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.
The supernatural were often the main theme of the early horror movie. At the beginning of movie making there were short silent films made including ones in the horror genre. Georges Melies, a French movie maker, is credited with the first horror film made in 1896 entitled Le Manior du diable. The Japanese also made some horror films at this time called Bake Jizo and Shinin no Sosei.
The full length horror film was first seen as a version of the hunchback of Notre-Dame. In the early 1900’s the German expressionist film was at its peak meaning most of the first horror films were made by Germans. These German films have acted as influential works for many modern film makers like Tim Burton. The 1920’s brought about the first Hollywood dabbling in the genre and the first American horror star in Lon Chaney Sr.
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.
The technology used to make films underwent changes in the 1950’s. In addition to this horror films started being divided into either Armageddon or demonic films. There were many movies at this times that injected the social fear and insecurities of the time into their stories without directly exploiting them.
It was during the 1960’s that many other iconic films were made including Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. This movie is one of the first American Armageddon movies set in a modern backdrop. Zombies were made into what they are today in the movie Night of the Living Dead made at this time. This movie also changed the look of horror films into what we know them as today.
Tracing the history of horror movies will take you back to the start of movie making. It is possible to see how movies changed from Gothic horror to what we see today.