In the early years horror
was inspired by art,
literature, ancient myth,
folklore and it also focused
on the supernatural
Henry Fuseli’s painting
‘TheNightmare (1781)’ is
believed to have influenced
Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel
‘Frankenstein’ and features
In the late 1700s, Gothic
Literature began to
emerge and became a
The ‘Gothic’ part of the
name refers to puseduo
medieval buildings that
these stories took place
Dark & stormy night
Secret passage ways
Shelley’s Gothic novel Frankenstein (1819) Is
believed to be inspired by The Nightmare. It was
later made into a Hollywood film with Carl
Laemmle’s Universal Pictures releasing it in 1931
(James Whale) starring Boris Karloff.
Frankenstein was well
received by audiences &
critics at the box office
which led to many sequels.
It helped to establish
It was also an early
example of science fiction.
Dracula was a sophisticated vampire modern
It was created in 1819 by John Polidori
It influences came from the early 19th century
However it is Bram Stoker’s 1897 Gothic novel
Dracula which it derived from.
The notion of vampirism has existed for millennia;
The Ancient Greeks, and Romans had tales of
blood drinking demons and spirits which were
precursors to modern vampires.
Many myths emerge during the medieval period
but the folklore for the modern vampire originates
in the late 17th century in southeastern Europe.
These tales formed the basis of the vampire
legend that later entered Germany & England.
The Expressionist movement was largely
confined to Germany due to the isolation the
country during World War I.
The plots often dealt with madness, insanity, &
direct reaction against realism.
They used extreme distortions in expression to
show an inner emotional reality rather than
what is on the surface.
The first Expressionist films made up for a lack
of lavish budgets by using set designs with
wildly non-realistic, geometrically absurd sets,
along with designs painted on walls and floors
to represent lights, shadows, and objects.
This dark, moody school of film making was
brought to the United States when the Nazis
gained power and a number of German
filmmakers emigrated to Hollywood.
INFLUENCE IN HOLLYWOOD
Two genres in Hollywood
clearly influenced by
Expressionism were horror &
Carl Laemmle and Universal
Studios had made a name for
themselves producing such
famous horrors of the silent era
as The Phantom of the Opera.
Now German filmmakers such
as Karl Freund (
cinematographer for Dracula
1931) set the style and mood
of the Universal monster movies
of the 1930s with their dark
and artistically designed sets.
Stylistic elements taken from German Expressionism
are common today in films that do not need
reference to real places such as science fiction films
(eg, Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner, which was
itself influenced by Metropolis).
UNIVERSAL’S 1930’S HORROR
Universal Pictures made the first
cycle of horror films
triggered in part by the coming
of sound in 1927.
In the silent era, Universal had
made The Phantom of the
Opera & Hunchback of Notre
Dame both starring Lon Chaney.
However in the 1930s,
Universal sunk their teeth into
horror, kicking off the Universal
Gothic horror cycle with
Dracula, 1931 starring Bela
James Whale continued the cycle with
Frankenstein with Boris Karloff also in
Karl Freund even got a shot at the
director’s chair with The Mummy in 1932.
Followed by James Whale again with the
Invisible Man in 1933,
Stuart Walker’s Werewolf in London 1935
Hambert Hillyer’s Dracula’s Daughter in
COLD WAR HORROR
After the Supreme Court rulings of 1948 which
ripped apart the studio system & cut-throat
competition with tv for audiences, in the 1950s,
Hollywood became increasingly desperate.
Horror films got relegated to B-film status & A-
list talent was used for lavish epics.
However horror was popular with teens who
wanted thrills even if the plot lines were
becoming more ludicrous.
Horror films began moving away from the dominant staple of
Monsters & the Supernatural
It began to tap into the 1950’s cold war fear of invasion &
This developed into a Pulp Science Fiction cycle with films like
The Thing From Another World, The Day The Earth Stood Still
(1951) & Forbidden Planet & Invasion of the Body Snatchers
PSYCHOLOGICAL SEX & GORE
The 1960s herald an explosion of styles and cycles & sub-
genres in the genre as it gains in popularity, prestige &
freedom. (The restrictive censorship of the Production Code
was abandoned in 1964). Advances in technology also
allow for greater use of special effects & more gore.
Hitchcock’s Psycho shocked
audiences & led
to the view that Horror could
be more than B-movie fare.
Unlike the monsters of
previous horror cycles
be they supernatural, demonic,
mutated or from
outer space, Norman Bates
was rooted in reality.
Human on the outside but with
of a monster.
HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS
In the late 50s Hammer Films Productions in
Britain began rebooting Universal’s Gothic
Monsters – but adding sex and gore. Shot in
full color, Hammer’s first Gothic horror reboot
was Terence Fisher’s The Curse of
Frankenstein (1957)with Peter Cushing as Dr.
Frankenstein & Christopher Lee as the monster.
For the first time in a Frankenstein film, blood
was shown on screen in full chilling color.
From the 60s Horror was being taken seriously by
critics & audiences. This set the stage for important
horror films sub-genres that developed in the
The Occult – films about Satan and the
Supernatural – was a popular big budget subjects –
notably Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby in 1968
& The Exorcist (1973) directed by William Friedkin,
Richard Donnor’s The Omen (1976) & Stuart
Rosenberg’s Amnityville Horror (1979).
FILM SCHOOL GENERATION
In the 70s a group of filmmakers The Film School
Generation who formally studied horror began to
make horror films or inject it into their filmmaking.
Brian De Palma’s Carrie in 1976 set the stage for a
Teen Horror cycle. 1979’s Alien by Ridley Scott
successful remixed horror and science fiction as did
John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing in 1982.
Horror has been a staple of the low budget
film world since the 50s. As film production
technology has advanced & costs have steadily
declined the rise of independent filmmakers
has allowed for more & more new takes on
horror. Films like Stanley Kubricks 1980s The
Shining which fused the psychological and the
supernatural & went on to become a classic.
Produced on a budget of $325,000 &
grossing $240 million dollars, John
Carpenters 1978 hit Halloween is one
of the most successful independent
horror film to date. The first of it’s kind
- a Hitchcock inspired slasher film-
there is in fact very little gore; low
budgets forced Carpenter to construct
his horror inside everyday suburbia.
There are three modern horror film
cycles which arose in late nineties &
2000s Torture Porn is the modern
reboot of the Splatter films going
back to the Hammer Horror era. This
latest cycle emphasizes intense gore,
grunge and often tortuous violence.
The Saw franchise, the most successful
horror film franchise of all time, is
considered the first in this latest crop
of splatter films with it’s first
installment in 2004 by James Wan.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Eduardo Sanchez & Daniel
Myrick represents the first major
film in the modern found
footage horror sub-genre. It
pieces together first hand
footage to reconstruct the last
terrifying moments of the
original eye witness. Blair Witch
also one of the first films to be
marketed through the internet.
With roots going back to George A Romero’s Night
of the Living Dead in 1968 the modern Zombie
Apocalypse Cycle began when Danny Boyle
breathed a new life into the undead genre with 28
Days Later in 2002. Recent Zombie films feed on our
fears of a medical pandemic and the break down of
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