By Surangya Kaur
It all began in the late 19th century, when horror films were called “spooky tales” and sound hadn’t yet been infused in cinema. Horror movies without haunting music? Without disturbing screams or screeching violins? Well, in the olden days they could only implement grotesque screenplays in order to induce terror. They would definitely fail to frighten today’s audiences as they’d mostly come across as ludicrous, but those are the roots of what we see in movie theaters today.
Tracing the roots of horror genre, the first kind of macabre film ever made was “Le Squelette Joyeaux” (The Happy Skeleton). It was a forty second clip of a dancing skeleton created by the Lumière brothers in 1895. Far from frightening, the happy skeleton seemed morbidly cute.
The first documented horror film was created about an year later by Georges Méliès, “Le Manoir du Diable” (The House of the Devil). It was a three minute ensemble of wizards, vampires, ghosts and bats and these are profusely visible in modern day horror films.
Jumping ahead a century, the genre has evolved much since its inception and we have come a long way from see-through apparitions. It has branched out and now can be classified into various sub-genres. Following is my take on some of the movies that made or brake (broke) each sub-genre:
1. Slasher Horror:
(A horror film, especially one depicting a series of violent murders or assaults by an attacker armed with a knife or razor.)
Everyone has seen a slasher horror movie at some point in their lives, they are everywhere. They are also the ones responsible for the horror genre to be taken not so seriously as they almost all use the same century old clichés and recycled plots. There’s always a homicidal lunatic on the loose thirsty for the blood of:
a) dumb blondes
b) teenagers lost on a trip
c) this one chick who refused to go with him to the prom.
You know the ones which I’m talking about.
But this genre has also seen its glory in some nail-biting ,”cut-you-into-pieces”, gory flicks. Must watches include:
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1948)
4. Alone in the Dark (1982)
3. Final Destination (pick any one from its multitude of sequels, they’re all the same)
2. Scream (1996)
1. Halloween (1978)
2. Supernatural/Paranormal Horror:
These movies place their querencia (a place from where you draw your strength) in a firm belief in ghosts, spirits, angels, demons and all other transcendent beings to wreak havoc on the viewers’ minds. This category can be expanded to include the Satanic films as well.
Bollywood horror probably consists of only these except that in Bollywood horror all that the ghost/spirit/unearthly manifestation of love seems to do is play peek-a-boo with the humans or flick light switches.
But again, this sub-genre consists of some of the best classics, capable of generating multiple coronaries with every climactic plot twist:
5. The Amityville Horror (1979)
4. Poltergeist (1982)
3. The Others (2001)
2. The Sixth Sense (1999)
1. The Exorcist (1973)
And no, not the Paranormal Activity franchise.
There did exist an age (a good one) when Twilight wasn’t the first movie that came to mind on mention of vampires. When vampires weren’t cuddly, sparkling, creepy love-to-see-you-sleep, supposedly vegetarian creatures lost in an eternal search for love. They were quite capable of scaring the living daylights outta you.
Vampires first came on screen in the age of silent cinema in the movie “Nosferatu” (1922) based on the classic literature of Dracula.
Your basic stereotypical vampire has the following traits:
1. hatred of sunlight
2. ability to shift shape
3. love of sleeping in coffins
4. lust for human blood.
Anything else proclaiming to be a vampire is lying, do not trust it. Must watch vampire films include Dracula (1931), 30 Days of Night (2007) and Nosferatu (1922).
Zombies meanwhile are lifeless bodies reanimated from usually a virus of some sort, without a conscious and completely rabid with a hunger for human flesh.
28 Days Later (2002), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Walking Dead series are terrific in the zombie genre.
4. Sci-Fi Horror:
Science fiction horror? But isn’t it said that science fiction is just stuff borrowed from the future? Yes it could be real, very real. And that’s what makes it one of my favourites.
However one huge drawback of this genre is that it has very few movies belonging to it.
Alien (1979) is undoubtedly the best and when it was released, it was way ahead of its time. It sent people screaming out of the theatres. The completely badass Sigourney Weaver and the puke-inducing slimy alien kid fighting a battle of wits and guns in outer space, ah! All hail Ridley Scott!
Then there was The Thing, the original Thing (1982) not the remake, The Invisible Man (1933) and The Mist (2007) among others.
5. Psychological Horror:
Psychological horror films do not deal with the other-worldly but the psychosis/neurosis of the human mind. They’re about how mentally disordered humans lead their lives and attempt to visualize their skewed take of the world. Psychological horror is characterized by disorienting events, eerie sounds and an experience quite harrowing for the mind.
There is often confusion between psychological and slasher horror but there is an underlying difference between the two: Slasher horror involves graphic imagery of people being slaughtered by a psychotic killer whereas psychological horror tends to be less violent and more mentally affecting.
Psychological horror is also called ‘thinking man’s horror’ as it does require the viewer to exercise some thought into the musings of the protagonist’s mind.
Some of the best horror movies belong to this sub-genre:
5. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
4. The Haunting (1963)
3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
2. The Shining (1980)
1. Psycho (1960)
Well, that about sums it up! Hope you had a spooky ride. Do mention in the comments which sub-genre manages best to get a hold of your insides and shake ’em up into a bloody juice!