A horror film is a movie that seeks to elicit a physiological
reaction, such as an elevated heartbeat, through the use of fear and
shocking one’s audiences. Initially often inspired by literature
from authors like Edgar Allan Poe,
Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley,
horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The
macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also
overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction and thriller genres.
Horror films often aim to evoke viewers' nightmares, fears, revulsions
and terror of the unknown. Plots within the horror genre often involve
the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage into the everyday
world. Prevalent elements include ghosts, extraterrestrials, vampires,
werewolves, demons, satanism, evil clowns, gore, torture, vicious
animals, evil witches, monsters, zombies, cannibals, psychopaths,
natural or man-made disasters, and serial killers.
Some subgenres of horror film include action horror, comedy horror,
body horror, disaster horror, holiday horror, horror drama,
psychological horror, science fiction horror, slasher horror,
supernatural horror, gothic horror, natural horror, zombie horror,
first-person horror and teen horror.
1.2.1 United States
1.2.3 Sweden, Denmark and France
3.1 Influences on society
3.2 Influences internationally
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
The first depictions of supernatural events appear in several of the
silent shorts created by the film pioneer
Georges Méliès in the late
1890s, the best known being Le Manoir du Diable, which is sometimes
credited as being the first horror film. Another of his horror
La Caverne maudite (1898) (a.k.a. The Cave of the Demons,
literally "the accursed cave"). Japan made early forays into the
horror genre with Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook) and Shinin no Sosei
(Resurrection of a Corpse), both made in 1898. The era featured a
slew of literary adaptations, adapting the works of Poe and Dante,
among others. In 1908,
Selig Polyscope Company
Selig Polyscope Company produced Dr. Jekyll and
Edison Studios produced the first motion picture adaptation
of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
Edison Studios produced the first filmed version of
Frankenstein. The macabre nature of the source materials used made
the films synonymous with the horror film genre.
Lon Chaney, Sr.
Lon Chaney, Sr. in the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera.
Though the word "horror" to describe the film genre would not be used
until the 1930s (when
Universal Pictures released their initial
monster films), earlier American productions often relied on horror
themes. Some notable examples include The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Cat and the Canary
(1927), The Unknown (1927), and The Man Who Laughs (1928). Many of
these early films were considered dark melodramas because of their
stock characters and emotion-heavy plots that focused on romance,
violence, suspense, and sentimentality.
The trend of inserting an element of macabre into American pre-horror
melodramas continued into the 1920s. Directors known for relying on
macabre in their films during the 1920s were Maurice Tourneur, Rex
Ingram, and Tod Browning. Ingram's The Magician (1926) contains one of
the first examples of a "mad doctor" and is said to have had a large
influence on James Whale's version of Frankenstein. The Unholy
Three (1925) is an example of Browning's use of macabre and unique
style of morbidity; he remade the film in 1930 as a talkie, though The
Terror (1928) was the first horror film with sound.
Before and during the
Weimar Republic era, German Expressionist
filmmakers would significantly influence later productions. Paul
Wegener's The Student of Prague (1913) and
The Golem trilogy
(1915–20), as well as Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
(1920), Arthur Robison's Warning Shadows (1923), and Paul Leni's
Waxworks (1924), were influential films at the time. The first
Nosferatu (1922), was made during this period;
it was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Sweden, Denmark and France
Other European countries also, contributed to the genre during this
period. Victor Sjöström's
The Phantom Carriage
The Phantom Carriage (Sweden, 1920) is a
cautionary tale about a supernatural legend, Benjamin Christensen's
Häxan (Denmark/Sweden, 1922) is a documentary-style, horror film,
about witchcraft and superstition, and in 1928, Frenchman, Jean
Epstein produced an influential film, The Fall of the House of Usher,
based on the Poe tale.
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster
in the 1935 Bride of Frankenstein.
During the early period of talking pictures,
Universal Pictures began
a successful Gothic horror film series. Tod Browning's
was quickly followed by James Whale's
Frankenstein (1931) and The Old
Dark House (1932), both featuring monstrous mute antagonists. Some of
these films blended science fiction with Gothic horror, such as
Whale's The Invisible Man (1933) and featured a mad scientist,
mirroring earlier German films.
Frankenstein was the first in a series
of remakes which lasted for years. The Mummy (1932) introduced
Egyptology as a theme;
Make-up artist Jack Pierce was responsible for
the iconic image of the monster, and others in the series. Universal's
horror cycle continued into the 1940s with B movies including The Wolf
Man (1941), as well as a number of films uniting several of the most
Other studios followed Universal's lead. The once controversial Freaks
(1932), based on the short story "Spurs", was made by MGM, though the
studio disowned the completed film, and it remained banned, in the
United Kingdom, for thirty years. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(Paramount, 1931) is remembered for its innovative use of photographic
filters to create Jekyll's transformation before the camera. With
the progression of the genre, actors like
Boris Karloff and Bela
Lugosi were beginning to build entire careers in horror. Both appeared
in three of Val Lewton's atmospheric B movies for RKO in the
mid-1940s, including The Body Snatcher (1945).
Christopher Lee starred in numerous British horror films of the era,
produced by Hammer Films. Shown here is the 1958 color remake of
Dracula. It was Lee who fixed the image of the fanged vampire in
With advances in technology, the tone of horror films shifted from the
Gothic towards contemporary concerns. Two subgenres began to emerge:
Doomsday film and the Demonic film. Low-budget productions
featured humanity overcoming threats such as alien invasions and
deadly mutations to people, plants and insects. Japan's experience
with Hiroshima and Nagasaki bore the well-known Godzilla (1954) and
its sequels, featuring mutation from the effects of nuclear radiation.
Hollywood directors and producers found ample opportunity for audience
exploitation through gimmicks. House of Wax (1953) used the advent of
3-D film to draw audiences, while The Tingler used electric seat
buzzers in 1959. Filmmakers continued to merge elements of science
fiction and horror over the following decades. Considered a "pulp
masterpiece" of the era was
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957),
based on Richard Matheson's existentialist novel. The film conveyed
the fears of living in the
Atomic Age and the terror of social
Carl Boehm starred as a serial killer in the 1960 slasher Peeping Tom
During the later 1950s, the United Kingdom emerged as a major producer
of horror films. The Hammer company focused on the genre for the
first time, enjoying huge international success from films involving
classic horror characters which were shown in color for the first
time. Drawing on Universal's precedent, many films produced were
Dracula remakes, followed by many sequels.
Christopher Lee starred in a number of Hammer Horror films, including
The Curse of
Frankenstein (1957), which Professor Patricia MacCormac
called the "first really gory horror film, showing blood and guts in
colour". Other British companies contributed to a boom in horror
film production in the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s.
The shadowy figure from the shower scene from Hitchcock's Psycho
Released in May 1960, the British psychological thriller Peeping Tom
Michael Powell is a progenitor of the contemporary "slasher
Alfred Hitchcock cemented the subgenre with Psycho released
later that year. France continued the mad scientist theme, while
Italian horror films became internationally notable. American
International Pictures (AIP) made a series of Edgar Allan Poe–themed
Zombies in Romero's most influential film, the groundbreaking 1968
Night of the Living Dead. This was the template for all future zombie
Films in the era used the supernatural premise to express the horror
of the demonic. The Innocents (1961) based on the
Henry James novel
The Turn of the Screw. Meanwhile, ghosts were a dominant theme in
Japanese horror, in such films as Kwaidan, Onibaba (both 1964) and
Rosemary's Baby (1968) is an American psychological horror film
written and directed by Roman Polanski, based on the bestselling 1967
novel of the same name by Ira Levin. Another influential American
horror film of this period was George A. Romero's Night of the Living
Dead (1968). Produced and directed by Romero on a budget of $114,000,
it grossed $30 million internationally. An Armageddon film about
zombies, it began to combine psychological insights with gore.
Distancing the era from earlier gothic trends, late 1960s films
brought horror into everyday life. Low-budget splatter films from the
Herschell Gordon Lewis
Herschell Gordon Lewis also gained prominence.
Suzy (Jessica Harper, right) and Sara (Stefania Casini, left) in
Suspiria, a giallo horror film.
The financial successes of the low-budget gore films of the ensuing
years, and the critical and popular success of Rosemary's Baby, led to
the release of more films with occult themes during the 1970s. The
Exorcist (1973), the first of these movies, was a significant
commercial success and was followed by scores of horror films in which
a demon entity is represented as the supernatural evil, often by
impregnating women or possessing children.
Evil children" and reincarnation became popular subjects. Robert
Wise's film Audrey Rose (1977) for example, deals with a man who
claims that his daughter is the reincarnation of another dead person.
Alice, Sweet Alice
Alice, Sweet Alice (1977), is another Catholic-themed horror slasher
about a little girl's murder and her sister being the prime suspect.
Another popular occult horror movie was
The Omen (1976), where a man
realizes that his five-year-old adopted son is the Antichrist.
Invincible to human intervention, Demons became villains in many
horror films with a postmodern style and a dystopian worldview.
Another example is The Sentinel (1977), in which a fashion model
discovers that her new brownstone residence may actually be a portal
During the 1970s, Italian filmmakers Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda,
Antonio Margheriti and
Dario Argento developed giallo horror films
that became classics and influenced the genre in other countries.
Representative films include: Twitch of the Death Nerve, The Bird with
the Crystal Plumage,
Deep Red and Suspiria.
Don't Look Now
Don't Look Now (1973), a independent British-Italian film directed by
Nicolas Roeg, was also notable. Its focus on the psychology of grief
was unusually strong for a film featuring a supernatural horror plot.
Another notable film is
The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man (1973), a British mystery
horror film dealing with the practice of ancient pagan rituals in the
modern era. It was written by Anthony Shaffer and directed by Robin
The ideas of the 1960s began to influence horror films, as the youth
involved in the counterculture began exploring the medium. Wes
Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and The Last House on the Left
(1972) along with Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
(1974) (based on the
Ed Gein case) recalled the Vietnam War; while
George A. Romero
George A. Romero satirized the consumer society in his zombie sequel,
Dawn of the Dead (1978). Meanwhile, the subgenre of comedy horror
re-emerged in the cinema with
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Young
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and An
Werewolf in London (1981) among others.
Also in the 1970s, the works of the horror author
Stephen King began
to be adapted for the screen, beginning with Brian De Palma's
adaptation of Carrie (1976), King's first published novel, for which
the two female leads (
Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie) gained Oscar
nominations. Next, was his third published novel, The Shining (1980),
directed by Stanley Kubrick, which was a sleeper at the box office. At
first, many critics and viewers had negative feedback toward The
Shining. However, the film is now known as one of Hollywood's most
classic horror films.
This psychological horror film has a variety of themes; "evil
children", alcoholism, telepathy and insanity. This type of film is an
example of how Hollywood's idea of horror started to evolve. Murder
and violence were no longer the main themes of horror films. During
the 1970s and 1980s, psychological and supernatural horror started to
take over cinema. Another classic Hollywood horror film is Tobe
Hooper's Poltergeist (1982). Poltergeist is ranked the 20th scariest
movie ever made by the Chicago Film Critics Association. Both The
Shining and Poltergeist involve horror being based on real-estate
values. The evil and horror throughout the films come from where the
movies are taking place.
The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror is a 1979 supernatural horror film directed by
Stuart Rosenberg, based on Jay Anson's 1977 book of the same name. It
James Brolin and
Margot Kidder as a young couple who purchase a
home they come to find haunted by combative supernatural forces. The
Changeling is a 1980 Canadian psychological horror film directed by
A cycle of slasher films was made during the 1970s and 1980s. John
Carpenter created Halloween (1978),
Sean S. Cunningham
Sean S. Cunningham made Friday the
Wes Craven directed A
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and
Clive Barker made
Hellraiser (1987). This subgenre would be mined by
dozens of increasingly violent movies throughout the subsequent
decades, and Halloween became a successful independent film. Another
notable 1970s slasher film is Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974).
Sleepaway Camp (1983) is known for its twist ending, which is
considered by some to be one of the most shocking endings among horror
films. My Bloody Valentine (1981) is a slasher film dealing with
Valentine's Day fiction. The boom in slasher films provided enough
material for numerous comedic spoofs of the genre including Saturday
the 14th (1981),
Student Bodies (1981), National Lampoon's Class
Reunion (1983), and Hysterical (1983).
Some films explored urban legends such as "The babysitter and the man
upstairs". A notable example is When a Stranger Calls (1979), an
American psychological horror film directed by Fred Walton starring
Carol Kane and Charles Durning.
Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) began a new wave of killer animal
stories, such as Orca (1977) and
Up from the Depths
Up from the Depths (1979). Jaws is
often credited as being one of the first films to use traditionally B
movie elements such as horror and mild gore in a big-budget Hollywood
film. In 1979, Don Coscarelli's Phantasm was the first of the Phantasm
Alien (1979), a British-American science-fiction horror film directed
Ridley Scott was very successful, receiving both critical acclaim
and being a box office success. John Carpenter's movie The Thing
(1982) was also a mix of horror and sci-fi, but it was neither a
box-office nor critical hit, but soon became a cult classic. However,
nearly 20 years after its release, it was praised for using
ahead-of-its-time special effects and paranoia.
The 1980s saw a wave of gory "B movie" horror films – although most
of them were poorly reviewed by critics, many became cult classics and
later saw success with critics. A significant example is Sam Raimi's
Evil Dead movies, which were low-budget gorefests but had a very
original plotline which was later praised by critics.
Vampire horror was also popular in the 1980s, including cult vampire
classics such as
Fright Night (1985),
The Lost Boys
The Lost Boys (1987), and Near
Dark (also 1987). In 1984, Joe Dante's seminal monster comedy Gremlins
became a box office hit with critics and audiences, and inspired a
trend of "little monster" films such as Critters and
David Cronenberg's films such as Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), The
Brood (1979), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986) dealt with "body
horror" and "mad scientist" themes.
Several science fiction action horror movies were released in the
1980s, notably Aliens (1986) and Predator (1987). Notable comedy
horror films of the 1980s include
Re-Animator (1985) and Night of the
Day of the Dead is a 1985 horror film written and directed by George
A. Romero and the third film in Romero's Night of the Living Dead
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a 1986 psychological horror
crime film directed and co-written by
John McNaughton about the random
crime spree of a serial killer who seemingly operates with impunity.
Pumpkinhead (1988) is a dark fantasy horror film, which is the
directorial debut of special effects artist Stan Winston.
Child's Play (1988), Night of the Demons (1988) and Pet Sematary
(1989) are notable supernatural horror films of the late 1980s.
In the first half of the 1990s, the genre still contained many of the
themes from the 1980s. The slasher films A
Nightmare on Elm Street,
Friday the 13th, Halloween and Child's Play all saw sequels in the
1990s, most of which met with varied amounts of success at the box
office, but all were panned by critics, with the exception of Wes
Nightmare (1994) and the hugely successful Silence of the
Lambs (1991). The latter, which stars
Jodie Foster and Anthony
Hopkins, is considered a major horror movie of all times. Misery
(1990) also deals with a psychopath, and the film received critical
acclaim for Kathy Bates's performance as the psychopathic Annie
New Nightmare, with
In the Mouth of Madness
In the Mouth of Madness (1995), The Dark Half
(1993), and Candyman (1992), were part of a mini-movement of
self-reflexive or metafictional horror films. Each film touched upon
the relationship between fictional horror and real-world horror.
Candyman, for example, examined the link between an invented urban
legend and the realistic horror of the racism that produced its
In the Mouth of Madness
In the Mouth of Madness took a more literal approach, as its
protagonist actually hopped from the real world into a novel created
by the madman he was hired to track down. This reflective style became
more overt and ironic with the arrival of Scream (1996).
In Interview with the
Vampire (1994), the "Theatre de Vampires" (and
the film itself, to some degree) invoked the
Grand Guignol style,
perhaps to further remove the undead performers from humanity,
morality and class. The horror movie soon continued its search for new
and effective frights. In the 1985 novel The
Vampire Lestat by the
Anne Rice (who penned Interview...'s screenplay and the 1976
novel of the same name) suggests that its antihero Lestat inspired and
Grand Guignol style and theatre.
Two main problems pushed horror backward during this period: firstly,
the horror genre wore itself out with the proliferation of nonstop
slasher and gore films in the eighties. Secondly, the adolescent
audience which feasted on the blood and morbidity of the previous
decade grew up, and the replacement audience for films of an
imaginative nature were being captured instead by the explosion of
science-fiction and fantasy films, courtesy of the special effects
possibilities with advances made in computer-generated imagery.
Examples of these CGI include movies like Species (1995), Anaconda
(1997), Mimic (1997), Blade (1998),
Deep Rising (1998), House on
Haunted Hill (1999), Sleepy Hollow (1999), and The Haunting (1999).
To re-connect with its audience, horror became more self-mockingly
ironic and outright parodic, especially in the latter half of the
1990s. Peter Jackson's Braindead (1992) (known as Dead Alive in the
United States) took the splatter film to ridiculous excesses for comic
effect. Wes Craven's Scream (written by Kevin Williamson) movies,
starting in 1996, featured teenagers who were fully aware of, and
often made reference to, the history of horror movies, and mixed
ironic humour with the shocks (despite
Scream 2 and
Scream 3 utilising
less use of the humour of the original, until
Scream 4 in 2011, and
rather more references to horror film conventions). Along with I Know
What You Did Last Summer (1997) (also written by Williamson) and Urban
Legend (1998), they re-ignited the dormant slasher film genre.
Event Horizon (1997) is a British-American science fiction horror film
directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.
The Sixth Sense (1999) is a
supernatural horror film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan,
which tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled,
isolated boy who is able to see and talk to the dead, and an equally
troubled child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who
tries to help him.
House on Haunted Hill
House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 horror film directed by William Malone
which follows a group of strangers who are invited to a party at an
abandoned asylum, where they are offered $1 million each by an
amusement park mogul if they are able to survive the night. It is a
remake of the 1959 film of the same title. Other horror films of the
late 1990s include Cube (1997),
The Faculty (1998), Disturbing
Stir of Echoes (1999), Stigmata (1999), Existenz
Monster horror was quite popular in the 1990s. Tremors (1990) is the
first installment of the Tremors franchise. Lake Placid (1999) is
another monster horror film, written by
David E. Kelley
David E. Kelley and directed
by Steve Miner.
Another successful horror film is Audition, a 1999 Japanese film based
on the novel of the same name, directed by Takashi Miike. Around this
Japanese horror started becoming popular in English speaking
The film The Last Broadcast (1998) served as inspiration for the
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project (1999), which popularized
the found footage horror subgenre. The theme of witchcraft was also
addressed in The Witches (1990), starring
Anjelica Huston and The
Craft (1996), a supernatural horror film directed by Andrew Fleming.
Wolf is a 1994 romantic horror film following the transformation of a
man (Jack Nicholson) into a werewolf.
The decade started, with, among other films,
Scary Movie (2000), a
comedy horror directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, which is a parody of
the horror, slasher and mystery genres. The film received mixed
reviews from critics. By contrast, Valentine (2001) was a conventional
horror film. It had some success at the box office, but was derided by
critics for being formulaic and relying on foregone horror film
conventions. The Others (2001) was hugely successful, winning and
being further nominated for many awards. It is a 2001 Spanish-American
supernatural gothic horror film with elements of psychological horror.
It was written, directed, and scored by Alejandro Amenábar. It stars
Nicole Kidman and Fionnula Flanagan.
Franchise films such as
Jason X (2001) and
Freddy vs. Jason
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
also made a stand in theaters. Final Destination (2000) marked a
successful revival of teen-centered horror and spawned five
installments. Jeepers Creepers series was also successful. Films such
Hollow Man (2000), Cabin Fever (2002),
House of 1000 Corpses
House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
(the latter an exploitation horror film written, co-scored and
directed by Rob
Zombie in his directorial debut) and the previous
mentions helped bring the genre back to Restricted ratings in
theaters. Van Helsing (2004) and Underworld series had huge box office
success, despite mostly negative reviews by critics. Ginger Snaps
(2000) is a Canadian film dealing with the tragic transformation of a
teenage girl who is bitten by a werewolf. Signs (2002) revived the
science fiction alien theme. The Descent, a 2005 British adventure
horror film written and directed by
Neil Marshall was also successful.
Another notable film is Drag Me to Hell, a 2009 American supernatural
horror film co-written and directed by Sam Raimi. The Strangers (2008)
deals with unprovoked stranger-on-stranger violence. The House of the
Devil (2009) is inspired by the "satanic panic" of the 1980s. Trick 'r
Treat is a 2007 anthology horror film written and directed by Michael
Dougherty and produced by Bryan Singer. Black Water (2007) is
British-Australian natural horror film.
Several horror film adaptations from comic books and video games were
30 Days of Night
30 Days of Night (2007) is based on the comic book
miniseries of the same name. The story focuses on an Alaskan town
beset by vampires as it enters into a thirty-day long polar night.
Comic book adaptations like the Blade series, Constantine (2005), and
Hellboy (2004) also became box office successes. The Resident Evil
video game franchise was adapted into a film released in March 2002,
and several sequels followed. Other video game adaptations like Doom
(2005) and Silent Hill (2006) also had moderate box office success.
Some pronounced trends have marked horror films. Films from
non-English language countries have become successful. The Devil's
Backbone (2001) is such an example. It is a 2001 Spanish-Mexican
gothic horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro, and written by del
Toro, David Muñoz, and Antonio Trashorras. A French horror film
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) became the second-highest-grossing
French language film in the United States in the last two decades. The
Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008) was also successful. REC is a
2007 Spanish zombie horror film, co-written and directed by Jaume
Balagueró and Paco Plaza. Martyrs (2008), a French-Canadian horror
film, was controversial upon its release, receiving polarizing
reviews. Another notable film is The Orphanage (2007), a Spanish
horror film and the debut feature of Spanish filmmaker J. A. Bayona. A
Tale of Two Sisters is a 2003 South Korean psychological drama horror
film written and directed by Kim Jee-woon.
Another trend is the emergence of psychology to scare audiences,
rather than gore. The Others (2001) proved to be a successful example
of a psychological horror film. A minimalist approach which was equal
parts Val Lewton's theory of "less is more", usually employing the
low-budget techniques utilized on
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project (1999), has
been evident, particularly in the emergence of Asian horror movies
which have been remade into successful Americanized versions, such as
The Ring (2002),
The Grudge (2004), Dark Water (2005), and Pulse
(2006). In March 2008, China banned the movies from its market.
Credo (2008) and Triangle (2009) are two British psychological horror
What Lies Beneath
What Lies Beneath (2000) is a supernatural horror film directed
by Robert Zemeckis, starring
Harrison Ford and
Michelle Pfeiffer as a
couple who experience a strange haunting of their home. Orphan (2009)
is a notable psychological horror film.
The films I Am Legend (2007), Quarantine (2008),
28 Days Later
28 Days Later (2002) featured an update of the apocalyptic and
aggressive zombie genre. The latter film spawned a sequel: 28 Weeks
Later (2007). An updated remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) soon
appeared as well as the zombie comedy
Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead (2004) and
Spanish -Cuban comedy zombie film
Juan of the Dead
Juan of the Dead (2012). This
George A. Romero
George A. Romero to return to his Living Dead series
Land of the Dead
Land of the Dead (2005),
Diary of the Dead
Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of
the Dead (2009).
Cannibals were present in horror films such as
Wrong Turn (2003), Tooth and Nail (2007) and Dying
The Australian film Wolf Creek (2005) written, co-produced, and
Greg McLean revolves around three backpackers who find
themselves taken captive and after a brief escape, hunted down by Mick
Taylor in the Australian outback. The film was ambiguously marketed as
being "based on true events"; the plot bore elements reminiscent of
the real-life murders of tourists by Ivan Milat in the 1990s, and
Bradley Murdoch in 2001; and contained more extreme violence. An
extension of this trend was the emergence of a type of horror with
emphasis on depictions of torture, suffering and violent deaths,
(variously referred to as "horror porn", "torture porn",
"splatterporn" and "gore-nography") with films such as
(2002), The Collector (2009), Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), and their
respective sequels, frequently singled out as examples of emergence of
this subgenre. The Saw film series holds the Guinness World Record
of the highest-grossing horror franchise in history. Finally, with
the arrival of
Paranormal Activity (2007), which was well received by
critics and an excellent reception at the box office, minimalist
horror approach started by
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project was reaffirmed.
Cloverfield (2008) is another found footage horror film. The Mist
(2007) is a science-fiction horror film based on the 1980 novella of
the same name by Stephen King.
Antichrist (2009) is an
English-language Danish experimental horror film written and directed
by Lars von Trier, and starring
Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a 2005 legal drama horror film directed
by Scott Derrickson, loosely based on the story of Anneliese Michel.
The Children (2008) is British horror film focusing on the mayhem
created by several children.
Remakes of earlier horror movies became routine in the 2000s. In
addition to the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004), as well as the
remake of both Herschell Gordon Lewis' cult classic 2001 Maniacs
(2003) and the remake of Tobe Hooper's classic The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre (2003), there was also the 2007 Rob Zombie-written and
-directed remake of John Carpenter's Halloween. The film focused
more on Michael's backstory than the original did, devoting the first
half of the film to Michael's childhood. It was critically panned by
most, but was a success in its theatrical run, spurring its
own sequel. This film helped to start a "reimagining" riot in horror
filmmakers. Among the many remakes or "reimaginings" of other popular
horror films and franchises are films such as
Thirteen Ghosts (2001),
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday
the 13th (2009), Children of the Corn (2009), Halloween
(2007), Prom Night (2008),
The Omen (2006), Carrie (2002), The Wicker
Man (2006), Day of the Dead (2008), Night of the Demons (2009), My
Bloody Valentine (2009), Willard (2003), Black Christmas (2006), The
Amityville Horror (2005), April Fool's Day (2008), The Fog (2005), The
Hitcher (2007), It's Alive (2009), When a Stranger Calls (2006), The
Last House on the Left (2009).
Remakes remain popular, with films such as A
Nightmare on Elm Street
(2010), The Crazies (2010),
I Spit on Your Grave
I Spit on Your Grave (2010), Don't Be
Afraid of the Dark (2010),
Fright Night (2011), Maniac (2012), and
Poltergeist (2015). The 1976 film Carrie saw its second remake in
2013, which is the third film adaptation of Stephen King's 1974 novel
of the same name. Child's Play saw a sequel with Curse of Chucky
(2013), while Halloween, Friday the 13th, and
Hellraiser all had
reboots in the works. The 2013
Evil Dead is the fourth
installment in the
Evil Dead franchise, and serves as a soft reboot of
the original 1981 film and as a continuation to the original film
Serialized, found footage style web videos featuring Slender Man
became popular on
YouTube in the beginning of the decade. Such series
included TribeTwelve, EverymanHybrid, and Marble Hornets, the latter
of which has been adapted into a feature film. The character as well
as the multiple series is credited with reinvigorating interest in
found footage as well as urban folklore. Horror has become prominent
on television with The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and The
Strain. Also, many popular horror films have had successful television
series made: Psycho spawned Bates Motel, The Silence of the Lambs
spawned Hannibal, and both Scream and Friday the 13th had TV series in
You're Next (2011) and
The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) led to a return
to the slasher genre; the latter was intended also as a critical
satire of torture porn. The Green Inferno (2015) pays homage to
the controversial horror film
Cannibal Holocaust (1980). Australian
The Babadook (2014) was met with critical
It Follows (2014) subverted traditional horror tropes of
sexuality and slasher films and enjoyed commercial and critical
The Conjuring deal with the paranormal. Sinister (2012) is a
British-American supernatural horror film directed by Scott Derrickson
and written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill. Another notable
supernatural horror film is Insidious (2010). The Witch (2015) is a
historical period supernatural horror film written and directed by
Robert Eggers in his directorial debut, which follows a Puritan family
encountering forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England
Get Out (2017) received universal acclaim from critics and
audiences alike. Adapted from the
Stephen King novel, It (2017) set a
box office record for horror films by grossing $123.1 million on
opening weekend in the United States and nearly $185 million
Gerald's Game (2017) is a psychological horror film
based on Stephen King's novel of the same name. Other horror films
include Frozen (2010), The Innkeepers (2011), Oculus (2013), Mama
(2013), Green Room (2015), The Invitation (2015), Hush (2016), Lights
Don't Breathe (2016).
The success of non-English language films continued with the Swedish
film Marianne (2011), while Let the Right One In (2008) was the
subject of a Hollywood remake, Let Me In (2010). South Korean horror
I Saw the Devil
I Saw the Devil (2010) and
Train to Busan (2016). Raw is a
2016 French-Belgian horror drama written and directed by Julia
Ducournau, and starring Garance Marillier.
Action horror – A subgenre combining the intrusion of an evil force,
event, or personage of horror movies with the weapon fights and
frenetic chases of the action genre. Themes or elements often
prevalent in typical action-horror films include gore, demons, aliens,
vicious animals, vampires and, most commonly, zombies. This category
also fuses the fantasy genre. Examples include: Aliens, Predator, Dog
Soldiers, From Dusk till Dawn, I Saw the Devil, Priest, Feast and
Train to Busan.
Horror adventure - A film that blends expeditions, exploration, exotic
places and other adventure elements in a horror setting. Examples
include: King Kong, The Descent, Silent Hill, Jaws, Cannibal
Comedy horror – Combines elements of comedy and horror fiction. The
comedy horror genre often crosses over with the black comedy genre and
are occasionally also horror films with a lower rating aimed at a
family audience. The short story
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by
Washington Irving is cited as "the first great comedy-horror
story". Examples of comedy horror films include: An American
Werewolf in London, Beetlejuice, Jennifer's Body, Teeth, Nina Forever,
Slither, Army of Darkness, Zombieland,
Scary Movie and Idle Hands.
Gremlins and Ghostbusters were examples of comedy horror films aimed
at a family audience.
Body horror – In which the horror is principally derived from the
graphic destruction or degeneration of the body. Other types of body
horror include unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect
placement of limbs to create 'monsters' out of human body parts. David
Cronenberg is one of the notable directors of the genre. Body horror
films include: Starry Eyes, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Contracted, The
Thing, The Fly and American Mary.
Horror drama – A film that focuses on imperiled characters dealing
with realistic emotional struggles, often involving dysfunctional
family relations, in a horror setting. The film's horror elements
often serve as a backdrop to an unraveling dramatic plot. Examples
include: Dark Water, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Lights Out, The
Babadook, The Fly, It, Let the Right One In, Antichrist, Excision,
Mama, Mirrors and Audition.
Holiday horror – A film which depicts horror events which are set
during a holiday or holiday season. It often involves a psychopathic
killer stalking a sequence of victims in a violent manner. It is set
during Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, April Fools' Day, or
Thanksgiving. Examples include: Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black
Christmas, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, Home Sweet Home, April
Fool's Day, Valentine,
Trick 'r Treat
Trick 'r Treat and All Through the House.
Psychological horror – Relies on characters' fears, guilt, beliefs,
eerie sound effects, relevant music, emotional instability and at
times, the supernatural and ghosts, to build tension, scare and
further the plot. Notable psychological horror films include:
Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby,
The Silence Of The Lambs , The Shining,
May, Credo, Black Swan, The Changeling, The Uninvited and Get Out.
Science fiction horror – Often revolves around subjects that include
but are not limited to killer aliens, mad scientists, and/or
experiments gone wrong. Examples include: Frankenstein, Species,
Mimic, Alien, The Fly, The Thing, The Blob, Apollo 18, Event Horizon
and Resident Evil.
Slasher film – Often revolves around a serial killer who
systematically murders people through violent means. Examples include:
Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, Friday the 13th,
Black Christmas, A
Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play (1988), and
Splatter film – These films deliberately focus on graphic portrayals
of gore and graphic violence. Through the use of special effects and
excessive blood and guts, they tend to display an overt interest in
the vulnerability of the human body and the theatricality of its
mutilation. Examples of splatter horror films include: Inside, Train,
The Human Centipede, Hostel, Saw, Blood Feast, Storm Warning and
Supernatural horror – Includes menacing ghosts, demons, or other
depictions of supernatural occurrences. Supernatural horror films
often combine elements of religion into the plot. Common themes
include vengeful ghosts, witches, the devil, and demonic possession.
Examples include: The Ring, The Grudge, The Amityville Horror, It, The
Omen, The Exorcist,
Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, The
Conjuring, Silent Hill, Sinister
Gothic horror – Gothic horror is a type of story that contains
elements of goth and horror. At times it may have romance that unfolds
in the setting of a horror tale, usually suspenseful. Some of the
earliest horror movies were of this subgenre. Examples include:
Dracula, Sleepy Hollow, The Others, The Phantom of the Opera, Kill,
Baby, Kill, Nosferatu, and Crimson Peak.
Natural horror – A subgenre of horror films "featuring nature
running amok in the form of mutated beasts, carnivorous insects, and
normally harmless animals or plants turned into cold-blooded
killers." This genre may sometimes overlap with the science
fiction and action and adventure genres. Examples include: The Birds,
Jaws, Piranha, Bats, Lake Placid, Rogue, Alligator, Black Water
Zombie film –
Zombie films feature creatures who are usually
portrayed as either reanimated corpses or mindless human beings.
Distinct subgenres have evolved, such as the zombie comedy, which may
or may not retain a significant horror theme, and often crosses into
black comedy. Examples include: White Zombie, Night of the Living
Dead, Dawn of the Dead, REC, 28 Days Later, Deadgirl, Dead Snow, Night
of the Creeps and Messiah of Evil.
Found footage horror: A film "technique" sometimes referred to as a
subgenre which involves giving the audience a first person view of the
story that is discovered from an original recording source within the
plot. Recording film in this way merges the audience with the
character’s experiences inducing suspense, shock, and
bafflement. Examples of first-person horror include The Blair
Witch Project (1999),
Paranormal Activity (2007),
and Devil's Due (2014) 
Teen horror – A horror subgenre that victimizes teenagers while
usually promoting strong, anti-conformity teenage leads, appealing to
young generations. This subgenre often depicts themes of sex,
under-aged drinking, and gore. It was most popular in 1964-1965.
Cyber horror – A film which is either has its narrative told all
through a computer or any other form of technology, or that utilizes
technology as a key plot element. Examples include
Unfriended and The
Influences on society
Horror films' evolution throughout the years has given society a new
approach to resourcefully utilize their benefits. The horror film
style has changed over time, but in 1996 Scream set off a "chain of
copycats", leading to a new variety of teenage, horror movies.
This new approach to horror films began to gradually earn more and
more revenue as seen in the progress of Scream movies; the first movie
earned $6 million and the third movie earned $101 million. The
importance that horror films have gained in the public and
producers’ eyes is one obvious effect on our society.
Horror films' income expansion is only the first sign of the
influences of horror flicks. The role of women and how women see
themselves in the movie industry has been altered by the horror genre.
Early horror films such as My Bloody Valentine (1981), Halloween
(1978), and Friday the 13th (1980) were produced mostly for male
audiences in order to "feed the fantasies of young men". This idea
is no longer prevalent in horror films, as women have become not only
the main audience and fans of horror films but also the main
protagonists of contemporary horror films. Movie makers have also
begun to integrate topics more broadly associated with other genres
into their films in order to grow audience appeal.
Many early horror films created high social and legal controversy. In
the US, the
Motion Picture Production Code
Motion Picture Production Code was in force between 1930
and 1968, although it was strictly enforced only from 1934 to the late
1950s. The Code set guidelines of what was morally acceptable to show
in movies, and, as such, it restrained movies containing controversial
themes, severe violence, explicit sexuality or nudity. The gradual
abandonment of the Code, and eventually its formal repeal in 1968
(when it was replaced by the MPAA film rating system) offered more
freedom to the movie industry. Nevertheless, controversy continued to
surround horror movies, and many continued to face censorship issues
in many countries. An example of such film is the 1978 I Spit on Your
Grave, an American rape-and-revenge exploitation horror film written,
co-produced, directed, and edited by Meir Zarchi. The film was
received negatively by critics, but it attracted a great deal of
national and international attention due to its explicit scenes of
rape, murder and prolonged nudity which led it to be banned in many
countries, including Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and West Germany. Many
of these countries have in later years removed the ban, but the film
remains prohibited in Ireland.
While horror is only one genre of film, the influence it presents to
the international community is large. Horror movies tend to be a
vessel for showing eras of audiences issues across the globe visually
and in the most effective manner. Jeanne Hall, a film theorist, agrees
with the use of horror films in easing the process of understanding
issues by making use of their optical elements. The use of horror
films to help audiences understand international prior historical
events occurs, for example, to show the horridness of the Vietnam War,
Holocaust and the worldwide AIDS epidemic. However, horror
movies do not always present positive endings. In fact, in many
occurrences the manipulation of horror presents cultural definitions
that are not accurate, yet set an example to which a person relates to
that specific cultural from then on in their life.
The visual interpretations of films can be lost in the translation of
their elements from one culture to another like in the adaptation of
the Japanese film Ju on into the American film The Grudge. The
cultural components from Japan were slowly "siphoned away" to make the
film more relatable to a western audience. This deterioration that
can occur in an international remake happens by over-presenting
negative cultural assumptions that, as time passes, sets a common
ideal about that particular culture in each individual. Holm's
The Grudge remakes presents this idea by stating, "It
is, instead, to note that
The Grudge films make use of an un-theorized
notion of Japan... that seek to directly represent the country."
Horror fiction portal
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German underground horror
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List of natural horror films
Misogyny in horror films
Monsters in fiction
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Survival horror games
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Millennium (University Press of Mississippi; 2010), 253 pages.
Petridis, Sotiris (2014). "A Historical Approach to the Slasher Film".
Film International 12 (1): 76-84.
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