History of the Horror Genre


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History of the Horror Genre

  1. 1. History of the Horror GenreHORROR• noun 1) an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. 2) a thing causing such a feeling. 3) intensedismay. 4) informal a bad or mischievous person, especially a child.— ORIGIN Latin, from horrere ‘shudder, (of hair) stand on end’German expressionismGerman expression started in the early 1900‟s as a direct result to WW1. Germany found itselfisolated and under high demand to start producing its own films due to the government banningmore foreign films in the nation. Germans started attending films more willingly due to theundergoing inflation; it made them feel as though their money was constantly diminishing. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919)By 1922, international audiences were beginning to appreciate German cinema and by the timethe original ban on foreign films put in place in 1916 was lifted, German cinema became part ofthe international film industry.The first expressionist films made up for a lack of steady budget by using crazy unrealistic setdesigns with props and parts of the set painted on the walls to represent lights, shadows andobjects etc. The plots and stories behind most German expressionist films were madness,insanity, betrayal and other topics vastly opposite to the traditional „rom com‟ and „action‟ movie
  2. 2. plots. The mad, cheap settings complimented the plot topics perfectly creating wondrous silenthorror movies enjoyed by all sorts of people in the early 1900s.Later films such as „Metropolis‟ and „M‟ both directed by FritzLang, were classed as German expressionism films. They were adirect reaction to realism, leaving its practitioners acting atextreme levels of distortion to express their inner emotions withreality and not just the ones shown on the surface.German expressionism and its extremity were short-lived with itfading away after only a few years. However, the brief moment itwas at its highest point influenced theatre for many years to follow.The themes of expressionism were integrated into films producedin the 1920s and 1930s resulting in mad artistic imagery in films to enhance the mood of a film.When the Nazi‟s gained control, a lot of German filmmakers emigrated to Hollywood bringingthe dark, moody school of filmmaking to the USA. The German filmmakers found the filmstudios suited them to such a level that most of them flourished and ended up producing arepertoire of Hollywood films.The two main genres most influenced by German expressionism were horror films and film noir.Carl Laemmle and Universal Studios made themselves known by producing famous horrorfilms of the silent era such as Lon Chaneys „The Phantom of the Opera’. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (1925)Directors such as Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock etc. broughtexpressionism into earlier films produced in the 1940s such as crime dramas. This supportshow much of an impact German expressionism has had on the film industry; it inspired some ofthe best filmmakers.Roots in classic literature
  3. 3. Gothic horror is a genre that combines horror and romance. Frankenstein is an example of this.Frankenstein is a novel written by Mary Shelley. The first copy was published anonymously inLondon in 1818. The second copy was published in 1823 containing Mary Shelley‟s credit. Shestarted writing the novel when she was eighteen and finished it at twenty one. Frankenstein is astory about a science experiment gone wrong that resulted in the creation of a monster.Frankenstein touches on horror, romance and even science fiction. Mary Shelley painted by Richard Rothwell (1840)Dracula is another classic gothic horror novel written by the Irish authorBram Stoker in 1897.It‟s about Dracula‟s attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England and the battles he facedagainst a small group of men and woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. It‟s famousfor the introduction of the well-known Count Dracula. Dracula has been assigned to manyliterary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, gothic novel and invasion literature. Film poster of „Dracula‟
  4. 4. Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is the original title of the novel written by Scottish authorRobert Louis Stevenson published in 1886. It is about a London lawyer named Gabriel JohnUtterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll and theevil Edward Hyde. This novel has had such an impact that it‟s become a part of our languagewith the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” meaning a person who is vastly different in moral characterfrom one situation to the next. ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’Horror in the 1930’sBy the 1930‟s Adolf Hitler had gained complete control of the German government anddiscredited German Expressionism as a degenerate art and established propaganda as thedominant style of film making in Germany. Propaganda is a form of communication that isaimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presentingonly one side of an argument. Hitler imposed propaganda style films to persuade its audiencethat his reign of power was positive and that he should be admired. However, theexpressionists didn‟t like this and chose to leave their home nation and found themselvesimmigrating to Hollywood, California. Most of these directors found their feet in Hollywood andfound American movie studios willing to embrace them and find their movie projects meaningthey produced a lot of top quality movies. Most horror movies in the 1930‟s were driven by the idea of monsters and madscientists such as the famous Frankenstein. BBFC (British Board of Film Classification)introduced their first cinema classifications as simply „U‟ (Universal) and „A‟ (Adult). In the1930‟s the classification „H‟ was introduced meaning Horror and only suitable for those over 16years of age. „H‟ was later changed to „X‟ in the 1950‟s which was a rating put on all films onlysuitable for 16 years and over.Horror in the 1940’s
  5. 5. Horror in the 1940‟s were also „monster‟ movies but changed into the primal animals withinsuch as werewolves cat people. In 1942 the film „cat people‟ was made. Produced byValLewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur.„Cat People’ tells the story ofayoung Serbian woman, Irena, who believes herself to be a descendant of a race of peoplewho turn into cats when sexually aroused. ‘Cat People’ movie poster (1942)‘The Wolf Man’ is a mix of several wolf legends, with added ingredients. Siodmak stirspentagrams, gypsies, silver bullets and the full moon together to create a robust myth. It oweslittle to established European traditions, but established a new set of cinematic rules whichHollywood lycanthropes would adhere to for decades. Set in a contemporary Wales (where noone has ever heard of the war), the story follows Larry Talbot (LON CHANEY JR) who returns tohis ancestral home from America, only to become infected by a bite from a gypsy named Bela(Lugosi). ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941)
  6. 6. Horror in the 1950’sHorror in the 1950‟s was highly associated with communism and the fears that came with it.The „monster‟ in horror movies created during this time period were representations ofcommunism and how it was affecting society. Communism had a great effect on horror moviesand the stories behind them were presented to us as an audience. It is my contention that,although the actual and specific plots of horror films have always been varied, and areoccasionally based on real facts or on mere fictions of the mind, the actual thematic subjectmatter is one which stems from this extremist divide in our global politics. An example of a ‘monster’ representing communism.Zombie horror became big in the 1950‟s. At first thought we think of zombies as flesh-eatingmonsters. However, they were brought around to have a deeper meaning than that. They wereused to represent the fact that they are essentially a whole collection of humans who all areconsidered equal (in death) and they all seem to be equally minimalistic.Their appearance inthe horror industry takes for granted that they are all of equal worth to eachother. They live, inessence, in the perfection of a communist ideal, where all their needs (for flesh) are met equallyand where each individual Zombie seems to be of no more or less worth than any other. Allthere truly is, is the dispatching of one of a number of nameless zombies, in a big mass. Thisresonates with the way that communism was tackled in the US, or rather by the US. Communism spread like dominos through countries in the 1950‟s and it was hard tofight a preservation of a democratic way of life. The big countries started declaring themselvesas communists and shortly followed the smaller countries. The US at this point was sensing achange into communism coming their way. A picture representation of communism in society.
  7. 7. Horror in the 1960’s – 1970’sHorror in the 1960‟s could be seen as when horror became more realistic, more realistic in thesense that the storyline of horrors in the 1960‟s was based on the „evil‟ being human. Forexample your own neighbour could be the cause of your soon to be death. Ghosts, zombies,Satanism and your own family could be included in this „human evil‟.In the 1960‟s there was aseeming feeling of optimism, the sense that humanity was moving forward, onward andupward. At this point the mutant monsters of the 1950‟s horror were beginning to look stupid.1960‟s horror decided that rather than focusing on surreal „evil‟, they were going to introduce an„evil‟ that was more believable. So, they got rid of the aliens and other monsters seeing as theyhadn‟t made an appearance on earth yet and replaced them with real monsters; humans. Human ‘evil’ in 1960’s horrorHorror movies in the 1970‟s went on to represent the grim mood of the decade. After theoptimism in the 1960‟s everything started going wrong. The Beatles broke up, famous peopledied and everything seemed to be going downhill. However, when society goes bad, horrorfilms get good, and the 1970s marked a return to the big budget, respectable horror film,dealing with contemporary societal issues, addressing genuine psychological fears.Horror in the 1980’sIn the 1980‟s body horror/gore and slasher movies became popular and their descent intopostmodern parody such as ‘Scream’. The television series ‘Hammer house of horror’ started inthe 1980‟s. It was a series created by Hammer Films and consisted of thirteen 50 minuteepisodes which was broadcast on ITV. Each episode contained a different story of horrorinvolving characters that varied from witches, werewolves, ghosts, devil worship and voodooalso including supernatural horror themes like cannibalism, confinement and serial killers. In2003 „Hammer house of horror‟ ranked #50 in Channel 4‟s „100 scariest moments‟.
  8. 8. ‘Hammer house of horror’ (1980)The term known as „video nasties‟ came about in the 1980‟s. „Video nasties‟ is a term created inthe United Kingdom which applied to films originally produced on video that were criticized bythe press for their „violent‟ content. Many of the „video nasties‟ were low budget moviesproduced in Italy and the US. This led to a „moral panic‟. A „moral panic‟ is when a mass ofpeople intensively believe that something is going to threaten the „social order‟ in a society. Atthis time it was „video nasties‟ that were a cause for concern for most of the population. It was afear that young children can easily get their hands on these videos. Slasher horror is a subgenre of horror and at times a thriller that mainly involvespsychopathic killers.In a lot of these „Slasher‟ movies, „final girl theory‟ becomes present. „Finalgirl theory‟ is basically the last girl left to confront the killer, usually the „good‟ girl who is left totell the story. The general plot for these types of films is some sort of state of equilibrium whichis then affected by an event that upsets the equilibrium. This event usually involves the killing ofa group of people leaving the „final girl‟ alive and alone. Clover suggests that in these films, theviewer begins by having the similar perspective of the killer, but experiences a shift inidentification to the final girl partway through the film.Horror in the 1990’sIn the 1990‟s horrors became more psychological. After finding that sequels and pastiche didn‟tquite reach the level of satisfaction wanted, generation X found its own character, the serialkiller. This is where the psychological horrors began to develop. Silence of the Lambs was avery successful psychological horror, and having watched it myself I can see why it was such ahit. Silence of the Lambs is about a man Hannibal Lecter who messes with people‟s minds in agenius way to make them think and do certain things. A young FBI student is set a task to tryand undermine Hannibal as a person and throughout the film events happen that are seen asunbelievable and freaky. The audience of Silence of the lambs would most likely leave the filmfeeling unnerved and paranoid of this happening to them. Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the lambs (1991)