Horror genre: history, origins, best movies and cult directors

The lines of thought, artistic and scenographic have directed cinema towards an increase in schools and gender perspectives. In the cultural sphere, for example, the predisposition to the horror genre has spread like wildfire .

A cinematic style mistreated by many, but which has its own logic and underlying peculiarity. A boundless archive through which to explore stories, films and directors who have given prestige to this genre over the years. Let’s see them together in the following lines: welcome back to CineMagazine!

When and how the horror genre was born

Connection between myth and reality exemplified by a tradition particularly prone to cruelty and the narration of the horrid. All this is horror. The horrendous, what is most frightening and from which we tend to detach ourselves in order to chase away this fear, even of death.

The horror genre has its roots starting from the end of the 18th century . At that time the gothic novel was born in England , mostly centered on mysterious tales with a macabre flavor.

The recurring scenography was based on lucubrious and gloomy settings that were frightening just to read and imagine them. But characterized by a certain critical and objective sense of reality which has always pervaded these representations over time. As a sort of masochism inherent in human psychology that involves a self-flagellation of the self, in search of risk and the most hidden fear.

In fact, the horror genre, if you like, was born a bit as a genre that wants to educate the people. Let them see reality from another point of view, try to make citizens think. 

The climate of terror and thrill is the founding premise from which every good director starts, who intends to undertake this cinematographic journey in his films. Almost as a need to represent this from the very beginning, citing, for example, the epic poems and sacred writings of antiquity between demons and monsters.

The character of Mary Shelley ‘s Frankestein , Polidori the vampire and Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde are emblematic examples of a horror literature tending to the supernatural. Man as a victim and at the same time executioner of himself to respond to a primordial instinct inherent in human nature.

These are all stories that only a superficial reading can limit to the dark. In reality, they show sides of human behavior that, after all, belong to all of us to a certain extent if we will. 

The first horror movie

However, the first horror film ever dates back to the work of a certain Georges Melies . French director and actor of the late 19th century, creator of “Le manoir du diable”, a silent film about an exclusive encounter between a devil and a group of ghosts.

In fact, it was the first time that everything was shown on stage in this way and from here the climb of a rapidly growing genre on certain themes and dynamics definitively cleared.

It seems an isolated episode but in reality it was the forerunner, then, to a whole series of ideas related to the horror genre.

Best horror movies and directors

To group together all the horror films that have stood out for the quality and exceptional nature of the events represented and a difficult , not to say complicated exercise. Yet the quality of certain films oriented in this area is universally recognized.

It would be enough to cite the legendary The Shining by Stanley Kubrick to gain awareness in this sense. The culture of thrills and the unknown as a distinctive feature of any good self-respecting horror, be it a book, a film or a literary story.

Sometimes the horror genre can take on a declination considered insane, scary, but understood in an ironic, amused sense. What happens in the Scream film saga , directed by Wes Craven.

One of the most influential and well-known directors of an entire genre, author of the legendary Nightmare , where a group of boys live with the fear of perennial sleep due to the presence of a monster capable of upsetting their dreams and being able to kill them.

Even the Italian school has produced cult directors, like Dario Argento above all. One cannot fail to mention Deep Red among the masterpiece films of all time. A mix between thriller and mystery in the context of the resolution of a murder to be understood and analyzed.

Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Doctor Caligari is an icon of the 1920s. We go from James Whale’s Frankestein from the 1930s, quoted above, to King Kong. Horror evolved in a reflective, meditative way in Alfred Hitchcock’s films such as Psycho. 

A spasmodic suspense and sense of expectation more emphasized in this case. This can also be seen in a subsequent cinematographic representation by the director, The Birds , dated 1963.

Since the 1970s, horror has gradually abandoned the sense of waiting to move towards a more direct and traumatic emotional impact to be reserved for the public. The Shining is a pragmatic example of this, but we can cite the various Aliens by Ridley Scott, The House, Poltergeist, Friday the 13th and The Silence of the Lambs.

First step towards capturing the viewer by taking advantage of the extended attraction towards the paranormal, the supernatural recognized as a nightmare , but equally fascinating. The celebration of zombies and beings from another world and dimension almost like saviors of the homeland is a fixed and consolidated constant in modern horror films.

As well as the insistence on a strong protagonism of panic and sudden fear thanks to which the viewer is attracted and kept at the same time in the film with his fears and anxieties.

From this point of view, films set in a modern key such as Sinister, The Ring and The cursed house are continually presented with this line of thought. They ride the horrendous and disturbing features.

Cruel chronicle fed to the public in all its cruelty, but with a pinch of reflexivity and objective evaluation of the facts that seems to be connoted as a sort of return to the past.

With one substantial difference: today technology works miracles and, therefore, manages to get to where it was once wanted but which, due to the limits of instrumentation, was impossible to implement.