What is horror fiction?• The main aim of Horror fiction is to scare, to drive strong emotions in the audience.• There are many ways to scare, using features of fantasy, science fiction or thriller fiction.• This sometimes create confusion, however the aim of horror fiction is to scare, all the other things are only means to an end.
Why fear?• Fear is the strongest of all emotion, only love can compare.• This is the reason why there are only two genres based on emotion: horror and love stories.• Fear is the oldest of all emotions, even reptiles or frogs are fearful.• Fear is so important that many psychiatrists and psychoanalist think that personality type is linked with existential fears and ways of fear management.• Paul Ekman published in 1957 the first of a series of revolutionary works that proved that fear is one of the few emotion, like anger and happiness, that is the same on the faces of people from all countries of the world.
• The first modern horror fiction stories arose during the eighteenth century, with the gothic fiction tradition melding horror and romance.• The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, The Monk, The Mysteries of Udolpho introduced many troupes of the genre, like ghosts, haunted manors, damsels in distress.• During the nineteenth century were written many of the most famous horror stories: Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula.• Other great authors of the time were Sheridan Le Fanu, Edgar Allan Poe and, in the early twentieth century, H.P.Lovecraft.
What are the sub-genres of horror?• Action horror: horror & guns• Body horror: monstrous transformation of the body.• Comedy horror: horror & comedy• Gothic horror:horror with victorian themes.• Natural horror: the monsters are normal animals.• Psychological horror:character-centered horrors.• Science fiction horror: horror in space.• Slasher films: bad guys with knives.• Splatter films: horror centered on gore and blood.• Zombie films: who need an explanation?
The first American age of horror:’30-’40• Universal studios produced many of the classic of the genre, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, made by the duo Karloff-Lugosi• The other companies, especially MGM, tried to pursuit Universal’ successes with Freaks, Dr. Jekill and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Lost Souls, The Mysteries of the Wax Museum.
The British age of horror: the ’50 up until 1964• Hammer films was the leading movie company of the time for horror films, making new colour version of Universal’s Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, made by the duo Peter Cushing-Christopher Lee.• This films influenced the other side of Atlantic, with the American International Pictures’ Poe-themed films starring Vincent Price.• The great british director Alfred Hitchcock made two of the most earning horror films of the time: Psycho and The Birds.
The second American age: from 1964 up to the nineties• 1964 was the year of the great change: the end of the Motion Picture Production Code, moral guidelines for the movie industry, spurred a new wave of violent, blood filled, esoteric-themed films, previously not allowed.• We have the beginning of the splatter and zombie genre with Night of the Living Dead, the beginning of body and demonic horror with Rosemary’s baby.• With the seventies the genre explode with The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Shining, Jaws , Alien, Dawn of the Dead in the eighties with A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing, The Evil Dead, Friday the 13 th, Halloween, up to the nineties with Bram Stocker’s Dracula, In the Mouth of Madness and Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles
The decay of the horror genre• In the nineties the production of films became a giant, well-oiled industry, with SFX companies and specialized directors for every genre; however the rising costs of films drove the need to avoid problems with public opinion, eliminating from mainstream movies gore, sex, violence and social criticism. The search for ever- increasing audiences had the outcome that modern «horror» movies are rarely forbidden to the youngs!
Hope for the future• As for other art, like music or videogames, innovation and daring now are the province only of small to medium developers, using internet as the medium of choice; the first of this new wave of works was The Blair Witch Project.• There has been a renaissance of the violent, gore films, with a wave of remake of classics of the seventies. The good results at the box office is encouraging some to begin anew to produce horror films. Only time will tell if is a fad or a true trend.