Horror Films: Keeping us Scared

Horror

Humans have been telling horror stories and folklore for thousands of years, through oral history, literature, and, finally, film. One film genre that has evolved drastically since being introduced in the 1920s is horror. 

Come with us on a little trip down memory lane, and find out why we love horror films so much

At the start of the genre, in the 1920s and 30s, literary classics brought us the first horror films, like FrankensteinDr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and The Werewolf. As they started to develop beyond that many viewers became unnerved and heavy censoring took place. 

Frankenstein

Then came the slasher genre in the 1940s, thanks to Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho closely followed by the theme of radioactive mutation. As war was ravaging Europe and fears of nuclear fallout were high, horror introduced us to Godzilla, The War of the Worlds, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.

The 1950s and 60s were seen as the ‘gimmicky’ years, with 3D glasses, electric buzzers, and paid stooges performing in the audience. These gimmicks, unfortunately, cost a lot of money and led the movies themselves being low budget. 

The late 1960s saw an American appetite for gore and the arrival of zombie movies, the most popular one to note being Night of the Living Dead.

The 1970s and 80s took a turn towards the occult, most particularly featuring houses and children possessed by the devil, think The Exorcist and The Omen. This is also when supernatural horror films based on literature makes a comeback – with Stephen King novels entering with Carrie and The Shining

The Exorcist

The slasher genre reared its head again in the 1980s. If you were a bunch of kids, a relentless antagonist was hunting you down. Most popular, at the time, was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The 1990s was a particularly poor time for horror; computer-generated special effects were making an appearance and brought with it uninspiring monster movies such as Anaconda and Deep Rising. Luckily there were a few comedy horrors in this time that were enjoyable such as Scream and Braindead

The 2000s too were quite disappointing, only with the zombie subgenre bringing some intrigue with 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, and I Am Legend

We are now seeing extremely original horror films emerging, giving us hope that the genre will continue to offer new intrigue for those who love a little fright with their Friday night movies. With releases like Insidious, Cabin in the Woods, and It Follows it seems as though the genre is moving into a very creative space. 

It Follows

Fear on Demand

If you’re looking to find the best genre titles the world has to offer, head off to frightfan.tv. This is a progressive website application which means that you can watch films on your pc, laptop or mobile device (Android and Apple devices running iOS9.3 or higher) without having to download an app. 

Each film is available on the service for 60 days, with new additions every week. If you can’t find it here, request it, and we will do our best to get it. R25,00 / US$1,70 per rental. Watch the film as many times as you like in 48 hours. 

Enjoy our other blogs about cinema, South African filmmakers, movies and retro vibes from Retro Afrika Bioscope.

Serial Killer Movies: Then and Now

All of us horror fans have a slight obsession with serial killers. We find their psychopathic frame of mind rather intriguing, and we all want to know where everything went wrong that led them to become sadistic murderers. But more importantly, which serial killer is the deadliest of them all? Many psychotic thrillers have turned into enormous franchises, thus; following one or two remakes. Let’s take a look at Hollywood’s three greatest serial killers: Norman Bates, Leatherface and Hannibal Lecter.

Psycho [1960] vs. Psycho [1998]

If you haven’t heard of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror flick, “Psycho”, you’ve been living under a rock! This psychological horror masterpiece painted Hitchcock as a master film-maker and director, as he changed the way that audiences looked at the psychological horror genre.

Synopsis

Phoenix office worker Marion Crane is fed up with the way life has treated her. She has to meet her lover Sam in lunch breaks and they cannot get married because Sam has to give most of his money away in alimony. One Friday Marion is trusted to bank $40,000 by her employer. Seeing the opportunity to take the money and start a new life, Marion leaves town and heads towards Sam’s California store.

Tired after the long drive and caught in a storm, she gets off the main highway and pulls into The Bates Motel. The motel is managed by a quiet young man called Norman who seems to be dominated by his mother.

The 1998 remake, directed by Gus Green Van Sant Jr. angered many critics and viewers, simply because Van Sant didn’t not so much remake the film as he did clone it, virtually shot for shot, line for line. From experience, it is evident that many movie remakes do not exceed the level of the original, however; audiences like to compare the similarities between the two versions, but in this case, it’s easier to talk about what’s different! The most obvious difference is colour. Hitchcock chose to film in black and white, as it added a darker, sinister edge to the film. The 1960 cast also set a high standard of performances portrayed by Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates), Vera Miles, Janet Leigh, and John Gavin. However; Vince Vaughn’s performance of Norman Bates in the 98’ version was quite chilling and seriously disturbing. We’ll give him a thumbs up for that! But one thing we can’t take away from Anthony Perkins is his close up shot in the final scene. His dark, emotionless eyes really translate the look of a serial killer and psychopath, sending shivers down your spine. Nonetheless, this goes to show that some films should be left alone rather than be tampered with.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [1974] vs. [2003]

In 1974, director Tobe Hooper introduced us to the gut-wrenching, American slasher film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film depicts a family of monstrous individuals who resort to murder and cannibalism after the town they live in becomes deserted. The executioner behind the murders is known as Leatherface, a large, delinquent man who uses a chainsaw to kill his victims. Based on the real-life serial killer, Ed Gein, Hooper thought it would scare viewers even more if Leatherface wore his victim’s faces as masks!

Synopsis [1974]

En route to visit their grandfather’s grave (which has apparently been ritualistically desecrated), five teenagers drive past a slaughterhouse, pick up (and quickly drop) a sinister hitch-hiker, eat some delicious home-cured meat at a roadside gas station, before ending up at the old family home… where they’re plunged into a never-ending nightmare as they meet a family of cannibals who more than make up in power tools what they lack in social skills…

Synopsis [2003]

Driving through the backwoods of Texas, five youths pick up a traumatized hitchhiker, who shoots herself in their van. Shaken by the suicide, the group seeks help from the locals, but their situation becomes even more surreal when they knock on the door of a remote homestead. It’s quickly apparent the residents are a family of inbred psychopaths, and the unlucky youths suddenly find themselves running for their lives. In hot pursuit is a disfigured, chainsaw-wielding cannibal known as Leatherface.

Most viewers like to remain loyal to a film’s original piece, but in this case, there are mixed opinions. Both versions are terrifying and will leave you with an unsettling feeling throughout the film, but which one is better? In 2003 Marcus Nispel and Michael Bay decided to produce a remake of this classic horror flick with a little modern-day twist. Although the remake followed the same story line, more or less, slight alterations were made. The biggest change of all was the transformation of the Sawyer family to the Hewitt family. Some female characters were added to the Hewitt family but the same level of cruel and merciless behavior was present.

The 1974 version lacks a lot of blood and guts, which actually makes this a masterpiece as it still brings out the terrified side in all of us. All of the gore that was absent from the original was put full-force on display in the remake. The modernization of film making has left viewers almost desensitized to the amount of violence exposed to us on screen, so what good would the 2003 remake be without all the blood and guts? One thing is for sure, the obscene amount of gore in the remake brings a new form of discomfort and anxiety to the audience that was missing in the original. Most viewers would agree that the sight of leatherface alone is enough to make your skin crawl. He is ruthless, sadistic, and to put it plain and simple, psychotic.

Silence of the Lambs [1991] vs. Hannibal [2001]

Anthony Hopkins gives the award-winning performance of Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter, a flesh-eating psychiatrist villain with no mercy to spare. Lecter was first introduced to us in the well-acclaimed thriller, The Silence of the Lambs, followed by the riveting sequel, Hannibal.

The Silence of the Lambs [1991]

Synopsis

FBI trainee Clarice Starling works hard to advance her career, including trying to hide or put behind her West Virginia roots, of which if some knew would automatically classify her as being backward or white trash. After graduation, she aspires to work in the agency’s Behavioral Science Unit under the leadership of Jack Crawford. While she is still a trainee, Crawford does ask her to question Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist imprisoned thus far for eight years in maximum security isolation for being a serial killer, he who cannibalized his victims. Clarice is able to figure out the assignment is to pick Lecter’s brains to help them solve another serial murder case, that of someone coined by the media as Buffalo Bill who has so far killed five victims, all located in the eastern US, all young women who are slightly overweight especially around the hips, all who were drowned in natural bodies of water, and all who were stripped of large swaths of skin.

Hannibal [2001]

Synopsis

The continuing saga of Hannibal Lecter, the murdering cannibal. He is presently in Italy and works as a curator at a museum. Clarice Starling, the FBI agent whom he aided to apprehend a serial killer, was placed in charge of an operation but when one of her men botches it, she’s called to the mat by the Bureau. One high ranking official, Paul Krendler has it in for her. But she gets a reprieve because Mason Verger, one of Lecter’s victims who is looking to get back at 

Lecter for what Lecter did to him, wants to use Starling to lure him out. When Lecter sends her a note she learns that he’s in Italy so she asks the police to keep an eye out for him. But a corrupt policeman who wants to get the reward that Verger placed on him, tells Verger where he is. But they fail to get him. Later Verger decides to frame Starling which makes Lecter return to the States. And the race to get Lecter begins.

Just when you thought a sequel might ruin the original, an even better adaptation unfolds. Even the name “Hannibal” gives people the creeps, because most of us associate the name with the cannibalistic serial killer. It is evident that both films were a tremendous success, however; Silence of the Lambs is where we first met Lecter, suggesting that this was the starting point of his sadistic legacy. Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter caught the imagination of viewers and transformed the doctor into an unforgettable monster and comic figure.

All three serial killers are inspired by real-life events, which makes the films even more terrifying to watch. But that’s what horror is all about! It’s hard to explain why we like watching horror flicks, even though they give us nightmares and scare us beyond belief. Maybe it’s the thrill we get when we don’t know what’s coming! It’s all about SUSPENSE! It’s a great excuse to chow on your popcorn or cuddle up close to a friend. Either way, horror is here to stay!

Movie content source: http://www.imdb.com/