The History of Horror Films

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  • 1. The History of Horror Films The first horror movies created were short silent films made by a man named Georges Méliès in the late 1890‟s. A film called Le Manoir du diable was classed as the first horror movie, he also created a film in 1898‟s called La Caveme Maudite, which is called The Cave of the Unholy One in English, which is literally “the accursed cave”. Japan also created their own type of horror movies with names such as; Bake Jizo and Shinin no Sosei, which were both, made in 1898. In 1910 the first version of Frankenstein that was produced by Edison Studios and it was said that Frankenstein was thought lost for many years. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was classed as the second monster appearance in the horror movie genre that had appeared in the novel, Notre-Dame de Paris written by Victor Hugo in 1831. In the 1930‟s, which were during the early period of taking pictures, the American Movie studio Universal Pictures began to create Gothic horror, which was very successful. They produced many new movies such as; Tod Browning‟s Dracula 1931, James Whale‟s Frankenstein 1931 and The Old Dark House 1932. Both Frankenstein and The Old Dark House featured Boris Karloff as the monster in the films, which could suggest that he played the act of being a monster very successfully. Due to the advances of technology through the years, in the 1950s1960s, the tone of horror films went from Gothic towards different genres such as: the horror-of-Armageddon and the horror-of-thedemonic film. Many of the directors and producers from Hollywood would sometimes find opportunities for audience exploitation with gimmicks such as 3-D. Films like The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers managed to channel paranoia of the Cold War into
  • 2. atmospheric creepiness. Many filmmakers were continuing to merge elements of science fiction and horror over the decades. Richard Matheson‟s existentialist novel The Incredible Shrinking Man was part of the era which was considered a “pulp masterpiece”, while more of a Sci-Fi story the film showed the fears of living in the Atomic Age and the terror of social alienation. During the late 1950‟s, Great Britain emerged as a producer of horror films. The Hammer Company focused on the genre for the first time, enjoying huge international success from films involving classic horror characters which were shown in colour for the first time. British director Michael Powell‟s Peeping Tom which was released in 1960 was the first ever slasher film. It was about a serial killer who combines his profession as a photographer with the moments before murdering his victims. After Peeping Tom the next slasher film was Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock, and also The Birds. An example of natural horror which the menace stems from mature having gone mad. In France, Eyes Without a Face continued the mad scientist theme. The end of the Production Code of America in 1964. The financial successes of the low-budget gore films of the ensuing years, and the critical and popular success of Rosemary‟s Baby, led to the release of more films with occult themes during the 1970s. The Exorcist was the first of these movies, released in 1973. This was a commercial success, this film was followed by scores of horror films in which the Devil represented the supernatural evil, often by impregnating women or possessing children. The genre also included gory horror movies with sexual overtones, made as “A-movies”. The subjects of „Evil Children‟ and reincarnation became very popular. For example, Robert Wise‟s film Audrey Rose, deals with a man who claims his daughter is the reincarnation of another dead person. Another example would be Alice, Sweet Alice, this is another Catholic-themed horror slasher about a little girl‟s murder and her sister being the prime suspect.
  • 3. In the 1970s, author Stephen King began to be adapted for the screen, beginning with the adaption of Carrie by Brian De Palma, which was Stephen King‟s first published novel. His third published novel was the very famous The Shining which was directed by Stanley Kubrick, which was a sleeper at the box office, receiving mixed reviews after it being released, but eventually began to be considered as a classic. During the 1970s and early 80s many of slasher films were created. John Carpenter created Halloween, Sean Cunningham made Friday the 13th and Wes Craven directed A Nightmare On Elm Street. This sub-genre would be mined by dozens of increasingly violent movies throughout the decades, and Halloween became a successful independent film. The 1980s seen a wave of horror films – although most of them were panned by critics, many became cult classics and later seen the success with the critics. An example of this would be Sam Raimi‟s Evil Dead movies, they were low-budget gore-fests but had a very original plotline which was later praised by critics. During the first half of the 1990s the genre continued many of the themes from the 1980s. The slasher films A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Child‟s Play all had sequels which most of them met with varied amounts of success at the box office. However, all were panned by fans and critics, with the exception of Wes Craven‟s New Nightmare and hugely successful Silence of the Lambs. Two main problems pushed horror backward: firstly, the horror genre wore itself out with the proliferation of nonstop slasher and gore films. Secondly, the adolescent audience which feasted on the blood and morbidity of the previous decade grew up, and the replacement
  • 4. audience for films of an imaginative nature were being captured instead by the explosion of science-fiction and fantasy films. The History of Horror Films The first horror movies created were short silent films made by a man named Georges Méliès in the late 1890‟s. A film called Le Manoir du diable was classed as the first horror movie, he also created a film in 1898‟s called La Caveme Maudite, which is called The Cave of the Unholy One in English, which is literally “the accursed cave”. Japan also created their own type of horror movies with names such as; Bake Jizo and Shinin no Sosei, which were both, made in 1898. In 1910 the first version of Frankenstein that was produced by Edison Studios and it was said that Frankenstein was thought lost for many years. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was classed as the second monster appearance in the horror movie genre that had appeared in the novel, Notre-Dame de Paris written by Victor Hugo in 1831. In the 1930‟s, which were during the early period of taking pictures, the American Movie studio Universal Pictures began to create Gothic horror, which was very successful. They produced many new movies such as; Tod Browning‟s Dracula 1931, James Whale‟s Frankenstein 1931 and The Old Dark House 1932. Both Frankenstein and The Old Dark House featured Boris Karloff as the monster in the films, which could suggest that he played the act of being a monster very successfully. Due to the advances of technology through the years, in the 1950s1960s, the tone of horror films went from Gothic towards different genres such as: the horror-of-Armageddon and the horror-of-thedemonic film. Many of the directors and producers from Hollywood would sometimes find opportunities for audience exploitation with gimmicks such as 3-D.
  • 5. Films like The Thing from Another World and Invasion of the Body Snatchers managed to channel paranoia of the Cold War into atmospheric creepiness. Many filmmakers were continuing to merge elements of science fiction and horror over the decades. Richard Matheson‟s existentialist novel The Incredible Shrinking Man was part of the era which was considered a “pulp masterpiece”, while more of a Sci-Fi story the film showed the fears of living in the Atomic Age and the terror of social alienation. During the late 1950‟s, Great Britain emerged as a producer of horror films. The Hammer Company focused on the genre for the first time, enjoying huge international success from films involving classic horror characters which were shown in colour for the first time. British director Michael Powell‟s Peeping Tom which was released in 1960 was the first ever slasher film. It was about a serial killer who combines his profession as a photographer with the moments before murdering his victims. After Peeping Tom the next slasher film was Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock, and also The Birds. An example of natural horror which the menace stems from mature having gone mad. In France, Eyes Without a Face continued the mad scientist theme. The end of the Production Code of America in 1964. The financial successes of the low-budget gore films of the ensuing years, and the critical and popular success of Rosemary‟s Baby, led to the release of more films with occult themes during the 1970s. The Exorcist was the first of these movies, released in 1973. This was a commercial success, this film was followed by scores of horror films in which the Devil represented the supernatural evil, often by impregnating women or possessing children. The genre also included gory horror movies with sexual overtones, made as “A-movies”. The subjects of „Evil Children‟ and reincarnation became very popular. For example, Robert Wise‟s film Audrey Rose, deals with a man who claims his daughter is the reincarnation of another dead person. Another example would be Alice, Sweet Alice,
  • 6. this is another Catholic-themed horror slasher about a little girl‟s murder and her sister being the prime suspect. In the 1970s, author Stephen King began to be adapted for the screen, beginning with the adaption of Carrie by Brian De Palma, which was Stephen King‟s first published novel. His third published novel was the very famous The Shining which was directed by Stanley Kubrick, which was a sleeper at the box office, receiving mixed reviews after it being released, but eventually began to be considered as a classic. During the 1970s and early 80s many of slasher films were created. John Carpenter created Halloween, Sean Cunningham made Friday the 13th and Wes Craven directed A Nightmare On Elm Street. This sub-genre would be mined by dozens of increasingly violent movies throughout the decades, and Halloween became a successful independent film. The 1980s seen a wave of horror films – although most of them were panned by critics, many became cult classics and later seen the success with the critics. An example of this would be Sam Raimi‟s Evil Dead movies, they were low-budget gore-fests but had a very original plotline which was later praised by critics. During the first half of the 1990s the genre continued many of the themes from the 1980s. The slasher films A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and Child‟s Play all had sequels which most of them met with varied amounts of success at the box office. However, all were panned by fans and critics, with the exception of Wes Craven‟s New Nightmare and hugely successful Silence of the Lambs. Two main problems pushed horror backward: firstly, the horror genre wore itself out with the proliferation of nonstop slasher and gore films.
  • 7. Secondly, the adolescent audience which feasted on the blood and morbidity of the previous decade grew up, and the replacement audience for films of an imaginative nature were being captured instead by the explosion of science-fiction and fantasy films. To reconnect with the audience, horror became more self-mockingly ironic and outright parodic, especially in the latter half of the 1990s. Wes Craven‟s Scream movies, starting in 1996, featured teenagers who were fully aware of, and often made reference to, the history of horror movies and mixed ironic humor with the shocks. In the start of 2000 there was a quiet period for the horror genre. The release of an extended version of The Exorcist was successful, despite trhe film having been available on home video for years. Remakes of earlier horror movies became routine in the 2000s, including Dawn of the Dead, Maniacs and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There was also the remake of Halloween by Rob Zombie. This film was more focused on Michael‟s backstory than the original, devoting the first half of the film to Michael‟s childhood. It was critically panned by most, but was a success in its theatrical run, which led to its very own sequel. Among the many iother remakes of popular horror films and franchises are such films as Thirteen Ghosts (2001), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Children of the Corn (2009), Prom Night (2008), Day of the Dead (2008) and My Bloody Valentine (2009). To reconnect with the audience, horror became more self-mockingly ironic and outright parodic, especially in the latter half of the 1990s. Wes Craven‟s Scream movies, starting in 1996, featured teenagers who were fully aware of, and often made reference to, the history of horror movies and mixed ironic humor with the shocks.
  • 8. In the start of 2000 there was a quiet period for the horror genre. The release of an extended version of The Exorcist was successful, despite trhe film having been available on home video for years. Remakes of earlier horror movies became routine in the 2000s, including Dawn of the Dead, Maniacs and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There was also the remake of Halloween by Rob Zombie. This film was more focused on Michael‟s backstory than the original, devoting the first half of the film to Michael‟s childhood. It was critically panned by most, but was a success in its theatrical run, which led to its very own sequel. Among the many iother remakes of popular horror films and franchises are such films as Thirteen Ghosts (2001), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Children of the Corn (2009), Prom Night (2008), Day of the Dead (2008) and My Bloody Valentine (2009).