History of Horror Films

By Jonathan Peterson, Staff Writer

Horror movies have been a part of history since before movies had sound. It all started in the late 1800’s when director George Mélìés had the thought of creating a film that would send chills down the spine of anybody who dared to watch it. The french film, “Le Manoir Du Diable” which is translated to “The Haunted Castle” in English was released in the winter of 1896; this was the first horror movie in history. From there horror became a staple genre in the world of movies. However in the early 1900’s, horror movies changed for the better; pushing them into a new era, one of monsters and strange creatures. In 1910, the first filmed version of “Frankenstein” debuted in America. The film was silent and ran for 14 minutes.

One of the most famous monsters in the world would get its big screen debut in the year 1922. This monster has spawned to countless of other films and television shows that are still being made today. Based on Bram Stoker’s book “Dracula,” published on May 26, 1897, the silent movie “Nosferatu” was created, starring Max Schreck as the vampire Count Olaf, and Greta Schroder as his victim Ellen Hutter. Other silent films that followed the monster formula were, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1923) and “The Phantom of The Opera” (1925). In 1928 the first horror movie with sound was created by director Roy Del Ruth, and it was named “The Terror.” From then on, movies were beginning to shift into the golden age of film (1930’s-1960’s).  Throughout this period, movies like “The Wolf-Man,” “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” and “The Mummy” were taking over horror, and movies that were once made as silent films such as “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” were being re-made with sound.

However, the gothic genre of horror was not going to last. During the early 1960’s, a movie director named Alfred Hitchcock began making films that would shift horror from gothic myths to modern day suspense. With films like “The Birds” and “Vertigo,” Alfred Hitchcock was cementing his name into the world of horror. But it was the film Psycho (1960) that gave Hitchcock the title of “The Grandfather of Horror.” This film literally left the gothic genre behind with its transformation of the spooky castle into a modern day motel; The Bates motel. Another thing the film also did was introduce the title of the Scream Queen, awarded to “Psycho” actress Janet Leigh at the time.

Eventually, films transitioned from black and white to technicolor, bringing another drastic change to the cinematic world of horror. In the year of 1973, a movie that would be known as one of the scariest films in history was made by director William Friedkin. “The Exorcist,” a screen adaptation of the book written by William Peter Blatty, showed up and coming directors what was now considered appropriate for audiences.

Films like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Black Christmas” followed, leading director John Carpenter to make the horror masterpiece “Halloween.” Made in 1978, Halloween reeled in the age of slasher films which still exists to this day. The movie spawned dozens of copycat movies such as “My Bloody Valentine,” “Prom Night,” and most famously, “Friday the 13th.”

Modern day horror movies based themselves off the template that was set by movies like “Psycho,” “The Exorcist,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Halloween.” But even in this day and age, directors are still finding new ways to scare their audience with psychological horror like “Get Out” and  “The Babadook,” and countless other films.

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