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History of the horror genre

The horror genre first started off thanks to German Expressionism in the middle of the First World War. The German’s were very isolated during this period and they started their own artistic movement. It is known as being primitive art as they wanted to express their opinions through having their characters having no motivation towards life. They wanted to strip away the belief that only aesthetic beauty could be seen in films. They did this by using non-realistic sets with non-geometric sets with designs being painted on the walls and the ceilings to represent lights. The main themes of German Expressionism were; madness, insanity and betrayal. They wanted to believe that they could create new men through violence, cruelty and upheaval. The first film that was considered to be horror was ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ directed by Robert Weine in 1921. It was a silent film and is considered to have being one of the best horror films ever created in the silent era. It dealt with strong themes of’; traumatic experiences, murder, asylums, psychopaths, and serial killers. In just about every horror film that have been produced since then, some of those themes have been present in them. It shocked many people when it was released as they were still recovering from the war. The sets that were used have always been regarded as amazing as they had crooked buildings, twisted landscapes and they introduced the first ever twist ending which was even more reason for it to cause a stir.

Throughout the history of the horror genre many different sub genres have been created. For example, in the 1970’s (while the Hammer House of Horror was enthralling and shocking it’s audience) a film came out that shocked the film culture to its core; ‘The Exorcist’. It came out in 1973 and was directed by William Friedkin. As the tag line said “Something beyond comprehension is happening to a little girl on this street, in this house. A man has been called for as a last resort to try and save her. That man is The Exorcist’. In this film we see a young girl being possessed by a demon while her mother and priests try save her. One of the reasons that this was so controversial was because of the fact that the Christian belief was being challenged, admittedly the power of faith cured the young girl in the end, but to the people who watched they actually believed that the actress who played the young girl was possessed. The young actress received death threats from priests after the film was released. People watched as a young girl changed both physically and mentally. They saw her head turn right around on her neck at a 360 degrees angle and verbally abuse the priests and her mother. They saw her swearing and threatening to kill the people around her. Film watchers had never seen anything like this before, there are reports of people who actually fainted in the cinema, and they just couldn’t believe (or take) what they were seeing. ‘The Exorcist’ is still considered to be a classic and I agree. If it was not for this film then countless films such as ‘The Possession’ and many others would never have been created.

Then, many years later another film was released that slowly made its name in the culture; this was ‘The Shining’. ‘The Shining’ was adapted from a novel by Stephen King and turned into a film by Stanley Kubric. It was released in 1980 and the main role was given to Jack Nicholson. This film was classified as a psychological horror as we see an American family move to a hotel and start renovating it. However, horrible things have happened in this hotel and one of them is that the last family who started running the hotel were killed by the father. He lost his mind and massacred his family and the guests. It has been said that the director was influenced by the Holocaust when he directed ‘The Shining’ but that something to be debated. Although this film did not create the stir that ‘The Exorcist’ did when it first came out, it gradually started to become popular and now it is regarded just as much of a classic as ‘The Exorcist’ is. Many years later and many sub-genre later, there is a film that is not exactly well known but is essential for helping to create the horror comedy sub-genre is ‘Brain Dead’. It was released under a different name (Dead Alive) in North America but it is mostly known as ‘Brain Dead. It was released in 1992 and directed by Peter Jackson. To the people who know this film, it is widely regarded as being one of the goriest films that has ever been released. In this film we see rat monkeys (a hybrid monkey) that has been brought over from another country; it escapes but is recaptured and kept in a zoo in New Zealand. Unfortunately, it manages to bite our main characters mother and she gradually turns into a zombie. Her son Lionell has been looking after her for years and is petrified by this turn of events, however he continues to look after his mother. Alas, his

mother keeps managing to murder towns people despite his attempts to anesthetise her. Basically, this film ends with the main character (and his girlfriend( fighting hundreds of zombies. His mother has survived and tries to put Lionell back in her stomach, he cuts his way out. This film is a beautiful example of horror comedy, it may be ridiculous but it is hilarious and deserves to be given the credit that it deserves. Overall, over the years there have been many different sub-genres of Horror and I feel that each sub-genre has just got better. However, it is all thanks to German Expressionism, if it wasn’t for that creative movement then we would not have the horror films that we have today.