Times have certainly changed in terms of the horror genre. No longer is it a case of the slow walking slasher, or a group of teens being hacked down stuck on a lake somewhere. Horror has massively changed over the years, dividing into sub genres. So, as we approach the scariest time of the year, which movies have stopped you from sleeping the most? Which have had you gripping your seat or hiding behind the sofa covering your eyes?
Thriller: Psycho What could be a better way to start things off, one of the most iconic horror films of all time. Psycho was a revolution in its time and left people leaving the cinemas petrified. Undoubtedly Alfred Hitchcock’s best piece of work and arguably the greatest thriller of all time.
With the film made on a relatively low budget, it exceeded all amount of expectations, keeping you in unimaginable amounts of suspense. The film focuses on a young woman running from the law, when she encounters the seemingly sane Norman Bates and his mother. She falls victim to a knife slashing in the shower, in what is undoubtedly one of the most memorable scenes in cinema, which is accompanied by pure spine tingling music.
The film was so successful it inspired several sequels and most recently a TV show. A must watch, but possibly with the lights on.
Slasher: HalloweenAlthough it was Psycho that set the standard for a thriller, it was Halloween which turned things around and progressed it as a genre. It was no longer a case of mind games, but pure horror and thrills. Halloween set us up with a million rip-offs and imitations, it was that successful. Take a group of good looking teens, stick them somewhere remote, then send an unstoppable masked killer with a horrific backstory, to take them all out. Director John Carpenter brought us tension and suspense, which few have managed to replicate since.
Halloween brings us Michael Myers, a child killer who gets out of prison, before going on a murderous rampage. However, it’s not quite as clumsy as mass murder, with Myers carefully stalking Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), before eventually going on that murderous spree.
Torture: SawSaw was revolutionary in its heyday, giving us one of the greatest ever cinematic shocks, whilst also creating a new genre in its own right. It’s claustrophobic, uncomfortable, dirty and grimy which combined with the horrible images, makes for uncomfortable viewing. But isn’t that what horror films are meant to do?
The film depicts two men, seemingly stuck in a bathroom, chained up, with a man in the middle, with a bullet in his head. The pair realise they are part of Jigsaw’s ‘game’; a mass murderer who picks on people who have done wrong in their life, giving them a chance to make up for their mistakes, but only at a price.
We see just what love will make us do. The genre comes to life, showing one man saw off his own foot in order to get out. But it is the ending that made the film what it is, giving us one of horror’s greatest twists.
Sci-fi: AlienA film like Alien would have traditionally been planted purely into the science fiction genre. However, the film changed that theme by producing as much of a horror film as a sci-fi. Despite being set in space and way in the future, there are enough ‘bumps in the night’ to have you wriggling uncomfortably in your seat.
What set Alien aside from the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek was its cold dark setting; a depressing spacecraft, full of tubes and randomly spurting steam. During the film, we follow a small set of travellers who come across a set of strange alien eggs, before one of them somewhat gets his personal space invaded. On follows an alien onslaught, before Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) manages to find an escape. For this film anyway. Alien was so successful and revolutionary that it spawned several sequels as well as a truly horrifying game.
Zombie: Dawn of The DeadIt could easily have been Night of the Living Dead, however, until Dawn of the Dead put all the bells and whistles on everything, the zombie genre just wasn’t the same. DOTD was far gorier and funnier than its predecessor. The film set a standard, and very much a protocol, for fellow zombie films to follow.
It’s a case of getting your survivors, barricading them in somewhere, then pitting them against the world. This is the basic premise for DOTD, where our four survivors are entrapped in a shopping mall, with hordes of undead trying to eat their flesh. It was also the first time we got to see the result of a zombie outbreak in a metropolitan environment.
There are many that have undoubtedly been left off the list, but it could have gone on forever. Honourable mentions have to go to Insidious, which is beginning to define its own genre, along with the very recent Don’t Breathe. But in terms of genre defining, surely these are the best.