Horror Films: Vintage vs. Modern


Tomás from 2007’s The Orphanage (El Orfanato)

Manuel Ramirez, Staff Reporter

October, the month when the leaves change from green to orange, the pumpkins are brought out in the open, and the weather gets a tad chilly. Most of all, its when the Horror genre peaks with movies like Dracula (1931). Some might prefer classics like Frankenstein (1931), or the more recent fair like The Cabin in the Woods (2013) or The Conjuring (2013).

While I haven’t seen every horror film, it all falls on what draws audiences to these movies and the impact they make. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922) were considered as the first horror movies with their gothic scenery and macabre characters that would inspire future filmmakers.

The 1930s gave us the iconic universal monsters from the titular Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman and the Mummy and its countless of sequels and spin-offs. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) shocked audiences with its iconic shower scene, Jaws (1975), the first blockbuster made us scared to go into the water, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) was the first to pioneer the zombie genre; and The Exorcist (1973) brought a different kind of terror with the demonic that it literally frightened audiences like never before.

For better or worse, slasher films rose with Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980); while horror filmmaker Wes Craven changed the game with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and the self-aware dead teenager flick Scream (1996).

Remakes also proved to be a hit as they surpassed the originals like The Thing (1982), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Fly (1986). Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), a horror/sci-fi hybrid, even caught the attention of the Oscars. Ghost thriller, The Sixth Sense (1999) spooked audiences and garnered critical acclaim; but it was The Silence of the Lambs (1991) that actually won an Oscar for best picture.

Remakes can surpass the original, but it doesn’t guarantee a success on every take; and films like Thirteen Ghosts (2001), House of Wax (2005), Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), Rob Zombie’s Halloween (2007), and even A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) didn’t please the masses as many faded into obscurity.

Whether you’re a fan or not of the first installments of films like Halloween (1978), or Paranormal Activity (2007), one can agree that each sequel got more stupid (and less impressive) than the previous installment. The Saw and Hostel movies were among the films that introduced the term “torture porn;” as an emphasis on showing more blood, guts and decapitations were shown in more horror movies, and, to be honest it was less scary and more disgusting.

I mentioned in my Sinister review that characters in Horror movies are mostly either dumb teens or some sort of unlikable jerks that one has a hard time connecting to, like characters from Final Destination 3 (2006) or House of Wax (2005).

With all that said, there have been some good horror films; The Cabin in the Woods (2012) took a page from Scream (1996) on deconstructing the dead teenage genre; The Conjuring (2013) was one of the rare cases where the movie was scary without being gross, and a sequel (2016) that proved to be just as good (though the same can’t be said for its 2014 spin-off Annabelle).

What looked like a Jaws rip-off, The Shallows (2016) was a surprise that scared audiences with its scenario. While not necessarily scary, animated kid movies like Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005) and Frankenweenie (2012) are appealing to both older kids and adults, as it uses its animation to its creative advantage.

On a final note, I recently saw The Orphanage (2005), a foreign film from Spain that had a captivating plot, potent scares that weren’t grotesque to the extreme, three-dimensional characters, and an ending that left me awestruck. I never though a horror film would leave me like that; its films like these that make me consider that there is more to this spooky genre than I previously thought as mindless junk (which the genre does have but it’s not all that it offers).

Doesn’t matter when it was made, what makes a good horror movie is not just the scares but the plot and characters that help elevate it. With all these elements you have a scary movie that audiences will be thinking about and revisit again and again.