The History of Horror


Stage 1

1890 - 1910

These were silent, black and white films that used the supernatural, doppelgangers, fear of the unknown, good and evil as well as grand buildings to characterise the meaning of horror within movies. Examples of these types of movies include Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1908) and La Manoir du Diable (1896).

Stage 2

1930 - 1949

With the development of horror turning into a narrative with talking amongst characters, sound is added to improve the experience of fear for the audience. Violence, revenge, transgression of borders, grand buildings, women as a threat and the supernatural are all different motifs used to further characterise and shape the genre. Movies such as Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) presents these motifs.

Stage 3

1950 - 1959

Sub-genres allow different types of horror to be created, not just of the stereotypical monstrous villains but apocalyptical styles with movies linked to the world affairs and fears such as wars and worries of nuclear bombing. The threat from the 'Other', disfigurement and threat from science to the natural world began to appear with movies such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) showed this.

Stage 4

1960 - 1969

Slasher and psychological movies began to show on the big screen, focusing on the fears from inside an individual and movies began to use the audience's mind and fears to trick them, bringing out inner horrors. As well as this, there was a move into colour meaning the technological development allowed special effects and movies to appear creepier. With a focus on religion as well as the devil, more conventions began to be used. Motifs such as fear of the devil, good and evil, females as a threat, violence, hidden evil and inhuman beings emerged. Rosemary's Baby (1968) and The Night of the Living Dead (1968) were some of the movies around this time.

Stage 5

1970 - 1979

With the rise in religious-based films, the 70s saw a continuation of possession and occult movies. Additionally, the development of younger people in horror movies saw them as more demonic to play on the fear of teenagers as well as society. Impacts from war and communism was used within films through this time and the 'production code' meant rules in American movies were abolished. Patterns such as demons, anti-religious violence, anything outside the norm, the unknown, transgression into borders, social concerns and a threat from nature showed through increasingly as presented in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1976) and Jaws (1977).

Stage 6

1980 - 1989

The attention to slasher movies increased, with audiences requiring more gore and grotesque scenes. The changes to social attitudes and development of technology helped the demand for this within movies and films often focused on society's concerns as well as an interest in vampires peaking again. With a decline of religious beliefs, fear of the 'Other', the unknown, violence, threats from science and transgression of borders appearing in movies, examples of this would be Friday the 13th (1980) and Poltergeist (1982).

Stage 7

1990 - 1999

Movies often linked to real world society problems, such as racism, to create fear in the audience and the idea of parodies develop, with a more modern twist yet still with conventions of horror within it. As well as this, madness and psychology was used a lot during movies, paranoia with the government spread and frightened the audience too. With the development in technology and social media, more methods of promotion for movies were bought forward. Symbols appeared with vampires, as they continued to be a strong sense of interest by exploring outside the social norms and fear of the unknown. Madness and large buildings as well as seeing through the character's perspective hooked attention of the audiences with films such as Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) showing these,

Stage 8

2000 - Present Day

The horror genre runs in circles, directors tend to revive classics or sub-genres/types in order to interest the audience. With slight tweaking, movies are beginning to be remade. Foreign movies are also becoming popular, with a threat of something new. Also, threats such as paedophiles, serial killers or the mentally instable/disabled are being presented more and more in horror. Lose of communication such as losing a mobile phone and being isolated is another device becoming popular and new technology to allow complexed special effects lead to more extreme narratives. Common motifs can include isolation, fear of the 'Other', vulnerability from a hidden power. threats from all around, monsters and evidence (footage of evil) are seen in horror movies of today with some examples such as The Grudge (2004) and Paranormal Activity (2009).