2. THE BACKGROUND OF HORROR
Horror is a type of film genre that has a story line in place to scare the audience watching it.
When watching a horror film, the audience will have certain expectations about the type of things they will likely see on
screen and what will happen throughout the film. Throughout it, they will pick up clues and signals that will allow them
to guess what is coming next. This is made possible through the codes and conventions of the genre built up over the
history of the horror genre.
Since the 1920’s the horror genre has changed and adapted to ensure the audience still find it scary. Throughout
different decades, societies fears have changed and the horror genre has made films to target this, ultimately ensuring
the genres success.
Horror has changed throughout the decades due to the rise of improved technology, for example, effects used in the
films are now able to be better. This has improved the way in which films look as the CGI used now is realistic. The rise in
technology has also directly related to the populations fears, this is because it has sparked a fear of the unknown and
unsurity of how dangerous it can become.
“One of the most influential models of the history of horror cinema sees
it in terms of distinct periods of development”
- Peter Hutchins
3. THE 1920’S
The 1920’s were the first years when horror was introduced. During this time period, the
audiences were scared of mythical creatures found in literature. Throughout this decade, the
directors and producers of horror films acted on this to scare the audience.
Due to the first world war, the audiences were afraid of the dark as this is when the bombs were
typically dropped without much warning. This created a fear of the unknown at nigh time, which
caused the horror genre to feature lots of dark scenes.
Doing this allowed this genre to thrive throughout this time as people were being scared for
4. NOSFERATU - 1922
Nosferatu was one of the first ever horror films, this is a perfect example of evolution as it
shows how much things have changed in under a century. This film features signs of
mutation as audiences were scared of mythical creatures found in English literature.
Within this film, eerie and dark scenes were commonly used to target the audience and
make them fear what they can not see at night. This technique was used as after the first
world war, people were scared to sleep and they feared the unknown. This monster lived in a
remote Transylvanian castle which was typical in literature.
5. THE 1930’S
The 1930’s features a gothic style approach set in far off distant lands. This decade featured
monsters based on 19th century novels with newly created sound. A common example of this is
Dracula, it was the first horror to use sound and talking within the film. This was due to
technology rising which allowed the horror genre to scare their audience in new ways. Boris
Karlof and Bela Lugosi were very much the horror stars within this decade as they featured in
multiple successful films.
Genetic change was also common within this decade with films such as Frankenstein and the
bride of Frankenstein were also a huge success.
The use of sound within this decade was used eerily to creep the audience out before scaring
them with the characters. During this decade was where the conventions of sound in horror
was first created.
6. DRACULA - 1931
Dracula featured Bela Lugosi as the typical vampire of this decade. His costume was very traditional and
followed the conventions that were created by the literature in the 19th century. He wore a typical black
cape, tuxedo, fangs and featured the sucking motion commonly associated with the vampire and lots of
This film featured common gothic sound and eerie background noises to make the audience tense and
scared. The sound of howling was commonly used within this film as the audiences know that wolves
Although Dracula was the first horror to incorporate sound in to its production, it also had much more to
offer the audience, it featured the typical setting which was again described within the 19th century
novels, this was castles, woods and mists. This kept the audience interested in the film as it was the first
time they were able to picture what it would have been like in the past.
7. THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - 1935
The bride of Frankenstein is without doubt seen as one of the greatest ever horrors. This film
was the first ever made to feature a female monster as the main character.
This however was controversial in ways as she was still shown to be beautiful compared to
Frankenstein. This made her not seem scary to the audience compared with Frankenstein. This
was partly the case due to how the directors and producers wanted the women of this time to
be represented to the audience (beautiful and attractive). Doing this allowed the film to be a
success and has created history as the first horror film to star a female monster as the main
However, the film was still marketed with only Boris Karloff’s name.
8. THE 1940’S
The 1940’s was a time where horror films were banned throughout Britain due to World War II.
Throughout this time, horror moved to the country of America. During this decade, the
Americans played it safe and made similar films to the 1930’s with the same general themes.
This decade features films where people turned in to animals, for example ‘The wolf man’ and
‘The cat people’.
The 1940’s saw another rise in technology as sound effects were being more commonly used
to enhance sections of the film. The Americans also used their different film methods and
technology to add subtle changes to the conventions of the horror genre.
9. THE CAT PEOPLE - 1942
The cat people was a significant film in history as it was the first film with a female character
that was specifically designed to be feared by the audience. It featured a women that was able
to turn in to a panther due to witchcraft being in her blood. The individual prowled down the
street in cat form whilst killing people.
This film was the first film that used techniques and conventions that are used in todays horror.
For example in this film, the equilibrium was introduced to the horror genre.
Around this time, the sub genres were beginning to be more apparent to the audience, codes
and conventions were also beginning to be created for each one.
10. THE 1950’S
The 1950’s bought a huge change in to the horror genre, post World War II, the past horror
films and sub genres no longer seemed scary to the audience. Due over 40,000,000 life's being
lost, the audience now feared the effects of radiation, nuclear war, the rise in technology and
During this decade, the teenagers were now the main audience for the horror genre as it
returned to the UK. This decade also saw the horrors of space exploration as it was introduced
to the genre through the big screen, the audience still had fears of the unknown.
11. THE FLY - 1958
This film featured the typical mutated creature that has been affected by radiation through
scientific experimentation. Due to the war, this type of horror now scared people as they feared
what scientific experiments and radiation could do to our world.
The fly has used the fear of radiation to create a monster that no one was sure if it could exist in
real life if nuclear weapons were used. This was a huge debate throughout this time as nuclear
weapons has just been used in 1945 and no one was yet sure about how much damage they
could cause to our plant.
12. THE BLOB - 1958
The blob was a similar hit film throughout the same year as the fly. Again, it featured a giant
amebae type monster that terrorised the town and killed many people.
This plot was used as the audience was scared of space exploration an what else is in the
universe as previously mentioned.
This came again from the fear of what affect nuclear weapons and radiation could have on the
universe and how that could affect human life on plant Earth. This film captured the audience
so much, they decided to make a sequel called Beware! The Blob.
13. THE 1960’S
Due to there being no new nuclear explosions or incidents throughout the 1950’s, the audiences
began to lost their fear of this on the big screen. The 1960’s changed horror for the future as
now it changed to feature drugs, sex, fashion and freedom. The monsters in this decade were all
in human form, this was to make the audience witness the monstrous potential of man and the
human mind, for example serial killers and their mind-set.
Horror historian Andrew Tudor discussed how before 1960, horror had closed narratives (the
villain or monster dies), whereas in this decade and to the present day there are more open
narratives. This was specifically used for sequels and to make the horror less predictable.
Peter Hutchins – “The old horror was either dead or dying , A new horror was about to
14. THE 1960’S CONTINUED
Throughout the 1960’s, Roger Corman made ‘B’ movies which were purely to make
These films featured lots of gory scenes and lots of sexism towards women in an
attempt to attract the audience.
Unlike the intelligent horrors made my the likes of Hitchcock, these horrors were
usually poor quality and had low budgets to maximise his earnings.
15. PSYCHO - 1960
Psycho is without doubt seen as one of the best and most iconic horrors in the history of the
genre. This film was the first to feature a human monster. He was called Norman in the film as
it was close to ‘normal’.
This film featured the typical equilibrium in horror and then changed dramatically in to a
nightmare. This film is a good example of theory within the horror genre as it was relatable to
Todorova's narrative structure. This included the equilibrium, the disruption, the recognition
and attempt to repair and the new equilibrium.
16. THE 1970’S
The 1970’s bought an end to the optimism of the 1960’s. the horror genre grew in quality whilst
still tackling societies fears.
The introduction of “The Pill” and the birth defects caused by thalidomide led to a fear of
children and childbirth.
This lead to the idea that the enemy could be found within your family, which was a commonly
used technique in the 70’s
Also in this decade, the final girl was born in the slasher sub-genre. This was a huge sign for the
genre as it has become a must have convention within the slasher films these days.
Peter Hutchins – “Some horror critics call the 70’s the golden age of horror production.
The genre acquired some maturity and integrity”
17. THE EXORCIST - 1973
The exorcist was a typical 1970’s film that targeted the fear of children and again highlighting that the
villain could be within your family. This film featured a child possessed by evil that was slowly loosing
her soul. This film featured the typical exorcism in an attempt to try and stop the possession of the
young girl. This film was very popular with 70’s audiences as there were jump scares and realistic
makeup for the time it was shot.
18. THE 1980’S
The 1980’s bough another newly developed age within the horror genre. Technological change
meant that the horror films had more special effects and so looked more realistic. Horrors
within the 1980’s were all about show, there were lots of colours and killers in full view with
gruesome killings. The monsters remained human again throughout this decade as everyone
was beginning to understand the extreme actions and harm they can do.
Newly introduced VCR’s meant that horror could be watched by the audience at home, this
pumped even more money into the horror genre as more teens were watching the films with
19. THE SHINING - 1980
The shining is without doubt known as one of the greatest ever horror films. This film again
played on the fact that the monster could be in your family by featuring a murderous man who
was controlled by a supernatural presence. This man was violent and tries to kill his wife and
son throughout the film. The shining was a typical conventional piece of horror work which the
The shining film featured a mix of a human killer with a supernatural presence, typical to the
supernatural sub-genre in which the film identifies to and whose codes and conventions it
20. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET - 1984
A nightmare on elm street was a typical horror within the 1980’s. Known as one of the best ever
horror films, this film featured excessive gore accompanied with brightly lit sets. This film
featured lots of codes and conventions of the slasher sub-genre, one of these is that the first
victim is violently slashed to death for having sex. Over the more recent decades, this is a must
have convention in a slasher film as it is seen as a punishment for the individual.
A nightmare on elm street played into the fears of sleep for children by creating a killer that
could only kill people in their dreams.
21. THE 1990’S
In 90’s horror, audiences were tired of the classic horror codes and conventions, especially the
obvious villains and over the top SFX of the 80s. The audiences craved more intelligent
horrors, they wanted plotlines that disturbed them and not just frightened them. Realistic
human killers were craved for this decade with dark storylines and plot twists they did not see
coming. Films such as scream used the typical codes and conventions them mocked them for
a more comedic look, they knew what was going to happen but they did it anyway. This was a
technique used by Wes Craven that made scream such a successful horror franchise. Doing
this added a layer of dark humour to the slasher film and allowing for a more realistic narrative
for the audience to pick up on.
22. SCREAM - 1996
Scream was the first film of its kind. The director (Wes Craven) acknowledged how
genre-savvy audiences were by having actors play characters that mocked the typical
horror conventions. Although they died anyway, this bought a comedic value into the
horror franchise and was popular with the audiences. Although this was still a slasher
film, it was the first of it kind, this is what made scream the well known successful
franchise it has become today. In this film, over the top acting and deaths were
popular. This film bought back the fear of unknown people as the first victim was
being watched by someone they didn’t know. This film however still stuck to typical
slasher conventions as the ‘slut’ still died first with the most painful death.
23. THE 2000’S
The 2000’s was a very different era for horror in most countries. The tragedy of 9/11 changed
the view of what is scary for the audience. They again feared that evil lurks in the work around
them in the form of terrorists. Due to this, the horror directors kept most of the villains as
humans but changed it so they were playing ‘games’ with their victims. Races against time and
killing forces that can not be seen (supernatural) were also common throughout this decade.
Throughout this time, remakes and spoofs of original films were being created and were very
popular originally, this was until the audience were introduced to and liked to watch different
types of horrors. For example psychological, supernatural and zombie. This decade introduced
the ‘found footage style’ in films like paranormal activity. This portrayed to the audience that it
was genuinely real and made them more scared when watching the film. Possession films such
as the exorcism had also become popular again throughout this decade through the
accessability of horror. DVD’s and e-media were new and popular ways in which horror films
were being watched.
24. SAW - 2004
Saw became a franchise like no one has seen before. It was where killing for a game
was invented in horror, as they were forced to take part and fight for their life's
against each other. This was very popular with audiences and encouraged many films
to take this route. It featured a disturbed man kidnapping people and forcing them to
fight against each other in a series of challenges or ‘games’ in order to stay alive.
This film featured disturbing deaths by machinery and different traps to show the
audience how many ways to die there are. Usually, the deaths were very explicit in
terms of how they were seen and would feature lots of gore and blood for the
25. THE 2010’S
In the 2010’s the audiences were scared by possession and exorcism films. Horror was
now more popular with younger audiences such as teenagers and so whatever scared
them was now popular in horror. Slasher and psychological films were still popular
however as they could still scare the audience. The fear factor is what creates horror,
horror films are designed to scare the audience, if it is unable to do so, it will be unlikely
to succeed. In this decade now, the horror genres respond and adapt according to what
society finds scary, it is a genre which shifts and changes as our fears do in order to
survive. Horrors are now scarier than ever due to technology and special effects,
meaning there can be more realistic horrors in the supernatural genre with possessions
and ghosts. Remakes and spoofs were also popular in this decade with another version
of a nightmare on elm street hitting the big screen.
26. IT - 2017
It is was the highest anticipated horror film of the year, it is another example of a
remake from this genre which gripped the audience with its intense and disturbing
psychological values. The storyline features children form a small town being
tormented and killed by a shape shifting clown called pennywise. It is a remake of the
original 1990’s mini-series which was very popular within that decade. It followed the
codes and conventions of the psychological horror genre and contained plot twists
and jump scares to entice the audience.