2. History of the Horror Genre
The first horror film was made in 1896, Geroeges Melies a French film maker. It was only 2
minutes long. The name of the film was Le Manior Du Diable which when translated means the
The roots of the horror genre go way back to the late 1700’s and are an extension of a genre of
literature known as Gothic horror. It was developed by writers from the united states of America
and Britain. “Gothic” refers to made up medieval buildings such as castles where these stories
Types of gothic settings:
• Dark forests
• Old castles or forts
• Secrets passages or rooms
The term horror did not come into use for
films until the 1930’s.
Well known Gothic Writers
3. Most influential horror film directors
When talking about the history of the horror genre it would be ignorant not to
mention the influence certain famous directors have had on the genre.
Most renowned for the Psycho (1960) shower scene and its use of non-diegetic
sound to create suspense and match the feelings of the audience with the violins
wailing away just as the audience was about to be. Due to the fact that is was
filmed in black and white and any other liquid used to represent blood wasn’t to
a good enough quality, they decided to use chocolate milk. He is one of the most
well known directors of the 20th century people of all generations know who he
is. The fidelity of the music also matched the individual stabbing lunges of the
knife. The use of backlighting on the attacker stopping the audience from seeing
any key human features makes the character more monster like as there is less of
Well known for an unexpected film that shocked audiences on October 1st , 1968,
Night of the Living Dead was produced on a budget of $114,000 and was so well
received it made $12 million domestically and $18 million internationally. The film
follows 7 unfortunate individuals trapped in a rural farm house in Pennsylvania,
which is attacked by living dead monsters. This is the first appearance that sky
rocketed the fame of the zombie in films. Since the release of this film there have
been many different zombie films with each director trying to put his own spin on
it. The zombie has also broken into other genre such as comedy as seen in “Shaun
of the Dead” and been successful at it. It has also entered into other popular
forms of media such as a TV series called “The Walking Dead” and games like
4. Technology and the horror Genre
Many famous films we know and love today were created in the 1900’s . It is a
pattern that films are re created as technology advances and time goes on to
improve upon what was previously created and remake them for present social
economic standards. The films made weren’t just visually black and white, but the
ideas behind them were extremely simple e.g. Bats were seen as vampires, walking
corpses were just zombies. Time and technology helped writers advance on these
pre-existing facts of a horror film. Working corpses weren't just zombies but victims
of a disease as seen in World War Z, 28 day later and I am Legend. There is now a
huge grey area as to what classifies a vampire and a zombie.
Georges Melies, a magician who turned into a film maker made use of the magician
tools of illusion and sleight of hand in order to confuse audiences. Magic tricks can
only go so far in films that revolve around the living dead, the cinema audiences
needed more and in 1978 the release of “Dawn of the Dead” really upped the
game for visual effects. The animatronics used in the film “Alien” was the next big
leap for visual effects as it meant that the evil force in a film didn’t have to be
played by a human. The demon or giant werewolf could be more realistic in
unimaginable size and speed.
5. Horror Sub-genres
This combines the adrenaline fuelled gunfights and car
chases with the supernatural blood curdling events
that happen in the horror genre.
Elements that appear in Action Horror films are:
demons; ferocious animals; vampires and the most
popular, zombies. E.g. Blade and Dawn of the Dead.
A combination of horror fiction and comedic reactions.
This sun genre crosses over to black comedy in films
such as “Shaun of the Dead” making a frightening turn
of events humorous.
“The legend of sleepy hollow” by Washington Irving is
seen as the fist Comedy Horror.
These films may include a romance that unfold as the
film progresses building suspense. Most of the earlier
horror films were part of this sub-genre.
An example of this sub-genre is “The Phantom of the
This sub-genre usually features mutilated beasts and
animals that have transformed into killers without
It can sometimes overlap with science fiction and
action/adventure genres e.g. “Jaws”
6. Body Horror
In these films horror is generated from destruction or disfiguration of the human body.
Unnatural movements and dysfunction created fear.
A well known director for this type of horror film is David Cronenberg.
An example of this type of film is “Teeth”.
This genre of horror relies heavily on the belief, guilt, emotional instability, supernatural
and the fears of the character in the film and the audience.
The horror is created by the reality of events that occur in the films. An example of this
type of film is “The Shining”.
Science Fiction Horror
These films often contain a scientific experiment that went wrong or event the paranormal.
An example of a Sci-Fi horror film is “Alien”(1979)
With advancement of technology in the real world there are films that use this to their
advantages such as poltergeist (1982) where the child gets taken into the television.
Slasher films overlap with crimes sometimes because they usually create horror by build
and mystery and suspense.
These types of films deal with lots of violence, blood and gore most commonly caused by a
psychotic individual with a signature weapon of choice like an axe or a carving knife.
E.g. “Psycho” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
These films contain blood thirsty, hungry for flesh reanimated corpses that prey upon the living.
Examples are “Dawn of the Dead” and “I am Legend”
7. Conventions of the horror genre
Failed science experiment
Good and Evil
8. Types of Characters present
The protagonist, usually playing the hero or victim in the film. The role is often played by a
female and is the most morally standing and intuitive individual in the group. They are
almost always the survivor, leaving the film open for a sequel.
The good or bad cop
The arrogant teenager who doesn’t believe in the supernatural antagonist or that the
antagonist is still trying to kill them.
The villain. A monster, alien, serial killer, zombies, werewolf and psychopathic individual. It is
not always clear why they are doing what they are, and it is never clear whether or not they
are dead at the end of the film.
The sex appeal. The role is often played by a promiscuous, uninhibited woman. Usually the
first to die in a shameful way, without dignity.
The token minority in the group who is often portrayed as the bravest and most concerned
about the other peoples well-being. He/she is usually the muscle of the group and ends up
dying trying to protect other victims.
The unlikely hero. This is most commonly the person who is suspected to be the antagonist
due to their mysterious behaviour or the way they dress. They often save the main
The infuriating character. The role can be partnered with the sex appeal and is usually with
the other person when they die. Due to this characters behaviour it is often a relief for the
audience when they die.
9. The Setting
Isolated areas or in small secretive
environments, narrow alleys, dark
paths and run down old ghost
The setting is usually any place
that connotes isolation or
Horror films often take place in
buildings or areas with a “dark”
history, like an abandoned insane
asylum or a house that has fallen
Locations for a good horror film
are: Highways, barns, woodlands,
cabins, tundra, deep murky
waters, blizzards, attics,
basements and abandoned
10. Editing and Camera used in
The camera work is very expressive and un
natural, the use of high and low angles helps
Handheld shots make it extremely hard for the
audience to make out what is happening. An
example of this is Cloverfield, because the entire
film is shot with a hand held camera and creates
disorientation and the fear of the unknown.
Disturbing and aerie sounds are important in
horror films in order to make the audience feel
like they are experiencing what is happening first
hand. Diegetic sounds like footsteps and non-diegetic
sounds like a heart beat.
POV shots are important because they allow the
audience to see the world through the villain or
An extreme close up on a characters face can help
display the fear and confusion to the audience. If
the audience can’t see what is happening around
the character it is more threatening.
Usually in horror films when the
editing hasn’t been paced up, then
something scary is about to happen
like in a really long shot without any
cuts and a few different angles of the
11. Narrative structure & Iconography
Visual Style: Dark colours like red and black (both linking to evil and
The use of props helps to identify the horror genre. There are certain props that
can be identified with specific villains e.g. chainsaw, knife, axe, firearms and
The iconography of the monsters helps to connote fear and terror: werewolves,
vampires and mummies.
Lighting is expressive and artificial causing it to be un-naturalistic and other
worldly. The use of low key lighting creates unfamiliar shadowy figures. This can
be created by the use of torches ,lanterns and fireplaces then using filters to
change how the light looks to the audience.
Objects used are masks, religious icons and supernatural icons.
12. Narrative structure
The first act usually focuses on a main character embarking on a venture to a
mysterious and threatening setting.
Arriving at said setting unleashes violence and causes the death of most of the
protagonists. Dissention within the group of survivors makes it harder to fight back
against the evil force putting them in more danger.
The climax of the film most commonly involves a dramatic showdown between the
villain and the protagonists with a range of different outcomes depending on events
in the film and events in the rest of the story not shown on film if it has been derived
from a book. An original horror film has an open ending leaving it with the possibility
of the monster returning and for a sequel.
13. Audience Profile
The average age of the audience for the horror genre is between 15 and
Horror films are popular amongst the younger audiences because the like
to seek action and a thrill they cant get anywhere else, so they turn to
horror films to satisfy their needs. They are in the early stages of life, still
trying to structure their beliefs and want to experience as many things as
possible and in this case they want to experiment with their feelings and
Horror films excite the younger audiences easier than the older ones
because they are less experienced in life and so get a more natural
reaction to certain things, rather than someone that has seen something
The younger audience aren’t as susceptible to being put off by the
violence and gore present in these types of films because they aren’t
taught how to react in the situation presented in the film and are more
willing to experience new and different things.
Males are more likely to watch horror film than females, as boys
stereotypically seek more of a thrill than girls due to the increase in
production of hormones in the body and the development of the psyche.
Most young males are more tolerable of violence, blood and gore than
females, not to say that there isn’t a female audience for theses types of
14. The majority of people that watch horror films are in the middle/working class
sector and are of a young age.
15. The horror genre is by far one of the most popular genres of film since
it began to gain popularity amongst the public with “Frankenstein” in
1910. in 2003, 12 of the 100 top grossing films of all time fell into the
horror genre(IMDB). What is extraordinary about the horror genre
being able to maintain its high level of popularity, is production costs of
horror films are often much lower than that of popular films in any
Theories of why people keep watching horror films
To Freud (1919/1955) horror was a manifestation of the “uncanny,”
reoccurring thoughts and feelings that have been repressed by the ego
but which seem vaguely familiar to the individual.
Jung (1934/1968), on the other hand, argued that horror gained its
popularity from the fact that it touched on important archetypes or
primordial images that he said resided in the collective unconscious.
Even the Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that dramatic portrayals
gave the audience an opportunity to purge itself of certain negative
emotions, a process he called, catharsis.
Source of theories:
16. Different types of watching
Gore watching is characterized by low empathy, high sensation seeking, low
fearfulness, and in males, a strong identification with the killer.
Whereas gore watching is driven by an interest in violence, thrill watching is
motivated by suspense and is associated with high levels of empathy and sensation
Independent watching, a third pattern identified by Johnston, evolves from a spirit
of mastery and is characterized by strong identification with the victim and high
levels of positive affect.
The fourth pattern, problem watching, also entails identification with the victim, but
unlike independent watching, the affect is negative and the mood helpless.
As the Johnston study suggests, there is no one reason why people watch horror
movies. Instead, there are several different patterns of motivation and not one of the
eight traditional theoretical models of horror film appeal reviewed in this paper seems
capable of accounting for all of the patterns. From the definition of horror adopted in
this paper, the eight traditional models of horror film appeal, and the complex process
by which people interpret and relate to works of fiction, it is proposed that the allure of
horror cinema is a function of three primary factors: tension, relevance, and unrealism.
Source: http://web.calstatela.edu/faculty/sfischo/horrormoviesRev2.htm under
descriptive features of horror section.
17. 3 Title sequence that I find Interesting
1.) Childs Play 3 - This title sequence uses extreme clos ups of
body parts of dolls, causing confusion as to which ones belong
to the villain since it is a sequel. The predominant colour of
the factory is grey, whereas the anti-hero’s mangled corpse
stand out with a mixture of red and blue signifying evil and
revenge. Visual effects have been added in post for the
reanimation of ‘Chucky’ the antagonist with the help of
2.) The shining – Immediately, the non-diegetic loud horn
type instrument being played gives the perspective that this is
an enormous, desolate place, making the sound echo through
the mountain ranges and wooded areas. The birds eye view
and helicopter shot of the car driving away from the camera
creates the feeling that they are driving to their doom.
3.) Shaun of the Dead - I find the title sequence to this film
interesting because it is not your conventional horror movie
opening. The film fits into the sub-genre of comedy horror.
This is instantly noticeable because of the fidelity and non-diegetic
sound/ music matching the movements made on
screen e.g. the zombie like mob of people walking. Another
thing about this title sequence that make it unique in
comparison to the other three is the way transitions are made
seamless by moving physical objects in front of the lens.
18. The Omen (1976) analysis of title sequence
The Omen was written by David Seltzer and directed by Richard Donner. Many deaths
with mysterious circumstances follow American ambassador ‘Robert Thorn’ played by
Gregory Peck, all signs point towards his son Damien as being the human incarnation
of the anti-Christ.
Immediately the sequence begins with the ominous, non-diegetic sound of high
pitched piano notes being played followed by an old fashioned renaissance choir. This
instantaneously sets the tone of the film for the audience and since it start so abruptly
it shocks the audience and causes them to be curious of what the choir is singing, and
because Latin is a dead language the director uses peoples fear of the unknown to his
advantages in order to frighten audiences around the world. The mixture of deep and
angelic voices in the choir helps the viewer link the film to religion and the fight
between good versus evil or heaven versus hell.
Furthermore, a child shaped shadowy figure slowly appears in the top right corner of
the shot matching the rise in volume and fidelity of the music with what is happening
in the frame. The blood red puddle and the tombstone in the shape of a Catholic cross
that slowly appears suggests that over the course of the film events gradually escalate,
becoming more horrific and extreme, with a number of mysterious deaths. This makes
the audience feel helpless because they can anticipate what is coming but have no idea
how, when, where or who and this lead to frustration because they can’t do anything
about it and just have to watch the plot unfold to the characters in the film.
Finally, the low key, special effects lighting portrays evils as dominant in the film as
blackness consumes most of the shot except for what the viewer can only assume is
the antagonist, who is surrounded by dark red with the likeness of blood, suggesting
that death surrounds this child like figure. The viewer feels trapped and overwhelmed,
like there is no escape from the immoral happenings that are about to take place.
There is no bright light at the end of this tunnel.
19. Popular Horror Film actors
Christopher Lee’s Top 5 horror film roles
1. Count Dracula in Dracula
2. Joseph in The Body Snatcher
3. Ygor in Son of Frankenstein
4. "Murder" Legendre in White Zombie
5. Dr Vitus Werdegast in The Black Cat
Jaime Lee Curtis’ top 5 horror film roles
1.Laurie Strode in Halloween and the sequels
2. Elizabeth Solley in The Fog
3. Kim Hammond in Prom Night
4. Kit in Virus
5. Alana Maxwell in Terror Train
Christopher Walken’s top 5 horror film roles
1. Gabriel in The Prophecy, The Prophecy II, and The Prophecy 3: The Ascent
2. Peina in The Addiction
3. Hessian Horseman in Sleepy Hollow
4. Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone
5. Detective Rizzo in The Sentinel
Sigourney Weaver’s top 5 horror film roles
1. Ripley in Alien and the sequels
2. The Director in The Cabin in the Woods
3. Alice Hunt in The Village
4. Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II
5. Lady Claudia Hoffman in Snow White: A Tale of Terror [The Grimm Brothers'
21. How the BBFC classifies films
The BBFC watches films and videos all the way through then awards an age rating and insight to each one.
They then reach an age rating by applying the principles and criteria contained in their Classification
Guidelines. Normally, two assessors view a film for theatrical release. In most cases a Senior Assessor will
approve the examiners’ recommendation. But if the Examiners are in any doubt or fail to agree, or if
important policy issues are involved, the work may be seen by other members of the Board up to, and
including, the Director and Presidential team.
A similar process exists for DVDs and Blue-rays though commonly these are seen by one Assessor. On the
other hand, ideas from other Examiners is sometimes required for more difficult to judge work.
They look at issues such as discrimination, drugs, horror, dangerous and easily imitable behaviour, language,
nudity, sex, and violence when making decisions. The theme of the work is also an important consideration.
The BBFC considers context, the tone and likely impact of a work on the possible audience.
22. Guidelines of the BBFC
Furthermore, every 4-5 years, the BBFC carries out a major public consultation exercise to find
out what the public thinks about the age rating of films and videos before they are released and
whether the BBFC’s classification standards meet public concerns. The BBFC adjusts its standards
and criteria in response to any changes in public attitudes.
These standards are laid out in the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines which can be downloaded
below. The Guidelines detail what is acceptable at each age category, from U to R18. They also
set out the laws and principles which impact on the BBFC’s work.
There are two key principles, laid out in the Guidelines, under which we operate:
To protect children and vulnerable adults from potentially harmful or otherwise unsuitable
To empower consumers, particularly parents and those with responsibility for children, to
make informed viewing decisions.
23. Horror films and BBFC
rating Horror films usually fall into the 15 and 18 ratings, due to the amount of gore, controversial and sexual
scenes present in them. However, “The woman in black” which was released in 2012 is an exception to
this statement, and was rated a 12a, allowing a wider audience to view it hence why it grossed $128
million dollars world wide. This film is also an example of how ratings are not set in stone and can be
changes, because initially the film was given an age 15 rating but then a few scene were cut out and it
was altered to be a 12a. Giving a horror film a rating of 15 has advantages and disadvantages. An
advantages of rating a horror film as 15 is it will be legally viewed by a wider audience and be a topic of
interested for teenagers at school making them more interested in English literature and creative based
subjects. However, you could argue that even if a horror film is given an age rating of 18, there are still
going to be underage people watching the film. It could also add to the frightening effects of the film
and its influence because those watching it who aren't 18 might get more of a thrill since it is perceived
as forbidden and unsuitable for young, immature minds.
24. Desensitisation theory
Horror films suffer greatly from this. This is a theory of the media audiences’ reactions
becoming weaker and weaker over time due to the volume of exposure to sex, violence and
death. It is decline in terror and sensitivity to violent behaviour and socially unacceptable
Horror films are a key example of violence in the mass media, because they commonly
contain a horrific death scene. Since the beginning of the horror genre, films have become
increasingly more violent with more gore on screen due to enhanced visual effects, instead of
focusing on other great aspects of a horror film like atmosphere and the build up of suspense.
Since horror films are a lot cheaper to produce than films of other genres, more and more
have been made by independent film makers allowing audiences to view many different
interpretations of a horror film, and because of this we have witnessed so many different acts
of violence it no longer surprises or shocks us.
Examples of films that help cause desensitisation are: Saw; Friday the 13th; the Texas chainsaw
massacre; A nightmare on elm street e.c.t.
People have come to expect this type of violence in horror movies and no longer get the
reaction they got when the saw their first few horror films, making them less inclined to
watch, or so you would think.
An argument against this would be that, though our generation may be desensitised to this
level of violence another generation might not be, and be petrified and flabbergasted at what
takes place in these types of films. When you see on the news that someone has been
murdered it isn’t that shocking because there is a high chance that the persons death won’t
effect you personally, however if it was someone you were close with like a good friend or
relative you would be stunned and depressed.
25. The Hypodermic syringe model
The hypodermic syringe model is similar to that of the desensitisation theory. This theory puts
forward the idea that when something is announced by the media, it is just accepted by the general
public without question. This relates to desensitisation because if the media tells us something is
violent & exposes us to it we accept this as fact and as time goes by the majority of people become
more and more familiarized with hearing or seeing it, weakening the effect it has on us.
This theory suggests that continuous exposure to available violent content on a consistent basis, can
no longer generate a strong emotional and lasting impression on us, the audience, which could
cause people to be insensitive or unresponsive to violence in day-to-day life.
A large number of studies have looked to see if there is a link between coverage of violence in the
media and violent behaviour. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics over 98% say yes,
there is a link. Evidence indicates that media violence can and may contribute to antagonistic
behaviour, desensitisation to violence, the fear of being harmed and nightmares.
26. Vladimir Propp’s character
The villain t–hfiegohtrsy the protagonist in some way.
The hero or victim/seeker hero – reacts to the donor and weds the
princess or goes after the prize.
The dispatcher – the character who makes the antagonists evil
plans/motives known and send the hero off on a quest.
The helper – helps the hero on their quest for the princess or prize.
False hero – the character who takes credit for the hero’s feats or actions
and tries to steal the prize.
The Donor – gives the hero something to help him on his journey. It
doesn't have to be physical like a weapon it can be a piece of advice.
The heroine – commonly a passive, helpless, vulnerable character
threatened by the antagonist and in need of help from the hero.