Horror Movies Through the Decades
I have loved horror movies since I can remember, and that is a long time since I was born in 1957. A new one would come out, and I’d turn off all the lights because you can’t watch a horror movie with the lights on; that distracts from the atmosphere. I gather a blanket and pillows to build my nest, grab popcorn and a soda, and then settle in for a night of eerie thrills.
Fifty years later, I still enjoy horror movies, but the lack of spine-chilling films these days makes it harder to get in that frame of mind.
My definition of scary and what today’s world believes is frightening is as big as the Grand Canyon. Vincent Price, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee are dangerous. The Horror of Dracula, The Mummy, and The Fall of the House of Usher were badass movies.
My sons always went Ew, because they were black & white. How dare I torture them and force them to see pictures without color? There was no action either, but the suspense made them scary. These Silver screens used the setting, the music, and the atmosphere to create creepiness.
When Vincent Price was telling his friend about the Usher family history, Price’s voice was spooky and terrifying too. The same with The Curse of Frankenstein and The Mummy. These classics didn’t rely on the modern themes of blood and guts or sensationalism. They were frightful features that pulled you into the story, and you waited with anticipation for the next scare.
In the 1980s, horror movies evolved, including elements of the supernatural and the beginning of slasher movies. You had feature films like My bloody Valentine, Altered States, The Fog, and An American Werewolf in London.
An American Werewolf in London became a cult classic, but the acting wasn’t that great. There was no atmosphere or scary elements. It was a plot that made no sense in reality; it moved the story along to where the bloody killing could commence. A young man hiking in London at night gets bit by a werewolf and soon becomes one himself. Then, as a werewolf, our young protagonist goes on a killing spree in the streets of London.
The Thing, for example, was a little on the gory side, but it made up for that with the spookiness. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I loved the music. It was spooky as all get out, and the thick suspense pulled you into the plot.
Antarctica scientists discovered there was an alien inside the dog that wandered into their camp. An alien that could change its DNA to become anyone of them.
This movie is one of my all-time favorites, like Halloween and Alien. Both these movies are plentiful in the acting, plot, and setting, but the suspense puts us there in the film. These movies are a little bloody but not gratuitous gore. It’s the right amount of blood and guts to fit the theme.
Halloween is a story about babysitters stalked by a killer who escaped from the insane asylum. A killer who cannot die and has supernatural powers. Alien, like the title suggests, is about a cargo ship landing on a planet by orders of their company. They find a crashed alien craft, and one of them gets attacked by a creature, and once back inside, an egg inside the man hatches. The beast runs amok, staying out of their reach for capturing.
The movies of the 1990s brought us the psychological thriller horror—Silence of the Lambs, Scream, Misery, and The Ghost and the Darkness. These movies were the gems of this decade because they made you think. My all-time favorite movie is The Ghost and The Darkness. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a must-see and worth turning all the lights off to watch.
Two man-eating lions prevent a bridge builder from completing his bridge in Africa. He hires a legendary hunter-tracker to find and kill these lions. However, these lions have supernatural powers and frighten the natives.
These movies, like old classics, relied on good acting and a developed plot arc. Add a pinch of atmosphere and music, and you have a great film. But, you also had your blood and guts like Army of Darkness, Candyman, From Dusk to Dawn, and the Chucky series. Interestingly, these movies became cult classics, even with all the blood and guts.
The new decade of the year 2000 brings us zombies and aliens, which are prevalent in this decade’s movies. There are a couple of gems like 1408, The Others, Paranormal Activity, and The Descent. Genuinely scary films with no blood and guts, only good acting, good story, and atmosphere. My all-time favorite of these is 1408, starring John Cusick. Cusick is a journalist who debunks haunted hotels, but in this movie, 1408 is authentic.
Tremors is a comedy horror movie but is entertaining to watch, and I love the characters. Plus, it has a decent script, with the monsters being subterranean creatures. I hadn’t seen a film before with that concept. It’s also one of my favorites, even as campy as it is.
The decade 2010 to present; revamps older monsters like vampires and werewolves and delves more into the supernatural. There were a few gems in this era, too, like Ghost Ship, The Conjuring, The Purge, and The Possession of Hannah Grace.
Ghost Ship is highly violent but has a great story and cast. There is a bit of gratuitous violence, but overall the story is scary and well-written. A crew of salvagers finds a floating cruise liner in the ocean, but in towing it back to shore, they learn they are not the only ones on the ship, and soon something kills them one at a time.
Based on an unusual thought, The Purge allowed people to go on a yearly murderous spree, which would lower crime overall for the rest of the year. I watched it because of the unusual premise, and it wasn’t half-bad.
The story centers on a family of four, where the father makes his living selling security systems that protect families from criminals roaming the streets looking for victims during the purge. However, The Purge movies afterward aren’t as good, but again became a cult classic along with the zombie series of films, Resident Evil.
COVID brought its challenges, too, as filming halted during the worst part of the pandemic. Because of that, it seemed like directors rehashed familiar themes like zombies, vampires, and werewolves.
Quite a few remakes of past popular movies trickled into the mainstream like Dawn of the Dead, It, 13 Ghosts, Amityville Horror, The Ring, and others. I’m not a big zombie fan; not even sure why it’s such a big hit in movies. I liked the remake of 13 Ghosts, It, and the Ring. I especially loved the remake of IT, don’t get me wrong, I loved both versions. The remake was a little spookier with the newer ‘Penny’ the clown.
Horror movies evolved with the times and people’s likes, but they also lost their ability to scare. Today I watch horror movies for entertainment, but I miss turning off the lights, and burying myself under the blankets, ready to be frightened.