Oh, the Horror: The Genre Through the Ages

People have always had a fascination with the horror genre. It taps into a primal part of the human psyche and continues to thrill, entertain, and mortify us even today. As with most genres, horror has proliferated into numerous different media forms, starting with literature, moving to theater, and eventually to radio, television, and movies.

Let’s take a quick look at the history of the horror genre and how it’s gone from ancient folklore to TV series, movie franchises and video games.

The Origins

Classic horror archetypes can be traced back thousands of years. Vampires originated in ancient Sumeria and continued to terrorize the imaginations of Europe for thousands of years after. Ghosts can be traced even further back and can be found in tribal folklore from around the world. Witchcraft also has universal incarnations and a long history. These classic horror themes and characters were found in the writing and plays of Ancient Greece and Rome.

The Middle Ages & the Gothic Era

Literature faltered in the face of a more religiously oppressive Europe. The closest literary works of the horror genre were Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost with their depictions of hell. In the late 16th century, London’s theatre scene began showing plays that contained some gruesome plots and scenes - Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth being perhaps the most well known. In the 18th century, the first of the Gothic novels were written with books like The Castle of Otranto, which laid the foundations for modern horror literature.

The 19th Century

With literacy rates higher and religious censorship waning, there was a surge of horror writing in the 1800s, including classics Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It was also during this time that the Penny Dreadful, short and cheap horror-themed books for the masses, gained in popularity. The Brothers Grimm also released their short horror stories aimed at children – like Hansel and Gretel and Snow White – many of which were remade in later years, often in a less gruesome form than the originals which may not be considered appropriate for today’s children.

Source: The Shining via Facebook

The 20th Century to the Present

The popularity of horror continued with novels like Phantom of the Opera and a surge of writing to meet society’s fascination with serial killers. Not surprisingly, the burgeoning movie industry embraced the horror classic and remade classic monsters like Nosferatu (1922) and Frankenstein (1931). A notable moment in the history of horror was the slew of books from author Stephen King beginning in the 1970s. Many of the classic novels were adapted to the silver screen like The Shining and Carrie. These movies were released shortly after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the first of George Romero’s zombie franchise and helped create a new era of the horror genre. Soon to follow would be Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. These ‘slasher’ or ‘splatter’ films eventually faded in prominence although horror never completely went away.

Source: Freddy Kreuger via Facebook

There was a resurgence of the genre in the 90s with the classic psychological horror movie Silence of the Lambs, the introduction of the Scream franchise and the ‘found-footage’ shocker, The Blair Witch Project. With the rise of PC and console gaming, horror-themed games also grew in popularity, with video games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill resonating with audiences. Today, many online titles take inspiration from the genre. One such site, Guts, offers a variety of titles as online slots, including horror-themed titles Blood Suckers, Book of Dead and Blood Eternal. People’s love of the genre goes some way to explain why online casino sites have lots of games with movie themes.

In the '00s, we were introduced to Jigsaw in the Saw movie series and vampires and werewolves continued to captivate the public on the big screen and the small with Underworld, Twilight, and True Blood. Zombies are a newer fixture in the horror genre with World War Z from Max Brooks, the Resident Evil movie franchise which was based on the video game and the Walking Dead TV series.

Whether it’s a book, graphic novel, movie, TV show, video game or online casino game, the horror genre is here to stay.