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Genre Analysis and a History of Horror

History and analysis of the Horror Genre

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  • 1. Genre Analysis and a History of Horror

2. So What Is Horror? Horror films are films set to scare, and terrify the audience, giving them the essence of dread, and fear, using peoples fear to invoke a response. The typical horror film has usually a shocking end, something to keep the audience captivated in the cathartic experience. Horrors use our primal side, and our fears such human vulnerability, human alienation, our fear of the unknown, fear of sexuality or dismemberment. These are used to attract an audience member, while at the same time repulsing them. Horror films use usually either a supernatural story, or semi-science fiction, with the creatures, or antagonists, coming from the other side, or from the corruption, or even from otherworldly entities. Horrors also share some traits with Thrillers with revolting acts throughout, although Horror differs, using more the macabre to make the film more chilling, thus the genres nickname Chillers. 3. History Part 1 Horror films go back to almost the beginning of on-set filming, spanning back over 100 years, using vivid imagination to see ghosts on screen, and using the stories of Gothic Writers and gothic style imagery to scare and entice an audience member, using the popular stories of Vampires and Monsters at early turn of the 20th century. The first ever horror film was approx. 2 minutes long by Georges Melies, an imaginative French director, and this was released in 1896 (one year before Dracula, the novel, was released) and was called Le Manoir du Diable (AKA The Devils Mansion) and this set the scene for the horror films to follow, using the setting of a castle, having flying bats, cauldrons, demonic figures (Mephistopheles), witches and monsters, as well as the traditional crucifix to rid the world of these enemies. Between 1900 and 1920, popular horror films revolved around the horror figure of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, having 2 films released in this time period, one being a 10 minute thriller, the second being a feature length film, this also shows that Horror films started off as shorts, and eventually evolved into longer films, able to fit more plot, and more horror into the films. 4. History Part 2 Horror Films took on the roles of Monster Horrors for a long time, using the gothic characters repeatedly, over and over again, having several remakes of popular characters, such as Dracula and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and these were predominantly the convention of horror, until the 1970s/1980s in which the dawn of a new breed of Horrors, looking at mass murderers and children. The first slasher that set the mold for the others was Halloween, this slasher used a low budget of $300,000 and was very cheaply made, this being an interest to producers, as well as the profit gained, into the millions, over tripling the profits, and this gave it popularity, as people had a new type of horror to enjoy, something that was different, and this same became the norm as of the profit, and price that went into them. From this, cult slashers were born, memorable films, that shocked the audience with high gore and high violence, and because of this people saw them again and again. Such Films are Halloween, Friday 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and My Bloody Valentine. At the time in the 70s/80s young people had a new developed sense of freedom, something never seen before, and this freedom lead to a newly developed idea for horror, using children as an antagonist, something vicious and cruel, working on the ideas of adults thinking the new sense of freedom would lead to problems, and one film worked on these fears, The Omen. The Omen was one for the founders as using children as monsters, and horrors, killing people and being possessed by demons. This idea of using children as monsters stuck with viewers, and became typical within the horror genre, with its elements still being seen in modern horror movies today. 5. History Part 3 The 80s and 90s brought about another 2 new type of horror, one piggybacking off the popularity of Sci-fi in the 70s/80s, and the other being again, very cheaply made, but very well done, becoming a cult following to these type of films. In 1979, Alien came out, which spawned several sequels, as well as, creating a waned output for Sci-Fi horrors, showing how aliens can be scary, as well as drawing on fears of isolation and of people being alone, which is a primal fear, and putting it into a new setting of space, which was popular at the time. Although Alien was successful, in years to come, Sci-Fi horrors werent the most popular, with only things the likes of Alien or Predator being successful. 6. History Part 4 The second type of horror that came about in the 80s/90s, was the home footage horror movie, in which the films were cheaply made using a cheap handheld camcorder, rater than a large budget professional camera. The casts of these films were usually small, and became scary, not through visual effects, or seeing monsters/creatures, but through the idea that something could be out there, and how people react when things seem to happen around them. One of the most famous pioneers of this style was The Blair Witch Project, in which it followed 3 young people following the story of a local legend etc. it was considered one of the scariest films of the decade, because it seemed so real. This sort of film is still apparent today, in the popularity of films such as Paranormal Activity or Grave Encounters.In the last decade, horror movies havent really had any revolutionary new sub-genres, but rater re-use of the old ones, having themes of possession by ghosts and monsters, like the classic horror movies, as well as the first person camcorder footage, as mentioned, with the likes of paranormal activity. Also, reboots of classic slashers have been popular, with new versions of Texas Chainsaw, Nightmare of Elm Street, Halloween and Friday 13th that have been released. 7. Analysis and Conventions 8. Iconography Within horror films, Masks are an icon throughout, being a cover up for the antagonistic force, keeping the characters anonymity, examples are seen a lot in slashers, such as Friday 13ths Jason Voorhes, Screams Ghost Face, Texas Chainsaws Leatherface, and The Orphanages Tomas.A brutal and absurd weapon of some sort is also an icon, looking very threatening, and scary, as of the fear of death within the a person, and a fear of pain, from an unusual weapon. Examples are Jasons Large Machete in Friday 13th, Freddy Krugers Clawed Glove in Nightmare on Elm Street, and the large bladed hammer, on the masked guy in Resident Evil Afterlife. 9. More Iconography Blood is iconic within horror films, as it invokes disgust on the consumer of the films with splashes of blood, as well as again hitting fear of death and disease within real life. For example, the various traps in the Saw series, which make people bleed out and rip open characters innards. Gothic Items, such as crosses and alters and spikes/stakes, this is to show how in monster horrors, the creatures are somewhat eternal, and live for a very long time, showing their indestructability. For example, the alters in the various Dracula films. 10. Setting Settings of Horror Films, are usually secluded places, away from society and alienated, usually because in places as such anything can happen without interference from outsiders at these points. Also the sense of isolation increases fear, as separation from society is a primal fear of people. Inside horror films, there are sometimes long corridors, and woods, in which the antagonist would wonder through, with an ever coming presence, sometimes freezing characters in fear etc. For Example, Eel Marsh House within Woman in Black in the middle of a marsh, with long corridors that the woman slowly moves down. 11. More setting Other settings include (in old monster horrors) old castles, that have sharp and pointed gothic architecture, this makes the setting seem eerie and graveyards surrounding these castles, encapsulating the ideas of death and seclusion, as seen in 1930s Dracula, his home being a large gothic castle, with graveyards etc. 12. Characters Main Protagonist is usually both Hero and Victim, someone traumatised by the events, but still manages to prevail, and prime example would be Cindy from Scream, who is horrified, and tortured by the killings of her friends, but manages to prevail. Main Antagonist is usually some sort of freak, monster, serial killer or alien, such as Freddy Kruger, who is a burnt freak, who visits people in dreams to kill The immoral/ and stupid people who die within the film, people who have lived distasteful lives and die, such as most of the victims in the Saw series, who have been selected for atrocities they have committed. Often there are some sort of dead child, or creepy child, to invoke horror, from seeing innocence perverted in a monstrous way, Like the scene in Woman in Black, where the house is surrounded by the ghosts of dead children. Police Officers are often involved in modern horrors, either good or bad characters, one side protecting people, and another not believing the person at all. Suh as the police officers in scream, aiming to help Cindy and protect her from Ghost face as an example of good cops, or bad cops, like the ones shown in Sinister, who try and threaten the main character away from his new house. 13. Themes Good vs Evil, such as the story in Dracula. Revenge, like Nightmare on Elm Street, and Freddy Kruger. Supernatural, in horror films like Sinister, aving the ghost posses the house, as well as the video tapes. Science gone bad, such as Frankensteins Monster, or the synthetic people turning evil in the Alien Franchise. Madness and Insanity, such as the guy who becomes insane after spending a year inside the possessed ghost asylum from Grave Encounters 2.Zombie Apocolypse, the theme for a lot of films, eg. 28 days later, Dawn of the Dead and World War Z Suicide, which could lead to someone coming back from the dead, such as The Woman, in The Woman in Black. 14. Narrative Narrative of horrors is usually a firs hand perspective of the main character, this is so we relate to the character more, and we go through the shocks and jumps along with them, as well as uncover what is happening in the story, and going through the same emotional trauma, as they are being haunted, hunted or taken by some sort of killer/ supernatural force. A good example of this, would be Alien, in which the character follows Ripley, and her experience in being hunted on a dead spaceship by an alien. 15. Style The style of horrors focus around clever lighting, and use of shadows around shots, using a lot of shadows to make things seem eerie, as well as to hide the antagonist of the piece. Actual light in horrors are dim, and occasionally orange or deep yellow in horrors, to show murkiness, and sickness within the film. Shots mostly used in horrors are those of close ups and medium shots, as these shots show character body and facial expressions most, so it shows the intensity of character fear throughout the piece.