Words by Chris Jelf
Humans have a morbid desire to terrify people with tales that essentially trigger the less logical parts of our imaginations. From the ancient world to the most recent movie, audiences willingly invite the concept of a sadistic story, or a chilling myth, to be scared witless. In fact, many WANT to be scared witless. Simplistic thrill creates an adrenalin rush which the fear in itself creates.
I am crediting ‘Les Vampires’, created in 1915 by the revolutionary Louis Fellade, as the first landmark horror film. I say film; the 440 minute episode is divided into 10 connected segments. It is as much a series as it is a film. It is also rubbish. The segments lack any thought provoking endings, were released at irregular intervals and varied massively in length. The plot in itself is also inconsistent. The film is centred on an eccentric gang of Parisian criminals, Vampires and their arch rival, a reporter named Phillipe Guerande.The real legacy of this film is the themes and concepts adopted by Feuillade. He created a believable and imaginative double world. One being dreamlike and distant and the other being scarily familiar and excitingly strange. This is so important to the evolution of the horror genre.
The next revolutionary horror film and the most influential of all time can be accredited to Alfred Hitchcock and his brilliant ‘Psycho’ of 1960. Why so powerful? It transformed the supernatural monster into an all too real human monster via the medium of ‘Norman Bates’. He made his monster normal; he united the themes of sex, madness and murder into one spooky, sordid and disgustingly believable, yet horrific story.
It is hard to believe that only fifty years after ‘Psycho’, the horror genre has rapidly evolved. Evidently, modern horrors can use computer generated effects, helping to advance the sense of terror. Now, we have horror films in every variation of thrills. Unfortunately, this creates great predictability. There is very little we haven’t seen in a horror film and this in itself explains why the ‘Scream’ franchise revolutionised the genre with its satirical slant. Cinema is at a point where multitudes of rubbish gets knocked out in the genre of horror, such as the dreadful House of Wax. The trouble is, while there may be a minority of fantastic horror movies, very few horrors in relation to the amount produced, are brilliant. This is a shame.