History of the Horror
The German Expressionism started in the 1900’s as a result to WW1. At this time Germany found itself
stuck due to the high demand of creating its own films because the government had banned foreign
films from being watched in the nation.
‘The Cabinet of Dr Caligari’ (1919)
By 1922 the German film industry was becoming more known with international audiences. The original banning of foreign films
1916 was lifted and German cinema became a part of the international film industry. The plots to most German expressionist horror
movies were mostly about madness, insanity, betrayal and other topics that were opposite to the typical ‘rom-com’ and ‘action’
movie plots. The outrageous set design complimented the topics perfectly and made the silent horror movies very popular with
their audiences in the 1900’s.
The German expressionism period in the horror film industry was starting to die out after its popular few years. However even the
short lived period was over its extremely popular topics and movies had influenced film and theatre for years to come it was used a
lot in 1920’s and 1930’s to add crazy artistic imagery to the film to set a certain type of mood throughout the film.
When the Nazi’s took over Germany a lot of German film-makers moved to Hollywood and brought there dark, moody filmmaking
techniques to the USA and a lot of German filmmakers found themselves also producing their own Hollywood films. The German
expressionism influenced to main genres of film in the US horror film and film noir. During the silent era Universal Studios made
themselves very known by creating some of the most famous and popular horror films during the time
such as Lon Chaney’s ‘The Phantom of The Opera’
‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (1925)
In the 1940’s film makers such as Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock bought expressionism into the film
they produced. This shows that vast extremity of impact the German expressionism had on the film
industry and also it has inspired some of the best filmmakers.
Horror in Classic Literature
Gothic horror is a genre that combines both romance and horror. A classic example of this is ‘Frankenstein’ the novel written by
Mary Shelley in 1818, Frankenstein is a story about a science experiment gone wrong that results in the creation of a monster. The
story combines horror, romance and science fiction.
Dracula is another classic gothic horror novel written by Irish author Bram Stoker in 1897. The novel follows of Dracula who is trying
to move from Transylvania to England and the obstacles he faces against a group of men and woman led by Professor Abraham Van
Helsing. It’s been famous for introducing the well know Count Dracula and has been assigned to many literary and horror genres
such as vampire literature, gothic horror, horror fiction and invasion literature.
Horror Films 1860 – 2000
1860 – 1920’s
The first documentation of horror was in the 19th
century a three minuet
movie called ‘Le Manoir du Diable’ made by George Melies in 1869. The
movie was completely silent and incorporated many pantomime elements
for entertainment of the audience. In the 1860’s there were many images
of ghosts and other nightmarish creatures and shadowy figures in clips
created by double exposure camera shots. This ghostly entertainment led
to audiences and people believe in such myths.
The silent era for horror movies continued into 1910 and 20’s with films such as ‘The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari’ which was about an evil doctor who puts an ordinary man into an asylum. Furthermore ‘Nosferatu’ was thought
to be first vampire of this time and overall he first for the gothic/vampire horror genre.
In the 1930’s the horror genre changed and revolutionised
through the entrance of sound which changed the face of
cinema. This allowed film studios to play with more special
effects due to the increase in funding which resulted in more
supernatural films to be released. Films such as ‘Dracula’ and
the adaptation of Mry Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein’ written and
directed by J. Searle Dawley which lasted 16 minutes and was
the first motion to be adapted from a film. Both these films were
extremely well received by audiences and reviewed well by
In the 1940’s horror films came to a standstill as it was during
WW2 in which in many countries and especially Britt=ain horror
films were banned or hard to release. However they were being
produced a lot of the time in America. There were two majors
films in the 1940’s that did well which were ‘The Wolfman’ and
‘Cat People’, however both these films did not reach the type of
success that films reached in the 1930’s.
The 1950’s was a decade of experimentation and saw an increase in 3D movies due to the significant advances in
technology. This was known as the golden era’ and released 3D horror films such as ‘House of Wax’. The 50’s
showed a lot more monstrous creatures being shown in the cinema screens and more films being produced of this
type. In this decade the studios were continually trying to keep up with television audiences. The main popularity
of horror genre in the 50’s was amongst teenagers who kept this interest going.During this decade two sub genres
were created amongst the horror genre itself. These were the horror-of-armageddon film and the horror-of the-
demonic films. The gothic theme of horror films was starting to fade and horror became more about modern day
fears and concerns such as deadly mutation of people and animals that created a monstrous threat to society. This
was evident in films such as ‘Godzilla’ and ‘The Fly’. These deadly creatures were created by stop motion and
models. These monstrous creatures also led to introduction of sci-fi horror in which audiences were
introduced to fear such as ‘other kinds’ taking over our society, in particular aliens. An example of this is the
film ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ made in 1956 which was popular amongst audiences and critics.
The 1960’s was a time of real horror, this is when there horror film were introducing a lot more gore into
the movies and a lot of money was being invested in them looking good and entertaining. The 50s
monstrous creatures and alien were becoming extinct and more unrealistic to the audiences. Sex and
violence was becoming a main theme that was being explored in horror movies which audiences seem to
enjoy. The 60’s was a time dominated by the great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s who blew the room of
horror cinema with then and sill not iconic films ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Birds’ which are still known as the horror
film that are true masterpieces.
The 70’s was a completely different era to others it took on different themes in horror. The film budgets were
increasing, making the storyline more believable and entertaining as well as people views on what society
believed horror was. The era was very dominated by the idea of ‘devil children’ which was popular amongst
audiences. The most successful horror film in this decade evoking this theme of a devil child was ‘The Exorcist’
which made $441m at the box office. Other films such as ‘Carrie’ 1976 and The Omen 197 were also amongst
the popular films in this decade. Furthermore there also came films with thrilling story line and much more
gore such as ‘Jaws’ 1975 and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974.
As they decades went on technology became more advanced and budgets were
getting bigger for horror films. This was also the case in the 80’s, an example of a
successful sci-fi horror was ‘Alien’ 1986 by Ridley Scott which was a masterpiece of
this decade. Another critically acclaimed film was the adaptation of Stephen Kings
‘The Shining’ which became one of most successful and still best horror films off all
time. The film showed that you did not just need gore to be a horror movie but a
gripping plot with many twist and turns is also as entertaining and horrifying. This
era led to many m=horror films becoming cult classics such as ‘A Nightmare on Elm
Street’ and ‘Childs Play’ which created a huge controversial uproar as it was banned due to the influence on kids.
The 90’s era of horror films showed a turning from the splatter genre, blood and
gore of films and adapted to the psychological thriller and theme with very much
disturbing plot lines and characters. This is shown in films such as ‘Silence of the
Lambs’ and ‘Candyman’. Although slasher films were becoming less recognisable
in the 90’s they were still running with films such as ‘Scream’ and ‘I Know What
You Did Last Summer’.
The 2000’s show many varied themes in the horror genre. It represented the cult classics
of eras before in movies such as ’28 Days Later’ 2002 which was received well by both
audiences and critics. The 2000’s has become very popular in horror sequel movies such as
‘Scary Movie’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ which have become super successful with
audiences. However there has also been some negative attitudes as the decade has bought
a remade many cult classics such as ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Evil Dead’ and the
horror genre has been accused for not being able to create unique an innovative new
horror films therefore resulting in remakes of classics. This decade has also allowed the rise
in popularity of Japanese horror which became a
pinnacle for movies such as ‘The Grudge’ 2004 and
‘Ringu’ 2002 globally.