Anatomy Of Horror

By: Darren Ranck, Brennan Carley, Charlotte Parish

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” It’s a question that never gets old during the Halloween season, and everyone has their answer. Prom Night, The Amityville Horror, The Hills Have Eyes, The Ring. The options range from the mythical, whether they be vampires or werewolves, to the deadly serious, from psychopaths to serial killers. There’s something chilling about these films, particularly the expectation of the unexpected.

Every horror film has the typical tropes that make it scary. In the early 1950s, movies like Psycho capitalized on the twist ending. From that movie forward, the twisted murder mystery, one of intrigue and psychopathic creepiness, became a popular genre. Rosemary’s Baby in the ’60s developed this concept even more as screenwriters brought an end to innocent games. The most virtuous characters in horror became corrupted by the villains around them. As Rosemary Woodhouse makes clear, evil can strike anyone.

The ’70s perhaps introduced the typical slasher film to the masses. Before, the horror was psychological. Now, the sins of young teens would not go unpunished. John Carpenter’s Halloween made this perfectly clear as knife wielding Michael Myers first attacked underage drinkers and fornicators before going after virginal, and survivor, Nancy. That’s where the age old premise – sex and drug use means death – became a permanent staple in the horror genre. The murders become even more surprising as time goes on. The element of surprise and suspense has become scarier than any killing now. What lurks in the shadows is what makes the audience jump out of its seat.

Every horror film possesses typical tropes that make them addictive and delightfully predictable to a degree. As said earlier, expect the unexpected.

October 20, 2011