A horror film is a movie that seeks to elicit a physiological reaction, such as an elevated heartbeat, through the use of fear and shocking one’s audiences. Inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror films have existed for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction and thriller genres.
Horror films often deal with viewers’ nightmares, fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown. Plots within the horror genre often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage into the everyday world. Prevalent elements include ghosts, extraterrestrials, vampires, werewolves, demons, satanism, gore, torture, vicious animals, evil witches, monsters, zombies, cannibals, psychopaths, natural or man-made disasters, and serial killers.
Some subgenres of horror include action horror, comedy horror, body horror, disaster horror, holiday horror, horror drama, psychological horror, science fiction horror, slasher horror, supernatural horror, gothic horror, natural horror, zombie horror, first-person horror and teen horror.The first depictions of supernatural events appear in several of the silent shorts created by the fi pioneer Georges Méliès in the late 1890s, the best known being Le Manoir du Diable, which is sometimes credited as being the first horror film. Another of his horror projects was 1898’s La Caverne maudite (a.k.a. The Cave of the Demons, literally “the accursed cave”). Japan made early forays into the horror genre with Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook) and Shinin no Sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse), both made in 1898. The era featured a slew of literary adaptations, with the works of Poe and Dante, among others. In 1908, Selig Polyscope Company produced Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
In 1910, Edison Studios produced the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
In 1910, Edison Studios produced the first filmed version of Frankenstein. The macabre nature of the source materials used made the films synonymous with the horror film genre.
Before and during the Weimar Republic era, German Expressionist filmmakers would significantly influence later productions. Paul Wegener’s The Student of Prague (1913) and The Golem trilogy (1915–20), as well as Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Arthur Robison’s Warning Shadows (1923), and Paul Leni’s Waxworks (1924), were influential films at the time. The first vampire-themed movie, Nosferatu (1922), was made during this period, though it was an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.