Horror is a film genre seeking to draw out both negative and emotional reactions from the
audience by playing on the audience’s primal fears. Originally, horror was inspired by literature
from authors such as, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. Very popular themes
that often feature throughout horror films are the macabre and the supernatural. Horror films
will often portray the viewer’s nightmares, hidden fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown.
Plots will often entail the invasion of an evil force, event, or personage, commonly of
supernatural origin, into the everyday world. Common elements that appear frequently
throughout horror films include: ghosts, aliens, vampires, werewolves, demons, gore, torture,
vicious animals, evil witches, monsters, zombies, cannibals, and serial killers.
Combines the intrusion of evil, an event or the supernatural. Action horror movies may typically have gun fights
and frantic chases that are performed throughout the film. The themes and elements that are usually seen
throughout this particularly sub genre are the following: zombies, demons, gore, vicious animals as well as
vampires. Examples of movies include: Blade, Dawn of the Dead and From Dusk Till Dawn.
This type of horror is generated from the degeneration or deconstruction of the human body. This means that
human body parts are used to create monsters for unnatural movements and dysfunction in order to create fear
for the audience. Examples of movies include: Teeth, The Invasion and Slither.
Combines elements of horror fiction and comedy. Usually has some form of humour whilst also providing scary
and dramatic moments for the audience. Examples of movies include: Scary Movie, A Haunted House and This is
Usually contains supernatural beings and threat. The Gothic creates feelings of mystery, gloom and suspense and
tends to the dramatic and the sensational, like incest, diabolism, and nameless terrors. Gothic Horror films may
feature castles, dungeons and ruined or extreme landscapes. Examples of movies include: Frankenstein, Dracula
and Dorian Gray.
Relies on characters’ fears and emotional instability in order to build tension. Tension is built using eerie sounds
and exploitation which builds the character’s psychological fears. Examples of movies include: The Silence of the
Lambs, The Ring and A Tale of Two Sisters.
Revolve around subjects that include but are not limited to alien invasions, mad scientists, and experiments
gone wrong. This particular sub genre may also include the fear of technology. Examples of movies include:
Alien, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Alien vs. Predator.
This particular sub genre tends to include a lot of violence which often has a psychopathic serial killer whom
will stalk and kill several victims. The killer will typically have a specific weapon of their choice which they will
then use on the victims. A lot of mystery and suspense is included in this type of sub genre , usually to cause
tension within the audience. Examples of movies include: Psycho, A nightmare on Elm Street and My Bloody
Include viral reliving corpses and mindless humans that feed off of human beings. Zombies are commonly
enacted as cannibalistic in nature. Examples of movies include: Dead Snow, 28 Days Later and World War Z.
The first ever depictions of supernatural events to appear in a number of the silent shorts was created by
the film pioneer Georges Méliès in the late 1890s. One of the best creations of his being ‘Le Manoir du
Diable’, which is also recognized as one of the first horror films ever to be made. In 1898, Georges Méliès
also created another horror project which was called ‘La Caverne maudite, also known as The Cave of
the Unholy One “the accursed cave”. Japan too made very early forays into the horror genre, creating
works such as. ‘Bake Jizo’ and ‘Shinin no Sosei’. Another yet very popular adaptation was ‘Frankenstein’
which was produced in 1910 by Edison Studies.
The second monster appeared in a horror film called ‘Quasimodo,
the hunchback of Notre Dame, who had appeared in Victor Hugo’s
novel, Notre-Dame de Paris (1831). There were several movies
that featured Quasimodo, these include: Alice Guy’s Esmeralda,
(1905), The Hunchback (1909), The Love of a Hunchback (1910)
and Notre-Dame de Paris (1911).
German Expressionist film makers, during the Weimar
Republic era and slightly earlier, would significantly influence
later films, this included other genres, not necessarily horror.
Famous works such as Paul Wegener’s The Golem (1920) and
Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) had a
particular impact. The very first vampire themed movie was
made during the time of: F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922),
which was an unauthorized adaption of Bram Stoker’s
During the early period of captivating pictures, the American Movie Studio Universal Pictures began a
successful Gothic horror film series. Popular film series featured Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931) and Bela
Lugosi. Then quickly followed James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) and The Old Dark House (1932), both
featured Boris Karloff as monstrous mute antagonists. Many of these films blended elements of science
fiction with Gothic horror, an example would be Whale’s The Invisible Man (1933) which mirrored the
earlier German films which featured a mad scientist. Frankenstein was the first in a series which lasted for
many years, although Karloff only returned as the monster in Bride of Frankenstein (1939) which was the
last of Whale’s four horror films and Son of Frankenstein (1939).
Other popular works featured The Mummy (1932) which was introduced as
Egyptology as a theme for the genre. The image of the monster was designed
by make-up artist Jack Pierce. The Universal horror cycle continued into the
190s as B-pictures including The Wolf Man (1941), although this was not the
first werewolf film, it was however a rather influential one.
Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Paramount, 1931), was
famously remembered for its use of colour filters which created Jekyll’s
transformation. Other very important horror films were, Michael Curtiz’s
Mystery of the Wax Museum (Warner Brothers, 1933), and Island of Lost
Souls (Paramount, 1932).
This was the period where technology was much more advanced, which meant the tone of horror films
shifted from the Gothic towards contemporary concerns. There were two main sub-genres which began
to emerge, these were: he horror-of-armageddon film and he horror-of-the-demonic film. Some
productions featured humanity overcoming threats from “outside”: alien invasions and deadly
mutations to people, plants and insects. Films such as Godzilla (1954) and its sequels features mutation
from the effects of nuclear radiation.
Filmmakers continued to merge elements of science fiction and horror over the
following decades. The film The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), from Richard
Matheson’s existentialist novel was named to be a “pulp masterpiece”. The film
conveyed the terrors of living in the Atomic Age and the fear of social alienation.
During the 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 including classic terror characters which were
shown in colour for the first time.
An influential American horror film of this period was George
A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). This particular
horror-of-Armageddon film is about zombies which merges
psychological insights with gore. The film moved the genre
even further away from the gothic horror trends of earlier
eras and brought horror into everyday life.
The financial achievements of the low-budget gore films of the
resultant years, and the critical and popular success of Rosemary’s
Baby, led to the release of more films with occult themes during the
1970s. Films such as, The Exorcist (1973), being one of the first of these
movies which caused a significant commercial success, and was
followed by other horror films in which a demon entity is characterized
as the supernatural evil, often by impregnating women or possessing
The ideas of the 1960s began to influence horror films, as the youth
involved in the counterculture began exploring the medium. Films
such as Wes Craven’s 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); Canadian director David
Cronenberg featured the “mad scientist” movie sub-genre by
exploring contemporary fears about technology and society, and
reinventing “body horror”, starting with Shivers (1975).
In the 1970s, the works of the horror author Stephen King began
to be adapted for the screen, beginning with Brian De Palma’s
adaptation of Carrie (1976). During the 70s and 80s, psychological
and supernatural horror started to take over cinema and murder
and violence were no longer the main themes of horror films.
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 Child’s 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, with the exception of Wes Craven’s
New Nightmare (1994) and the hugely successful Silence of the Lambs
Films that were part of a mini-movement of self-reflexive or
metafictional horror were: In the Mouth of Madness (1995), The
Dark Half (1993), and Candyman (1992). Each film represented the
relationship between fictional horror and real-world horror.
Candyman displayed the link between an designed urban legend and
the realistic horror of the racism that produced its villain. In the
Mouth of Madness represented a more literal approach, as its
protagonist actually hopped from the real world into a novel created
by the madman he was hired to track down.
Horror became more self-mockingly ironic and outright
parodic, especially in the latter half of the 1990s. Films such
as, Braindead (1992) in particular took the platter film to
ridiculous excesses for comic effect. Wes Craven’s Scream
movies, starting in 1996 mixed ironic humour with the
The start of the 2000s was a quiet period for the genre. Final
Destination (2000) marked a successful revival of teen-centered
horror and spawned four sequels. Other films such as Hollow
Man, Orphan, Wrong Turn, Cabin Fever, House of 1000 Corpses
helped bring the genre back to Restricted ratings in theatres.
During this period, there was a major return to the zombie
genre in horror movies made after 2000. Films such as I am
Legend (2007), Quarantine (2008). Zombieland (2009), and
the British film 28 days later (2002) featured an update on
the genre with The Return of the Living Dead (1985) style of
aggressive zombie. The film later spawned a sequel: 28
Weeks Later (2007).
Remakes of earlier horror movies became routine in the
2000s. Remakes such as Dawn of the Dead, as well as 2003’s
remake of both Herschell Gordon Lewis’ cult classic 2001
Maniacs and the remake of Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, there was also the 2007 Rob Zombie
written and directed remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween
were all successful remakes.
Remakes of previous movies still remain popular and serialized. Found footage style web videos
featuring Slender Man became popular on YouTube in the beginning of the decade. Series of this
included TribeTwelve, EverymanHybrid and Marble Hornets, the latter of which has been adapted into
an upcoming feature film. The series is credited with reinvigorating interest in found footage and urban
Horror also became prominent on television with series such as, The
Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Under the Dome, and The Strain.
On the other hand, there has also been popular films with success with
television series made, such as, Psycho spawned Bates Motel, The Silence
of the Lambs spawned Hannibal, and Scream and Friday the 13th both
having television series in development.
You’re next (2011), and The
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
both returned to the slasher
genre. The Purge and its
sequel The Purge: Anarchy
(2014) both became
commercial successes with
their unique concepts of
society being the killer.