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Published on Oct 7, 2009

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Horror films are movies that strive to elicit the emotions of fear, horror and terror from viewers. Their plots frequently involve themes of death, the supernatural or mental illness.

Early horror movies are largely based on classic literature of the gothic/horror genre, such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. More recent horror films continue to exploit the monsters of literature, and also draw inspiration from the insecurities of modern life.

Horror films have been dismissed as violent, low budget B movies and exploitation films. Nonetheless, all the major studios and many respected directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola, have made forays into the genre. Serious critics have analyzed horror films through the prisms of genre theory and the auteur theory. Some horror films incorporate elements of other genres such as science fiction, fantasy, mockumentary, black comedy, and thrillers.

Horror fiction is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to scare its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural. The genre has ancient origins which were reformulated in the eighteenth century as Gothic horror, with publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole.

Supernatural horror has its roots in folklore and religious myth, focusing on death, the afterlife, evil, the demonic and the principle of evil embodied in The Devil.[1] These were manifested in stories of witches, vampires, werewolves and ghosts and demonic pacts such as that of Faust.

Eighteenth century Gothic horror drew on these sources in such works as Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797) by Ann Radcliffe and The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis. A lot of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed at a female audience, a typical scenario being a resourceful female protagonist menaced by fiends in a gloomy castle.[2]

The Gothic tradition continued in the 19th century, in such works as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, the works of Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Enduring icons of horror derived from these stories include Dr Frankenstein and Frankenstein's Monster, Count Dracula, and Dr Jekyll and his evil double Mr Hyde.[3] Other legendary figures of horror from the nineteenth century are the murderers Burke and Hare, Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper.

Great horror writers of the early twentieth century include H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James.

Categories of horror are all similar, in the use of overwhelming dark, evil forces and demonic aspects. The different types of horror are: Dark fiction; this is a psychological type of horror, historical horror; where the stories find place in the past or in realistic settings or psychological horror; where the characters' psychological problems generate horror.

The trait of the genre of horror is that it provokes a response, emotional, psychological or physical within each individual which causes someone to react with fear. In order for that response to be elicited there are different techniques used, such as unreal figures (phantoms, mummies, etc.), or more real situations and figures (serial killers, rapists, kidnappers). The main ingredient within horror is that the reader or viewer can relate to it somehow and that there's always something unexpected on its way. The whole horror genre is build up upon people's fear of the unknown and anxieties. According to H.P. Lovecraft: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
ng received the prestigious Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters prize for his work.

© 2009 Tobuscus

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