History of Horror

         When picking a movie to view, if a person does not know a specific title, he or she usually tries to pick one from a certain genre that they enjoy watching. Some people like comedies, while others like romantic films. One of the most popular, and oldest, genres is the horror genre. People, for some reason or other, enjoy being scared. People will line up to see a movie that some do not even watch entirely (by peeking through their hands of course). Because of the fame of the horror genre, it will always be around and continue to frighten people on days other than Halloween.

         One of the first horror movies to grace the screen was Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), which came out in 1919 and was directed by Robert Wiene. After the film makers of the world knew that a horror film could be done, many more began to make them. Nosferatu, eine Symphomie des Gauens (Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horrors) was one of the next. It was released in 1922 and directed by F.W. Murnau. In it is told the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is almost identical to the book for the first portion, but slowly digresses. While it was not a “talkie,” the director used shadows and camera angles to purvey a sense of terror. It did not need sounds to be scary, the careful acting and precision was what did the trick. When America’s Hollywood moviemakers saw that they could make money on this scary genre, they quickly jumped on board the horror bandwagon. In 1931, Bela Lugosi imprinted the image of the Count in the minds of generations to come in Tod Browning’s Dracula. In the same year, James Whale brought about Frankenstein, where Boris Karloff’s portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster became what everyone worldwide would know him as: a stiff, square-headed giant with bolts protruding from his neck.

         After these initial films, the genre took off. Sequels of Frankenstein and Dracula were made. Other monster movies were made as well, such as The Wolf Man (1941). Soon, a man by the name of Alfred Hitchcock came on to the scene. He brought about the age of the thriller form of the horror genre. One of his first known thrillers, Dial M for Murder (1954), led to more popular horror movies to entertain and scare the general public. In 1960, Hitchcock made Psycho, one of the movies that he is most known for. This film, like most of his other films, had music composed by Bernard Hermann. The score consisted entirely of strings and had an eerie pattern of triplets that kept viewers on the edge of their seats. His next horror film was about something that most people would not find terrifying at all: birds. 1963’s The Birds frightened several moviegoers. One of the scenes that are permanently imprinted into most minds is that of the jungle gym with every inch covered with black birds. Hitchcock’s films left an impression on the world of movies and set the status quo for thrillers and horror flicks to come afterward.

         Once the seventies rolled around, however, the world was introduced to a new type of horror film. Hollywood abandoned the monster movies and turned to the slasher flick. The known names of Dracula and Frankenstein were replaced with Michael Myers (Halloween, 1978) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984). Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th, 1980) became a household name. These serial killer movies made the makers extremely rich, allowing for them to make countless sequels that continue to be made in today’s world of movies.

         Horror movies of the here and now have progressed a long way since the early twentieth century. It progressed from monster movies to thrillers to slasher movies. Now, it is usually a combination of the three with the added essence of excess gore. We get the occasional monster movie, such as JJ Abram’s Cloverfield (2007). The thriller films and slasher films have taken in league together, however. One of the most money producing series, Saw, follows the serial killings of a man who makes his victims perform horrendous tasks of will in order to survive. Many do not, and these movies have been labeled as some of the goriest movies to date.

         As long as people make movies, they will make horror movies. There is that certain something about the human brain that likes to be scared, that likes to get the adrenaline going. I suppose that it is a sort of high for people to be scared out of their wits by a movie, and this is why the horror genre will continue to always be one of the best moneymakers in the realm of Hollywood.

Lorrie Veach

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