For decades Hollywood has been providing filmgoers with the visceral experience of simple, unadulterated terror. Horror movies have become big business in the film industry and people still flock to theaters in the hope that the next horror themed blockbuster will provide ever greater doses of adrenaline. However, what many people may not realize is that filmmakers have been terrifying audiences for over 100 years and before that playwrights had been thrilling audiences with ever more gory and terrifying spectacles.
“…filmmakers have been terrifying audiences for over 100 years…”
One of the first horror movies to keep audiences on the edge of their seats and covering their eyes in fear was The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). The silent movie, which was released in the early 1900s provides a protagonist in the form of an unwitting sleepwalker who falls under the control of an insane hypnotist who uses his powers to provoke a string of murders. Looking back over the years there are several seminal horror productions which have shaped the horror movies of today. We can, of course, name The Exorcist (1973) that won two Academy Awards, and Alfred Hitchcock’s slasher classic Psycho (1960) as movies which combined horror and suspense in irresistible packages.
“…the visceral experience of simple, unadulterated terror.”
It is interesting to note that many of the same themes that appear again and again in horror movies produced by big Hollywood studios can be found in this early work. Over the years the horror genre has contained a wide variety of themes from zombies and supernatural, to slasher and psychological horror. There has also been many popular films that have focused on cults, such as Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Wicker Man (1973). However, with more recent films, the latest technology, increasingly sophisticated special effects, plot pacing, music and a greater understanding of exactly what causes fear have elevated the modern horror movie to the level of cinematic art. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) The Evil Dead (1981), and Nosferatu (1922) are all famous horror films that have all inspired a new generation of films, sequels and remakes. Horror has not just become associated with movies but video games, film merchandise, and online slot games, have all been inspired by the genre and helped to fuel the popularity around it.
“…many of the same themes that appear again and again in horror movies produced by big Hollywood studios can be found in this early work.”
For Hollywood and many independent producers, the lure of the horror movie is difficult to resist. Where films in this genre are usually released around Halloween, more and more horror movies are now being released all year round. Films like Midsommar and Annabelle Comes Home are just some recent film releases that support this growing trend. Audiences seem to love this genre and these films can also often be produced for a fraction of the cost of big-budget movies. There is also the matter of the critics. A well-produced horror movie with an intriguing storyline not only terrifies audiences but it can add a fortune to its box office takings through positive reviews. One only has to look at one of the latest horror films, Hereditary (2018) which enjoyed a rotten Tomato’s approval rating of between 80-90%. This horror movie grossed over $79.3 million at the box office internationally on a budget of just $10 million. Given that sort of money, it’s no wonder that studios and independent producers love the horror genre.
“This horror movie grossed over $79.3 million at the box office internationally on a budget of just $10 million. Given that sort of money, it’s no wonder that studios and independent producers love the horror genre…”
One of the best at getting scares for minimal investment is Jason Blum (Blumhouse Productions) who is one of the leading lights of the modern horror movement. His production of the 2017 movie Get Out explored racial tension, suspense and a healthy dose of sheer horror. It is a triumph of just how Blum can gauge just what a modern audience wants from their horror experience. Blumhouse Productions has also produced many other popular low-budget horror films including Paranormal Activity (2007), Insidious (2010), and The Purge (2013).
It is abundantly clear that moviegoers are not going to tire of the horror genre anytime soon. With new stories and new advancements in film-making, the horror film genre looks to be one that will continue to thrill audiences for the foreseeable future.