Adam Waugh’s quick history of horror!

A History of Horror

By Adam Waugh

The horror genre has been one of the most popular genres in film since the beginning of the movie theatre. But modern horror has been taking a turn for the worse. Horror films today have been inclined to show more gore than actual horror and this has then made a new sub genre know as Gorno, or Gornography. Recently horror has begun to get popular again, with the release of “Sinister” and “Paranormal Activity 4” (Some may argue that’s not the case!). But horror was not always like this, let’s take a trip through the history of the horror genre and find out how it’s advanced since the black and white times of Nosferatu.

The illustrious Dracula spin off Nosferatu, this black and white silent film was made in the early 1920’s and the black and white footage blended together with the creepy orchestral score emphasized the utter eeriness of the entire film. Although there is no blood in this film whatsoever, it still leaves the audience with a satisfied feeling that they seen a great horror movie. It may have been the camera work that was used at the time that gives it the really creepy feel, but even to this day people say it is a classic and maybe one of their favorite films. You can actually check out the film in it’s entirety below!

The introduction of Dracula, most famously depicted by Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein, played by Boris Karloff in the late 1930’s and 50’s solidified horror’s stance in the movie industry. Then the British film making company Hammer got their hands on the horror genre and started shaping it to their own form of horror. These then saw the likes of Dracula, now played by Christopher Lee, and Frankenstein, played by an underrated Ralph Bates in 1970, portrayed in a whole new light, these depictions were scarier, more horrific and overall terrifying. To many they are the staple of classic horror. One other thing that made these depictions of classic monsters a bit more terrifying was the inclusion of color in films; this was the first time that audiences saw bright red blood drip from Christopher Lee’s fangs!

Below are the two trailers from both the original Dracula and Christopher Lee’s depiction in the Hammer Dracula, it is clear the two are completely different, but I am torn between which I would say is my favorite!

Then we got the 70’s and 80’s and this spawned a new breed of horror called the slasher genre, this consisted of, usually, a crazed killer would roam around either a deserted camp grounds or just a simple quiet neighborhood. It all sounds well and good for the viewers who want to get a cheap scare out of the film, but what these movies did differently was they added a new feature that wasn’t really noticed before in previous films, gore!

The sight of teenagers being stabbed and murdered was quite a shocking thing to view on a 100 inch screen, but people found it entertaining and this then became the norm, giving other films in the 80’s free reign over the horror genre, films such as Nightmare on Elm St. NoES was the biggest horror/slasher movie of the whole decade, it lured teenagers from all over the world with its blend of ultra violence and Freddy Kruger’s memorable one liners, Robert Englund became one of the biggest stars of the 80’s for his portrayal of the dream killer Kruger. There was other horror movies out at the time that did dwell with psychological horror themes and what is meant when I say psychological horror is a film that still makes you think but contains little or no violence.

Psychological horror’s of the 80’s were a pretty big thing, and one of the most famous of all time was Stephen King’s The Shining and its main character depicted by an amazing Jack Nicholson, the reason why I think that this was one of the best horrors of all time was the fact that there was only one death in the whole entire film, but it still left the audience with something to think about after leaving the theatre. It’s the thought of being trapped in a house with a crazed axe wielding killer, who you have personal connections to be just terrifying and, to me, is perfect horror.

So this brings us to the 90’s and another new sub genre to the horror franchise, splatter films. The name basically sums up what the films will contain, splatter! Lots and lots of splatter. One of the best known splatter films was an independent film called Braindead by Peter Jackson. This set the bar for the amount of fake blood used in films, in one scene alone there was over 300 liters of fake blood used. The gore in Braindead was so explicit and over the top it was pushed from the horror genre into the comedy genre. This scene showed the protagonist, Lionel Cosgrove played by Timothy Balme, brandish an inverted lawnmower and run into a horde of zombies, with very bloody results.

Something a little different below, instead of a trailer here’s a little something I put together:

  By this time the audience was starting to get desensitized towards violence and gore, since almost every film had gore in it. Since horror films generally had more gore than any other genre, if there was blood and violence in a film it was put into the horror genre, and then along came a little film called Hostel which changed the genre for the worse, alongside its little brother, and also more successful brother, Saw.

This is when audiences were introduced to yet another sub-genre of horror known as gorno, or gore pornography to put it in a simple but more vulgar form. These types of films were only meant to shock and gross the audiences out rather than terrify them, and this is when the horror genre started to decline rapidly. I put out a survey asking people what do they think of the Hostel series, and the results were quite mixed, but with the majority falling in the bad reviews. Here are some of the comments left on the survey.

“Unnecessary torture porn bullsh*t”

“They sound horrid and not my type”.

“Too much focused on gore at the expense of any kind of decent story. Essentially cheap flicks that teenagers will liked when they first come out and then quickly forget about them as something newer and gorier was released.”

The 2000’s were a slow year for horror, in most cases there was only remakes of classic films but sadly they were not as good as the first, take NoES as an example, s I mentioned above it set the standard for slasher films in the 80’s and to have it remade with a different person playing Freddy was a big mistake in the eyes of the audience.  Instead of being played by the legendary Robert Englund, Freddy was now played by Jackie Earle Haley. The noughties also gave us an amazing comedy horror called Shaun of the Dead, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This film took everything that made all other classic zombie films cult favorites and turned them on its head, making it a cult classic itself.

Then that brings us to now, horror has been on a topsy turvy ride and it seems as though the genre has started to even itself out, by bringing a decent balance between violence and terror and giving the audiences the scares that they expect when watching a horror movie. Let’s just hope it stays that way!

Also, by clicking THIS you can read my “Highlights of Horror” or you can click THIS link to be taken directly to the slide show, you’re spoiled for choice!

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