Going to movies may not seem like a novel way for little kids to spend an afternoon. But have you ever brought your child to see a Disney flick and ended up viewing trailers for Jeepers Creepers 2 or Freddie vs. Jason? When this happened in a Birmingham, Alabama cinema last year, parents became concerned about what main attraction would be. But before managers at cinema could turn off previews, main attraction came on, and it wasn’t Piglet. Instead they were presented with gruesome opening of Wrong Turn, an 18-rated slasher flick in much same vein as previews.
Is there a more genre more criticized than horror film? Not bloody likely. There’s argument that horror films are socially and morally irresponsible, even influencing some people to imitate brutal methods of killers portrayed on screen. Horror films actually have opposite effect on normal people – sick minds will commit atrocities anyway. Watching horror films lets us encounter our secret fears, share them with other viewers, and eliminate terror by meeting it head-on.
The genre is almost as old as cinema itself – silent short film Le Manoir du Diable directed by Georges Mèliès in 1896 was first horror movie and first vampire flick. The movie only lasted two minutes, but audiences loved it, and Mèliès took pleasure in giving them even more devils and skeletons.
In early 1900’s German filmmakers created first horror-themed feature films, and director Paul Wegener enjoyed great success with his version of old Jewish folk tale Der Golem in 1913 (which he remade – to even greater success – in 1920). This fable about an enormous clay figure, which is brought to life by an antiquarian and then fights against its forced servitude, was a clear precursor to many monster movies that flourished in Hollywood during Thirties.
The most enduring early German horror film is probably F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), first feature-length vampire movie. But one movie paved way for “serious” horror film – and art cinema in general – Robert Wiene’s work of genius The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, still held up as an model of potent creativity of cinema even to this day. Early Hollywood drama dabbles in horror themes including versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) starring Lon Chaney, first American horror-film movie star.
It was in early 1930’s that Universal Studios, created modern horror film genre, bringing to screen a series of successful gothic-steeped features including Dracula, Frankenstein (both 1931) and The Mummy (1932) – all of which spawned numerous sequels. No other studio had as much success with genre (even if some of films made at Paramount and MGM were better).
In nuclear-charged atmosphere of 1950’s tone of horror films shifted away from gothic and towards modern. Aliens took over local cinema, if not world, and they were not at all interested in extending tentacle of friendship. Humanity had to overcome endless threats from Outside: alien invasions, and deadly mutations to people, plants, and insects. Two of most popular films of period were The Thing From Another World (1951) and Invasion of Bodysnatchers (1956).