In honor of Wes Craven, here's a brief look at the genre which he helped define.
- •Silent FilmsEarly film pioneers incorporated elements that are now synonymous with horror films in their earliest works. The Lumiere brothers film 'Spooks Tales' features a skeleton while Georges Méliés' 1896 film 'Le Manoir du Diable' is considered to be the first horror film.
- •1920s - German ExpressionismTwo films - The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu - used inventive cinematography and stunning sets to invoke unrest in audiences.
- •1930s - Universal Pictures & Sound1930's Hollywood operated under the studio system - every aspect of the film experience belonged to the studio - and Universal emerged as the studio most famous for producing horror films, including The Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Werewolf in London
- •1950s - The Birth of B-MoviesThe Supreme Court's ruling that The Studio System was illegal meant only certain types of films received A-talent and large budgets. This, combined with Cold War fears, lead to the birth of the low budget B-Movie with plots that often involved invaders from outer space or nuclear creatures, such as Godzilla.
- •1960 - PsychoAlfred Hitchcock proved to audiences and critics that horror films could be more than B-movies and cheap thrills. Unlike the monster films that came before, Hitchcock's films were rooted in reality, which made them that much scarier.
- •Low Budget, High ProfitsNight of the Living Dead (1968) was made for $114K and grossed $30M. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was made for $300K and also grossed $30M. The former was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, the latter was banned in several countries when it came out, despite the director's failed attempt to secure a PG rating
- •1970s and The OccultStarting in 1968 with Rosemary's Baby, occult films began to dominate the popular movie landscape: The Exorcist, The Omen, and Amnityville Horror are the most notable.
- •1975 - JawsThe first (and best) summer blockbuster. The mechanical shark, Bruce (named of Spielberg's lawyer) malfunctioned so often that the filmmaking team was forced to find different ways of scaring audiences.
- •1975 - Deep Red & Dario Argento (and Goblin!)Although the horror genre was born out of German Expressionism, most of the innovation came from American directors, with one exception: Argento. When the composer for Deep Red did not work out, Argento tried, unsuccessfully to hire Pink Floyd. He eventually hired an Italian prog-rock band, Goblin, to score the film. They would go on to score several Argento films and, most recently, me sampled by French house musicians Justice.
- •1976 - CarrieThis ushered in an entirely new subgenre of horror films: the teen horror film. It remains one of the only horror films to be nominated for multiple Academy Awards.
- •1978 - Halloween and independent horror filmsHalloween was made for $325K and grossed $240M. The film, which was inspired by Hitchcock's aesthetics, contains very little graphic violence. It lead to a number of Suburban horror films, including Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- •1980 - The Shining and genre-bendingOne of the few films to defy any genre, The Shining is at times a ghost story, a slasher film, and a psychological thriller. Although it was not a critical hit upon release, the film is now considered one of the greatest ever made. The documentary Room 237 contains 9 segments focusing on a different element within the film that reveals hidden clues about Kubrick's larger intentions.
- •1982 - John Carpenter's The ThingConsidered by many, including @edubs, to be the scariest movie of all time, John Carpenter's The Thing is a remake of The Thing From Another World, a 1950s B-movie.
- •1996 - Scream20 years after the teen film craze first appeared, Wes Craven revisited the subgenre with this self aware blockbuster. Films like Final Destination (2000) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) followed suit.
- •90s/00s Psychological and Supernatural ThrillersThe 90s and early 2000s saw a movement away from gory slasher films, relying instead on intense psychological and supernatural situations: Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Sixth Sense (1999), Se7en (1995), and The Ring (2002).
- •1999 - The Blair Witch Project & Found Footage horror filmsTaking a cue from low budget horror films of the past, The Blair Witch project ushered in a new type of micro-budget filmmaking: found footage horror. Films such as Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield expanded on this subgenre.
- •2004 - Saw & torture pornThe Saw franchise has become the most profitable horror franchise in film history. It ushered in a new generation of films that pushed the boundaries of how much gore one can take, such as Eli Roth's Hostel franchise, Martyr (2008), and Grotesque (2009)
- •Horror & Comedy and the dehorrorification of monstersFilms such as Shaun of the Dead (2004), Drag Me to Hell (2009), and Cabin in the Woods (2012) sought to blend two extremely different genres, while films like Twilight (2008) and Hell Boy (2004) sought to take the horror out of monsters.