Over the years, the horror genre has received a reputation of being filled with plot-less, talent-less and pointless violence and gore. In regards to the artists who have contributed to this genre since it’s inception, we look at a few films that have shaped present-day horror.
1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
We can’t forget the films that paved the way for the golden age of horror in the 1930s. German expressionist Robert Wiene’s creepy silent has the classic horror atmosphere and style with dark surreal images that we can still recognize in films from Hitchcock’s Psycho to present-day horror flicks. The mindless monster (Cesare’s) appearance and behavior influenced Karloff’s depiction of the Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein (1931). Even the basic plot has been reworked countless times: the mad doctor takes control of a monster and the monster falls in love with a damsel in distress. This classic idea has been used in favorites like Creature from the Black Lagoon and King Kong.
2. Dracula (1931)
Tod Browning’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel is the first of Hollywood’s golden age of horror in the 1930s. It was an introduction to all of the classic movie monsters most of our horror films and many shows are based on today. While the film can be criticized for how slow it moves (the actors were still transitioning from the stage to the screen) Bela Lugosi IS what we expect of Dracula, from his speech and pace to his dress and charm. Even Dwight Fry, as Renfield, has one of the most unforgettable evil laughs of any horror movie to this day. This film has everything that is horror: fog, screeching bats, spider webs, an eerie castle, storms, howling wolves and too many wives (just kidding about the last one).
3. Psycho (1960)
The success of Psycho introduced a new acceptable amount of violence and sexuality to American Cinema. It is often considered the first psychoanalytical thriller. Entire books have been written on the famous “shower scene” alone, not to mention the countless studies of the filming, editing and sound techniques that were used. Hitchcock shows his mastery of “transferring the menace from the screen into the mind of the audience” (Schickel). His perfectly timed quick cutting and sound score replace the gory visuals of today’s cinema.
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
“They keep coming back in a bloodthirsty lust for HUMAN FLESH!” If you’re not sure from the title, the tagline says it all. Zombies! Over thirty years before the zombie craze really started to take off, George Romero released his risky independent which was to become an influential cult favorite. One of the first independent films to make it big, Night of the Living Dead’s gruesome images made it stand out in the crowd of horror flicks. While previous zombie films like White Zombie were about living people controlled by voodoo, Romero set a precedent for zombies to be reanimated flesh-eating ghouls, as they are in pretty much every zombie film today. It was this film that brought us everything from Dawn of the Dead to The Walking Dead. It was also one of the first films to have a black man in the leading role, which was uncommon at the time.
5. The Exorcist (1973)
This is considered one of the scariest (if not THE scariest) movies of all time. It uses shock and the gross-out factor to completely freak the audience. One of very few horror movies that has won an Oscar and the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture, many horror movies and every possession film made after The Exorcist has been influenced by it some way. This is most obvious in movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Last Exorcism, and The Rite. While special effects have vastly improved since the 70’s this film should not be underestimated. If head-spinning and projectile vomit doesn’t get to you, that face and voice will still haunt your dreams.
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Considered an exploitation film by many, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is actually credited by some critics for many of the popular slasher genre’s characteristics such as the use of power tools as weapons and masked serial killers. It has also been a major influence on successful filmmakers like Ridley Scott (Alien) and Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses) and may have paved the way for Halloween and The Evil Dead.
7. Halloween (1978)
This was not the first slasher, but the success of John Carpenter’s indie film brought the genre into the mainstream. One of the most successful independent movies, it set the rules for the slasher film subgenre. Instead of blood and gore, it uses built up suspense, atmosphere and one of the most effective and recognizable scores of any horror film to terrify the audience. Jamie Lee Curtis was dubbed the “scream queen” by many. Since her mother (Janet Leigh) played Marion Crane in Hitchcock’s Psycho maybe it runs in the family! Amongst the slew of sequels and remakes, many forget the mastery behind the first film, but for filmmakers such as Rob Zombie, it had a large impact.
Which horror movies do you think were influenced by these films? Which one is your favorite? Share in the comments! Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest in film and television news and more!