Horror movies has been around for almost as long as movies have been made. Before looking at the horror movie it may be best to look into horror in literature. Knowing this can help our understanding of horror films and where they come from.
Horror in literature left a legacy that helped to propel this genre into films. If there had not been such a legacy of literary works then we may not have the same movies we do now. The term horror was first coined in 1764 in a book by Horace Walpole’s called The Castle of Otranto which was full of the supernatural. In the following centuries literary giants like Edgar Allan Poe championed this genre with great works like The Raven. Some of the great horror movies of today are based on old horror stories like Frankenstein and Dracula which were both written in the 1800’s.
At the beginning of horror movie history these movies were often ones that had the supernatural in there. In the late 1890’s short silent films was where these movies start. The Frenchman Georges Melies is thought to be the creator of the first horror film with his 1896 short silent Le Manior du diable. Around this time the Japanese also tried their hand at this genre with Bake Jizo and Shinin no Sosei.
The first full horror film was an adaptation of the hunchback of Notre-Dame. Many of these first horror films were created by German film makers as the early 1900’s were the time of the German expressionist films. These films have influenced horror film makers for decades to Tim Burton. During the 1920’s Hollywood started dabbling in the horror genre with Lon Chaney Sr. Becoming the first American horror star.
It was in the 1930’s that the horror film was first popularized by Hollywood. Along with the classic Gothic films Frankenstein and Dracula there were also films made with a mix of Gothic horror and the supernatural. In 1941 The Wolf Man was an iconic werewolf movie created by Universal studios. This was not the first werewolf movie made but is known as the most influential. During this era other B pictures were created like the 1945 version of The Body Snatcher.
In the 1950’s there had been many innovations in the technology used to make films. Additionally in this time the horror film was divided into two categories being Armageddon films and demonic films. During this time social ideas and fears were placed into movies but in such a way that it was not direct exploitation.
The 1960’s were the time when many iconic movies came about. Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was against a modern backdrop and was one of the first American Armageddon films. Perhaps one of the most influential films of this time was Night of the Living Dead. This movie brought zombies into the mainstream and it also moved these movies from the Gothic horror to what we know today.