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A horror film is a film that seeks to elicit fear for entertainment purposes. Initially inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction, and thriller genres.
Horror films often aim to evoke viewers' nightmares, fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown. Plots within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage into the everyday world. Prevalent elements include ghosts, extraterrestrials, vampires, werewolves, demons, Satanism, evil clowns, gore, torture, vicious animals, evil witches, monsters, zombies, cannibalism, psychopaths, natural, ecological or man-made disasters, and serial killers.
Some sub-genres of horror film include low-budget horror, action horror, comedy horror, body horror, disaster horror, found footage, holiday horror, horror drama, psychological horror, science fiction horror, slasher, supernatural horror, gothic horror, natural horror, zombie horror, disaster films, first-person horror, and teen horror.
The first depiction of the supernatural on screen appear in several of the short silent films created by the French pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès in the late 1890s. The best known of these early supernatural-based works is the 3-minute short film Le Manoir du Diable (1896), also known in English as The Haunted Castle or The House of the Devil. The film is sometimes credited as being the first ever horror film. In The Haunted Castle, a mischievous devil appears inside a medieval castle and harasses the visitors. Méliès' other popular horror film is La Caverne maudite (1898), which translates literally to "the accursed cave". The film, also known for its English title The Cave of the Demons, tells the story of a woman stumbling over a cave that is populated by the spirits and skeletons of people who died there. Méliès would also make other short films that historians consider now as horror-comedies. Une nuit terrible (1896), which translates to A Terrible Night, tells a story of a man who tries to get a good night's sleep but ends up wrestling a giant spider. His other film, L'auberge ensorcelée (1897), or The Bewitched Inn, features a story of a hotel guest getting pranked and tormented by an unseen presence.
In 1897, the accomplished American photographer-turned director George Albert Smith created The X-Ray Fiend (1897), a horror-comedy that came out a mere two years after x-rays were invented. The film shows a couple of skeletons courting each other. An audience full of people unaccustomed to the idea would have found it frightening and otherworldly. The next year, Smith created the short film Photographing a Ghost (1898), considered a precursor to the paranormal investigation subgenre. The film portrays three men attempting to photograph a ghost, only to fail time and again as the ghost eludes the men and throws chairs at them.
Japan also made early forays into the horror genre. In 1898, a Japanese film company called Konishi Honten released two horror films both written by Ejiro Hatta; Shinin No Sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse), and Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook) The film Shinin No Sosei told the story of a dead man who comes back to life after having fallen from a coffin that two men were carrying. (the writer Hatta played the dead man, while the coffin-bearers were played by Konishi employees.) Though there are no records of the cast, crew, or plot of Bake Jizo, it was likely based on the Japanese legend of Jizo statues, believed to provide safety and protection to children. The presence of the word bake—which can be translated to "spook," "ghost," or "phantom"—may imply a haunted or possessed statue. (In Japan, Jizō, or respectfully as Ojizō-sama, is a beloved divinity who is seen as the guardian of children, and in particular, children who died before their parents. He has been worshipped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, the souls of stillborn, miscarried, or aborted fetuses.)
Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomón, regarded as one of the most significant silent film directors, was popular for his frequent camera tricks and optical illusions, an innovation that contributed heavily to the popularity of trick films in the period. His famous works include Satán se divierte (1907), which translates to Satan Having Fun, or Satan at Play; La casa hechizada (1908), or The House of Ghosts, considered to be one of the earliest cinematic depictions of a haunted house premise; and Le spectre rouge (1907) or The Red Spectre, a collaboration film with French director Ferdinand Zecca about a demonic magician who attempts to perform his act in a mysterious grotto.
The Selig Polyscope Company in the United States produced one of the first film adaptations of a horror-based novel. In 1908, the company released Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, now a lost film. It is based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, published 15 years prior, about a man who transforms between two contrasting personas. (The book tells the classic story of a man with an unpredictably dual nature: usually very good, but sometimes shockingly evil instead.)
Georges Méliès also liked adapting the Faust legend into his films. In fact, the French filmmaker produced at least six variations of the German legend of the man who made a pact with the devil. Among his notable Faust films include Faust aux enfers (1903), known primarily for its English title The Damnation of Faust, or Faust in Hell. It is the filmmaker's third film adaptation of the Faust legend. In it, Méliès took inspiration from Hector Berlioz's Faust opera, but it pays less attention to the story and more to the special effects that represent a tour of hell. The film takes advantage of stage machinery techniques and features special effects such as pyrotechnics, substitution splices, superimpositions on black backgrounds, and dissolves. Méliès then made a sequel called Damnation du docteur Faust (1904), released in the U.S. as Faust and Marguerite. This time, the film was based on the opera by Charles Gounod. Méliès' other devil-inspired films in this period include Les quat'cents farces du diable (1906), known in English as The Merry Frolics of Satan or The 400 Tricks of the Devil, a tale about an engineer who barters with the Devil for superhuman powers and is forced to face the consequences. Méliès would also make other horror-based short films that aren't inspired by Faust, most notably the fantastical and unsettling Le papillon fantastique (1909), where a magician turns a butterfly woman into a spider beast.
In 1910, Edison Studios produced the first filmed version of Mary Shelley's classic gothic 1818 novel Frankenstein, the popular story of a scientist creating a hideous, sapient creature after a scientific experiment. Adapted to the screen for the first time by J. Searle Dawley for Edison, Frankenstein (1910) was deliberately designed to de-emphasize the horrific aspects of the story and focus on the story's mystical and psychological elements. Yet, the macabre nature of its source material made the film synonymous with the horror film genre.
In March 1911, the hour-long Italian silent film epic L'Inferno was screened in the Teatro Mercadante in Naples. The film, which was adapted from the first part of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and visually based on Gustave Doré's haunting illustrations, became an international success and is arguably the first true blockbuster in all of cinema. It is also regarded by many scholars as the finest film adaptation of any of Dante's works to date. The film, which was directed by three artists; Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan, and Giuseppe de Liguoro, is worth noting and well-remembered for its stunning visualization of the nine circles of Hell. Its stunning special effects is also very well noted especially for its presentation of a massive Lucifer with wings that stretch out behind him in front of a black void. He is seen devouring the Roman figures Brutus and Gaius in a disgusting display of double exposure and scale manipulation. The film is also able to capture some of the manic, tortuous, and bizarre imagery and themes of Dante's complex masterwork.
In the 1910s Georges Méliès would continue producing his Faustian films, the most significant of this period was Le Chevalier des Neiges (The Knight of the Snows) (1912). The film was Méliès' last film with Faustian themes, and the last of many films in which the filmmaker appeared as the Devil. The film tells a story of a princess kidnapped by Satan and thrown into a dungeon. Her lover, the brave Knight of the Snows, must then go on a journey to rescue her. Special effects in the film were created with stage machinery, pyrotechnics, substitution splices, superimpositions, and dissolves. It is again, among few of the best examples of trick films that Georges Méliès and Segundo de Chomón helped popularized.
In 1912, French director Abel Gance released his short film Le masque d'horreur (The Mask of Horror). The film tells a story of a mad sculptor who searches for the perfect realization of "the mask of horror". He places himself in front of a mirror after smearing blood over himself with the glass of an oil lamp. He then swallows a virulent poison to observe the effects of pain.
In 1913, German directors Stellan Rye and Paul Wegener made the silent horror film Der Student von Prag, popularly known for its English title as The Student of Prague, loosely based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The film tells a story of a student who inadvertently makes a Faustian bargain. In the film, the student tells a stranger to make him a rich man. So the stranger visits the student in his dorm room where he conjures up a hundred thousand pieces of gold and a contract for him to sign. In return, the stranger is granted to take anything he wants from the room and chooses to take the student's mirror. Upon moving it from the wall, a doppelgänger steps out and causes trouble. (In Western culture, a doppelgänger is a supernatural or ghostly double or look-alike of a specific person and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck.) Cinematographer Guido Seeber utilized groundbreaking camera tricks to create the effect of the doppelgänger by using a mirror double which produces a seamless double exposure. The film was written by Hanns Heinz Ewers, a noted writer of horror and fantasy stories and his involvement with the screenplay lent a much needed air of respectability to the fledgling art form of horror film and German Expressionism
Meanwhile, from November 1915 to June 1916, French writer/director Louis Feuillade released a weekly serial entitled Les Vampires where the filmmaker exploited the power of horror imagery to great effect. Consisting of 10 parts or episodes and roughly 7 hours long if combined, Les Vampires is considered to be one of the longest films ever made. The series tells a story of a criminal gang called the Vampires, who play upon their supernatural name and style to instill fear in the public and the police who desperately want to put a stop to them. Marked as Feuillade's legendary opus, Les Vampires is considered a precursor to movie thrillers. The series is also a close cousin to the surrealist movement.
Paul Wegener followed up his success with The Student of Prague by adapting a story inspired by the ancient Jewish legend of the golem, an anthropomorphic being that is magically created entirely from clay or mud. Wegener teamed up with Henrik Galeen to make Der Golem (1915). The film, which is still partially lost, tells a story of an antiques dealer who finds a golem, a clay statue, brought to life centuries before. The dealer resurrects the golem as a servant, but the golem falls in love with the antiques dealer's wife. As she does not return his love, the golem commits a series of murders. Wegener then made a sequel, this time he teamed up with co-director Rochus Gliese, and made Der Golem und die Tänzerin (1917), or The Golem and the Dancing Girl as it is known in English. It is now considered a lost film. Wegener would make a third golem film three years later to round up his Der Golem trilogy.
In 1919, Austrian director Richard Oswald released a German silent anthology horror film called Unheimliche Geschichten, also known as Eerie Tales or Uncanny Tales. In the film, a bookshop closes and the portraits of the Strumpet, Death, and the Devil come to life and amuse themselves by reading stories—about themselves, of course, in various guises and eras. The film is split into five stories: The Apparition, The Hand, The Black Cat (based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story), The Suicide Club (based on the Robert Louis Stevenson short story collection) and Der Spuk (which translates to The Spectre in English). The film is described as the "critical link between the more conventional German mystery and detective films of the mid 1910s and the groundbreaking fantastic cinema of the early 1920s."
Robert Wiene's Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (1920) became a worldwide success and had a lasting impact on the film world, particularly for horror. It was not so much the story but the style that made it distinguishable from other films, "Caligari's settings, some simply painted on canvas backdrops, are weirdly distorted, with caricatures of narrow streets, misshapen walls, odd rhomboid windows, and leaning doorframes. Effects of light and shadow were rendered by painting black lines and patterns directly on the floors and walls of sets." Critic Roger Ebert called it arguably "the first true horror film", and film reviewer Danny Peary called it cinema's first cult film and a precursor to arthouse films. Considered a classic, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari helped draw worldwide attention to the artistic merit of German cinema and had a major influence on American films, particularly in the genres of horror and film noir, introducing techniques such as the twist ending and the unreliable narrator to the language of narrative film.
In October 1920, Paul Wegener teamed up with co-director Carl Boese to make the final Golem film entitled Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam, known in English as The Golem: How He Came into the World. The final film in the Der Golem trilogy, The Golem: How He Came into the World (1920) is a prequel to Der Golem from 1915. In this film, Wegener stars as the golem who frightens a young lady with whom he is infatuated. The film is the best known of the series, as it is the only film that is completely preserved. It is also a leading example of early German Expressionism.
F. W. Murnau arguably made The first vampire-themed movie, Nosferatu (1922). It was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's gothic horror novel Dracula. In Nosferatu, Murnau created some of cinema's most lasting and haunting imagery which famously involve shadows of the creeping Count Orlok. This helped popularized the expressionism style in filmmaking. Many expressionist works of this era emphasize a distorted reality, stimulating the human psyche and have influenced the horror film genre.
For most of the 1920s, German filmmakers like Wegener, Murnau, and Wiene would significantly influence later productions not only in horror films but in filmmaking in general. They would become the leading innovators of the German Expressionist movement. The plots and stories of the German Expressionist films often dealt with madness and insanity. Arthur Robison's film, Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination (1923), literally Shadows - a Nocturnal Hallucination, also known as Warning Shadows in English is also one of the leading German Expressionist films. It tells the story of house guests inside a manor given visions of what might happen if the manor's host, the count played by Fritz Kortner, stays jealous and the guests do not reduce their advances towards his beautiful wife. Kortner's bulging eyes and twisted features are facets of a classic Expressionist performance style, as his unnatural feelings contort his face and body into something that appears other than human.
In 1924, German filmmaker Paul Leni made another representative German Expressionist film with Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, or Waxworks as it is commonly known. The horror film tells a story of a writer who accepts a job from a wax museum to write a series of stories about the exhibits on Harun al-Rashid, the Caliph of Baghdad, Ivan the Terrible, the Tsar of All Rus' and Jack the Ripper, the unknown serial killer of London in order to boost business. Although Waxworks is often credited as a horror film, it is an anthology film that goes through several genres including a fantasy adventure, a historical film, and a horror film through its various episodes. Waxworks contain many elements present in a German Expressionist movie. The film features deep shadows, moving shapes, and warped staircases. The director said of the film, "I have tried to create sets so stylized that they evidence no idea of reality." Waxworks was director Paul Leni’s last film in Germany before he heading to Hollywood to make some of the most important horror films of the late silent era.
Though the word horror to describe the film genre would not be used until the 1930s (when Universal Pictures began to release their initial monster films), earlier American productions often relied on horror themes. Many of these early films were considered dark melodramas because of their stock characters and emotion-heavy plots that focused on romance, violence, suspense, and sentimentality.
In 1923, Universal Pictures started producing films with horror elements. This would become the first phase of the studio's Universal Classic Monsters series that would continue for three more decades. The first of these films was The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) starring Lon Chaney as the hunchback Quasimodo. The film was adapted from the classic French gothic novel of the same name written by Victor Hugo in 1833, about a horribly deformed bell ringer in the cathedral of Notre-Dame. The film elevated Chaney, already a well-known character actor, to full star status in Hollywood, and also helped set a standard for many later horror films.
The trend of inserting an element of macabre into American pre-horror melodramas continued into the 1920s. Directors known for relying on macabre in their films during the 1920s were Maurice Tourneur, Rex Ingram, and Tod Browning. Ingram's The Magician (1926) contains one of the first examples of a "mad doctor" and is said to have had a large influence on James Whale's version of Frankenstein. The Unholy Three (1925) is an example of Browning's use of macabre and unique style of morbidity; he remade the film in 1930 as a talkie, though The Terror (1928) was the first horror film with sound.
Other European countries also, contributed to the genre during this period. Victor Sjöström's The Phantom Carriage (Sweden, 1920) is a cautionary tale about a supernatural legend, Benjamin Christensen's Häxan (Denmark/Sweden, 1922) is a documentary-style, horror film, about witchcraft and superstition, and in 1928, Frenchman, Jean Epstein produced an influential film, The Fall of the House of Usher, based on the Poe tale.
In the 1930s Universal Pictures continued making movies with horror elements as they began to churn in a successful film series based on Gothic horror. Bela Lugosi stars in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) and then Boris Karloff stars in James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), both films considered classic adaptations of the popular horror characters. The next year, Karloff would play the titular character in The Mummy (1932). Make-up artist Jack Pierce would be responsible for creating the make-up of many of the classic 1930's monsters for Universal Studios. He would also come to design the Satanic make-up for Lugosi in the independently produced White Zombie (1932).
After the release of The Mummy, Universal followed a trilogy of films based on the tales of Edgar Allan Poe; Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932), The Black Cat (1934), and The Raven (1935), the latter two of which teamed Lugosi with Karloff. Universal then began releasing sequels including Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Dracula's Daughter (1936). They also made the first mainstream werewolf picture, Werewolf of London (1935) which wasn't a box office triumph during release despite being revered by audiences today.
Other studios followed Universal's lead. MGM's controversial Freaks (1932), which featured characters played by people who had real deformities, frightened audiences at the time. The studio even disowned the film, and it remained banned, in the United Kingdom, for 30 years. Paramount Pictures' Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) is remembered for its innovative use of photographic filters to create Jekyll's transformation before the camera. And RKO created the highly successful and influential monster movie, King Kong (1933). With the progression of the genre, actors like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were beginning to build entire careers in horror.
Early in the decade also, Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer created the horror fantasy film Vampyr (1932) based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu's collection of supernatural stories In a Glass Darkly. The German-produced sound film tells the story of Allan Gray, a student of the occult who enters a village under the curse of a vampire. According to the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Vampyr's "greatness derives partly from Dreyer's handling of the vampire theme in terms of sexuality and eroticism, and partly from its highly distinctive, dreamy look."
In the 1940s, Val Lewton became a well known figure in early B-horror cinema for making low-budget movies for RKO Pictures, including I Walked with a Zombie (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), and Cat People (1942), a film deemed by the United States' National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The decade also sees the continuation of Universal Pictures' consistent releases of horror, suspense and science fiction films. This comes to be later known as the cult classic Universal Classic Monsters series which began in the 1920s and would later dissipate in the 1950s. In this decade Lon Chaney Jr. became the studio's leading monster movie actor supplanting the previous decades' leading stars Karloff and Lugosi by a wide margin in terms of the number of leading roles that he played. Chaney is best known playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941) and its sequels and crossover films. He also played Frankenstein's monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), taking over Boris Karloff in the main role. The Mummy series was also continued with The Mummy's Tomb (1942), The Mummy's Ghost and The Mummy's Curse (both 1944) all starring Chaney Jr. as the Mummy.
Paramount Pictures also made horror films in the 1940s, the most popular of which is The Uninvited. The film has been noted by contemporary film scholars as being the first film in history to portray ghosts as legitimate entities rather than illusions or misunderstandings played for comedy. It depicts various supernatural phenomena, including disembodied voices, apparitions, and possession. MGM's best horror genre contribution of the 1940s would be Albert Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was popularly known for its interesting use of color insert to show Dorian's haunting portrait.
In 1945, Great Britain contributed the anthology horror film Dead of Night. In the film house guests tell at least five supernatural tales, the last of which being the most remembered. The film's last story, titled The Ventriloquist's Dummy features a ventriloquist tormented by a malevolent puppet.
The popularity of movie genres of the 1940s were mostly film noir, melodrama and mystery. It would then arguably be a stretch to point out that some mystery and thriller films can be considered horror genre contributions of the decade. These movies include The Spiral Staircase (1946) which tells the story of a serial killer targeting women with "afflictions", like the mute and blind; The Seventh Victim (1943), a horror/film noir story of a woman stumbling upon a Satanic cult while looking for her missing sister; and John Brahm's The Lodger (1944), where a landlady suspects her new lodger to be Jack the Ripper.
The Queen of Spades (1949) is a fantasy/horror film about an elderly countess who strikes a bargain with the devil and exchanges her soul for the ability to always win at cards. Wes Anderson ranked it as the sixth best British film. Martin Scorsese said that The Queen of Spades is a "stunning film" and one of "the few true classics of supernatural cinema." And Dennis Schwartz of Ozus' World Movie Reviews called it "A masterfully filmed surreal atmospheric supernatural tale".
With advances in technology, the tone of horror films shifted from the Gothic towards contemporary concerns. A popular horror subgenre began to emerge: the Doomsday film. Low-budget productions featured humanity overcoming threats such as alien invasions and deadly mutations to people, plants, and insects. Popular films of this genre include Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Blob (1958).
1956's science fiction/horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers concerns an extraterrestrial invasion where aliens are capable of reproducing a duplicate replacement copy of each human. It is considered to be the most popular and most paranoid films from the golden age of American sci-fi cinema. Japan's experience with Hiroshima and Nagasaki bore the well-known Godzilla (1954) and its many sequels, featuring mutation from the effects of nuclear radiation. This kickstarted the tokusatsu trend known as Kaiju films, a Japanese film genre that features giant monsters, usually attacking major cities and engaging the military and other monsters in battle. Other films in this genre that isn't about Godzilla include Rodan (1956) and The Mysterians (1957). Besides Kaiju films, Japan was also into ghost cat/feline ghost movies in the 50's. These include Ghost-Cat of Gojusan-Tsugi (1956), and Black Cat Mansion (1958), which tells a story of a samurai tormented by a cat possessed by the spirits of the people she killed.
The 1950s is also well known for creature feature and Ray Harryhausen's visual effects work in many of the genre's films. His work on The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) is considered to be the film which kick started the 50s wave of monster movies and the concept of combining nuclear paranoia with the genre. The film was about a dinosaur that was awakened from frozen ice in the Arctic Circle by an atomic bomb test. Other creature films include It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Tarantula (1955), and The Giant Behemoth (1959).
Hollywood directors and producers found ample opportunity for audience exploitation through gimmicks. House of Wax (1953) used the advent of 3-D film to draw audiences, while The Tingler (1959) used electric buzzers to scare audiences in their theater seats. Filmmakers continued to merge elements of science fiction and horror over the following decades. Considered a "pulp masterpiece" of the era was The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), based on Richard Matheson's existentialist novel. The film conveyed the fears of living in the Atomic Age and the terror of social alienation.
The United Kingdom began to emerge as a major producer of horror films around this time. The Hammer company focused on the genre for the first time, enjoying huge international success from films involving classic horror characters which were shown in color for the first time. Drawing on Universal's precedent, many films produced were Frankenstein and Dracula remakes, followed by many sequels. Christopher Lee starred in a number of Hammer Horror films, including The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which Professor Patricia MacCormac called the "first really gory horror film, showing blood and guts in colour". His most influential role was as Count Dracula, with Lee's portrayal becoming the archetypal vampire in popular culture. The academic Christopher Frayling writes of Lee's 1958 film, “Dracula introduced fangs, red contact lenses, décolletage, ready-prepared wooden stakes and – in the celebrated credits sequence – blood being spattered from off-screen over the Count's coffin.” Lee also introduced a dark, brooding sexuality to the character, with Tim Stanley stating, “Lee’s sensuality was subversive in that it hinted that women might quite like having their neck chewed on by a stud”. Other British companies contributed to a boom in horror film production in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s.
In television, the anthology series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) has become a staple in horror fiction. Each episode presents a standalone story in which characters find themselves dealing with often disturbing or unusual events, an experience described as entering "the Twilight Zone". Although predominantly science-fiction, the show's paranormal and Kafkaesque events leaned the show towards fantasy and horror. The phrase "twilight zone," is used today to describe surreal experiences.
Released in May 1960, the British psychological thriller film, Peeping Tom (1960) by Michael Powell, is a progenitor of the contemporary "slasher film", though Alfred Hitchcock cemented the subgenre with Psycho released also in the same year. Hitchcock, considered to be the "Master of Suspense" didn't set out to frighten fans the way many other traditional horror filmmakers do. Instead, he helped pioneer the art of psychological suspense. As a result, he managed to frighten his viewers by getting to the root of their deepest fears. One of his most frightening films besides Psycho is The Birds (1963), where a seemingly idyllic town is overrun by violent birds.
France continued the mad scientist theme with the film Eyes Without a Face (1960). The story follows Parisian police in search of the culprit responsible for the deaths of young women whose faces have been mutilated. In Criterion's description of the film, they say it include "images of terror, of gore, [and] of inexplicable beauty".
Meanwhile, Italian horror films became internationally notable thanks to Mario Bava's contributions. His film La Maschera del Demonio (1960), marketed in English as The Mask of Satan then wound up being known as Black Sunday in the United States and Revenge of the Vampire in the United Kingdom. In this film, Bava turned a Russian folk legend into a beguiling fairly tale about a young doctor who finds himself stranded in a haunted community and falls for a woman whose body become possessed by a woman executed for witchcraft. Three years later, Bava went on to make the horror anthology film Black Sabbath (1963) known in Italy as I tre volti della paura, literally 'The Three Faces of Fear'.
The American International Pictures (AIP), in the early 60s, made a series of films based on stories by Edgar Allan Poe, most of which star Vincent Price, who became well known for his performances in subsequent horror films of the time. His success in House of Usher (1960) led him to do other Poe adaptions like Tales of Terror (1962) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964). Other popular Vincent Price horror films include House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Last Man on Earth (1964) where Price becomes a reluctant Vampire hunter after becoming the last man on earth.
The British horror film The Haunting (1963) was directed and produced by Robert Wise. It is an adaptation of the 1959 horror novel The Haunting of Hill House by famed horror writer Shirley Jackson. Robert Wise's The Haunting is considered by a great many critics, aficionados, and casual fans of the horror genre to be one of the scariest films of all time. The film is best known for its brilliant use of canted frames, mirror reflections, fish-eye lenses and uncanny sound and image editing.
Roman Polanski made his first film in English with Repulsion (1965), which is considered to be his scariest and most disturbing work. Polanski's "evocations of sexual panic and masterful use of sound puts the audiences' imagination to work in numerous ways". This psychological horror film tells the story of a young withdrawn woman who finds sexual advances repulsive and who, after she is left alone, becomes even more isolated and detached from reality.
Horror films of the 1960s used the supernatural premise to express the horror of the demonic. Jack Clayton's The Innocents (1961) tell the story of a governess who fears that the children she is watching over are possessed by ghosts haunting the estate they are staying. The story was based on Henry James' 1898 horror novella The Turn of the Screw. A few years later, Roman Polanski wrote and directed Rosemary's Baby (1968), based on the bestselling horror novel by Ira Levin. The highly influential film tells the story of a pregnant woman who suspects that an evil cult wants to take her baby for use in their rituals. Meanwhile, ghosts were a dominant theme in Japanese horror, in such films as Kwaidan, Onibaba (both 1964) and Kuroneko (1968).
Another influential American horror film of the 60s was George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968). Produced and directed by Romero on a budget of $114,000, it grossed $30 million internationally. Considered to be the first true zombie movie, the film began to combine psychological insights with gore. Distancing the era from earlier gothic trends, late 1960s films brought horror into everyday life.
Low-budget splatter films from the likes of Herschell Gordon Lewis also gained prominence in the 1960s. It's the precursor to "torture porn" movies that would become popular in the following decades. Some of Lewis' notorious works include Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) which follows a group of Northern tourists savagely tortured and murdered during a Confederate celebration of a small southern community's centennial; and Color Me Blood Red (1965), a story about a psychotic painter who murders civilians and uses their blood as red paint.
In television, the animated mystery Hanna-Barbera series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was broadcast from 1969 to 1970. The series centers on a group of teenagers and their dog who go to abandoned places to solve mysteries involving supposedly supernatural creatures through a series of antics and missteps. The animated series' simple formula had a major impact on future slasher films especially of its portrayal of villains in masks.
The 1970s began a new age for horror films with the transition from "classic" to modern horror. Horror films started to focus more on aggressiveness and ruthlessness while also focusing more on artistic qualities and societal themes. This era of horror films has been regarded as a "golden age" that transformed the genre by having it "grow up" while showing that horror can be artistic.
The 1970s was an era dominated by American horror films. Unlike the past, which was influenced heavily by European film-makers, Americans breathed a new life into the genre. Modern horror films took the expected roles of characters in the films and changed them.
This era changed the usual setting for horror films, using every-day settings. Along with this came a change from focusing on defeating evil every time to having some instances where good fails before succeeding. The critical and popular success of Rosemary's Baby, led to the release of more films with occult themes in the 1970s. The Omen (1976), where a man realizes that his five-year-old adopted son is the Antichrist. Invincible to human intervention, Demons became villains in many horror films with a postmodern style and a dystopian worldview.
Don't Look Now (1973), a independent British-Italian film directed by Nicolas Roeg, was also notable. Its focus on the psychology of grief was unusually strong for a film featuring a supernatural horror plot. Another notable film is The Wicker Man (1973), a British mystery horror film dealing with the practice of ancient pagan rituals in the modern era.
In the 1970s, Italian filmmakers Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda, Antonio Margheriti, and Dario Argento developed giallo horror films that became classics and influenced the genre in other countries. Representative films include: Twitch of the Death Nerve, Deep Red and Suspiria.
The ideas of the 1960s began to influence horror films in the 70s, as the youth involved in the counterculture began exploring the medium. Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and The Last House on the Left (1972) along with Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) recalled the Vietnam War; while George A. Romero satirized the consumer society in his zombie sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978). Meanwhile, the subgenre of comedy horror re-emerged in the cinema with The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Young Frankenstein (1974), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and An American Werewolf in London (1981) among others.
Also in the 1970s, the works of the horror author Stephen King began to be adapted for the screen, beginning with Brian De Palma's adaptation of Carrie (1976), King's first published novel, for which the two female leads (Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie) gained Oscar nominations. Next, was his third published novel, The Shining (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick, which was a sleeper at the box office. At first, many critics and viewers had negative feedback toward The Shining. However, the film is now known as one of Hollywood's most classic horror films.
This psychological horror film has a variety of themes; "evil children", alcoholism, telepathy, and insanity. This type of film is an example of how Hollywood's idea of horror started to evolve. Murder and violence were no longer the main themes of horror films. In the 1970s and 1980s, psychological and supernatural horror started to take over cinema. Another classic Hollywood horror film is Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist (1982). Poltergeist is ranked the 20th scariest movie ever made by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Both The Shining and Poltergeist involve horror being based on real-estate values. The evil and horror throughout the films come from where the movies are taking place.
The Amityville Horror is a 1979 supernatural horror film directed by Stuart Rosenberg, based on Jay Anson's 1977 book of the same name. It stars James Brolin and Margot Kidder as a young couple who purchase a home they come to find haunted by combative supernatural forces. The Changeling is a 1980 Canadian psychological horror film directed by Peter Medak.
Steven Spielberg's shark horror film, Jaws (1975), began a new wave of killer animal stories, such as Orca (1977) and Up from the Depths (1979). Jaws is often credited as being one of the first films to use traditionally B movie elements such as horror and mild gore in a big-budget Hollywood film. In 1979, Don Coscarelli's Phantasm was the first of the Phantasm franchise.
A cycle of slasher films began in the 1970s and 1980s with the creation of Halloween by John Carpenter. "Halloween" was a significant influence on the horror industry and has become one of the quintessential forerunners of commercial horror films, grossing 70 Million usd on a shoestring budget of $300,000-325,000. Its influence and inspiration can still be seen in films today.
Another notable 1970s slasher films are Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974). Sleepaway Camp (1983) is known for its twist ending, which is considered by some to be one of the most shocking endings among horror films. My Bloody Valentine (1981) is a slasher film dealing with Valentine's Day fiction.
The boom in slasher films provided enough material for numerous comedic spoofs of the genre including Saturday the 14th (1981), Student Bodies (1981), National Lampoon's Class Reunion (1982), and Hysterical (1983).
This subgenre would be mined by dozens of increasingly violent movies throughout the subsequent decades. Sean S. Cunningham made Friday the 13th (1980), Wes Craven directed A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Clive Barker made Hellraiser (1987).
Some films explored urban legends such as "The babysitter and the man upstairs". A notable example is When a Stranger Calls (1979), an American psychological horror film directed by Fred Walton starring Carol Kane and Charles Durning.
Alien (1979), a British-American science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott was very successful, receiving both critical acclaim and being a box office success. John Carpenter's movie The Thing (1982) was also a mix of horror and sci-fi, but it was neither a box-office nor critical hit, but soon became a cult classic. However, nearly 20 years after its release, it was praised for using ahead-of-its-time special effects and paranoia.
The 1980s saw a wave of gory "B movie" horror films – although most of them were poorly reviewed by critics, many became cult classics and later saw success with critics. A significant example is Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies, which were low-budget gorefests but had a very original plotline which was later praised by critics. In the Philippines, the first Shake, Rattle & Roll (1984) was released. The horror anthology film became a behemoth franchise in the country in the next decade.
Vampire horror was also popular in the 1980s, including cult vampire classics such as Fright Night (1985), The Lost Boys (1987), and Near Dark (also 1987). In 1984, Joe Dante's seminal monster comedy horror Gremlins became a box office hit with critics and audiences, and inspired a trend of "little monster" films such as Critters and Ghoulies.
Several science fiction action horror movies were released in the 1980s, notably Aliens (1986) and Predator (1987). Notable comedy horror films of the 1980s include Re-Animator (1985), and Night of the Creeps (1986).
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a 1986 psychological horror crime film directed and co-written by John McNaughton about the random crime spree of a serial killer who seemingly operates with impunity. Pumpkinhead (1988) is a dark fantasy horror film, which is the directorial debut of special effects artist Stan Winston.
In the first half of the 1990s, the genre still contained many of the themes from the 1980s. The slasher films, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Child's Play, all saw sequels in the 1990s, most of which met with varied amounts of success at the box office but all were panned by critics, with the exception of Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994) and the hugely successful film, The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The latter, which stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, is considered a major horror movie of all times. Misery (1990) also deals with a psychopath, and the film received critical acclaim for Kathy Bates's performance as the psychopathic Annie Wilkes.
New Nightmare, with In the Mouth of Madness (1995), The Dark Half (1993), and Candyman (1992), were part of a mini-movement of self-reflexive or metafictional horror films. Each film touched upon the relationship between fictional horror and real-world horror. Candyman, for example, examined the link between an invented urban legend and the realistic horror of the racism that produced its villain. In the Mouth of Madness took a more literal approach, as its protagonist actually hopped from the real world into a novel created by the madman he was hired to track down. This reflective style became more overt and ironic with the arrival of Scream (1996).
In Interview with the Vampire (1994), the "Theatre de Vampires" (and the film itself, to some degree) invoked the Grand Guignol style, perhaps to further remove the undead performers from humanity, morality and class. The horror movie soon continued its search for new and effective frights. In the 1985 novel, The Vampire Lestat, by the author Anne Rice (who penned Interview with the Vampire's screenplay and the 1976 novel of the same name) suggests that its antihero Lestat inspired and nurtured the Grand Guignol style and theatre.
Two main problems pushed horror backward during this period: firstly, the horror genre wore itself out with the proliferation of nonstop slasher and gore films in the eighties. Secondly, the adolescent audience which feasted on the blood and morbidity of the previous decade grew up, and the replacement audience for films of an imaginative nature were being captured instead by the explosion of science-fiction and fantasy films, courtesy of the special effects possibilities with advances made in computer-generated imagery. Examples of these CGI include movies like Species (1995), Anaconda (1997), Mimic (1997), Blade (1998), Deep Rising (1998), House on Haunted Hill (1999), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and The Haunting (1999).
To re-connect with its audience, horror became more self-mockingly ironic and outright parodic, especially in the latter half of the 1990s. Peter Jackson's Braindead (1992) (known as Dead Alive in the United States) took the splatter film to ridiculous excesses for comic effect. Wes Craven's Scream (written by Kevin Williamson) movies, starting in 1996, featured teenagers who were fully aware of, and often made reference to, the history of horror movies, and mixed ironic humour with the shocks (despite Scream 2 and Scream 3 utilising less use of the humour of the original, until Scream 4 in 2011, and rather more references to horror film conventions). Along with I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) (also written by Williamson) and Urban Legend (1998), they re-ignited the dormant slasher film genre.
Event Horizon (1997) is a British-American science fiction horror film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. The Sixth Sense (1999) is a supernatural horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, which tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who tries to help him.
House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 horror film directed by William Malone which follows a group of strangers who are invited to a party at an abandoned asylum, where they are offered $1 million each by an amusement park mogul if they are able to survive the night. It is a remake of the 1959 film of the same title. Other horror films of the late 1990s include Cube (1997), The Faculty (1998), Disturbing Behavior (1998), Stir of Echoes (1999), Stigmata (1999), and Existenz (1999).
Monster horror was quite popular in the 1990s. Tremors (1990) is the first installment of the Tremors franchise. Lake Placid (1999) is another monster horror film, written by David E. Kelley and directed by Steve Miner.
Another successful horror film is Audition, a 1999 Japanese film based on the novel of the same name, directed by Takashi Miike. Around this period, Japanese horror started becoming popular in English speaking countries.
The film The Last Broadcast (1998) served as inspiration for the highly successful The Blair Witch Project (1999), which popularized the found footage horror subgenre. The theme of witchcraft was also addressed in The Witches (1990), starring Anjelica Huston, and The Craft (1996), a supernatural horror film directed by Andrew Fleming. Wolf is a 1994 romantic horror film following the transformation of a man (Jack Nicholson) into a werewolf.
Ravenous (1999) starring Guy Pearce and directed by Antonia Bird is a "quirky" and gruesome movie based on the real life horror story of the Donner party that got stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1847 due to snow.
The decade started with American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron starring Christian Bale as a charismatic serial killer and Manhattan business mogul. The movie was highly controversial when released and remains a cult classic today. Scary Movie (2000), a comedy horror directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans parodied of the horror, slasher, and mystery genres. The film received mixed reviews from critics. By contrast, Valentine (2001) was a conventional horror film. It had some success at the box office, but was derided by critics for being formulaic and relying on foregone horror film conventions. The Others (2001) was hugely successful, winning and being further nominated for many awards. It is a 2001 Spanish-American supernatural gothic horror film with elements of psychological horror. It was written, directed, and scored by Alejandro Amenábar. It stars Nicole Kidman and Fionnula Flanagan.
Franchise films such as Jason X (2001) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003) also made a stand in theaters. Final Destination (2000) marked a successful revival of teen-centered horror and spawned five installments. Jeepers Creepers series was also successful. Films such as Hollow Man (2000), Cabin Fever (2002), House of 1000 Corpses (2003) (the latter an exploitation horror film written, co-scored and directed by Rob Zombie in his directorial debut) and the previous mentions helped bring the genre back to Restricted ratings in theaters. Van Helsing (2004) and Underworld series had huge box office success, despite mostly negative reviews by critics. Ginger Snaps (2000) is a Canadian film dealing with the tragic transformation of a teenage girl who is bitten by a werewolf. Signs (2002) revived the science fiction alien theme. The Descent, a 2005 British adventure horror film written and directed by Neil Marshall was also successful. Another notable film is Drag Me to Hell, a 2009 American supernatural horror film co-written and directed by Sam Raimi. The Strangers (2008) deals with unprovoked stranger-on-stranger violence. The House of the Devil (2009) is inspired by the "satanic panic" of the 1980s. Trick 'r Treat is a 2007 anthology horror film written and directed by Michael Dougherty and produced by Bryan Singer. Black Water (2007) is a British-Australian natural horror film. Another natural adventure horror film is The Ruins (2008), which is based on the novel of the same name by Scott Smith.
Several horror film adaptations from comic books and video games were produced. 30 Days of Night (2007) is based on the comic book miniseries of the same name. The story focuses on an Alaskan town beset by vampires as it enters into a 30-day long polar night. Comic book adaptations like the Blade series, Constantine (2005), and Hellboy (2004) also became box office successes. The Resident Evil video game franchise was adapted into a film released in March 2002, and several sequels followed. Other video game adaptations like Doom (2005) and Silent Hill (2006) also had moderate box office success.
Some pronounced trends have marked horror films. Films from non-English language countries have become successful. The Devil's Backbone (2001) is such an example. It is a 2001 Spanish-Mexican gothic horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro, and written by del Toro, David Muñoz, and Antonio Trashorras. A French horror film Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) became the second-highest-grossing French language film in the United States in the last two decades. The Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008) was also successful. REC is a 2007 Spanish zombie horror film, co-written and directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Martyrs (2008), a French-Canadian horror film, was controversial upon its release, receiving polarizing reviews. Another notable film is The Orphanage (2007), a Spanish horror film and the debut feature of Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona. A Tale of Two Sisters is a 2003 South Korean psychological drama horror film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon. Shutter (2004) is a Thai horror film which focuses on mysterious images seen in developed pictures. Cold Prey is a 2006 Norwegian slasher film directed by Roar Uthaug.
Another trend is the emergence of psychology to scare audiences, rather than gore. The Others (2001) proved to be a successful example of a psychological horror film. A minimalist approach which was equal parts Val Lewton's theory of "less is more", usually employing the low-budget techniques utilized on The Blair Witch Project (1999), has been evident, particularly in the emergence of Asian horror movies which have been remade into successful Americanized versions, such as The Ring (2002), The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), and Pulse (2006). In March 2008, China banned the movies from its market. Credo (2008) and Triangle (2009) are two British psychological horror films. What Lies Beneath (2000) is a supernatural horror film directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer as a couple who experience a strange haunting of their home. Orphan (2009) is a notable psychological horror film. Another psychological horror film is 1408 (2007), based on Stephen King's 1999 short story of the same name. Two Australian horror films that deal with teenagers are Lake Mungo (2008) and The Loved Ones (2009).
The films I Am Legend (2007), Quarantine (2008), Zombieland (2009), and 28 Days Later (2002) featured an update of the apocalyptic and aggressive zombie genre. The latter film spawned a sequel: 28 Weeks Later (2007). An updated remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) soon appeared as well as the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Spanish -Cuban comedy zombie film Juan of the Dead (2012). This resurgence led George A. Romero to return to his Living Dead series with Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). Cannibals were present in horror films such as Dahmer (2002), Wrong Turn (2003), Tooth and Nail (2007), and Dying Breed (2008). Jennifer's Body (2009) starring Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried, written by Diablo Cody and directly by Karyn Kusama brings a succubus into a suburban American high school.
The Australian film Wolf Creek (2005) written, co-produced, and directed by Greg McLean revolves around three backpackers who find themselves taken captive and after a brief escape, hunted down by Mick Taylor in the Australian outback. The film was ambiguously marketed as being "based on true events"; the plot bore elements reminiscent of the real-life murders of tourists by Ivan Milat in the 1990s, and Bradley Murdoch in 2001; and contained more extreme violence. An extension of this trend was the emergence of a type of horror with emphasis on depictions of torture, suffering, and violent deaths, (variously referred to as "horror porn", "torture porn", "splatterporn" and "gore-nography") with films such as Ghost Ship (2002), The Collector (2009), Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), and their respective sequels, frequently singled out as examples of emergence of this subgenre. In 2010 the Saw film series held the Guinness World Record of the highest-grossing horror franchise in history. Finally, with the arrival of Paranormal Activity (2007), which was well received by critics and an excellent reception at the box office, minimalist horror approach started by The Blair Witch Project was reaffirmed. Cloverfield (2008) is another found footage horror film. The Mist (2007) is a science-fiction horror film based on the 1980 novella of the same name by Stephen King. Antichrist (2009) is an English-language Danish experimental horror film written and directed by Lars von Trier, and starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 legal drama horror film directed by Scott Derrickson, loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel. The Children (2008) is British horror film focusing on the mayhem created by several children. Another 2008 British horror film is Eden Lake.
Remakes of earlier horror movies became routine in the 2000s. In addition to the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004), as well as the remake of both Herschell Gordon Lewis' cult classic, 2001 Maniacs (2003), and the remake of Tobe Hooper's classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), there was also the 2007 Rob Zombie-written and -directed remake of John Carpenter's Halloween. The film focused more on Michael's backstory than the original did, devoting the first half of the film to Michael's childhood. It was critically panned by most, but was a success in its theatrical run, spurring its own sequel. This film helped to start a "reimagining" riot in horror filmmakers. Among the many remakes or "reimaginings" of other popular horror films and franchises are films such as Thirteen Ghosts (2001), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Children of the Corn (2009), Halloween (2007), Prom Night (2008), The Omen (2006), Carrie (2002), The Wicker Man (2006), Day of the Dead (2008), Night of the Demons (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Willard (2003), Black Christmas (2006), The Amityville Horror (2005), April Fool's Day (2008), The Fog (2005), The Hitcher (2007), It's Alive (2009), When a Stranger Calls (2006), and The Last House on the Left (2009).
Remakes remain popular, with films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), The Crazies (2010), I Spit on Your Grave (2010), Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010), Fright Night (2011), Maniac (2012), Poltergeist (2015), and Suspiria (2018). The 1976 film, Carrie, saw its second remake in 2013, which is the third film adaptation of Stephen King's 1974 novel of the same name. Child's Play saw a sequel with Curse of Chucky (2013), while Hellraiser: Judgment (2018) become the tenth installment in the Hellraiser film series. Halloween is a 2018 slasher film which is the eleventh installment in the Halloween film series, and a direct sequel to the 1978 film of the same name, while effecting a retcon of all previous sequels. The 2013 Evil Dead is the fourth installment in the Evil Dead franchise, and serves as a soft reboot of the original 1981 film and as a continuation to the original film trilogy.
Serialized, found footage style web videos featuring Slender Man became popular on YouTube in the beginning of the decade. Such series included TribeTwelve, EverymanHybrid, and Marble Hornets, the latter of which has been adapted into a feature film. Slender Man (2018) is supernatural horror film, based on the character of the same name. The character as well as the multiple series is credited with reinvigorating interest in found footage as well as urban folklore. Horror has become prominent on television with The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and The Strain, and on online streaming services like Netflix's Stranger Things and Haunting of Hill House. Also, many popular horror films have had successful television series made: Psycho spawned Bates Motel, The Silence of the Lambs spawned Hannibal, and both Scream and Friday the 13th had TV series in development.
You're Next (2011) and The Cabin in the Woods (2012) led to a return to the slasher genre; the latter was intended also as a critical satire of torture porn. The Green Inferno (2015) pays homage to the controversial horror film, Cannibal Holocaust (1980). The Australian psychological horror film, The Babadook (2014) directed by Jennifer Kent received critical acclaim and won many awards. It Follows (2014) subverted traditional horror tropes of sexuality and slasher films and enjoyed commercial and critical success. The Conjuring Universe is a series of horror films which deal with the paranormal. The series includes The Conjuring (2013), The Conjuring 2 (2016), Annabelle (2014), Annabelle: Creation (2017) and The Nun (2018). Sinister (2012) is a British-American supernatural horror film directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Another notable supernatural horror film is Insidious (2010). The Witch (2015) is a historical period supernatural horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers in his directorial debut, which follows a Puritan family encountering forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm. Get Out (2017) received universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Its plot follows a black man who uncovers a disturbing secret when he meets the family of his white girlfriend. Adapted from the Stephen King novel, It (2017) set a box office record for horror films by grossing $123.1 million on opening weekend in the United States and nearly $185 million globally. Gerald's Game (2017) is a psychological horror film based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. Other horror films include Frozen (2010), Black Swan (2010), Devil (2010), The Innkeepers (2011), Oculus (2013), Under the Skin (2013), Mama (2013), Green Room (2015), The Invitation (2015), Hush (2016), Lights Out (2016), Don't Breathe (2016), The Endless, Revenge (2017 film), Mother! (2017), It Comes at Night (2017), and Unsane (2018), Upgrade (film) (2018), Overlord (2018 film), Mandy (2018), Suspiria, Apostle, CAM, Wildling, Ghost Stories, Cargo, Terrifier, Pyewacket, The Strangers: Prey at Night, Lowlife, Marrowbone, Downrange, Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum.
A Quiet Place (2018) is a critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic science-fiction horror film with a plot that follows a family who must live life in silence while hiding from extraterrestrial creatures that arrived on earth on fragments from their exploded home planet, and which hunt exclusively by sound. Annihilation (2018) is another successful science-fiction horror film. Hereditary (2018) follows a family haunted after the death of their secretive grandmother.
2018 and 2019 saw the rise of Jordan Peele as a director of allegorical horror-thriller films. Get Out addresses modern racism and the concept of slavery by following an African-American man as he makes a chilling discovery regarding his white girlfriend's upper-class family. Get Out received four Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay) at the 90th Academy Awards, of which Peele won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Peele's sophomore film, Us, addresses social class and privilege as it follows a family terrorized by their murderous doppelgängers.
Several notable found footage horror films were produced, including The Last Exorcism (2010), V/H/S (2012), Unfriended (2014), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), The Visit (2015). Various themes were addressed in the horror of this period. Horror films which deal with troubled teens include Excision (2012) and Split (2016). The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) depicts coroners who experience supernatural phenomena while examining the body of an unidentified woman. The Purge is an action horror film franchise, consisting of four films and a television series, which are based on a future dystopian United States, where all crime is made legal once a year. Contracted (2013), Starry Eyes (2014), American Mary (2012) deal with body horror. Kill List (2011) is a British crime drama psychological horror film which deals with contract killers. The Hallow (2015) follows a family who go to a remote rural place in Ireland and have to deal with demonic creatures living in the woods. Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017) address extraterrestrial themes. Friend Request (2016) and The Den (2013) are examples of cyber horror. The Neon Demon (2016) follows an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose beauty and youth generate intense fascination and jealousy within the industry. #Horror (2015) depicts a group of wealthy 7th grade girls who face a night of terror together after a social network game spirals out of control. The Other Side of the Door (2016) deals with a mother who attempts to use a ritual to meet her dead son for a last time to say goodbye, but misuses the ritual. Truth or Dare (2018) follows a group of college students who play a game of truth or dare? while on vacation in Mexico, only to realize it has deadly consequences if they don't follow through on their tasks. Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) focuses on a widow and her family adding a Ouija board to their phony seance business where, unbeknownst to them, they invite a spirit that possesses the youngest daughter. The Blackcoat's Daughter (also known as February) is a 2015 American-Canadian supernatural psychological horror film which follows two Catholic schoolgirls who get left behind at their boarding school over winter break, where the nuns are rumored to be satanists.
The success of non-English language films continued with the Swedish film, Marianne (2011), while Let the Right One In (2008) was the subject of a Hollywood remake, Let Me In (2010). South Korean horror produced I Saw the Devil (2010) and Train to Busan (2016). Raw is a 2016 French-Belgian horror drama written and directed by Julia Ducournau, and starring Garance Marillier. Goodnight Mommy (2014) (German: Ich seh, Ich seh) is an Austrian horror film. Verónica is a 2017 Spanish horror film loosely based on real events. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) directed by Ana Lily Amirpour is vampire film in Persian that transcends simple vampire and horror categorization. Untamed (2016) directed by Amat Escalante is a unique psychological-sexual thriller.
The 2017 slasher film, Happy Death Day follows a college student who is murdered on her birthday and begins reliving the day repeatedly, at which point she sets out to find the killer and stop her death. It grossed $125 million worldwide on a $4.8 million budget and received generally positive reviews, with critics deeming the film entertaining while acknowledging the familiar premise, and describing it as "Groundhog Day meets Scream". A sequel, Happy Death Day 2U, was released in February 2019.
In late 2018, Netflix premiered the post-apocalyptic thriller film Bird Box which became an internet sensation even well into January 2019. The film follows a woman, played by Sandra Bullock, who, along with a pair of children, must make it through a forest and river. They must do so blindfolded, to avoid supernatural entities that seemingly cause people who look at them to die by suicide. The hashtag #BirdBox trended for weeks. People shared memes in regards to the movie, even inspiring the "Bird Box blindfold challenge" in which participants wear blindfolds while trying to do day-to-day activities.
- Action horror – A subgenre combining the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage of horror movies with the weapon fights and frenetic chases of the action genre. Themes or elements often prevalent in typical action-horror films include gore, demons, aliens, vicious animals, vampires, and, most commonly, zombies. This category also fuses the fantasy genre. Examples include: Aliens, Predator, Dog Soldiers, Blade, From Dusk till Dawn, I Saw the Devil, Resident Evil, Feast, Train to Busan, The Purge series, and Upgrade.
- Body horror – In which the horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body. Other types of body horror include unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect placement of limbs to create 'monsters' out of human body parts. David Cronenberg is one of the notable directors of the genre. Body horror films include: Starry Eyes, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Contracted, The Thing, The Fly, and American Mary.
- Comedy horror – Combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. The comedy horror genre often crosses over with the black comedy genre and are occasionally also horror films with a lower rating aimed at a family audience. The short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is cited as "the first great comedy-horror story". Examples of comedy horror films include: An American Werewolf in London, Beetlejuice, Jennifer's Body, Teeth, Nina Forever, Slither, The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Scary Movie and Idle Hands. Gremlins, ParaNorman, and Ghostbusters were examples of comedy horror films aimed at a family audience.
- Holiday horror – A film which depicts horror events which are set during a holiday or holiday season. It often involves a psychopathic killer stalking a sequence of victims in a violent manner. It is set during Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, April Fools' Day, or Thanksgiving. Examples include: Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, Home Sweet Home, April Fool's Day, Valentine, Trick 'r Treat, and All Through the House.
- Horror adventure - A film that blends expeditions, exploration, exotic places and other adventure elements in a horror setting. Examples include: King Kong, The Descent, Silent Hill, Jaws, Cannibal Holocaust, and Anaconda.
- Horror drama – A film that focuses on imperiled characters dealing with realistic emotional struggles, often involving dysfunctional family relations, in a horror setting. The film's horror elements often serve as a backdrop to an unraveling dramatic plot. Examples include: Dark Water, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Lights Out, The Babadook, The Fly, It, Let the Right One In, Antichrist, Excision, Mama, The Sixth Sense, and Audition.
- Low-budget horror - Is a low budget film that conforms to the main horror genre, but has been made with a limited budget. Examples include: Night of the Living Dead, The Blair Witch Project, and Saw.
- Psychological horror – Relies on characters' fears, guilt, beliefs, eerie sound effects, relevant music, emotional instability and at times, the supernatural and ghosts, to build tension, scare and further the plot. Notable psychological horror films include: Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, The Shining, May, Credo, Black Swan, The Changeling, Silent Hill , The Uninvited, and Get Out.
- Science fiction horror – Often revolves around subjects that include but are not limited to killer aliens, mad scientists, and/or experiments gone wrong. Examples include: Frankenstein, Species, Mimic, Alien, The Fly, The Thing, The Blob, Apollo 18, Event Horizon, and Resident Evil.
- Slasher film – Often revolves around a serial killer who systematically murders people through violent means. Examples include: Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Black Christmas, Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play, and Scream.
- Splatter film – These films deliberately focus on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence. Through the use of special effects and excessive blood and guts, they tend to display an overt interest in the vulnerability of the human body and the theatricality of its mutilation. Examples of splatter horror films include: Inside, Train, The Human Centipede, Hostel, Saw, Blood Feast, Storm Warning, and Maniac.
- Supernatural horror – Includes menacing ghosts, demons, or other depictions of supernatural occurrences. Supernatural horror films often combine elements of religion into the plot. Common themes include vengeful ghosts, witches, the devil, and demonic possession. Examples include: The Ring, The Grudge, The Amityville Horror, It, The Omen, The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, The Conjuring, Hereditary, Sinister, and Suspiria.
- Horror thriller- A subgenre that contains the elements of the horror genre (ghosts, killers, psychopaths, and monsters) with the tension buildup of the thriller genre. Examples include The Invitation, Don't Breathe, Peeping Tom, The Silence of the Lambs, Joy Ride, and A Quiet Place.
- Gothic horror – Gothic horror is a type of story that contains elements of goth and horror. At times it may have romance that unfolds in the setting of a horror tale, usually suspenseful. Some of the earliest horror movies were of this subgenre. Examples include: Dracula, Sleepy Hollow, The Others, The Phantom of the Opera, Kill, Baby, Kill, Nosferatu, and Crimson Peak.
- Natural horror – A subgenre of horror films "featuring nature running amok in the form of mutated beasts, carnivorous insects, and normally harmless animals or plants turned into cold-blooded killers." This genre may sometimes overlap with the science fiction and action and adventure genres. Examples include: The Birds, Jaws, Piranha, Bats, Lake Placid, Rogue, Alligator, and Black Water
- Zombie film – Zombie films feature creatures who are usually portrayed as either reanimated corpses or mindless human beings. Distinct subgenres have evolved, such as the zombie comedy, which may or may not retain a significant horror theme, and often crosses into black comedy. Examples include: White Zombie, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, REC, 28 Days Later, Deadgirl, Dead Snow, Night of the Creeps, and Messiah of Evil.
- Found footage horror: A film "technique" sometimes referred to as a subgenre which involves giving the audience a first person view of the story that is discovered from an original recording source within the plot. Recording film in this way merges the audience with the character's experiences inducing suspense, shock, and bafflement. Examples of first-person horror include The Blair Witch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007), Cloverfield (2008), and Devil's Due (2014).
- Teen horror – A horror subgenre that victimizes teenagers while usually promoting strong, anti-conformity teenage leads, appealing to young generations. This subgenre often depicts themes of sex, under-aged drinking, and gore. It was most popular in 1964 and 1965.
- Cyber horror – A film which is either has its narrative told all through a computer or any other form of technology, or that utilizes technology as a key plot element. Examples include Unfriended, Friend Request, and The Den.
- Superhero horror – combining superhero film tropes, clichés, and styles into a horror scenario. Examples include Brightburn and The New Mutants.
Influences on societyEdit
Horror films' evolution throughout the years has given society a new approach to resourcefully utilize their benefits. The horror film style has changed over time, but, in 1996, Scream set off a "chain of copycats", leading to a new variety of teenage, horror movies. This new approach to horror films began to gradually earn more and more revenue as seen in the progress of Scream movies; the first movie earned $6 million and the third movie earned $101 million. The importance that horror films have gained in the public and producers’ eyes is one obvious effect on our society.
Horror films' income expansion is only the first sign of the influences of horror flicks. The role of women and how women see themselves in the movie industry has been altered by the horror genre. Early horror films such as My Bloody Valentine (1981), Halloween (1978), and Friday the 13th (1980) were produced mostly for male audiences in order to "feed the fantasies of young men". This idea is no longer prevalent in horror films, as women have become not only the main audience and fans of horror films but also the main protagonists of contemporary horror films. Movie makers have also begun to integrate topics more broadly associated with other genres into their films in order to grow audience appeal.
Many early horror films created great social and legal controversy. In the U.S., the Motion Picture Production Code which was implemented in 1930, set moral guidelines for film content, restraining movies containing controversial themes, graphic violence, explicit sexuality and/or nudity. The gradual abandonment of the Code, and its eventual formal repeal in 1968 (when it was replaced by the MPAA film rating system) offered more freedom to the movie industry. Nevertheless, controversy continued to surround horror movies, and many continued to face censorship issues around the world. For example, 1978's I Spit on Your Grave, an American rape-and-revenge exploitation horror film written, co-produced, directed, and edited by Meir Zarchi, was received negatively by critics, but it attracted a great deal of national and international attention due to its explicit scenes of rape, murder and prolonged nudity, which led to bans in countries such as Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and West Germany. Many of these countries later removed the ban, but the film remains prohibited in Ireland.
While horror is only one genre of film, the influence it presents to the international community is large. Horror movies tend to be a vessel for showing eras of audiences issues across the globe visually and in the most effective manner. Jeanne Hall, a film theorist, agrees with the use of horror films in easing the process of understanding issues by making use of their optical elements. The use of horror films to help audiences understand international prior historical events occurs, for example, to depict the horrors of the Vietnam War, the Holocaust and the worldwide AIDS epidemic. However, horror movies do not always present positive endings. In fact, in many occurrences the manipulation of horror presents cultural definitions that are not accurate, yet set an example to which a person relates to that specific cultural from then on in their life.
The visual interpretations of films can be lost in the translation of their elements from one culture to another, like in the adaptation of the Japanese film Ju on into the American film The Grudge. The cultural components from Japan were slowly "siphoned away" to make the film more relatable to a western audience. This deterioration that can occur in an international remake happens by over-presenting negative cultural assumptions that, as time passes, sets a common ideal about that particular culture in each individual. Holm's discussion of The Grudge remakes presents this idea by stating, "It is, instead, to note that The Grudge films make use of an un-theorized notion of Japan... that seek to directly represent the country."
- Bollywood horror films
- Cannibalism in popular culture
- Chinese horror
- List of disaster films
- German underground horror
- Japanese horror
- Horror and terror
- Horror fiction
- List of ghost films
- List of horror film villains
- List of natural horror films
- Misogyny in horror films
- Monsters in fiction
- Monster movie
- Racism in horror films
- Social thriller
- Survival horror games
- Universal monsters
- Urban Gothic
- Vampire film
- Werewolf fiction
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