“Horror films are unsettling movies that strive to elicit the emotions of fear, disgust and horror from viewers.”
This genre is unique in that it aims to make the viewers experience as agonising as possible; if they leave the cinema in shock, disgust or fear then they have achieved their goal. However, as in the past sheer thrills and spills would have been enough to please the paying public, the need for intelligent plotlines and franchise films is at glaring heights. Films such as Paranormal Activity, Rec and Saw (all for contrasting reasons) are fixed at the top of the Premier League of Horror films.
In order for a film to be ‘scary’ it has to tap into the primal fears of people and make them seem defenceless. For example the films I have just mentioned address the fear of ghosts and unexplainable happenings, confined spaces and a persons unwavering determination to cause pain to you. To understand to genetic make-up of the genre I decided to do some research into Horror and explore just why it holds such power in the film industry.
As cinema started to gain a stronghold in the late 1890’s, horror ‘shorts’ came into fruition through the work of timeless direction like Georges Méliès with films like ‘The House of the Devil’. More films began to follow as Paul Wegener’s ‘The Golem’ andRobert Wiene’s ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ made release but the firstreally iconic horror film was produced when Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney is pictured) made its way onto the black-and-white screens of yesteryear. In the same year, 1925, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, another timeless movie which would go on to be rereleased numerous times, was made for the first time and was just one in a long line of movies which were capturing the imagination of the audiences and creating a fan-club of early 20th century horror fans.
The stand-out names continued to fly into cinemas up and down the land as Dracula was followed by Frankenstein before The Body Snatcher was released. The horror movies of old, and some still consider them to be the best, tended to be character-led due to the terrifying fates or intents they hold. However it wasn’t until the 1980’s in which the genre started to develop dominance over its rivals. It was a decade which seen Jaws, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre imprint themselves of the global consciousness. As time past, budgets grew while the need for gore, violence and extreme plotlines grew resulting in gruesome films being made which, not only left people chilled by the dark themes they explored, but also gave a realistic imagery for the viewers to take home with them and try to forget come bedtime.
In the 80’s and 90’s horror also underwent some interesting ‘breading’ as movie producers started to experiment with the genre, mixing it with science fiction like in Aliens or with animation like Childs Play. Scream, one of the stand-out franchises from the 90’s took the daring movie to blend horror with comedy and the merger produced surprisingly positive results in the box office meaning that in 2010 ‘Scream 4’ will hit our screens.
Courtesy of special effects, horror movies were gaining more scares-per-minute them any other decade in the 2000’s but sometimes the plotlines wavered, hence remakes of classics being the ‘in-thing’ as ideas dry up. Original ideas did occur however and the teen-based flicks, The Final Destination, produced an effective and long running franchise. The Ring, The Grudge and Paranormal Activity are, to most, the most memorable films of the decade butwhen it comes to movie franchises, not many can beat Saw. The genre is horror but official the Saw movies are part of the ever increasing ‘Torture Porn’ category in which people, half naked, are abused and tortured. Now at its sixth movie and with Saw 3D in development it seems the bandwagon will never be stopped. It isn’t the highest grossing franchise however, that honour belongs to Friday the 13th.
As the paying public became tired of gimmicks and special effect laden films, they turned to spoofs (most notably Scary Movie and Shaun of the Dead) while low-budget films also regained popularity as Paranormal Activity stormed the charts worldwide in 2009. Its farto say that the Horror genre is an ever evolving one and that, while it may seem as if ideas are running out and the ‘glory days’ have passed, rest assured; horror movies will continue to cause sleepless nights for many a year.