General info: Horror is a genre that is designed to intimidate, scare, shock or disgust its readers or viewers. That adrenaline rush or that creeping sense of dread has been what’s kept fans of the genre coming back for more. But in today’s world, the horror genre is not just about scaring the audience by splattering the screen with blood and gore, there are also plenty of art-house works that attempt to look at the world without prejudice.
Cultural overview: The horror genre has ancient origins, being rooted in folklore and religious traditions, focusing on death, the afterlife, evil, demonic entities, and the corruption lurking in the heart of man. The horror that we know today was born from the gothic tradition in the 19th century. A number of stories and characters that are still popular today originated in such works as Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm (1812), Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820), The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (1831), many stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Sheridan Le Fanu, The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890), The Invisible Man by Herbert George Wells (1897) and Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897). Sir Abraham “Bram” Stoker and Mary Shelley were the creators of some of the first horror books and canon characters – Count Dracula and Frankenstein.
The grandfather of the genre is Howard Phillips Lovecraft, whom authors like Stephen King say had a profound influence on their work.
Meaning: H.P, Lovecraft once said “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.” In classic horror, the horror comes from a constant sense of the struggle between good and evil , and how powerful that evil can be. On a deeper level, classic horror reveals the fear of the people in that time. Frankenstein’s message can be distilled into the general fear of the unknown, the progress of science and the darkness lying at man’s heart. In Dracula, the fear stems from the otherness of a creature, as well as the anxiety over expressing sexuality (for why do vampires often appear to feast most often on young women in these stories?). The horror process works off a scheme of “executioner – victim”, where a monster or other otherworldly force, element, or the corrupt deviations of man himself (madmen, psychopaths, maniacs, killers, etc.) attempt to harm the innocent. However, sometimes such a line between monster and victim becomes blurred, as it does in many modern horror fiction. Critics and researchers alike see the reason for the emergence and popularity of the horror genre in different ways. Some appeal to the sexuality of fear, others to an artist’s desire to convey strong emotions. Some talk about the closeness of horror to religious experience, associated with an intense ordeal when interacting with some mysterious and terrifyingly otherworldly presence.
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Distinctive traits of symbols: Traditionally, the fundamental feature of horror films is fear, which is realized by certain plot twists, events, images that display the corruption of man, society or both. This element can develop both against the background of some fantastic events (zombies, virus, vampires, werewolves, and so on), and against the background of the psychological, namely the manifestations of human emotions, from their vices to pain, suffering or loss. Alongside this, the Horror genre often features excessive violence, blood and viscera, amidst a backdrop of conflicts, from man vs. man, to man vs. nature, to man vs. self, and so on.