2. The Horror Genre has been around for a while and when you look back it's roots can be dated all the way to the 19th
Century in classic literature. Around this time what was known as gothic literature really came into light with novels
that would later become classics like Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' and Bram Stokers 'Dracula' along with many other
artists like the famous Edgar Allen Poe who was known for his darker tones. This set the stage for what would later
become known as horror and may of these workings have been re-imagined and re-created for years in many different
This era also became an age of scientific discovery and invention with many developments in these and various other
fields. This really can be shown to have impacted on the literature as texts like 'Frankenstein' show a mad scientist and
you also have the psychological side of things in the classic 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'
3. Soon horror began developing, as everything does, into film.
This brought the silent era and German expressionism to
audiences. This era began in the late 19th century and
continued until around 1920, when sound could be synched
to films. Due to the technology at the time films were silent.
This appealed to the illiterate-working class as there were no
words to follow. However as the 1900's begun it became more
catered towards the middle class as films based on
Bourgeneise novels began getting developed. One film that
was adapted from the Bram Stoker novel was, what is
considered not only the first vampire film, but also one of the
most influential horrors, the German produced 'Nosferatu'
The Germans were particularly known for their work during
this time period, a style known as German expressionism.
This involved several creative visual aspects, like using
artistic sets and oddly angled architecture to get across
different tones. In the film 1920 'The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari'
several instances of this can be seen. This style was largely
popular in Berlin around 1920.
4. The 1930's became all about the re-birth of horror films with the addition of sound, making
them even more terrifying. It added suspense and created a new dimension to horror with the
ability to add things like sound motifs and echoes. With this new addition of sound horror
evolved from these fantasy works of art into pictured depicting terrifying monsters.
A lot of the horror at this time was classed as supernatural or classed as ‘exotic fairy tales’ set in
places far away and occupied by odd characters. This meant that the audience felt like they
could escape their normal lives because the films weren't depicting on realistic events. This was
during the time of The Great Depression and audiences needed something to give them break
from their struggles, Horror became a strong form of escapism. In the US around 80 million
people attended the cinema weekly.
Monsters and mad scientists really began taking over the horror genre in films like the
'Frankenstein' and 'The Mummy'. But it wasn’t without it’s setbacks. The now classic
‘Frankenstein’ was censored multiple times around this decade including the scene in which
Frankenstein's Monster drown the little girl in the lake. The Production Code was a strict code
enforced around 1934 and was the main reason why this happened. It turned out that 1930’s
audiences weren’t ready for too much terror just yet.
5. With WWII in full swing during the 1940's America really took the rains
when it came to horror, especially due to the fact it was banned in
Britain. Horror became more for the domestic audiences and really
began looking at the primal animal within, what could be lurking
around the corner? A lot of this animalistic imagery stemmed from
Hitler himself. He often referenced the Nazis as wolf and Adolf itself
means 'noble wolf' in Old German. So it was no surprise when Universal
studios brought out 'Wolf Man' in 1941 which told the story of a man
who turns into a werewolf like creature. The writer of this picture, Curt
Siodmak, had fled the Nazis himself.
RKO did rival this though with the release of another popular film, 'Cat
People' in 1942 which was more aimed at the women who lost their jobs
when the men returned from war. It looked at several women who
turned into vicious cats when they were angry or passionate. This gave
women a sense of empowerment and strength during this time.
This era of horror really began to fade out when the studios tried to
create crossover stories and sequels, relying on the popularity of the
monsters. With films like ‘Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man’ the genre
grew tired and these animalistic creatures became more humorous than
6. Around this era audiences began to be introduced to the idea of sci-
fi horrors involving aliens and mutants. With new technology like
blue screen effects, monsters became easier to be brought to life so
these films started to attract larger audiences. One example of this
is ‘Godzilla’ a film about a large monster ravaging a city.
This new found obsession with monster movies stemmed from the
publics fear of weapons like the atom bomb. These films showed
audiences a threat that wasn’t human and couldn’t be controlled.
Humans were the victim and were put in a positive light, they were
There was also fears about the rise in technology and how it was
developing too quickly. People were afraid that the effects of
technology would ‘deform and mutate’ people. Horror also
noticeably played on peoples fears of communism like in the film
‘Invasion Of The Body Snatchers’ which tells the story of people
that become taken over by aliens that seemed to represent
It wasn’t just the era that effected horror though, horror also
effected the era. With all these monster and sci-fi movies released
the race to get into space became greater. Countries wanted to find
these new life forms and monsters and the USA and Russia were
both determined to get there first.
7. This decade was often looked at as a depressing time and the horrors released reflected
that. This also became a time where horror budgets increased allowing them to become
more respectable. In this time they began to deal with more psychological and real fears.
Zombies began really coming to life in this era of horror in films like ‘Night Of The Living
Dead’ which really began breaking apart the idea of family relations. And this was a
recurring theme, not just in zombie films. Several films looked at evil in your own home.
In films like ‘The Shining’ it was the father, or in ‘Alice Sweet Alice’ a sister. But it seemed
that your own children being evil was one of the strongest and most popular themes
because of the fear of childbirth that was around at this time. Many women fears the
painful and sometimes fatal process of childbirth and having children with birth
There was one film that really used this idea the best. William Friedkin classic 'The
Exorcist' was probably the biggest horror of this decade, if not the biggest of all time. This
film was so shocking and disturbing for the time that it was banned in Britain from it's
release (1978) until 1999. It showcased 12 year old Linda Blair portray a possessed child,
although this wasn't the first instance of a child doing terrible things it was intensely
graphic and had some cinema viewers walking out on the picture. Other films to use
children as antagonists in this era were films like The Omen, Alice Sweet Alice and
8. Hammer Horror was a large British production
company created by William Hinds (stage name Will
Hammer) that was best known for creating several
gothic horrors from when it was founded in 1934 up
until it's end in around 1980. During it's most
successful years Hammer dominated the horror
market with a variety of projects such as film noir,
science fiction and thriller films. Films like 'The Curse
Of Frankenstein' and 'Dracula' a film that still
maintains a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
However by the 1970's the horror market was changing
again and Hammer experienced several set backs like
funding issues and tough competitors. The company
coincidentally closed in the mid 80's. However today
they are still around after being bought by a Dutch
media tycoon and have recently produced successful
films like 'Let Me In' (2010) and 'The Woman In Black'
9. Some people believe that the origin of slasher films can date back to the 19th century with
some classic works of literature. However it wasn't until the late 70's and 80's when the
subgenre of horror really took off due to the advances in technology which allowed gory
effects them to become more realistic. These effects allowed more explicit scenes of
violence in the films. Things like animatronics and foam latex allowed the human body to
be distorted in terrifying ways. Around this time using all of these effects was also a way
to show off to your competitors. In a very materialistic time people liked to show off what
they had, even when it came to horror.
With classic films like John Carpenters Halloween, the genre began developing. Taking
psychopathic killers and putting them on a murderous rampage. Although the ideas of
these villains were re-used from other era’s these films still became a key competitor when
it comes to horror and they still are today. Although they may not be as terrifying and
suspenseful as other subgenres they still attract wide audiences who love gore and realistic
effects. However looking back now at some of the first slashers the effects they used are
sometimes laughable because technology is always developing.
Then you had the ever growing fascination with the human body and how it could be
deformed. As I mentioned the new effects gave filmmakers the ability to do this and films
like ‘The Thing’ used this to their advantage.
10. Video Nasties refer to the idea of straight to video horror
films. The VHS allowed low budget films that didn't warrant
cinematic release to gain audience and popularity.
Unfortunately due to this easy way of obtaining these films, it
was easier for young children to watch them. Due to the issues
with giving VHS tapes a classification they usually ended up
unrated and were labelled as 'warping young peoples minds'
therefore a lot of these films ended up banned from sale by
the UK government and soon a list of 39 Video Nasties came
about. But it seemed that with these films when you told
people they couldn't watch them it made them want to watch
them more, so people found ways of watching them anyway.
Some of the films banned were that of 'Cannibal Holocaust'
and 'Evil Dead' famous for having a graphic scene in which a
woman is raped by a tree. These films were also said to have
possibly inspired real life events. For example 'Child's Play'
about a killer who possesses a child’s doll was said to have
inspired the James Bulger killing, although many dispute this.
11. The 1990’s was all about finding yourself and developing your own sense on personal awareness, and this wasn’t just in life, this
also applied to horror. Self referential horror refers to horror films that were very aware of themselves, meaning that they
involved the use of horror parodies and conventions of the stereotypical horror genre.
One film that was very self aware was Wes Craven’s Scream franchise. This was a film that featured characters who watched
horror movies and a killer who used this idea to scare it’s victims. The film was largely successful due to it’s twist on the typical
slasher film and was followed by three sequels and most recently a television series by MTV.
This was also a time where teenagers were becoming more present in society and horror represented this as well with teenage
victims and killers that were just grasping at power.
There was also a sense at the time for more adult horrors that were new and didn’t rely on old characters and plots. Adult’s
wanted thrilling movies and were rewarded with films like ‘Silence of The Lambs’ and ‘Se7en’ which are definitely
Evolution of Scream’s ‘ghostface’
12. Torture Porn is a term that was created by David Edelstien in 2006 and
relates to films that audiences mainly watch for a physical reaction
rather than an emotional one. This came around in the 2000's when
several films were released that seem to really tone in on forms of
torture. The concept of torture is an old one but at this time
filmmakers were able to make it much more realistic, not only with
effects but also with the settings that made audiences afraid that these
things could happen to them. Several instances of this can be found in
films like 'Hostel' and the 'Saw' franchise.
It is however evident that no matter what style of horror, there is
always a line that shouldn't be crossed. When torture films cross the
line it's proven that they aren't as successful, as in cases like the 2007
film 'Captivity' who's disturbing advertising campaign hindered the
film. Recently the idea of torture porn has faded into the background
when it comes to Horror.