Introduction to Horror!
Definition: Horror is a genre that aims to create a sense of fear, panic, alarm, and dread for the
audience. These films are often unsettling and rely on scaring the audience through a portrayal of
their worst fears and nightmares. Horror films usually center on the arrival of an evil force, person,
or event. Many Horror films include mythical creatures such as ghosts, vampires, and zombies.
Traditionally, Horror films incorporate a large amount of violence and gore into the plot. Though it
has its own style, Horror film often overlaps into Fantasy, Thriller, and Science-Fiction genres.
Horror is a wide genre with other sub sections making the films made much more specific
addressing very specific audience‟s rather that one whole one. Examples of sub horrors are:
Comedy Horror: Combines classic horror with comedy. Aim to scare the audience but have comical
value‟s so the audience can laugh out their fear. E.g. Shaun Of The Dead.
Teen Horror: Revolves completely round a group of teens or one individual. Often has a large cast
& a clear protagonist. E.g. Scream
Monster Horror: Centers on a struggle between human beings & a monster(s). Often the monster
has been created in an “experiment that has gone wrong”. E.g. Aliens
Slasher: Revolves around a psychopathic killer. Usually the killer stalks & kills their victims in
graphic & memorable ways. E.g. Halloween.
Super-natural Horror: Involves ghosts, demons, or other deceptions of super-natural occurrence.
Often includes references to religion. E.g. The Exorcist.
Zombie Horror: Portrays human beings as being the dead that has risen. Centered around zombies
feasting on flesh & invading, causing an apocalypse. E.g. Night Of The Living Dead.
Where Did Horror Films
Come From? …
“…interest in fearsome fantasies cannot be completely explained as the result of a desire to understand the
unknown. Still, the legends of the past provided many of the monsters that haunt the literature of the
present, and part of the modern enthusiasm for the macabre may be attributed to ancestral memories of the
days when demons were almost expected to put in an occasional appearance.” Quote By L. Daniels, Fear:
A History of Horror in the Mass Media, Paladin, 1977, p. 8).
There can be little doubt that the horror genre – most particularly the horror film – has now become far more
popular with audiences than perhaps at any other time in its history. If its beginnings were rooted in
literature – Mary Shelley‟s Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker‟s Dracula (1897) are the titles that seem to
spring to everyone‟s mind – we also know that stories have always been told about ghosts, monsters,
witches and the dark. It is now the case that almost every week the local multiplex is showing one or more
films that might be considered horror films. Television has repeated showings of horror films, and series
abound on television that pit teenagers against mythical monsters. Bookshops are stacked with horror
novels and graphic novels.
Horror is the stuff of legend and the basis for all our nightmares. The well-worn cliché of a group of people
sitting around a camp-fire and telling ghost stories is possibly rooted in ancient practices. Perhaps this is
why the opening scene from many a film or television series begins with someone starting to tell a story,
often at night, whilst sitting around the ubiquitous camp-fire. An audience will recognise this as one of the
first signals that we are about to be told something frightening. An example of this technique can be seen in
The Fog (directed by John Carpenter, 1979).
You Tube link to „The Fog”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwSbRKd_J8k
Horror film techniques can be remembered & followed by
remembering the “D.I.S.T.I.N.C.T” Rule:
The typical setting for a horror film is places where there is only a
small community, or is quite isolated, for a example a lake town. You
can also have large cities with lots of dark alley ways & rough areas.
The key to a good Horror location is somewhere that the character
can be isolated & cut off, somewhere dangerous where the
antagonist has the upper hand.
Also effective to be in places that have a kind of history, e.g. „Grave
Encounters‟ is a super-natural horror set in an abandoned insane
The most effective setting for any horror would include places like:
Lakes, woods, highways, countryside, any place abandoned (Hotels,
Hospitals, Asylums, Prisons, Cabins. Houses, Underground Tunnels,
Factories, Islands etc.), Anywhere haunted or with a history/stories of
being haunted, Space stations (Sci-fi Horror), Alien Planets (Sci-fi
Horror), Graveyards Etc…
Camera Work is very important for a horror film as the camera can make the audience feel
multiple moods based on what angles are used, for example:
High/Low Angles-Can connote fear, danger & nightmares.
Point Of View(POV)- Can allow the audience to see from either the characters in danger or
the Monster/killers perspective. Often happens either in the middle or near the end of the
film so the audience is familiar with who all the characters are.
Hand Held Camera- Makes it hard for the audience to make out what they‟re seeing
properly, making it more chaotic & also places the audience within the scene, like POV.
Extreme Close Ups(ECU)- Are used For the audience to identify more with a specific
character & can also create tension as they cannot see the threat because all they can see
is the characters reaction, making it more terrifying.
Sound is important in horror films, it can put an audience on edge & can make a film famous just
for its sound score, for example „The Exorcist” Theme. Ambient diegetic sound like footsteps,
twigs snapping, howling wind create the atmosphere of the setting, Non-diegetic sounds like
heartbeats add an atmosphere for the audience. Example of the exorcist theme:
Editing can be effective for a horror, you can use edits like fades to add ghost effects to a scene
or you can speed up the editing to either makes shots to fast to see clearly, to scare & confuse an
audience. However, the editing can also be effective because if the editing has been quite slow
for a while through the use of Hollywood editing the audience can know that something is going
to happen very soon & jump out at you from nowhere to add in the element of surprise.
Visual Style- Often very dark colours (Blacks & Reds), links with the connotations of blood,
danger, death etc.
Low key lighting- un-naturalistic, creating a dark effect, hard to make out some shapes,
creates strange shadows, creates a creepy atmosphere, adding tension/fear.
Props- Can become very important within the horror genre, especially in the “Slasher”
section as Antagonists/films can be remembered because of ionic props. Examples:
The Nightmare On Elm Street- Freddy Krueger has Finger Nail Knives 7is known for
wearing a green & red striped jumper. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuYoEtEI_go
Saw- Has multiple horrific cruel traps that people remember & is known as a clown with red
swirls on it‟s cheeks. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foiRWtJTmo0
Friday The Thirteenth- Jason Voorhees has a machete & white hockey mask.
The Shining- Johnny chases his wife & boy with an axe, iconic scene where he chops
through the bathroom door. An axe is used to link in with the history of the hotel & the
previous owner (Linking in with setting-going to a place with history).
Saw- Iconic clown on a tricycle & 2
The Nightmare On Elm
Street- Freddy Krueger & one
of his victims.
Friday The 13th- Jason
Voorhees & one of his victims ^
The Shining- Johnny
Torrance & the twin
girls that are seen
repeatedly within the
There is always a hero in this genre, a protagonist, a man or “final girl” of the
film- Someone who is always left standing trying to stop whatever is creating
all of the horror/death.
The classis narrative for a horror film is made applicable for the entire horror
genre & either has some form of closure/ end or leaves the film open for
sequels & trilogies E.g. Halloween, Omen, Etc.
However, the narrative can also go off & be more formulaic, becoming more
present within the sub-genre‟s rather than horror as a whole. This change is
most noticeable in the “Slasher” genre- where the antagonist returns to their
home town after something like a deep seeded trauma/event turning them
psychotic so that they then therefore mainly prey on teenagers, creating chaos
& death within their town. The teenagers are often immoral & most of the time
have caused the start of the horror. At the end of these films there is most likely
going to be one survivor, normally an anti-stereotypical strong female. E.g.
The Main Protagonist- Often the main victim within the film
& the person left to stop whatever the horror is, so a hero.
The Antagonist- Often a monster, mutated freak, alien, ghost/demon or serial
The stupid/immoral teenager- A character who always gets killed off, normally
very early into the film.
Creepy children- often either possessed or being manipulated.
Police Officers- Either always good or bad, generally to late to prevent
anything from happening or are powerless over the situation & have no effect
on the situation.
Also many more depending on the sub genre of the film: Zombies, demons,
psychopaths, werewolf, stalker etc.
A horror film is generally based around a certain idea or theme, which it
creates it‟s narrative. A few example of themes are:
Good VS Evil: E.g. „House Of Good & Evil‟
Fact(Based around an event that is known to be fact): E.g. „The
Exorcism Of Emily Rose‟.
Religion: E.g. „The Exorcist‟
Childhood Issues: E.g. „Silent House‟
Revenge: E.g. „I Spit On Your Grave‟
Super-Natural: E.g. „The Conjuring‟
Science/Experiment gone wrong: E.g. „Rottweiler‟
Zombie Apocalypse: E.g. „28 Days Later‟
Nightmares: E.g. „A Nightmare On Elm Street‟
Insanity: E.g. „The Asylum‟
5.the novel by Stephen King- a traditional
Carrie is a film based on
horror writer. The film is about shy girl outcast by her peers and
sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic
terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior
prom. Originally this film was released in 1978. However in 2013,
director Kimberly Peirce decided to remake the classic, improving
it‟s graphics & CGI. Remaking a film is always a risky move as the
remakes could ruin the original. However, its box office success &
rates prove the gamble paid off as this film is the fifth highest
grossing horror of 2013, bringing in an average of $80,297,909.
Here is a link to the official trailer:
4. Evil Dead
Evil Dead is again another remake of an old film which was originally released in 1981.
The film is about five twenty-something friends become holed up in a remote cabin.
When they discover a Book of the Dead, they unwittingly summon up dormant demons
living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one
is left intact to fight for survival. Again the remake was proven to be a big success as it
take a classic loved storyline & makes it better & much more terrifying through the use
of better technology & filming effects. This film brought in a worldwide gross of around
Here is the link to the 2013 trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKFDkpHCQz4
This film was directed by Andy Muschietti, who was also one of the Cowriters for the film. Based on Andres Muschietti's 2008 short film, where a
couple (Annabel and Lucas) are faced with the challenge of raising his
young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years because their
dad killed their mother, but what happened to the dad? The children
always appear to be talking to the walls & doctors question how the
children stayed alive on their own in the woods for 5 years, the question
of this film is actually how alone were they? Bringing in a worldwide
gross of $147,894,153 this film proved to be very popular throughout the
box office as it‟s a new storyline that no one has ever seen, intriguing
Horror fans to see how the genre is developing.
Trailer link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZlY47eCdas
2. Insidious: Chapter 2…
Following the release of the film „Insidious‟, the audience was left on a
huge cliff hanger so it was only expected that there would be more films to
come, concluding the story & giving the audience some answers. So, for
the second film the famed horror team of director James Wan and writer
Leigh Whannell reunite with the original cast to release chapter 2 of this
story, a terrifying sequel to the acclaimed horror film, which follows the
haunted Lambert family as they seek to uncover the mysterious childhood
secret that has left them dangerously connected to the spirit world.
Leaving the audience on a cliff hanger must‟ve been a good choice as it
helped bring in a worldwide gross of $161,111,10 proving to be a very
popular choice of horror for 2013, however, it wasn‟t popular enough to
claim the top spot but still very successful non the less. Trailer Link:
1. The Conjuring …
Finally, the most successful horror of 2013 is „The Conjuring‟. Before
there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on the true life story,
The Conjuring tells the tale of how world renowned paranormal
investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family
terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to
confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught
in the most horrifying case of their lives. This film brought in a worldwide
gross of $316,700,141 & could possibly of been the most favoured
because it‟s based on real events? Many people prefer seeing horror‟s
based on true stories as they‟re believers of the supernatural, or maybe
it was popular because of the director (who directed saw & insidious, the
film that claimed second place) & actors. In any case I believe this film
deserves to have the top spot & will continually scare all who watch it.
Trailer Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FCaLiZtu9s