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Horror Genre

Horror originated from the Latin word horrere, which in translation means, “to bristle”; defined as a short stiff coarse hair that stands on end during moments of shivering or excitement. During and before the nineteenth century horror, in medical terms, described tremors due to a sudden drop in body temperature. Horror also made it’s way into “nautical jargon”, or sailor’s lingo, by which it became an explicit term used to classify the topmost fluctuation of a wave.

(Twitchwell 10-11). In today’s world, to define horror one must look at the different aspects that horror is used. Horror may mean anything from intense fear to dread of something or someone, and is most prominently used to help describe/categorize a “horror” film. For instance, Silence of The Lambs surly was set out to frighten the audience, but it is missing the feeling of the long lasting into the night (not wanting to sleep), which makes it a thriller.

In Kinal’s essay, he attempts to define a horror film with the subject matter fear of the unknown “could define the horror film as long as the fear is never overcome by knowledge…Horror is defined by the sociological and political climate in which it has been created. It manipulates the audience by highlighting their everyday fears and anxieties, relying for its effectiveness on the audience’s emotional involvement and vulnerability.

It tries to dispense with the notion of suspension of disbelief, because nothing is truly scary if it cannot actually hurt us. A film within the horror genre will use the tastes, beliefs, attitudes and politics of the time to create scenarios with which the audience can identify, so that the spectator comes to believe, at least for the moment, the scenarios audience can identify, so that the spectator comes to believe, at least for the moment, that the scenarios occurring within the film could happen in their personal reality.

A film fits into the genre not because of its settings or themes, but because it has managed to create an atmosphere where the audience will be scared, and not only during the screening. That night, when each member of the audience tries to fall asleep, they should be haunted by the prospect of what they have seen. ” Horror has existed throughout the ages in many forms. In 1235, horror represented itself in a form of a trial; in Vatican, there was a re-establishment of the “orthodoxy of the faith” through an inquisition—a trial.

The charge of heresy started to coincide with the charge of witchcraft. In 1457, Vladislav Basarab of Transylvania gained the nickname ‘Dracula’; given to him by his father, and ‘Vlad the Impaler’ he was called because of the method he used to execute people (said to of killed over 40,000). During the year 1485, horror spread through the French pages in the form of poetry, Danse Macabre (1st edition) written by Guyot Marchant included verses and illustrations of “the cemetery of the innocents” (Carrol and Ward). Also recognized in John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost.

In England’s 1580s, horror found some playtime in these ghastly works (which depicted death): Tomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1585), Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (1587) and Dr Faustus (1587-1589), William Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600) and Macbeth (1605), Cyril Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (1607), John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (1613), and Victor Hugo’s Hernani (1730). Between 1720-1740, horror branched out onto musical works of art; Bach writes his piece Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; which was able to set a tone for death and gloomy situations, and in Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

In art, Francesco Goya paints the Black Paintings; Saturn Devouring His Children and The Sleep of Reason (Produces Monsters), and Henry Fuseli paints The Nightmare. Obviously, horror has also appeared in literary works such as: Johann Ludwig Tieck writes Wake Not The Dead (1800; first English vampire story), Robert Louis Stevenson publishes The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde (1885), and Hans Christian Anderson publishes The Red Shoes, The Little Mermaid, and The Snow Queen. Between the years 1307-1321, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, with explicate details of the descriptions of Hell (Carroll and Ward).

Horror is represented more now then ever before through the magic of filmmaking. In movie making, there is a screen reality vs. a personal reality (real life). The audience knows that the movie (screen reality) is just actors playing out scenarios, so they are safe. But in a horror film, the director/writer tries to blend the line of what’s fictional and what’s real, “The horror film, now, attempts to confuse the audience, to the point where they question the differences between reality and fiction.

The potential for the horrific acts seen on the screen to creep into life seems to be greater than ever before, or at least, that is what the horror film is trying to convince its audience” (Kinal). For example, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare on Elm Street cast the original actress, Heather Langenkamp as herself, Wes Craven as Wes Craven, Robert Englund (the actor who played Freddy) as Robert Englund, and Freddy Krueger as Freddy Krueger. Suddenly there appears to be no line between screen reality and personal reality, because what we’re watching on screen doesn’t differ from real life!

“Blending fiction and reality, causing the audience to question the safety of their emotional distance from the action on the screen, revived the horror movie and brought a new level of fear into the cinema” (Kinal). The real fear forms in the corner of people’s minds for the potential of a situation occurring like one did in the movie. This type of paranoia can really work at one’s head. For instance, try watching Dr. Giggles or Psycho and go for a walk at three o’clock in the morning, and watch how your mind plays.

Movies also will play tricks on people. For example, in the movie Alien certain camera angles, special lighting effects, and the blurring of certain shots to where the audience can only see bits and pieces of the creature; allows the them to fill in the gaps with their own imagination and unintentionally improves the realism. Dr. Sylvia Soto, a San Angelo psychologist, contends that the attraction to fear reaches far back into our childhood with games such as peek-a-boo.

She explains that the enjoyment of seeing then not seeing someone gives the baby/child a feeling of surprise: “‘It’s not only mental but physiological arousal…that blast of endorphins alters your state of consciousness’” (Russell). The appeals of the horror genre are many. Watching a horror movie provides the viewer an escape from reality for about 90 minutes. It allows us to express strong emotions that can be expressed in fearful types of situations—allows the people to vent their hostile repressed emotions.

Humans have always enjoyed experiencing strong emotions, “‘We like to be scared without feeling like we’re in real danger. In that way a scary movie isn’t all that different from a roller coaster. We like fear. We like anxiety’” (Wyatt). It enables people to experience vicariously the danger through the characters in the movie. People like to play with their fears, to see how far they can go without cowering away. Horror movies help people to combat what scares them the most by testing themselves—confronting their fears.

Horror movies allow us to grow mentally stronger by allowing “…us to face our greatest fears like those embodied in death, dying, and the dead through the very realistic visual medium of the cinema. This, having confronted our fears we are better able to deal with the associated emotions in everyday life and therein lies the appeal of the horror films” (Bakhshi). Horror has presented itself over the years to a hungry audience of all ages—extremists. Even though people are scared to watch a horror flic, they do so anyway.

Work Cited

Bakhshi, Juhi. “Why Does Horror Appeal To Us? ” The Tribune 23 Aug. 2003 Carroll, David, and Kyla Ward. “The Horror Timeline. ” Tabula Rasa 11 Nov. 2003 <www. tabula-rasa. info/DarkAges/Timeline1. html>. “Cult Classics. ” A Tribute To Film Posters 11 Nov. 2003 <http://www. all-film-posters. com/cult-classics. html>. Dorfman, Marjorie. “Horror Movies: Do Dead Men Walk Our City Streets and How Can We Tell? ” Pop Goes the Culture (2001). 9 Nov. 2003 “Fear Fascination. ” New Media Journalism (2002).

9 Nov. 2003 Gehring, Wes. “Frankenstein and Friends. ” USA Today Magazine Sep. 1999: 68 Kinal, Josh. “Boo? ” Australian Screen Education Winter 2000: 70 King, Stephen. “Why We Crave Horror Movies. ” Playboy (December 1981). Rpt. in Mirror on America. Eds. Joan T. Mims and Elizabeth M. Nollen. New York: Boston, 2003. 261-264 Piston, Jenny. “The Relationship Between Sex & Terror In The Horror Genre. ” Booth 12 Oct. 2001 Russell, Bryan. “Horror Movies Provide Audiences Thrill With Promise

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