Horror films seek to trigger a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audiences worst fears. They often feature scenes that startle the viewer through the means of supernatural ideas, hence frequently overlapping with the fantasy and science fiction genres. The term ‘horror movie’ first came about following the release of Dracula (1931)
Plots written within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage, commonly of supernatural origin, into the everyday world. Themes or elements often prevalent in typical horror films include ghosts, torture, gore, werewolves, ancient curses, Satanism, demons, vicious animals, vampires, cannibals, haunted houses, zombies and serial killers.
The first appearance of the supernatural events that occur in horror films was in the late 1980s in several silent shorts created by film pioneers such as Georges Melies. The most notable being his Le Manoir du diable(1986).
1896 – Le Manoir du diable 1896 – Une nuit terrible 1897 – L’Auberge ensorcelee 1897 – Le Cabinet de Mephistopheles 1897 – L’Hallucination de l’alchimiste 1897 – The Haunted Castle (First British film) 1897 – The X-Rays 1898 – The Cavalier’s Dream (First USA film) 1898 – La Caverne maudite
More milestones were brought in the early 20th century this including the first ever monster to appear in a full movie of the genre, Quasimodo, whom was the Hunchback of Notre Damn who had appeared in Victor Hugos novel. Films featuring Quasimodo included Alice Guys Esmeralda (1906), The Hunchback (1909), The Love of a Hunchback (1910) and Notre-Dame de Paris (1911).
1900 – The Prince of Darkness 1900 – The Troublesome Fly 1902 – A Fight with Sledgehammers 1902 – The Murder at the Red Barn 1903 – Le Monstre 1903 – Le Chaudron Infernal 1905 – The Fairy of the Black Rocks 1905 – Le Diable Noir 1906 – Le Maison hantee
It was in the early 1930s that American film producers, particularly Universal Pictures Co. Inc., popularized the horror film, bringing to the screen a series of successful Gothic features including Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), some of which blended science fiction films with Gothic horror, such as James Whales The Invisible Man (1933).
Tod Browning, director of Dracula, also made the extremely controversial Freaks based on Spurs by Ted Robbins. Brownings film about a band of circus freaks was so controversial the studio burned about 30 minutes and disowned it. These films, while designed to thrill, also incorporated more serious elements, and were influenced by the German expressionist films of the 1920s. Some actors began to build entire careers in such films, most notably Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.
1930 – The Bat Whispers 1931 – Dracula 1932 – White Zombie 1933 – Island of Lost Souls 1934 – The Tell-Tale Heart 1935 – The Raven 1936 – The Walking Dead 1939 – Buried Alive
With advances in technology that occurred in the 1950s, the theme of horror films shifted from the gothic towards that of some saw as being more relevant to the late century audience. A stream of low budget films featured humans having to overcome threats from outside: alien invasions and deadly mutations to people, plants, and insects, most notably in films imported from Japan, whose society had first hand knowledge of the effects of nuclear radiation.
In 1951 a science fiction film called ‘The Thing from Another World’ was released but was also linked in with horror this was based on a novel written by Campbell. It is about an air force crew and scientists at a remote arctic research outpost who have to fight a malevolent plant-based alien being. It stars Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer and James Arness.
Produced and directed by George A. Romero On a budget of $144,000 It grossed by $12million domestically and $30million internationally This horror of Armageddon brought the genre of horror even further away from the gothic theme and featured zombies in everyday life
In 1964, the end of the Production Code of America and the financially successful low budget ‘gore’ films triggered a release in more films with occult themes, such as the ‘Exorcist’ and even more like it where it represented the Devil as a supernatural evil.
In the 1970s reincarnation and evil children became a hot topic for horror movies, and example would be Robert Wise’s film Audrey Rose – which was about a man who claims his daughter is the reincarnation of another dead person(1977). Another popular movie with a satanic horror based story was The Omen(1976).
The Omen was a suspense horror film directed by Richard Donner, it was the first film in The Omen series and had been scripted by David Seltzer. He also wrote the novel.
A remake of the film came around on 6th June 2006, this date was chosen specifically because of the well known ‘fact’ that Satan’s or The Beast’s number was 666 (06/06/2006)
1971 – Virgin Witch 1971 – Beast of the Yellow Night 1971 – The Abominable Dr.Phibes 1971 – The Black belly of the Tarantula 1971 – Blood and Lace 1971 – Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb 1971 – The Brotherhood of Satan 1971 – Burke and Hare 1971 – The Butcher of Binbrook
In the early 1990s the genre continued in the fashion of the 1980s with a variety of sequels, including sequels from Child’s Play and Leprechaun. More sequels from a slightly different sub genre which were ‘slasher’ films appeared, with the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Halloween all of which had good success at the box office, but were panned by fans and critics.
Produced in 1978 Directed, produced and scored by John Carpenter Co-written with Debra Hill Budget = $325,000 Grossed $47million at the box office in the United States
1995 – Copycat 1995 – Creep 1997 – The Bloody Ape 1997 – Event Horizon 1999 – Deep Blue Sea 1999 – End of Days
The start of the 2000s saw a major increase in quality for the genre, with the re-release of The Exorcist(2000) making a great success despite the film being on home video for years. Franchise films such as Freddy vs. Jason also made a big impact with massive success.
The 2000s also saw a big milestone being that the French horror film – Brotherhood of the Wolf – became the second highest grossing French-language film in the US in the last two decades. Success for foreign language films continued with the release of the Swedish film Let the Right One In which late became the subject of a Hollywood remake – Let Me In.
Produced in 2010 Based on the story and novel of Let the Right One In Directed by Tomas Alfredson Romantic Horror Film Budget = $20million
The films of the 2000s were noticeably improved from previous films in early years, with new special effects coming in and the special effects being more realistic than ever meaning that horror films are having more of an effect to scare people.
2000 – Scream 3 2001 – Dragon 2002 – Cabin Fever 2003 – Before I Die 2006 – The Abandoned 2008 – April Fool’s Day 2009 – Antichrist