In histories of the horror film, the 1960s is usually presented as a crucial period and one that is defined either by the phenomenal success of Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein (1957) or by the making of Psycho (1960). In both accounts, the period is a break from the past and one that witnesses the emergence of the contemporary horror film (Hardy, 1985; Wood, 1986; Tudor, 1989; Worland, 2014). Furthermore, these accounts tend to replicate an image of horror as a low-budget, disreputable genre that deals with dark, disturbing and potentially subversive materials, an image that ignores or marginalises other developments in the period. The result even misrepresents both Hammer’s output and Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho,’ neither of which were simply low-budget efforts.
There are various noticeable connotations which come to people’s minds after hearing the word Gothic. Some associate the term with today’s pulp literature for youngsters, whereas others often think of old, black and white movies about all those ridiculously looking monsters who constantly attack poor and frightened damsels-in-distress.
In his discussion of genre, Altman observes: “we cannot help but notice that generic terminology sometimes involves nouns, sometimes adjectives… Indeed, the very same word sometimes appears as both part of speech: musical comedies or just plain musicals, Western romances or simply Westerns, documentary films or film documentaries.” (Altman 1999, 50)
In his early writing on the genre, Neale suggests genres “differ from one another… in the precise weight given to the discourses they share in common” so that while narrative disequilibrium “is inaugurated by violence” in the western, the gangster film, the detective film and the horror film, the “specificity” of the horror film is not defined by “violence as such” but by its special emphasis on “discourses carrying the human/nature opposition in its discursive regime”, an emphasis that can even end up “relativising or even displacing entirely the Law/disorder dichotomy in term of which violence operates in the western, the detective and gangster films.” (Neale 1980, 21)
From as far back as ‘King Kong’ (1933), horror films have capitalized on human fears of the natural order turning on us, whether it be plants, monkeys, ants, leeches, sharks, birds, dogs, bats, rats, bees, fish, earthworms, alligators, spiders, snakes, cockroaches, dinosaurs, or even swamp bacteria.
The occult loomed large in several British horror films of the latter part of the twentieth-century. ‘Night of the Demon’ (Jacques Tourneur, 1957) is a typical case, where ancient folklore, arcane writings, séances, and a malevolent magician are subject to the sceptical inquiries of a team of international paranormal investigators.
Horror films offer the pleasure of the intended affects among which we can identify a sense of suspense, a sense of mystery, and a sense of horror. Those factors cause many responses from the audience. The audience could feel anxious, afraid, excited, curious, and those feelings make horror emerges as one of the favourite film genres.
In one of the most memorable scenes from ‘The Shining’ (Stanley Kubrick 1980), we observe the main character, Jack Torrance ( Jack Nicholson), as he stares at a scale model of the hedge maze outside the Overlook Hotel, where he works as a winter caretaker and lives with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his child Danny (Danny Lloyd) in almost complete isolation from the outside world.