Growing up in a place without much to do, my friends and I created a weekly tradition to watch one horror movie every Friday night. For some of those poor souls who absolutely despised getting scared, this could not have been a more painful experience. Sadly for them, democracy ruled in our group, and the majority wanted blood, guts, and gore.
Those who couldn't watch through their fingers eventually started bringing iPods and books, desperately trying to drown out the piercing screams of the endless stream of victims. Now that we've (arguably) grown up, I've come to realize that these scaredy cats have missed an entire history of horror despite the fact that it was right in front of them for years.
Luckily for them, the team behind Filmmaker IQ has created an awesomely comprehensive chronology of horror that begins in Gothic literature and ends at the influential genre it is today. It may be a year old, but this video remains as relevant as ever. For novices and experts alike, this video is at once an awesome crash course AND retrospective of how horror movies have moved through sub-genres and pioneered techniques that revolutionized cinema.
Since these guys do such an impeccable job at summing up the extensive history of horror, I'm going to highlight some of my favorite movies from the video.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Filmmaker IQ guys discuss how one of the earliest horror films used painted sets instead targeted lighting to create shadow and spooky atmosphere. The German Expressionist style of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its distinctive angles and heavily contrasting palette, became popular and well-received in this initial stage of film as a form of popular entertainment. Many of these German directors ended up traveling to the United States to work in Hollywood.
In the late 1920s, with the incorporation of sound, the experience of horror was dramatically changed. As the video puts it, "horror learns to scream" in this era. Considering how much movies today rely on sound to get convey their thrills, this was a major turning point in the history of horror. Dracula was one of the most popular films of this Universal Gothic period, and it remains a pretty entertaining movie even for modern audiences.
The video does a commendable job of explaining the importance of Alfred Hitchcock in horror's transition away from monster movies and toward everyday terror. The villain in Psycho is just your average gent on the outside, but inside his head is brewing a major battle of violent split identities that drives him to murder. This is the partial blueprint for the slasher movies we see today and started those kinds of introspective questions about the terror lingering around—and probably inside of—us humans.
Watch the full video for a much deeper exploration into classic films, historic trends, and the social commentary that made horror films much more than people typically give them credit for. If you have thirty minutes to spare, "The History of Horror" will make learning so fun that it's scary.
What'd you think of this extremely detailed history of horror? Did it make you view some of your favorite flicks in a whole new way?