” width=”800″ height=”4675″>Horror films have been around for as long as film has, and this means it had gone through the same genre changes, highs and lows, and great pinnacles that other popular genres have. Today, many horror films rely on over-the-top violence, plots, monsters, and gore to horrify their viewers. However, in the Golden Age of Film, the horror film was a much more delicate balance of acting, plot, and suspense. Here are six films from the Golden Age of Horror that not only became classics beloved by generations, but also shaped the genre and movies we watch today.
The Golden Age of Horror began in 1931 a Golden Age of the horror film began with the releases of “Dracula”. Released on Valentine’s Day, Bram Stoker’s diabolical vampire dominated the big screen with his haunting mannerisms and thick accent. This movie, from the accent, the capes, and fear of sunlight, informed what vampires were for years to come. Its star, Bela Lugosi, became a household name in horror and the creepy opening shots in Transylvania and Castle Dracula, would have a lasting influence on the settings for horror films to come.
The success of “Dracula” led Universal Studios to look for other classic horror stories to adapt to the screen. They chose “Frankenstein”, the classic novel by Mary Shelley. Initially, Bela Lugosi was chosen play the Monster. However, he backed out and veteran actor Boris Karloff stepped into the role. “Frankenstein”, released in late 1931, proved to be an even larger hit than “Dracula”. It’s success insured that Universal would make even more “Frankenstein” horror films in the years to come and Boris Karloff became one of the most terrifying faces in horror. This story also became the beginning of the zombie craze, which continues to this day.
The Wolf Man
Legends of werewolves have existed for centuries, but Larry Talbot as “The Wolf Man” was the original inspiration for hundreds of future big screen werewolves. After being bitten by a werewolf in an attack, he transforms into a werewolf each night, stalking the townspeople and trying to resist his new feral urges. This movie became an instant classic, and four sequels were made with great success. This movie and “Frankenstein” saw great success in hours of application of heavy makeup and elaborate costuming to create terrifying monsters in a time before the special effects and CGI of today’s horror.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
This film was the first of several films in which this classic comedy duo met classic monsters from Universal Studio’s classic films. Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man all make appearances, and this film is actually considered the swan song for these classic horror monsters as movie-makers moved on to new monsters. A masterful combination of horror and comedy, this movie kept fans on the edge of their seats, laughing and screaming with delight and the film is still ranked number fifty-sixth on the list of the “American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest American Movies”. This unique combination created a new genre of horror comedy that, while much different now, has still persisted in films with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Scary Movie”.
Night of the Living Dead
At the time of its release, “Night of the Living Dead” was heavily criticized for its use of explicit gore. It eventually garnered critical acclaim and has been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, as a film deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The story follows a group trapped in a rural farmhouse in Western Pennsylvania, which is attacked by a large and growing group of unnamed “living dead” monsters: zombies. Created out of makeup and prosthetic limbs, these monsters terrified moviegoers with their shambling walks and hunger for human flesh. “Night of the Living Dead” succeeded in this portrayal, and there were seven more …Of the Living Dead films created in its stead along with countless other zombie movies over decades.
This masterpiece from horror-master Alfred Hitchcock is often considered one of the greatest films of all time, and for good reason. When Marion Crane flees to a secluded motel she falls victim to its psychotic owner–the iconic Norman Bates – owner of a terrible secret. Bent on keeping the suspense alive and the ending a secret, Hitchcock went as far as buy all the copies of the original novel so that he could to hide the story. These movie sparked a new type of horror movie, one that relied on hidden horrors rather than gory horror.
“Psycho” is now considered to be the first film in the slasher film genre thanks to Hitchcock’s iconic shower scene, and began to spark the end of the Golden Age of Horror and the move into a more suspenseful, violent form of horror.