The History of Horror Movies

Dec 05

The decade known as the 2000’s or the new millennia ushered in a lot of things. New fashion trends, new music and a new era of horror movies.

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(image: “200 Best Horror Movies of All Time.” Rotten Tomatoes Movie and TV News 200 Best Horror Movies of All Time Comments)

During this decade, a lot was happening within the realms of horror movies. While the infamous trend of producing reboots of horror/slasher films were still present during this time, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2003]; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning [2006]) or the Friday the 13th Franchise (Jason X [2001]; Freddy vs. Jason [2003]; Friday the 13th [2009]) for example. There were also other things becoming popular within the genre during this time period.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre [2003] (image: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Collection The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 / The Texas Chainsaw Massacre The Beginning Import: Amazon.ca: DVD,)

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Jason X [2001] (image: “Jason X.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 9 Nov. 2001)

In the 2000’s technology was rapidly advancing and equipment was becoming more and more readily available to the public. This meant that movies can be made and executed well with a meager budget*. This would then lead on to the rise of low budget movies and the found footage genre as seen with the success had by the 2007 Spanish movie [REC] directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plazaand the Paranormal Activity movie directed by Oren Peli also released that same year.

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(image: Fisher, Carl ‘The Disc’. “Horror Movie Review: [Rec] (2007).” Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life, 27 Feb. 2018,)

This particular era also saw horror movies taking interest and drawing influences from foreign movies, most specifically of European and Asian origins* and more often than not these foreign movies would get a remake made for the North American market seen as such with the example of the 2002 movie “The Ring” directed by Gore Verbinski which was in fact a remake of the 1998 Japanese horror film “Ringu” which was directed by Hideo Nakata. 

download    “Ringu [1998]”     ring_two_ver2    “The Ring 2 [2005]”

(image Ringu (1998): “1646KDTL Vòng Tròn Oan Nghiệt-Ringu.” Giải Trí Số – Chọn Phim Online Tại Đà Nẵng; image The Ring 2 (2005): Kruger, Written by:Ehren. The Ring 2 (2005) – Movie Posters (1 of 2) ) 

While the prior things stated are noteworthy trends and sub-genres, it was the interest in the revival of splatter films and grindhouse that would go on to create a subgenre of horror that would go to new extremes to redefine the landscape of horror movies in the 2000’s; Torture Porn.

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(image: CBS Miami. “Steamy Hot Trailer For ‘Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Released.” CBS Miami, CBS Miami, 24 July 2014,)

It is often said that horror movies are a reflection of a society’s fear in their cultural and political landscape during a certain time period. During the 2000’s there was a moment in time that would go on to change the world forever, The Al-Qaeda attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 stopped the world dead on its tracks. This event caused massive panic and uncertainty among the public. It caused massive distraught and anxieties. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center led then U.S President George W. Bush to proclaim a “War on Terror” which is essentially a military campaign in order to fight off Islamic terrorist groups. It was also during this campaign, the ever so infamous Guantanamo Bay was established and the Abu Ghraib torture incident occurred. In 2004, news regarding the horrifying and perverse ways personnel would torture prisoners were found out by the public.

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(image: Chammah, Story by Maurice. “Rape in the American Prison.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 20 Apr. 2018)

The bleakness and violent nature of these events were picked up and mirrored by horror movies. The movies, particularly “torture porn” films, in this era mirrored the things happening around them, which in this case was extreme violence. Having also been inspired by the New French Extremity movement (movies such as the 2001 movie “Trouble Everyday” directed by Claire Denis), a genre in which gore and violence are the main focal point, movies during this time period were very bloody, gory and intense.

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(image: “Top Ten Torture Porn Horror Films.” Morbidly Beautiful, 13 Oct. 2018)

Torture porn movies often played with the idea of ethics and morality. The movie 2004 “Saw” directed by James Wan and Leigh Whannell became one of the poster boys for torture porn and the movie saw massive success that would even go on to spawn many sequels. Torture porn films, more specifically “Saw”, became the trend and a major success because it encapsulated how the people felt during this era. all of the themes and ideas it presented were very relevant during this time period.

During the 2010’s the bloodlust for torture porn movies were declining, while there were notable films made during the start of the year such as “The Human Centipede” (2010) directed by Tom Six and “A Serbian Film” directed by Srdjan Spasojevic, The genre was overall declining. The 2010’s saw a change of pace from gruesome intense gore and violence to a more psychological and atmospheric theme. This is evident when “Saw” directors James Wan and Leigh Whannell made massive success with their movie Insidious which was also released in 2010**.  Movies in this new era such as 2013 film The Conjuring also directed by one of the “Saw” movie directors, James Wan, focused on slow burn instead of shock value. It was obvious that the cultural landscape was changing.

Saw (2004) vs The Conjuring (2013)

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            Movie 1: Saw (2004)                Movie 2: The Conjuring (2013)

(Image link for Saw [photo hosted by pbs.twimg; https://bit.ly/3qBydr0] & The Conjuring [via media-amazon; https://bit.ly/3gqdIJu])

While movies in the 2000’s and 2010’s were drastically different in terms of presentation and prevalent themes in movies, the movie posters are quite similar. For this comparison we are comparing the 2004 Saw movie poster with the 2013 film The Conjuring poster.

At a glance, one thing that stands out is that both of these posters do not show any of the cast/characters present in the movie. Instead it shows an object and location relevant to the story. The “Saw” movie poster has a severed hand as its focal point. Above, a dirty serrated saw stained with blood splatter can be seen. This is done because Saw revolves around body horror and the things people will do in order to survive which usually meant cutting off extremities. In “The Conjuring” movie poster audiences are presented the house in which the movie takes place. It also shows a noose which alludes to a notable scene in the movie. Both movies give a quick synopsis or glimpse into what the movie is all about. In this sense, the movie posters become a symbol.

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(image: Murrell, Robert. “Dont’ Watch This Alone!: SAW (2004).” Merc With A Movie Blog)

The color choices for both posters seem to be very bleak and muted in nature. Both posters mostly use the colors black, white and red, which can represent the depressing and dark nature of the films. The color’s chosen here convey a sense of hopelessness which could also be found in both movies.

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(image: Staff, C., & Collider Staff (355 Articles Published). (2018, October 26). Best Horror Movies of the 2010s So Far. https://collider.com/best-horror-movies-2010s/)

 On the other hand, “The Conjuring” movie poster features a Serif typeface and is more uniform in nature. By using a Serif typeface it also gives off a sense of “age” which is rather proper for this movie as “The Conjuring” takes place during the 1970’s. The font used in the movie title seems to be based on Trajan. While it is rather more uniform and tidy compared to the “Saw” movie poster, the poster still manages to give a sense of chaos and anxiety. It does this by having the word “The” in the movie title placed asymmetrically to the left. It gives the audience a subtle sense of chaos. It gives them a subtle taste of the slow burn and constant dread ever so present in the movie.

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(image: Dolladopt, et al. “The Conjuring [New DVD] UV/HD Digital Copy, Ac-3/Dolby Digital, Dolby.” EBay, 23 Oct. 2013)

This is a recreation poster based on the movie’s posters “Saw (2004)” and “The Conjuring (2013)”. The poster contains two main elements: “the broken hands & feet” and the “Hanging rope tree.” A cloudy day was chosen as the background of the poster to show a feeling of frustration and potential danger. Chalkduster fonts are used as the main title, showing an unclear and abstract communication, which is similar to the emotion under the font on the poster “Saw”. The date of the movies were Source Serif Variable fonts shown circle around the title following the flow of the tree and feet. This typeface is similar to the movie poster “The Conjuring.” Overall, this poster contains visual elements and visual language associated with the same atmosphere as the movies “Saw” and “The Conjuring.”

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