Horror movie

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The horror film is a film genre that tries to trigger feelings of fear , horror and confusion in the viewer . Often, but not necessarily, supernatural actors or phenomena appear, which have a mostly life-threatening and traumatic effect on the protagonists. The German term Gruselfilm tends to be used for older horror films.

Features and techniques

The lifeless shadow on the lifeless tomb in the lifeless picture: Mise-en-abyme as a stylistic device in horror films.

It is true that reactions such as fear, horror or disturbance can also occur with other films - for example with a documentary about medical operations. But only when the creation of such affects becomes the actual goal of the film, it is a horror film.

A common feature of horror films is a supernatural or unscientific threat to the protagonists . This can make the horror film different from the related genre of the thriller . Supernatural opponents in horror films are vampires , werewolves , ghosts , zombies , extraterrestrials , monsters , mutants or creatures that have got out of hand (for example golems ). There are, however, numerous horror films that do without supernatural actors and phenomena, for example the film series Saw , in which the threat mostly comes from human killers or from traps.

Despite their largely unrealistic palette of villains, the laws and rationalism of our everyday life still apply to the fictional worlds created in the horror film . In contrast to fairy tale and fantasy films , the demons in horror films are not a normal, self-evident part of the plot, but they do appear in it anyway.

"Horror is a genre of fantasy in whose fictions the impossible becomes possible and real in a world that is largely similar to ours, and where people who are also like us react with horror to these signs of the fragility of their world."

- Hans D. Baumann : Definition of the genre in horror. The lust for horror.

In order for the horror effect to arise, the horror film usually tries to generate a strong emotional identification of the viewer with the threatened protagonist. Even more than other film genres, horror films are dependent on the viewer looking at the film through the eyes of the film characters. This can, but does not necessarily have to be, reflected in appropriate camera work - for example in the form of point-of-view shots  .

Dramaturgically, the horror film thrives on the paradoxical juxtaposition of exception and rule. When the rule is expected, the exception rules, and vice versa: The natural law promising security is interrupted by the horrific miracle, or the merciless natural law opposes the hoped-for miracle. In the deceived expectation that something is going on “with the right things”, the ideas of natural law and social normality overlap.

One type of horror film is psychological horror . In contrast to the classic horror film, in which the frightening effect is achieved with the described, above all supernatural range of roles, the psychological horror works with an omnipresent, rather diffuse threat. This manifests itself again and again in unexpected dangerous situations, the cause of which remains in the dark for the time being or even permanently (example: The Blair Witch Project , 1999). The horror is based here, as in general in horror films, on the fear of the unknown. For example, the viewer feels at his mercy if most of the settings are so subjective that they are denied an objective, distanced overview.

The expectation of the uncanny is served by various cinematic stylistic devices. Blood fountains and cannibals do not have to spurt in every successful horror film . Rather, viewers fear when screenwriter and interpretation, image design , camera work and Editor , sound effects and background music , and omitted from Shown are so consistent with each other, that even everyday acts weird.

Origin and symbolism

A horror melodrama at the Adelphi Theater (London) , 1816

Historically, the horror film derives from the stage melodrama of the 19th century, which was often based on horror novels . The Adelphi Theater in London had performed horror plays since the early 19th century, and the Théâtre du Grand Guignol in Paris had specialized in horror plays since 1897. A German-language version was the fate drama of romance , as the twenty-fourth in February (1808) by Zacharias Werner . This can be proven in early film adaptations of such pieces as Der Müller und seine Kind (1911) or Jacob Fleck's film adaptation of Grillparzer's Die Ahnfrau (1910). This origin is evident in traditional vanitas symbols (such as skulls, shadows, old books, dusty everyday objects or the parallel placement of corpses with “dead” pictures and writings), in stereotypical roles and, last but not least, in the eerie accompanying music. Typically, in horror films, as in stage melodrama, there are the classic characters of the “virgin bride”, the “hero and groom”, plus mostly a father-like figure and the vicious antagonist . Characteristic of the horror genre is the scientist who confirms the violation of the laws of physics, which is what makes the full extent of the threat clear. The example of the Dracula film adaptations clearly shows this pattern: Minna is supported by Jonathan Harker, her fiancé, with the help of Dr. van Helsing, a scholar, freed from the clutches of the vampire Dracula.

Due to the continuity of the Gothic architectural style in the Anglo-Saxon region from the 13th to the 19th century, houses of this type can be found everywhere and could become a symbol of the ancient. Numerous horror films are set in a Gothic house which, with its vertical lines, flight of stairs and corridors, exudes eerie attractiveness, as Sigmund Freud noted in his essay On Uncanny (1919). In the context of the Vanitas symbols, the house, like the (abandoned) room, belongs to the “empty form” type. It outlasts its inhabitants. Examples of films where the house plays an important role, are House on Haunted Hill ( House On Haunted Hill , 1958), Psycho (1960), Until The Haunting ( The Haunting , 1963) The Shining (1980) and Stephen King's House of Doom (2002).

historical development

The classic horror film

Lon Chaney Sr. , here in a scene from Phantom of the Opera , was a big star in early horror films.

The history of horror films goes back almost as far as the history of film art in general. Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein was filmed for the first time as a silent film in 1910 . In 1922 , Bram Stoker's novel Dracula was filmed with Nosferatu, a symphony of horror by Friedrich Murnau , although the famous vampire had to be renamed Count Orlok due to disputes over the rights to the material . Murnaus Nosferatu is a milestone and masterpiece of the horror genre , not least because of its expressionistic atmosphere. Were other important and style-horror films of the silent era to that of Robert Wiene rotated The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and The Golem as He Came into the World (1920) by Paul Wegener and Carl Boese . Also Phantom of the Opera (1925) is considered an important film of the genre.

The sound film , which quickly became popular in the 1930s, made it possible to stage horror films even more realistically than was previously possible. Dracula (1931) with Bela Lugosi in the role of the bloodsucker and Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff as the monster are considered important works of this time - both interpretations became the classic image that was associated with the characters "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" (although Frankenstein was actually just the scientist, not the monster itself). The latter film in particular was considered extremely brutal and disturbing by the audience at the time, although it does not contain any depictions of violence by today's standards. The follow-up film Frankenstein's Bride ( The Bride of Frankenstein ), published in 1935 , also directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff in the lead role, appears to most critics to be no less successful than the 1931 production .

Another, ultimately no less influential strand of the horror film was initiated by Victor Halperin's White Zombie , published in 1932 , who for the first time staged the zombies enchanted by voodoo spells as actors. This film, quite apart from the later zombie films of the 1970s and 1980s, inspired a whole series of sequels in the 1930s and 1940s with titles such as Revolt of the Zombies (1936, also by Halperin), King of the Zombies ( 1941), I Walked With a Zombie (1942) or Dead Men Walk (1943). However, these films could not add anything new to the material, nor to the genre - and even less to the horror of the audience.

Both in the case of the zombie film, which is mostly located in Haiti or similar areas, as well as in the case of Draculas, who had his castle in Romanian Transylvania , or in the case of the mummy films, which were also popular in the 30s and mostly set in Egypt (e.g. The Mummy , 1932 ) - the threat, the "other", in classic horror films mostly came from exotic countries. Not infrequently, this evil threatened not so much the hero himself, but his bride, who therefore had to be saved by all means. Almost always the evil had to be completely destroyed so that the order of society with its classic, conservative roles and morals could be restored.

One of the most influential horror films of the 1940s was The Wolf Man ( The Wolf Man , 1941), which popularized the subject of the werewolf . Subsequently, the producer Val Lewton, beginning with the film Katzenmenschen ( Cat People , 1942), coined the so-called “thinking” horror film, which primarily lets the horror arise in the audience's imagination and does not show it in flat form directly on the screen. In general, few horror films were released during World War II . One of the few major successes of this time was the dream without end ( Dead of Night , 1945), a surrealistic episode film in which nightmare and reality increasingly blur into one another, published immediately after the end of the war .

The 1950s

During the Second World War and in the first post-war years, the demand for horror films fell sharply. One explanation provided Charles Nonon , the last director of the Paris Théâtre du Grand Guignol , which had also specializes in horror 'and' Horror pieces and had to close in 1962 because of the steady decline in visitors: "With Buchenwald we could never catch up. Before the war, everyone knew that what happened on stage was incredible. Today we know that things like this - and worse - can be true. ” In addition to the waning interest in the genre, there was a general cinema crisis following the introduction of television. The endeavors of the film industry to overcome this crisis led to a revival of horror films from the mid-1950s, but only increasingly towards the end of the decade. It was precisely this genre that made it possible to produce films that - for reasons of youth protection, for example - could only be shown in the cinema, but not on television. In addition, the color film opened up new possibilities.

The British production company Hammer Films played a key role in shaping the image of mainstream horror films of the 1950s and 1960s. She relied on "Gothic horror" (cf. Gothic Novel ) and recurring faces like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing . Thematically, the genre hardly underwent any substantial changes, the focus was on traditional materials such as Dracula or Frankenstein ( The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Horror of Dracula (1958)), while at the same time, at the same time, people moved further and further away from the originals and often only took over individual figures and motifs. Also to other traditional figures such as the zombie (as in the atmospheric staged The Plague of the Zombies , German: Nights of horror , 1966), the mummy ( The Mummy , German: The Revenge of the Pharaohs , 1959) or the werewolf ( The Curse of the Werewolf , German: The Curse of Siniestro , 1959), which had already come back into fashion in the mid-1950s ( The Werewolf , 1956, I was a Teenage Werewolf , 1957), was relaunched.

In the 1950s, more and more, the genres of horror and science fiction films mixed . In particular, extraterrestrial monsters ( The Quatermass Experiment , 1955, also from Hammer Studios) came into play, as well as mutants created by ionizing radiation ( Tarantula , 1955). An involuntarily comical example of such monster strips is a 1956 B-movie entitled It Conquered the World , whose extraterrestrial protagonist, a kind of soft ice cream cone with bushy eyebrows, lives in a cave in California in order to rule from there compete over planet earth.

The 1960s

In contrast to the 1950s, which were rather insignificant for the genre, a much wider range of different horror films emerged in the following decade. Classic horror films such as Until the Blood Freezes ( The Haunting , 1963), which revolves around a haunted house, or the atmospheric, but at the time completely unknown, low-budget film Dance of the Dead Souls ( Carnival of Souls , 1962) showed the genre cinematic on the amount of time.

The image of the mainstream horror film of the 1960s was still shaped by the British hammer films, which were produced until the 1970s, but later increasingly degenerated into slapstick ( Dracula chasing mini-girls , 1972). In 1967, Roman Polański shot the horror comedy Dance of the Vampires, a parody of the mostly classic subjects of these mainstream films. Roger Corman brought a cycle of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations into the cinemas (for example Der Rabe - Duell der Zauberer , 1963), in the course of which Vincent Price was able to establish himself as another star of the genre.

On the other hand, the 1960s also saw some significant innovations in the genre. Alfred Hitchcock made two films in the 1960s, which - although they must be regarded as atypical representatives of the horror film - can also be considered two of his masterpieces: The psychologically dense, dark character study about the serial killer Norman Bates, who suffered from dissociative identity disorder Psycho as well as the extremely effectively staged classic Die Vögel from 1963, which comes up with numerous shock effects .

But perhaps the most important milestone of horror films of the 1960s was Night of the Living Dead ( Night of the Living Dead , 1968) of the then completely unknown director George A. Romero , who did not invent the genre of zombie movie, but important changes: Zombies were no longer mindless voodoo creatures awakened by black magic , but independently acting undead that feed on human flesh and threaten civilization as a whole. The antagonist no longer came from another time or another world, but was situated in the normal world, which he, however, fundamentally shook. The lines between the bad guys and the supposed heroes blurred; Happy endings have become increasingly rare since the films of the 1960s. Often the threat is so overwhelming that the protagonists only have the choice between escape and death.

The level of brutality shown reached a climax in the 1960s, especially with Romero: Romero showed his zombies in detail how they stuff raw human flesh into their mouths. But already the 1963 Blood Feast by Herschell Gordon Lewis (four and a half days of shooting, $ 24,000 budget), which is now considered a cult film , early indicated the increasing brutality that then in the late 1970s and especially in the 1980s - in the Splatter- and Gore film - should become the main feature of horror film. Blood Feast derives its effect to a large extent from “moments of display” , which are not directly motivated by the narration , but are “functionally oriented towards reception” .

This development of the American horror film towards the representation of violence was already anticipated in the Italian horror film founded by Mario Bava . Above all, it was “Bava's willingness to go to work in a way that emphasizes the effects of the portrayal of sexuality and violence” , which not only found numerous imitators in their own country, but also in international horror films. Bava laid the foundation for his popularity with the surprise hit The Hour When Dracula Comes (1960) with Barbara Steele , who later became one of the genre's few female stars. Although the film was shot as a costume film about resurrected people in the tradition of “Gothic horror” , its staging created “an unusually intense climate of uncertainty and threat for the circumstances at the time” . With style-defining films such as Bloody Silk (1964), in which he combined crime stories with intense depictions of violence, revealing sexuality and a highly aesthetic staging, Bava not only founded his own Italian horror sub-genre, the Giallo , but also laid the foundation for the successful American slasher- Films of the 1970s and 1980s.

With Tobe Hooper or Wes Craven, the audience in the cinema does not believe that they are being led by a master with a cozy shudder , as with Hitchcock , but rather in the hand of a madman (John Landis, quoted from Patrick Vonderau).

The 1970s - present

Typical of the horror film of the early 1970s is the preoccupation with occultism , such as the phenomenon of exorcism ( Der Exorcist , 1973) or the rebirth of Satan , which both in Roman Polański's masterpiece Rosemary's Baby, shot in 1967, as well as in the 1976 classic Das Omen are at the center of the plot. Dario Argentos Suspiria , published in 1977 , which is characterized by a particularly artistic composition, is about witches who have devoted themselves to Satan. Little noticed, because published in the same year as the box office hit The Exorcist , is Nicolas Roeg's psychologically deep, surrealistic horror drama When the Gondolas Carry Mourning (1973) with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie in the leading roles, filmed after the story Don't Look Now ( don't turn around ) by Daphne du Maurier .

With the great white shark , the "animal horror" began to become popular in 1975. From dogs ( Cujo , 1983) to wolves, crocodiles and snakes ( Anaconda , 1997) to tarantulas ( Tarantula , 1955), ants ( Formicula , 1953; Phase IV , 1974), nudibranchs ( Slugs , 1988) and spiders ( Arachnophobia , 1990) almost every animal species has been represented as a villain in a horror film.

In 1976, the film Carrie - Des Satan's Youngest Daughter created another niche within the genre. Until the 1970s, mostly horror classics were filmed, but Carrie was the film adaptation of a contemporary writer. Stephen King's books have since been the source of numerous horror films (for example The Shining , 1980 or Es , 1990), and other horror books were also made into films over the next few years (such as Clive Barker's book Cabal , 1990). Most of the time, however, these films failed because of the high demands and the attention to detail of the original.

Tobe Hooper's blood court in Texas ( The Texas Chainsaw Massacre , also: Das Kettensägemassaker , 1974) is about a group of young people who fall victim to the series of murders of a degenerate, cannibalistic family. Hooper's work is characterized above all by a rapid camera work and by the minute-long, bloodcurdling screams of the female leading actress (see Scream-Queen ) on the run from her pursuer armed with a chainsaw .

The figure of the psychopathic butcher was in 1977 by Wes Craven in The Hills Have Eyes ( The Hills Have Eyes picked up) - here the plot was located in the desert of the American hinterland. In contrast to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre , the danger here did not come from a single psychopath family, but from the population of an entire village, who - unemployed and abandoned by the authorities, possibly still radioactively contaminated - from boundless hatred for the rest World is animated.

The subgenre of the slasher or butcher film was later mainly influenced by John Carpenter's Halloween - The Night of Horror, which appeared in 1978 . The pattern of the psychopathic, sadistic serial killer has served as a template for a number of films and series such as Friday the 13th (1980) or Nightmare - Murderous Dreams (1984). The villains of these slasher films, such as Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare series, armed with a clawed hand and wearing a red and green striped sweater , the psychopathic Michael Myers with his famous face mask from the Halloween series or the masked Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th . have meanwhile carved themselves deeply into the collective memory of Western culture. In the context of the Halloween festival in particular, appropriate disguises are available in stores and are worn by fans on this occasion.

As one of the most important, or at least the most influential works of of horror movies already rich 1970s applies again a film by George A. Romero with the sequel to his first zombie film Night of the Living Dead , the 1978 released Dawn of the Dead (dt .: zombie , even zombies in the department store ). The plot revolves around a group of survivors of a widespread zombie epidemic who hide in a shopping mall full of goods to escape the man-eating zombies. While the predecessor, in which lynch justice and racism are thematized, could be interpreted as a politically committed work, the socio-critical context of the left - wing 1970s is even more evident here . Romero shows both zombies and people as half-dead, driven by consumer madness and blind materialism , whereby the situation of the people in relation to the zombie epidemic is already completely hopeless, while in the night of the living dead people still had the upper hand in the end. In the end, the project of capitalist civilization no longer appears to be salvable, which is symbolized by the zombies taking over the department store.

The 1980s

In the area of more commercially oriented horror films both successful films of the late 70s as dominated in cinemas and on television in the 1980s mainly sequel series, Halloween or Friday the 13th as well as new films like Tobe Hooper's 1982 turned Poltergeist , Wes Craven quickly Popular Nightmare - Murderous Dreams ( A Nightmare on Elm Street , 1984) or Chucky - Die Körderpuppe (1988).

In the style of the 80s: extras of a zombie film while shooting Meat Market 3 (2006).

With the establishment of the home video market in particular, an ever-increasing underground market for horror films grew parallel to the mainstream of entertainment cinema, which in the B-movie sector has become an overwhelming flood of sometimes extremely since the surprising success of Romero's Dawn of the Dead brutal splatter films , often oriented exclusively to the effects of disgust . Countless films, mostly shot with little effort and ingenuity, established the genre variant of the Gore film , which is oriented towards the aesthetics of Romero's zombie films , which is characterized above all by the explicit and extensive display of physical violence, destroyed bodies and bulging intestines. Examples of the zombie movie of the 1980s are Bruno Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead ( Hell of the Living Dead , also: Virus , 1980) or Umberto Lenzis Nightmare City ( Nightmare City , 1980).

The horror genre was often combined with the stylistic devices of exploitation films that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s , which are characterized, among other things, by an often sensational staging of brutal violence, torture and other atrocities. This is particularly evident in the genre of cannibal films , which had developed from the settings and stylistic devices of the moon films of the 1960s and was characterized by a particularly extreme representation of splatter and gore effects. The dramaturgy of the films in this genre, which is based on the adventure film , mostly comes from the encounter between cannibalistic natives and white tourists, occasionally mixed with elements of soft porn . Two of the best-known films in this genre, which is generally quite short-lived and which almost completely disappeared from the scene after a peak in popularity around 1980, are Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust ( Naked and Mangled ), shot in 1980, and Umberto Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox ( The Revenge of the Cannibals , 1981) . Among other things, the extreme depictions of violence and often real animal killings brought the cannibal films both in the media violence debates of the 1980s and on the BPJM's indexing list .

Out of the mass of the countless splatter and gore films of the 80s, which were mostly produced for commercial motives, stood out - alongside more serious productions such as Romero's Day of the Dead (1985) or films like Hellraiser (1987) - above all Sam Raimis Splatter film Tanz der Teufel ( The Evil Dead , 1981), which despite its low budget became a cult film of the genre. This was not least due to the innovative and experimental, extremely subjective camera work, which in some cases even took the perspective of the evil antagonist, who for that very reason was not seen. In addition, the film captivated with a peculiar self-deprecating charm without already becoming a comedy. The success of Tanz der Teufel spawned several sequels, which, despite the increased budget, could no longer match the success of the first part.

The 1990s

While the pure splatter and gore film lived on in the video stores, the box office success of these films with splatter parodies such as Peter Jackson's Braindead (New Zealand 1992) or the third part of the "Dance of the Devils" series, Army of Darkness (USA 1993), initially ended at the beginning of the 1990s. Instead, the successful psychological thriller took over elements of the staging of explicit violence and gruesome settings. Successful films like The Silence of the Lambs (USA 1991) and Sieben (USA 1995), which show the investigation of particularly horrific serial murders, do not rely exclusively on gore elements, but above all on an effective staging that most horrors are in the mind alone of the audience.

With Bram Stoker's Dracula (USA 1992) by Francis Ford Coppola and Mary Shelleys Frankenstein (UK, J & USA 1994), the creatures of the Gothic novel were also successfully revived in the 1990s. As the title suggests, these film adaptations did not just refer to the cinematic tradition of these characters, but tried to implement the original material true to the original, which was filmed with star actors and extensive equipment. Further variations of the classic characters followed in films such as Interview with a Vampire (USA 1994) and Mary Reilly (USA 1996).

With Scream (USA 1996) the subgenre of the slasher film again found a large audience in the cinemas. Wes Cravens Film played mainly with the knowledge of this subgenre in the audience: He lets the protagonists discuss the genre classics and presents the rules of the slasher film in order to confirm or break them again and again in the course of the film. Two successful sequels and also series like I know what you did last summer (USA 1997), Düstere Legenden (USA 1998) and Final Destination (USA 2000) followed, most of which also contained references to the classics of the genre.

Current developments

A large part of the commercially successful horror film in the new century was marked by homages and remakes of both American and Asian films. In terms of American horror films, it was primarily the films from the 1970s and 1980s that were recycled - examples of this are Michael Bay's Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) and The Hills Have Eyes (2006) by Alexandre Aja , who was previously made by the slasher film High Tension ( Haute Tension , 2003) became known. George Romero's Dawn of the Dead from 1978 was revised twice: once in the rapidly staged remake by Zack Snyder , Dawn of the Dead (2004) , and the other time in the horror parody Shaun of the Dead from the same year. The Asian horror film found an international audience through video rentals and American remakes. Successful Japanese film series such as Ringu (1998) and Ju-on (2000 ) were newly filmed as Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004).

With the meeting of the two characters Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare series and Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th series in the film Freddy vs. Jason (2003) also continued the 1980s film series under the sign of the franchise . The Halloween series was also kept alive with Halloween: Resurrection (2002). The tradition of the slasher film was also continued: After the Scream series, which was responsible for the revival of the genre , appeared to be concluded with Scream 3 (2000) ( Scream 4 was only released in 2011), numerous films, such as Wrong Turn (2003), put teenagers in mortal danger again . Ultra-tough filmmakers such as Rob Zombie , James Wan , Eli Roth and, among others, Leigh Whannell with films such as Haus der 1000 Leichen (2003), Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) oriented themselves to the style of the 1970s and 1980s .

With The Sixth Sense and The Others (2001), shot in 1999 , the ghost film was also revived. In addition to the widely acclaimed remake of Dawn of the Dead , the new millennium was also accompanied by other successful zombie films: 28 Days Later (2002) and the video game adaptation Resident Evil (2002) brought the zombie film back to the top of the box office. "Old Master" George A. Romero continued his zombie series in 2005 with the film Land of the Dead , which stages the undead here as intelligent and conscious actors who, as outcasts, embark on a revolutionary crusade into one of the metropolises of the surviving, behind barbed wire barricaded people. The 2004 parody Shaun of the Dead even targeted the entire zombie film genre.

Categories of horror films

The film scholar Brigid Cherry stated in a 2009 study that it is difficult to describe horror films as a single genre because they can be very different from one another. Some play in the past, others in the present or future. In some there are monsters, in others the threat is human. Some films are extremely violent and bloody, while others thrived on their atmosphere. The reasons for this lie in the long existence of horror films and the different fears that they served in different decades. Cherry therefore did not call horror a "uniform group of films with common conventions"; instead, the genre should be thought of as “a couple of overlapping and evolving categorical concepts” that constantly merge.

Many distinctions are of course possible. The films can be differentiated based on their actions, objects or types of monsters (e.g. the vampire or zombie film ). It is also possible to differentiate according to certain characteristics of the film studios or filmmakers. What all categories have in common is that they serve the viewer's fears. Cherry basically differentiated seven categories of subgenre of horror film:

Type description Examples
Gothic Films that are based on classic horror stories and use familiar monsters or creepy characters. The Mummy , Frankenstein , Bram Stoker's Dracula , Wolfman
Occult and
Films in which ghosts, witchcraft, the devil , demons or similar creatures appear. Rosemary's Baby , The Exorcist , Blair Witch Project ,
The Grudge , Amityville Horror , Paranormal Activity
Films that deal with psychological conditions and psychoses and often depict crime and / or serial killers Cat people , Psycho , The hand on the cradle , The silence of the lambs , The curse of the 2 sisters , The Ward - The ward , Identity
Monster movie Films in which the everyday world is
haunted by natural (i.e. not supernatural) and secular (unlike gods / demons , they are subject to the laws of nature) creatures that bring death and destruction.
Godzilla , The Birds , That Another World Thing , Cloverfield
Slasher movie Films in which a group of teenagers is stalked by a stalker. They mostly play in inhabited, suburban
areas. As a rule, only one protagonist survives in the end - although this is usually a female actor.
Halloween , Friday the 13th , Scream! ,
I know what you did last summer
Body horror,
splatter , gore
Films that address disgust or rejection of the human body. They often deal with mutations, diseases
and fetishism, for example in the form of cannibalism or sadomasochism.
Videodrome , Hellraiser - The Gate to Hell , Dawn of the Dead ,
The Walking Dead , Cabin Fever , Human Centipede
Exploitation film Films that focus on extreme or taboo topics and primarily show excessive violence and torture.
Controversial topics such as Nazi extermination camps, rape and similar sexual assaults are explicitly presented.
I Spit on Your Grave , Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer , Hostel

What is evident is that some categories were more popular than others at certain times (e.g. the Gothic horror in Hollywood cinema of the 1930s) and that national cinema of individual countries is particularly focused on a certain category (like the supernatural in Japanese horror film ). With some films, however, a clear categorization is difficult, such as in the case of Carrie - Des Satan's Youngest Daughter (1976; Director: Brian De Palma ), which could just as easily be classified in the category of the occult as the psychological horror. Likewise, the line between horror and science fiction in the film Alien - The uncanny creature from a strange world (1979, director: Ridley Scott ) is difficult to make out.

Impact research and regulation

Like hardly any other film genre (with the possible exception of pornography ) horror films provoke ambivalent reactions and sometimes clear rejection. Horror films, especially in the bloody versions of the splatter and gore films, are seen by many recipients as tasteless, if not perverse or sick ( “Interview between sadistic like-minded people” , Vonderau). Regardless of an aesthetic-artistic , moral-moral or psychological evaluation of the phenomenon, however, it can be stated that the representation of violence without didactic components has a long cultural tradition. It is precisely because of its portrayal of strong affects that the philosopher Plato viewed the tragedy in the Politeia as dangerous to the state and disorienting. Plato's pupil Aristotle tried to defend her against this accusation by arguing that reproducing strong emotions could bring about a kind of purification ( catharsis ) ( poetics ).

Even today, many theories of effect still assume that the viewer will be freed from already existing aggressions (" catharsis hypothesis"), or, conversely, that he will become accustomed to violence or even be encouraged to act violently (" conditioning hypothesis" or stimulus- Response model ). However, the assessment of the connection between media and real violence is very controversial in science, as can currently be observed in the similar discussion about so-called " killer games ". Helmut Hartwig , professor for aesthetic education in Berlin, takes the view, for example, that “the leveling and dumbing of perception, as it occurs through normal television”, is much more problematic than the activation of aggression through violent and horror films. The social consensus is that younger children in particular have problems in adequately processing the confrontation with media violence emotionally, even if there is disagreement about the exact consequences in this regard.

The portrayal of violence in films is regulated and possibly censored in almost all societies - albeit in very different ways - partly because it touches on deeply anchored social norms and taboos , partly because the portrayal of violence should be prevented from having a negative impact on young people. Therefore, some horror films are only shown to the audience in abridged versions and / or under certain age restrictions. In Germany, the Voluntary Self-Control of the Film Industry (FSK) and the similarly functioning SPIO have developed a general code for the grading of age ratings . Most horror films in Germany are only released from the age of 16 or, in more severe cases, from the age of 18 in order to protect minors from the emotionally disturbing and psychologically traumatizing effects of all too brutal cinematic violence.

If a film is classified as a medium harmful to minors, it may no longer be openly distributed or advertised and is then considered to be indexed , i.e. it may no longer be made available to children and young people under the age of 18. The relevant legal regulation that comes into effect in such cases is in Germany Section 131 of the Criminal Code , which regulates the criminal offense of the " representation of violence " or, more precisely, the glorification of violence or the neglect of violence . Distribution and passing on of indexed films to minors can be prosecuted and punished with imprisonment of up to one year.

The occasionally criticized practice of shortening, indexing - organized in Germany by the Federal Testing Office for Media Harmful to Young People - and possibly confiscation  - carried out in Germany by the public prosecutor's offices - of horror films primarily serves the protection of minors , but is naturally highly controversial.


  • Hans D. Baumann : Horror. The lust for horror . Beltz , Weinheim 1989, ISBN 3-407-85096-4 .
  • Ronald M. Hahn , Rolf Giesen , Volker Jansen: The new lexicon of horror films . 2000 films from Dracula to Monster AG, from Friday the 13th to Scream. Everything about the dark side of cinema. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-89602-507-4 .
  • Helmut Hartwig : The cruelty of the pictures. Horror and fascination in old and new media . Quadriga, Weinheim 1986, ISBN 3-88679-804-6 .
  • Christian Heger: eyes of fear. Staging gaze in horror film and thriller . In: Ders .: In the shadow realm of fictions. Studies on the fantastic history of motifs and the inhospitable (media) modernity. AVM, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-86306-636-9 , pp. 40-60.
  • Christian Heger: Haunted Houses. About houses in the horror movie . In: Ders .: In the shadow realm of fictions. Studies on the fantastic history of motifs and the inhospitable (media) modernity. AVM, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-86306-636-9 , pp. 24-39.
  • Gerhard Hroß: The return of the old gods - a theology of the horror film. In: Thomas Bohrmann, Werner Veith, Stephan Zöller (Eds.): Handbuch Theologie und Popular Film. Volume 1. Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2007, ISBN 978-3-506-72963-7 , pp. 65-77.
  • Jan CL König: Creation of horror . Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-631-54675-0 .
  • James Marriott, Kim Newman : Horror. Masterpieces of horror from alien to zombie . Tosa, Vienna 2006, ISBN 978-3-85003-154-7 .
  • Moritz Rosenthal: The monster in sight. The representation of the feminine in horror films. Mühlbeyer Filmbuchverlag, ISBN 978-3-945378-05-2 .
  • Georg Seeßlen , Fernand Jung: Horror. Popular movie basics . Schüren, Marburg 2006, ISBN 3-89472-430-7 .
  • Norbert Stresau : The horror film. From Dracula to the zombie shocker. 3. Edition. Wilhelm Heyne, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-453-86098-5 .
  • Marcus Stiglegger : Terror cinema. Fear / lust and body horror. 4th edition. Bertz & Fischer, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86505-701-3 .
  • Marcus Stiglegger : Crossing borders. Excursions into the abyss of film history. The horror film . Martin Schmitz Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-927795-80-8 .
  • Jörg van Bebber (Ed.): Dawn of an Evil Millennium. Horror / culture in the new millennium. Büchner, Darmstadt 2011, ISBN 978-3-941310-22-3 .
  • Ursula Vossen: horror film . Reclam , Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-018406-1 .
  • Paul Duncan, Jürgen Müller: HORROR CINEMA , Taschen, Cologne 2017, ISBN 978-3-8365-6182-2

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Horror film  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Horror Movie  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hans. D. Baumann: Horror. The lust for horror. Weinheim: Beltz 1989, p. 109.
  2. Patrick Vonderau: "In the hands of a maniac" - The modern horror film as a communicative action game. (PDF; 1.3 MB) In: montage / av 11/2/2002. 2002, p. 138 , accessed February 19, 2009 .
  3. Vonderau, p. 136, footnote 13; ibid., p. 140 f.
  4. a b Marcus Stiglegger: The hour when Dracula comes. In: Ursula Vossen: Film genres: Horror film. Stuttgart: Reclam 2004, ISBN 3-15-018406-1 , pp. 153-156.
  5. ^ Vonderau, pp. 135 f., Based on John Landis
  6. Brigid Cherry: Horror. New York 2009, p. 3.
  7. Brigid Cherry: Horror. New York 2009, pp. 4-6.
  8. Brigid Cherry: Horror. New York 2009, p. 7f.
  9. Vonderau, p. 143.
  10. “The lust for horror. Horror films and their fans. ” Hr1 , September 29, 1992.