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History of Horror Pre 1900’s Horror In the pre-1900’s there was no film that existed. However horror was a genre in the making. It is arguable that the horror of today was originated from 3 classic novels; these novels were possibly the founding myths of horror. These novels are: - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which includes the theme of ‘playing god’ - Dracula which contains the theme of LifeVsDeath - Finally Frankenstein which includes the theme of the madness of the mind Dracula Dracula is a novel written in 1897 by Bram Stoker. This novel is arguably one of the first vampire novels, however Bram Stoker did not create the vampire, but his novel did inspire a string of other vampire films, novels etc. Dracula to date is one of the most iconic vampires in history. Dracula in fact was made into a film in 1931, this movie set the conventions of all vampire movies that followed, they have however developed as the vampire movie has been modernised. Dracula featured very Christian ideology’s which has established a Christian background to most vampire movies/novels since Dracula. Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula in the 1931 adaption of the novel Bela continued to play horror parts in films making him a distinguished horror actor. Frankenstein Frankenstein was a novel written by Mary Shelley in 1818. Frankenstein introduced the role of science in horror films. The novel was made into a film in 1931. Frankenstein created the theme of playing god in horror also introduced monsters as the villains. Frankenstein challenges the role of science in horror films; for example creating a monster as an accidental ‘scientific experiment’. In the movie version Boris Karloff plays Frankenstein's monster. Boris soon became an iconic horror actor. If he is in a film you instantly know it will be a horror film. Since the movie adaption of ‘Frankenstein’ was created horror has progressed a long way until nowadays where nothing is too explicit to show. There was a scene that was cut from the original English version of the movie as it was deemed to ‘explicit’ to show. Nowadays such scene wouldn’t be a big deal at all; this shows the progression of what can be shown in horror films.

Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde A strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was written in 1886 by an author named


Robert Louis Stevenson. The novel was focussing on the theme ‘madness of the mind’. It showed how horror can also be in the form of a human threat not just a ‘monster’. In the novel Dr Jekyl is a well-respected man that is taken over by his ‘mad’ side, becoming Mr Hyde. The novel touches on mental issues as Dr Jekyll has a split personality; this makes the novel seem scary as it is a realistic narrative in a sense. The novel in fact expresses a concept of good and evil, the novel suggests that there is good and evil existing in all of us with the potential to come out in times of trouble, this is suggested as human nature. In 1920 John Barrymore starred in the movie version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. The movie had a good reception and many others were made including one in 1931.

1900-1920 Horror In 1900-1920 horror was approaching the silent era. Nosferatu was made by a German expressionist called Murnau. Much like Dracula Nosferatu was a vampire film but as they could not afford to by the name ‘Dracula’ therefore it was called Nosferatu, this was the first screen version of Bam Stokers novel Dracula. The movie was made silent and black and white, in its day it was a very frightening film. Many adaptions where made following Nosferatu including sound and eventually colour as horror films and technology advanced. Fritzlang was one of the most renowned German expressionists of the era, his most famous title was Metropolis, this again was a silent movie but was set in the future were robots where overtaking. Metropolis was made in 1927 but was set in the future, this means it could be argued as a Sci Fi movie but it is also placed in the horror genre. Another renowned german silent movie is The Cabinet of Dr Calgari, this was directed by Robert Weine. This film is one of the most influential German Expressionist films. It is also often thought of as one of the greatest horror films of the Silent era. The movie included a shock ending which was fairly new for this time and is now called a ‘cliff-hanger’. The film delves into the mysteries of the mind where we are left asking ‘who is the mad one really?’ The film shows us the world how someone insane may see it, this really broke the conventions of horror for the era. 1930’s Horror The 1930’s were considered to be the Hollywood Golden age of Horror. The 30’s lead a development of the main genres where horrors and other genres where established more fully using iconography to define genre. This includes iconic faces such as Boris Karloff who became and established horror actor. Karloff featured in both Frankenstein and The Mummy he began to establish his career in the era as a horror


actor. Iconography has helped define genre in this era whereas if there is a repetition of various signs over and over again then this can help you categorise a film in terms of genre. For example when you think of horror you think of monsters, blood etc. These films were made during the great depression and just before the war where cinema was at its height of popularity. This is also the era where sound was developed for horror films, for the audience this made movies scarier because you could hear screaming and voices. Some of the many films that where created I this era included: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Freaks, King Kong and The Bride of Frankenstein. Many of these films have been remade and modernised since their original releases, this is because they are classic films. Many scenes where cut from films in the 1930’s as they were to horrific, horror films where then given a ‘H’ rating meaning they are horror films that may frighten you, this means you should watch with caution.

1940’s Horror In the 1940’s many horror movies where produced in America, these films were made during the time of the war. This is the era where the role of women in horror films changed; stereotypes began to develop that has been used still into modern day. Women were made to be the stronger gender both in real life at the time of the war; this is also represented in films. Women would take over men’s jobs during the war while the men were out fighting, this lead to a revelation where women began to gain more rights. This places women into a superior role in horror film where they placed them in strong female leads defeating the men using their sexual power. An example of this is Cat People which was released in 1942. Cat people featured a lead female role who was strong powerful and beautiful. The story featured a woman called Irene who believed she would turn into a large cat; the ending leaves the audience wondering making up their own mind at the end. She was frightened of her marriage because the myth that she would turn into a cat consumed her making her believe she would kill her husband. This was a similar theme recurring in the 1940’s as many titles including regular humans turning into evil creatures, for example The Wolf Man. The Wolf Man was released in 1941 and was especially scary because at the time Wolves where a big fear amongst people. Wolves have been represented as bad throughout the media, even in kid’s stories such as red riding hood and the three little pigs. This film added an extra element of shock as it was a normal human become a wolf. Werewolf films have been continued to be produced into current day whereas The Wolf Man was one of the originals. American Werewolf in London was another horror film that evolved from the original Wolf Man.


Women in horror films often died first in horror, the first women to die would be the ‘sexualised’ women, and possibly the one doing bad or sexual things will inevitably die - whereas the middle class, plain looking women will often survive to the very end. This Is a theory by Carol Clover called the final girl theory. 1950’s Horror In the 1950’s it was the end of the war, this effected films quite dramatically as it brought on the Atomic Era. The main ideologies of 1950 horror films was the fear of communism which was represented by the aliens and mutants that where featured in these films. In this era alot of the movies made their way into the B-movie category. Companies at the time were trying to incorporate technical changes such as widespread colour production meaning there focus was not directly on the movies they were making. Previous stars such a Lugosi had lost their shine and Karloff was left in reserve for Epics only. This meant that many of the movies were of a lower quality with no star roles making them B-movies only widely watched by teenagers.

1960’s/1970’s Horror The 1960’s has often been called the sexual revelation; this is the time where sexualised females have started to be added into horror movies. Alfred Hitchcock led this revelation with his attractive blonde lead girls in films such as Psycho and The birds. These were the era’s where real people were being feared as opposed to monsters. This brought horror home and inside the family. This meant security is destroyed making the viewer never sure who to trust in the film. This in some respects is scarier. Many films did this such as: the omen, the shining, the exorcist and rosemary’s baby. 1980’s Horror This was the era of development in makeup and special effects which brought horror to a new level. This made films scarier as a lot more gore was introduced as horror comes out of the shadows. This is apparent in such films as ‘American Werewolf in London’. For this film they had to create prosthetics to turn a human into a werewolf, the use of fake blood and fake wounds was also introduced in the 80’s. Due to the


introduction of animatronics and liquid foam latex this meant that the human form could be distorted quite dramatically to create something entirely new. This brought to life everything that could not be done up until now.

1990’s Horror The genre progresses throughout this era and in ways focuses on the psychological side of things and also introduces the idea of serial killers in horror. For example Silence of the lambs was released in the era and then 3 further films where made based around the theme of serial killers. Another franchise that made many movies includes Scream. This could be said that this is the era where serial killers became cleverer as the film se7en was made which was quite controversial as the killer was playing god and killing people for their sins. This introduced the genre of psychological horrors.

2000’s Horror Arguably this is when horror films were at their goriest. Many films made in this era could be described as torture porn or ‘gorenography’ this describes the act of watching gore for pleasure. At this point there was very little that could shock the audience anymore so they had to make films with hyper gore levels. Films such as Saw embody this era perfectly, killers are shown to torture their victims in horrific ways to attract the audience as previous techniques no longer work. However this soon got old with the release of 7 saw movies and many spin offs trying to copy the idea, it no longer became interesting and the film makers must have ran out torture methods.


2010+ horror This is essentially a development over the past few years where horror has started to return to the traditional psychological ways of scary people. Movies have become ‘jumpy’ scaring people with flash cuts and making them jump. There is also less special effects. Movies are also slower burning and build up to the ending where all is revealed and is in ways scarier than throwing massive amounts of gore to the screen. Films such as Paranormal activity, insidious and the orphan show how horror has moved away from torture porn and back to the basics methods that worked scaring us all those years ago.

Horror History  

history of horror 1900's till present

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