supernatural Horrors as well
as possession. These included antagonists that were
spirits, the devil or demonic beings which meant they
were much harder to kill off and get rid of. Audiences
often realised that by the end of the film the spirits
were never really gone and this created terror for the
audience; as the stock location was usually set in an
everyday home which allowed them to lose their self
sense of security and proved effective. Films such as
‘The Conjuring’ ‘Paranormal Activity’ and ‘Insidious’
can be said to be some of the most influential and
successful supernatural/possession films made.