Media & Entertainment

Fear In Motion (Pictures)

fear horror movie

Tales of terror can be traced back to the early times of mankind. From the moment stories could be shared, so have myths, legends, and anecdotes about terrifying incidents or creatures. In the late 1800s, the fear-inducing narratives came to life through film. From vampires, possessed dolls, all the way to killers who stab women in showers, the horror genre has dynamically changed to entertain the thrill-seekers while arguably reflecting the fears and mental state of the society of their time.  So, how exactly have they changed? And what’s next for the genre?

Silent screams

George Mélièes’ “Le Manoir du Diable” (or the Devil’s Manor), released in 1896, is commonly credited as the first horror film ever made. Although not exactly terrifying, the 3-minute narrative embraces many of the classic characters of horror stories including skeletons, ghosts, demons, and bats.

However, it was in 1920s Germany that the horror genre began to be fully explored within the film industry. German filmmakers, impacted by the WWI and influenced by the expressionist movement, told stories that visibly portrayed the inner fears and agitations of characters, often which reflected the true fears of the general society at the time. Notable films born from the German expressionist movement include “Nosferatu” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”

Meanwhile in the USA, famous silent classics such as “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Hunchback of Notre Dame”, both starring the “Man of a Thousand Faces” Lon Chaney, contributed to the beginning of the golden age of horror.

The Monster Mash

The 1930s marked the end of the silent era, giving the genre a whole new dimension. With the creaks, screams, and chilling music came along loud and terrifying creatures. Though often grounded in reality, horror films of the time, such as “Frankenstein”, “King Kong” or “Mummy”, fully embraced supernatural and fantastical creatures. This in turn shaped scary films into a vehicle to escape the troubles of reality.

The 50s, the 60s, and the gimmicks

In the early 50s, science fiction influences within the horror genre were notable, with examples like “The thing”. Additionally, the genre further shifted towards the mystery or thriller subgroup of horror, as popularized by the famed Alfred Hitchcock.

(…) director William Castle paid for a life insurance policy that would give $1000 to anyone who passed away while viewing the film (as long as they didn’t suffer from a pre-existing health condition).

Throughout the 50s and 60s, film technology started to become more accessible, leading to the rise of B-horror movies. The crowded horror market forced filmmakers to think outside the box to attract the public, and so the era of gimmicks began.

A popular example is William Castle’s fright insurance. To promote the frightfulness of the film “Macabre”, director William Castle paid for a life insurance policy that would give $1000 to anyone who passed away while viewing the film (as long as they didn’t suffer from a pre-existing health condition).

Another notable gimmick is related to the film “Horrors of the Black Museum”, which focused on a writer who hypnotizes his assistance to carry out criminal activity. Before the film began, a video of a hypnotist was shown, where he explained the science behind hypnotism, and supposedly tried to hypnotize the audience.

Slashers and Spirits 

The themes of spirits, possessions, and religion gained popularity in the 70s, with films like the “Exorcist” and “The Omen”. This decade also marks the beginning of the numerous horror film adaptations of Stephen King novels, with “Carrie” being released in 1976.

Finally, with 1974’s “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”, came the age of the slashers, where groups of people are brutally murdered. Many cult classics and franchises derived from this era: “Friday 13th”, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween”.

The death of a genre and its revival?

The 90s is considered by some as the age when the genre’s popularity began to lose its momentum, as the audience may have grown fatigued of the thrill-seeking experience. This apparent horror fatigue may be indicated in the release and popularity of the famous parody: “Scream”. Nonetheless, this decade must be valued for the notable classics like “Silence of the Lambs”.

The horror genre has had numerous ups and downs throughout the decades but it certainly still has a lot to offer. To quote a famous scientist: It’s alive!

The 2000s began the increase in mainstream popularity of scary films, as horror elements, such as zombies, were popularly embraced in other mediums such as video games and novels. The 2000s also mark the age of Western remakes of Asian horror creations, namely “The Ring” and “The Grudge”.

Scary films within the last decade generated the revival of numerous trends, such as the supernatural, and have been varied in sub-genres. In recent years many horror films have obtained mainstream attention, from films embracing supernatural elements, like the film adaptation of “IT”, to films tackling serious social issues, such as “Get out”.

The horror genre has had numerous ups and downs throughout the decades but it certainly still has a lot to offer. To quote a famous scientist: It’s alive!

 

Cover: Ryan Miguel Capili

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Rita Alves
Rita Alves was born in Portugal but is currently living in the Netherlands, where she studies Communication Science.

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