THE EVOLUTION OF
THE HORROR GENRE
1930’S – 1940’S
During the early period of talking pictures, the American movie studio Universal
Pictures began a successful Gothic horror films.
Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) was quickly followed by James Whale’s
Some of these blended science fiction films with gothic horror such as, The
Invisible Man (1933) which featured the storyline of a mad scientist.
These films were designed for thrill and incorporated more serious elements to
the audience which was popular for many years after the release.
The Mummy (1932) was first to introduce Egyptology as a theme for the genre.
Make-up artist Jack Pierce was responsible for the iconic image of the monster
and others in the series.
Universals horror cycle continued into the 1940’s, these included The Wolf Man
1950’S – 1960’S
With advances in technology, the tone of horror films shifted from the Gothic towards contemporary
concerns of that time. The two sub-genres began to emerge: the horror of Armageddon film and the
horror of the demonic film. A steam of usually low-budget productions featured humanity overcoming
threats from “outside” i.e. alien invasions and deadly mutations of people, plants and insects. An example
of this the horror film Japan Godzilla (1954) based on the mutation from the effects of nuclear radiation.
Some horror films during this period, such as The Thing from Another World (1951) and Invasion of the
Body Snatchers(1956), managed to channel the paranoia of the Cold War into atmospheric creepiness.
Filmmakers continued to merge elements of science fiction and horror over the following decades.
During the later 1950s, 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.
1970’S TO 1980’S
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 in the 1970s. The Exorcist (1973), the first of these movies, was a significant
commercial success, and 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. The ideas of the 1960s began to influence horror films, as the youth
involved in the counterculture began exploring the medium. Wes Cravens The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and
Tobe Hooper’s; The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) recalled the Vietnam war; George A. Romero
satirized the consumer society in his zombie sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Movie sub-genre by exploring contemporary fears about technology and society, and
reinventing "body horror", starting with Shivers (1975). In 1975, Steven Spielberg
began his ascension to fame with Jaws (1975). The film kicked off a wave of killer
animal stories. Jaws is often credited as being one of the first films to use traditionally
B movie elements such as horror and mild gore in a big-budget Hollywood film. Alien
(1979) combined the naturalistic acting and graphic violence of the 1970s with the
monster movie plots of earlier decades, and used science fiction
In 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, Halloween and Childs Play all saw
sequels in the 1990s, most of which met with varied amounts of success at the box office, but
all were panned by fans and critics. New Nightmare, with In the Mouth of Madness (1995),
The Dark Half (1993), and Candyman (1992), were part of a mini-movement of self-reflexive
or metafictional horror films. Each film touched upon the relationship between fictional
horror and real-world horror. Candyman, for example, examined the link between an invented
urban legend and the realistic horror of the racism that produced its villain. Two main
problems pushed horror backward during this period: firstly, the horror genre wore itself out
with the proliferation of nonstop slasher and gore films in the eighties.
To re-connect with its audience, horror became more self-mockingly ironic and outright
parodic, and mixed ironic humour with the shocks (despite Scream 2 and 3 utilising less use
of the humour of the original, until Scream 4 in 2011, and rather more references to horror
film conventions). Along with I Know What You Did Last Summer (written by Kevin
Williamson as well) and Urban Legend, they re-ignited the dormant slasher film genre.
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, courtesy of the special
effects possibilities with advances made in computer-generated imagery.
The start of the 2000s saw a quiet period for the genre. The release of an extended version of The
Exorcist in September 2000 was successful despite the film having been available on home video
for years. Valentine (2001), notably starring David Boreanaz, had some success at the box office,
but was derided by critics for being formulaic and relying on foregone horror film conventions.
Franchise films such as Freddy vs. Jason also made a stand in theatres. Final Destination (2000)
marked a successful revival of teen-centered horror and spawned four sequels. The Jeepers
Creepers series was also successful. Films such as Orphan, Wrong Turn, Cabin Fever, House of
1000 Corpses, and the previous mentions helped bring the genre back to Restricted ratings in
2000s continuedA French horror film Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) became the second-
highest-grossing French language film in the United States in the last two decades.
The success of foreign language foreign films continued with the Swedish films Marianne (2011)
and Let the Right One In (2008), which was later the subject of a Hollywood remake, Let Me In
(2010). Another trend is the emergence of psychology to scare audiences, rather than gore. The
Others (2001) proved to be a successful example of psychological horror film. A minimalist
approach which was equal parts Val Lewton’s theory of "less is more" (usually employing the low-
budget techniques utilized on The Blair Witch Project, 1999) has been evident, particularly in the
emergence of Asian horror movies which have been remade into successful Americanized
versions, such as The Ring (2002), and The Grudge (2004). In March 2008, China banned the
movies from its market.
WHY HAS THE GENRE
Over the years the horror genre has changed quite a bit, A lot of this is down the to advances in
technology. As the years go on the technology gets to a higher level and a greater standard therefore
making it a lot easier to creates characters, as masks & costumes can be made much easier and to abetter
level. Effects can now be created and added in the make the film more scary, this could not of been done
on the scale in can be now in the2000s then say the 1930s as the technology is very different and multiple
times better. Another reason for the change of the horror genre would be the place the horror movie was
made, different countries mean different audiences, for example Asian & Japanese horror is very different
to western horror as the cultures are different, they different elements within them. Asian horror will
have more of a depth to the story line and not consist of multiple gorey scenes, giving them more of a
creepy feel. Whereas Western horror movies don’t go into as much depth and are less creepy and more
gory, as they will have a lot more bloody gory scenes.