Horror Films: A Brief History

Nashville Haunted HouseAficionados of Horror Films will never forget Boris Karloff’s emotional portrayal of Frankenstein in Bride of Frankenstein released in 1935. He made this character come to life. He took a character that we should have hated and transformed him into a monster that we could all relate to and care about.

This is part of the thrill of horror films. They take a group of actors, a script, some settings and develop a whole new world … a world of fear, of dread, of darkness and mix that with our nightmares to give us a frightening trip into the Dark Nether Regions of the Unknown.

Why We Like To Watch

As the film industry has progressed over the last 75 years, it has spawned whole new genres of terror, like Freddy Krueger and Dracula. The last 10 years have been especially prominent for the success of vampire movies such as, The Twilight Saga, four vampire films that have taken the Dracula legend to new heights.

As in the original Dracula movie filmed in 1931 and starring Bela Lugosi, the filmmakers give us complex characters that we should hate but who have a few redeeming qualities that endear us. This is one of the major features of a great horror film. It not only scares the Bejesus out of us, but it introduces us to complicated monsters that we can relate to.

Even before moving pictures, stories of strange events occurring in haunted castles have always attracted and entertained people. Some storytellers simply have a knack for transforming a boy meets girl story into a Friday the 13th flick where boy meets girl and they both get murdered by a mad slasher.

Audiences seem drawn to these types of stories, whether they be urban myths, ancient legends of headless horsemen, or adrenalin-pumping tales of a cannibalistic genius on the loose. Stories like this not only get our heart racing they reveal our deepest fears and anxieties. From Alfred Hitchcock’s story of birds gone crazy to tales of giant anacondas or spiders wreaking havoc on a peaceful village, we humans enjoy watching and imagining that it could happen in our little town.

Each generation has its favorite horror films filled with ghosts, zombies, vampires and madmen. They startle up, gross us out, invade our dreams and play to our worst fears. And yet we keep watching. George Lucas gave the world an all new way to create these types of films when he founded Industrial Light and Magic. His studio uses animation to create special effects that were never before possible.

Since that time, movie makers have been able to transcend the normal boundaries and give us out-of-this-world monsters like those from James Cameron’s Aliens or the Terminator movies.  Perhaps one of the most famous present day story tellers in this genre is Stephen King. He has written numerous books that have kept us awake at night worried about some strange mist that would envelop us. Many of his stories have been made into movies that remain popular today like The Shining, Misery, Bag of Bones, and Carrie.

He says it best in this quote:

“If movies are the dreams of the mass culture… horror movies are the nightmares.”
— Stephen King, Danse Macabre