Horror has, through the decades, evolved into one of the most definitive and thought provoking genres in the movie industry today.
In a dark auditorium full of people or by yourself at one o’clock in the morning, you may find a horror movie’s immersing effects to be equally spine-tingling. There is no other genre, in my opinion, that utilises sound and image as effectively as horror. Look at the movie Psycho, made in 1960 by Alfred Hitchcock. When Norman Bates’ dead mother is revealed, the true shock of the moment is punctuated by a simple scream that drills into your brain. It’s the psychological thrill more than fancy special effects that delivers the payoff — similar to the buildup and unveiling of the antagonist in Rupert Julian’s 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera.
Horror’s resonance may be due to its ability to play into our wildest nightmares and fears. Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, made in 1974, tells the story of a group of young friends on a road trip who stumble into the den of a mass murdering family of unemployed butchers who put their professional skills to more sinister uses. Its low budget lends itself to creating an air of documentary-like realism that enhances, rather than detracts from, its impact.
But realism isn’t always the trigger to a strong reaction in horror movies. In John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween, we’re presented with Michael Myers, a serial killing boogyman who is always watching his victims and — as if possessing supernatural powers — simply can’t be escaped. We see this archetype reborn in Jason of Friday the 13th and Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street — and plenty of ‘slasher’ movies since. These are the monsters who were hiding in our dark closets and under our beds when we were children; we’ve never quite outgrown how helpless we’d feel if they suddenly decided to show themselves.
Some era-defining scenes of horror drive us to other considerations — perhaps self examination or poignant reflections on the human condition. 1931′s Frankenstein, by James Whale, gives us a clip that I still find disturbing every time I watch it. Rather than running in fear from his imposing appearance, a little girl encountering the Monster treats him as a playmate. They throw flowers in a pond and watch them float. When the Monster runs out of flowers, he looks to the little girl, smiling, and throws her into the water to see if she’ll float (spoiler alert: she doesn’t). Not understanding the gravity of his actions, the Monster’s expression of remorseless confusion lacks any semblance of humanity; I think this is what I find most chilling. Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s felt this way — this scene was censored from prints of the film until the 1950s.
I could write tons more about the horror genre, but we’ll leave it at this for now. In conclusion, I’ll share with you one of my favorite quotes from Alfred Hitchcock: “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
Thank you for reading!
Daniel Kane is a teen blogger, gamer, technology enthusiast, wrestling fan, and movie reviewer from the UK. He likes movies that go bump in the night.