The Student News Site of Dr. Michael M. Krop

The Lightning Strike

The Student News Site of Dr. Michael M. Krop

The Lightning Strike

The Student News Site of Dr. Michael M. Krop

The Lightning Strike

The evolution of horror throughout the decades

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FRIGHTENING FLICKS: A collage of influential horror movies from throughout the ages.

Horror movies have always pulled on the strings of what haunts our minds. As a genre, it is evolving constantly, leaving a trail of scared kids and adults alike of every generation.

1968 was the death of the “Hays Code,” an industry standard that prohibited “vulgar” themes. Graphic violence, restricted from use from the 1930s to late 1960s, became a taboo audiences enjoyed. Psychological thrillers, visceral horrors and the iconic slasher were born.

The golden age of horror began in the 1970s with films beginning to incorporate darker themes. This was still new to audiences at the time of the release of  1974’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” scaring theaters with portrayals of cannibalism and animalistic brutality. 

This set a new motion to expand on reality-based horrors. “Halloween” (1978) and “Black Christmas” (1974) demonstrate this by taking place in suburbia, which is typically considered safe from violent crimes. They also set the precedent on how the subgenre should be structured fundamentally.

Slasher films gained popularity in the ‘80s with ads highlighting gory violence and nudity  to boost ticket sales. Franchises like “Friday the 13th” (1980) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) dominated the industry with numerous sequels. The main appeal of these movies was the suspense and anxiety laying in the foreground and infamous killer chase scenes. “The Shining” also introduced and popularized the supernatural elements in the unexplained.

The rise of youth culture in the ’90s was a turning point for horror which began to target a young adult audience. 1994’s “Scream” by Wes Craven is by far the most influential. Its meta-horror comedy makes a parody of over-saturated cliches with sarcastically aware characters. The phenomenon is thought to have revived the slasher genre’s popularity. The decade brought more realism to these stories by the perpetrators being unsuspecting individuals replacing supernatural villains with more psychologically complex killers.

The turning of the century brought international films to American audiences. Movies like “Ringu” (1998) later adapted by Hollywood into “The Ring” (2002) and other Asian films briefly dominated before being dethroned by the rise of the subgenre known as “Torture Porn.”

 The “Saw” franchise and the “Hostel” trilogy are the most noted as the genre continued to progress. This decade’s film explored the limits of viewers’ tolerance and discussions of the ethics of on-screen violence. To add, found footage movies, made popular by “The Blair Witch Project” (1999) and then “Paranormal Activity” (2007), gave the genre a new perspective to how we tell stories.

Sensitivity to dark themes and graphic violence and the latter relishing in it were a result of the post-9/11 trauma which leaked into cinema as a whole according to The Washington Post. Its effect on the horror took a more literal embodiment; kill scenes began to be detailed and drawn out. 

The blood hungry desire began to simmer down in the 2010s. Horror no longer being considered less-than, but a way of creative expression and a new medium for social commentary. Jordan Peele’s Oscar nominated film “Get Out” expressed the monetization of African-American culture in society in possibly the most literal sense. 

David Robert Mitchell “It Follows” is similar in its symbolic nature; using a supernatural entity to represent the anxiety behind modern relationships and the risk of casual-sexual relationships. This became an industry trend to make movies contemplative, to have the audience leave theaters with more than just a few scares.

Entering the current decade, horror continues to embrace modern ideals as well as reflect the complexity of the world with more directors taking risks in screenwriting and more surreal visuals. 2019s “Midsommar” directed by Ari Aster for instance, brings terror into broad daylight and explores grief in a sick and twisted format. Directors are finding new fears to explore like the growth of AI and social media. As society’s anxieties and technological advancements change, one can only imagine the horror fans’ worst nightmares for the future.

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