Are Horror Movies Evolving Into Works of Art?

Are Horror Movies Evolving Into Works of Art?

Melanie Kibler

 

When you hear someone talk about horror movies you think of typical slashers that don’t have much plot line.  However, new production companies, especially Blumhouse, have been working toward horror movies that are more of a story, rather than just people dying left and right.

Naturally, this transformation didn’t just happen overnight.  Rather, it took a long, slightly annoying, process to transition from slasher to work of art.

 

Classic Horror Movies

However, before there were just mindless killing scenes, the original horror movies also had a plot.  In fact, the first horror movie ever was the original, 16 minute Frankenstein from 1910.  This movie didn’t do very well and was not very well known.

It wasn’t until 1922 when Nosferatu, a movie based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, came out that the genre was really created.  After this movie other classics such as King Kong, The Wolf Man, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon came out.

All these movies featured monsters that weren’t real and much of the killing was toned down.  Ultimately, when was it that slashers were first introduced? The fact of the matter is that it was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that first introduced the idea of a serial killer armed with nothing more than a knife.  

More movies such as The Night of the Living Dead, the first zombie movie, and Rosemary’s Baby, a very disturbing movie about a woman who gives birth to the Devil’s son, perpetuated the idea of disturbing imagery on screen.

 

Plotless Slashers

By the early 1970s the horror genre had taken a turn from movies with strong plots to movies containing as much gore and disturbing imagery as possible.  Of course, there were still some movies that contained plots, but they also included graphic content.

One of those movies with a plot was the Exorcist, a movie about a little girl who gets possessed by the Devil.  This movie is commonly referred to as one of the best horror movies of all time, but it still includes very violent scenes of the possessed girl, Regan.

After this movie is when we start to see more slashers and less plot.  Just one year after the Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out.  This movie, about a group of friends who run into a family of cannibals, actually marks the start of what is known as the “Golden Age” of slashers.  

This was what started many of the “slasher movie tropes,” including the use of power tools as weapons for murder, the characterization of a killer being a faceless, unidentifiable figure, and the twisted ways of killing.

Halloween is another famous and influential slasher movie from the “Golden Age.”  This film is what solidified the “final-girl” trope because of Jamie Lee Curtis’s character being the only one to survive.  It also was one of the first horror movies to have what seems like millions of sequels.

In 1980, the horror movie craze continued with Friday the 13th.  This is another plotless slasher that includes teens being brutally murdered by a man in a mask.  

The “Golden Area ” wound down in A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This was one of the first slasher movies to incorporate supernatural and fantasy elements along with the normal brutal murders.  

The In-between Stage

After the “Golden Area” of slasher movies, the horror movie genre entered into the weird in between stage where there wasn’t a set type of horror movie.  This middle stage was in the 1990s and during this time we got movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Scream, and The Blair Witch Project.  

All of these horror movies defied the normal slasher genre and became their own weird, unique genres.  Also none of them are exactly like the others.

The Silence of the Lambs is one of the first psychological thrillers to be introduced to the big screen.  The most terrifying moments in this movie aren’t when Buffalo Bill walks around in women’s skin, or even when Hannibal Lecter kills people.  It is actually when he is talking to Clarice about the screams of the lambs.

Scream is another unique horror movie, but not for the same reason as Silence of the Lambs.  This film is different in that it openly discusses horror movie cliches throughout the entire movie.  As the main characters are being hunted by Ghostface, other side characters are discussing the dos and don’t of what you should do in a horror movie.

The Blair Witch Project is also a first in the horror movie genre.  In fact, when it first came out people thought that it might be real, because of the camera angles.  This “recovered footage” type movie was the first of its kind and the producers sold the lie even more by listing the actors as missing or deceased.

 

Remakes

After the weird in between stage we entered into the 2000s production companies who just remade old horror movies.  While this is a completely different category from “New Horror,” it should be mentioned that people are still making remakes today.  In fact, there are many horror movie remakes in the works right now.

Some of the best remakes were Carrie (2013), Evil Dead (2013), Pet Sematary (2019) and It (2017).  The new Halloween (2018) was a really good movie as well, but technically this one is a continuation of the original.  

However, not every horror movie remake was up to these films’ standards.  Some of the worst were Psycho (1998), Prom Night (2008), and Poltergeist (2015).

 

New Horror

Along with the remakes, many horror movies today have shifted into the category of “New Horror.”  Films in this category still follow many of the old horror themes and tropes, but now feature elaborate plots full of twists and turns that the viewer will never see coming.

There is one production company that appears to be the king of this subclass of the horror genre: Blumhouse.  This American production was founded in 2000 and it focuses only on horror.

Many of its movies have been revolutionary in this genre.  The most notable probably would be Get Out, one of the first horror movies to have a African American main character.

Other Blumhouse movies also have helped reinvent the genre.  These include movies such as Happy Death Day, a comedy-horror Groundhog Day-esque movie, and Fantasy Island, a new horror movie that is based off of a tv show from the 60s.

Just based on the films that are coming out in the future and that are already out, it appears that the horror genre is headed for a bright new future.

photo: photo credit: https://gearmoose.com/best-80s-horror-movies/