The Evolution of Horror in Film

——-The Conjuring

The horror genre has a long and complicated history, beginning with the folklore and superstitions of pre-19th century Europe, and evolving into the slasher films of the 21st century. This article will explore the origins of horror, its development in the 19th and 20th centuries, and its continued evolution into the 21st century.

Origins of Horror

The pre-19th century origins of horror can be found in the folklore, superstitions, myths, legends, and tales of Europe. These tales often featured the supernatural, and were meant to frighten the listener. Many of the characters and creatures featured in these tales, such as vampires and werewolves, would later become staples of the horror genre.

19th Century

The 19th century saw the development of horror in the form of penny dreadfuls, gothic novels, theater, opera, and literature such as poetry. These works often featured supernatural creatures and the supernatural, and were meant to frighten and entertain the reader. Many of these works would later become the basis for horror films.

20th Century

The 20th century saw the development of horror in the form of silent films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, The Phantom of the Opera, The Golem, and early sound films such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolfman. These films featured the same supernatural creatures and themes found in the works of the 19th century, but with the added element of motion pictures. The 1930s and 40s saw the development of the Universal Monsters, such as The Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The post-war horror genre featured films such as The Curse of Frankenstein, The Curse of Dracula, Psycho, The Birds, and many others.

Modern Horror

The modern horror genre began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with films such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and Halloween. These films featured more violence and gore than their predecessors, and laid the groundwork for the slasher films that would dominate the genre in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Saw, and The Conjuring are representative of this trend, and continue to be popular today.

The horror genre has come a long way since its origins in pre-19th century folklore. From the penny dreadfuls of the 19th century, to the slasher films of the 21st century, horror has evolved and changed with the times. The genre continues to be popular today, and it is likely that it will continue to evolve in the future.


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What sparked the development of the horror genre?

The dawn of silent films and German Expressionism ignited the birth of horror as a codified genre after the release of Dracula (1931). Continuing to evolve over time, various sub-genres have emerged, such as body horror, comedy horror, slasher films, supernatural horror, and psychological horror.

How far back does the horror genre go?

The horror genre in literature is rich with history, stretching all the way back to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. These works explored themes related to death, demons, evil spirits, and the afterlife.

What are the fascinating qualities of horror?

The celebrated author has identified three captivating levels of horror: Gross-Out, Horror, and Terror. These elements create a captivating and mesmerizing experience in literature and cinema alike.