History of the Horror
Horror Features and Elements
The Horror Genre seeks to bring out a negative emotional
reaction from viewers by playing on the audience‟s primal
fears. They usually feature scenes that startle the viewer and
sometimes overlap with the fantasy, supernatural and thriller
Horror films often deal with the viewers hidden fears,
nightmares, revulsions and, terror of the unknown. Many
plots within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an
evil force, event or personage, which is commonly a
supernatural origin, entering into the everyday world.
Characters/elements include things like, ghosts, vampires,
werewolves, demons, vicious animals, monsters, zombies
and serial killers.
Horror in 1890s-1920s
In 1910, the first „monster‟ was made real through a film from
Edison Studios, producing the first version of Frankenstein,
which was thought lost for many years.
The second monster appeared in a horror film which was
Quasimodo, who was the hunchback of Notre-Dame. This
monster was shown in many films like Esmeralda (1905) and
Notre-Dame de Paris (1911).
Another monster, a vampire, was shown in the first vampirethemed movie during this time called Nosferatu (1922). This
was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula.
Hollywood dramas used horror themes too including versions
of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1923) and The Monster
Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1920)
The Phantom Carriage (Sweden, 1920)
The Lost World (1925)
The Phantom Of The Opera (1925)
Waxworks (Germany, 1924)
London After Midnight (1927)
Horror in 1930s-1940s
During the early period, the American Movie studio Universal
Pictures began a successful Gothic Horror film series. This
included films like Dracula (1931) and was quickly followed with
Frankenstein (1931) and The Old Dark House (1932).
Some of theses gothic horror films blended with science fiction
such as The Invisible Man (1933). These were created to thrill the
audience but to also incorporate more serious elements.
Frankenstein was the first series which lasted for many years with
films like Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein
Universal Studios influenced other studios to make horrors like Tod
Browning who made a film called Freaks (1932) which was about a
band of circus freaks. The studio disowned the completed film after
cutting about 30 minutes; it remained unreleased in the UK for 30
Mystery of the Wax Museum (Warner Brothers, 1933)
Island of Lost Souls (Paramount, 1932)
The Body Snatcher (1945)
Cat People (1942)
I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
The Wolf Man (1941)
Horror in 1950s-1960s
A stream of low-budget productions started to feature overcoming
threats from the “outside” such as alien invasions and deadly
mutations to people, plants and insects. An example of this is the
horror film from Japan, Godzilla (1954) and its sequels, which also
included effects of nuclear radiation.
During the 1950s, Great Britain emerged as a producer of horror
films. The Hammer Productions company started to focus on the
horror genre for the first time, gaining huge international success as
they were involving classic horror characters in colour for the first
time. For example, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula
Peeping Tom (1960) by British Producer Michael Powell was the
first “slasher” movie. This film concerns a serial killer who combines
his occupation as a photographer with the moments before
murdering his victims. Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock was also a
“slasher” film but also had examples of natural horror.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Black Sunday (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
Horror in the 1970s-1980s
The Exorcist (1973), made significant commercial success,
and was followed by many more films in which the Devil
represented the supernatural evil, often by impregnating
women or possessing children.
“Evil Children” and reincarnation became popular subjects.
Audrey Rose (1977) is an example of this, as the film deals
with a man who claims that his daughter is the reincarnation
of another dead person.
A cycle of slasher films were made during the 1970s and
early 1980s for example, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
The 1980s saw a wave of gory “B movie” horror films,
although most of them were panned by critics, many became
cult classics and later saw success with critics with films such
as the Evil Dead movies and the classic Fright Night (1985).
Friday the 13th (1980)
The Shining (1980)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Horror in the 1990s
The first half of the 1990s, the genre continued many themes from
the 1980s, like the slasher films. Silence of the Lambs (1991) was
extremely successful at this time.
Horror was pushed backwards during this period by two main
- the horror genre wore itself out with the reproduction of nonstop
slasher and gore films from the eighties.
- the adolescent audience which feasted on the blood and horror of
the previous decade grew up, and the replacement audience of
films of an imaginative nature were being captured instead. This
included an explosion of science-fiction and fantasy films.
To re-connect with its audience, horror became more selfmockingly ironic and outright parodic, especially in the later half of
the 1990s. Films like Scream started in 1996 and became popular
with the usual mix of horror and ironic humour which led to 4
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
New Nightmare (1994)
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
Horror in the 2000s
A release of an extended version of The Exorcist in
September 2000 was successful despite the film being
available on home video for years. The Jeepers Creepers
series was also successful. Remakes of the earlier horror
movies became routine in the 2000s. They were popular with
There was a major return of the zombie genre in horror
movies made after 2000. The Return of the Living Dead
(1985) was inspiration to zombie movies as it had a style of
Some updated remakes:
- Dawn of the Dead (2004)
- Shaun of the Dead (2004) mixed with the comedy genre
Final Destination (2000)
The Ring (2002)
Silent Hill (2006)
Prom Night (2008)
Paranormal Activity (2009)
The Wolfman (2010)
Piranha 3D (2010)
Fright Night (2011)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Evil Dead (2013)
The Conjuring (2013)