Horror movies to watch, cult films in the history of cinema and new indie

Table of Contents

The sublimation of fear

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Why are horror movies, horror literature so loved and know no crisis? Because it gives a solution to one of the fundamental needs of the human being, that of sublimating the deepest and most irrational fears, fears that escape the rationality of conscience. Because with fear you don’t live well at all and you have to get rid of it. On the contrary, one does not live with fear at all. In what sense?

Many think that the opposite of love is hate. In reality, love and hate are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of love is fear. With fear it is impossible to love and be happy. Fear is also connected to something that does not really exist in the present moment: it is a bad premonition that is in a hypothetical future. 

Something we fear can happen to us. Which may or may not happen. Fear lives in our imagination in most cases: it is a threat that comes from the imagination of the future. Through a novel or a film of terror we come face to face with our fears. They materialize on the screen or on the written page and we experience them as something that is really happening, in the present. 

Experiencing the greatest fear means knowing it better, resizing it and finally sublimating it. When fear is no longer something indefinite and takes shape, we can draw its boundaries, accept it and overcome it.

The birth of the horror genre

The horror genre has its roots in ancient times, in the literature of ancient Greece and ancient Rome. These are tales inspired by folklore and religious tradition, inspired by fears of what is invisible, unknown or monstrous. Stories populated by supernatural beings, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, assassins and everything related to Evil. 

One of the first traces of the horror genre we find it in Plutarch, In his work Parallel Lives describes the evil spirit of the assassin Damone, who is killed in a public bathroom in Chaeronea. Pliny the Younger tells the story of Athenodore who isolates himself in a haunted house to write his book. Frankenstein’s modern novel finds inspiration in classical Greek literature with the characters of Prometheus and Hippolytus. 

Horror films at the origins of cinema

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Horror cinema almost begins with the invention of the cinema itself. The first horror film is attributed to Georges Melies and was entitled Le manoir du diable, followed by another short film by the French director-magician The cursed cave

Great horror films of the silent era have marked the history of cinema as Murnau’s Nosferatu the vampire, Dreyer’s Vampyr, or Doctor Caligari’s Cabinet, the film that started the motion picture movement expressionism. In those years, Horror cinema would have had a great flowering among German directors. 

In addition to avant-garde cinema, Hollywood also produces horror masterpieces that would have remained etched in memory, such as James Whale’s Frankenstein and Tod Browning’s Dracula. In the 1920s there was the appearance of the first deformed monster in the history of cinema, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In 1925 Hollywood produced another unforgettable film The Phantom of the Opera, starring actor Lon Chaney. 

Horror movies in the 1930s and 1940s

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In the 1930s, Universal specialized in horror movies, creating a long gallery of monsters. After Dracula and Frankenstein they produced films such as The Mummy, The Invisible Man. Other studios like Paramount and Warner Brothers produced fewer horror movies, but with some good results like The Wax Mask and Dr. Jekyll

In the 1940s Universal focuses on werewolves with films such as The Wolf Man, and on a long series of films about Frankenstein. RKO produces The Leopard Man, I walked with a zombie, the kiss of the panther, directed by Jacques Tourneur

Horror films in the 50s and 60s

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In the 50s, thanks to technology and special effects, horror cinema crosses science fiction to tell the dark atmosphere of the cold war, with films such as The Thing from Another World by Howard Hawks and Invasion of Body Snatchers

Between the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s the first production company specialized exclusively in horror movies was born, the Hammer film. With director Terence Fisher they produced prototypes of what would become modern horror movies. Some titles to remember are The Mask of Frankenstein, Dracula the Vampire, the remake of The Mummy

Roger Corman produced countless horror movies, specializing in so-called b movies, and bringing several short stories by Edgar Allan Poe to the screen. In the 1960s, horror cinema becomes more explicit and more violent. Horror films are also used to describe fears related to politics and technological and consumer development, for example in the film Assault on the Earth

At the end of the 60s the classic monsters take a back seat and Horror cinema becomes psychological with films like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Michael Powell’s The Killing Eye. Numerous low-budget independent films are also made such as Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) that usher in the bloodiest splatter genre. 

In 1968 George Romero brings the Zombie genre to the fore. With a very low budget he made one of the most important horror movies of the time The night of the living dead. 

Horror films in the 70s

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In the 70s, however, the predominant theme of the horror genre seems to be the demonic possession of children and adolescents. Some titles are Roman Polanski’s Rosemary Baby, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, Audrey Rose, The Omen. A horror subgenre that will continue in the following decades. The Vietnam War also affects films such as Don’t Open That Door and the Last House on the Left

The growing phenomenon of consumerism and lifestyle change inspired numerous horror movies, such as David Cronenberg’s The Demon Under Your Skin and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead sequel Zombie, in which the protagonists are trapped. in a mall. 

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Carrie

In Italy the thrill master is Dario Argento. The Italian director makes many high-impact horror movies, exported all over the world. Meanwhile, the young and brilliant directoralso tries his hand at the genre, Brian De Palma creating one of the greatest horror masterpieces in the history of cinema: Carrie. Even John Carpenter in the late 70s and early 80s will implement several horror. One of them becomes the biggest hit of the slasher genre, a horror sub-starring a group of young people persecuted by a serial killer. This is Halloween

In 1979 the horror genre returns to merge with science fiction inmasterpiece Ridley Scott’sAlien. Meanwhile, a new fertile production of B series horror movies is born in Europe with Italian directors such as Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato. Spanish directors such as Paul Naschy, Amando de Ossorio and Jesús Franco. Even the Hong Kong cinema is very prolific in the horror genre. 

Horror Movies in the 1980s

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Nightmare on Elm Street

In the 1980s, horror movies became commercial hits with a less original language and directors with fewer personalities. Horror movies such as Poltergeist, Friday the 13th Nightmare, Hellraiser and many more come out. The exception ismasterpiece The Stanley Kubrick’s Shining, a 100% arthouse film that also manages to have a great success. John Carpenter creates a beautiful sci-fi horror, set in the ice of the polo, which, however, is not very successful. This is The Thing, from 1982. 

Home video contributed to the growth of a thriving market in VHS with commercial horror movies and b-movies of various genres. Many directors make independent ultra-low budget horror movies for the home video market without going through theatrical distribution. Films like Motel Hell, from 1980, and Basket case, from 1982, took up themes from previous horror movies but with a more ironic and grotesque tone. Some directors like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson create a new kind of comic horror movies with titles like House 2 and Out of the Head, both low-budget indie films.

The low-cost independent production of 1980s horror cinema gives rise to the creation of different genres for different niches of audiences. The most successful is the splatter genre, which shows blood and violence in the most explicit and gruesome way. A series of characters are born that had not been used before horror cinema, such as the Gremlins, the evil elves and the killer dolls.

Horror movies in the 90s

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They live by John Carpenter

In the 90s, horror cinema did not produce great news. The sub-genres and the prototypes tested from the 80s continue. Many sequels are shot, including those of Halloween and Nightmare. Director John Carpenter continues his business with horror movies with very interesting social and political implications, such as The Seed of Madness. The film Scream again brings the subgenre of comic horror movie. 

One of the few original productions, in 1997, is the Canadian film The Cube which tells the fears connected to social issues such as bureaucracy. In the 90s, horror cinema takes a back seat compared to other genres. Too many mediocre home video films, excessively gory splatters, had saturated the market and fed up teen audiences. Young people began to prefer science fiction films, increasingly spectacular thanks to the use of modern digital special effects.

An exception is Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula which brings horror back to the classic tradition of the Hammer film. In 1999 the independent film The Blair Witch Project, shot for a few thousand euros by a group of American children, became a worldwide success, grossing more than 200 million dollars worldwide. It is actually a mediocre film, but launched through innovative internet marketing strategies to an audience of teenagers.

Horror movies in the 2000s

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House of 1000 Corpses

In the 2000s, the horror genre worsened further and tried to pursue box office success with an endless series of remakes and sequels. Video games push production companies to invest in new zombie movies and only produce mediocre results. A long line of personalityless commercial horror movies are produced such as Amityville horror, The Ring, The Exorcist – the genesis, Freddy versus Jason, Resident Evil, Final Destination, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Saw, The Riddler, Hostel, Rec . 

An exception to standardization, growing of horror cinema of the 2000s is the film of Rob Zombie, as the movie House of 1000 Corpses. Rob Zombie is one of the few directors to feed his horror cinema with interesting social and political references, as incinema John Carpenter’s. There are no distinctions between good and evil, between good and bad. Monsters are often the victims of a monstrous and violent social mechanism.

Horror films of the 2010s

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In the 2010s there is a rebirth of author horror cinema with very interesting works such as Escape – Get out by Jordan Peele and films by director Ari Aster such as Hereditary – the roots of evil and Midsommar – the village of the damned.


The best horror films to see absolutely

A page of madness 

One of the forefather films of Japanese Horror cinema, shot by Teinosuke Kinugasa in 1926 and then lost for 45 years, is actually a masterpiece of extreme avant-garde that mixes expressionism and surrealism. 

In a country asylum, in torrential rain, the caretaker meets patients with mental illness. The next day a young woman arrives who is surprised to find her father there working as a caretaker. The woman’s mother first went mad because of her husband when he was a sailor.

Watch A page of madness

Halloween

Is there still anyone who hasn’t seen John Carpenter’s Halloween? Perhaps. October 31, 1963, in a small town in the American province of Haddonfield, little Michael Myers stabbed his sister Judith to death. He is hospitalized in a psychiatric institution but 15 years later, he manages to escape and return to his city. Dr. Sam Loomis, the psychiatrist who has followed Michael over the years, knows him very well and knows what his moves may be. Michael kills a mechanic, puts on his clothes and returns to his dilapidated, now abandoned, native home. An independent film shot on a very small budget, it grossed over $ 80 million worldwide at the time. It is the slasher movie most successfuland one of the 5 most profitable films in the history of cinema.

Watch Halloween

Dementia

A visionary, dialogue-free nightmare during a lonely woman’s night in Los Angeles. Between horror, film noir and expressionist film, initially conceived as a short film by the director based on a dream told him by his secretary, Barrett, who has also become the interpreter of the film. Filmed by John Parker in 1955, it is a waking nightmare between horror, expressionist film, noir and experimental cinema. 

Watch Dementia

The first film by director Abel Ferrara made independently and at a very low budget. The artist Reno Miller (played by the director himself Abel Ferrara) and his girlfriend Carol enter a church where a tramp approaches who wants to talk to the artist, but Reno and Carol, frightened, run away. Reno comes home and finds a big electricity bill, a phone bill, and can’t afford to pay the rent. Slowly Reno transforms into a murderous psychopath, in a descent into hell with no return. 

The Driller Killer 

Haxan

Unique horror masterpiece in the history of cinema and also an arthouse film, a fake documentary and a denunciation film. It was made by the brilliant Swedish director Benjamin Christensen, who plays the devil in the film. Desecration of graves, torture, demon-possessed nuns and witches’ sabbath: Haxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages is an incredibly original and out-of-the-box horror film that has become legendary over time. Not just a horror movie but a film of incredible moral and spiritual depth.

Watch Haxan

The cabinet of Doctor Caligari

Opera founder of the expressionist movement is one of the films that marked the history of cinema. Doctor Caligari brings a sleepwalker to exhibit as a freak at village festivals. The doctor says that he is able to guess the past and to predict the future. Film about the invisible masks we wear is about the doubling of the personality, it is a Cult film that brings directorial and scenographic elements that had never been seen before, such as deformed sets to reproduce dream images and stylized acting. 

Watch The cabinet of Doctor Caligari

Carnival of Souls

Extraordinarily successful and original low-budget independent horror movie, a source of inspiration for directors such as David Lynch. A group of friends in a car cross a bridge and fall into the river. Everyone dies except the protagonist Mary, who emerges completely unscathed from the muddy waters. 

From that moment Mary, in shock from the accident, lives in a kind of psychological limbo and decides to move to another city to work as an organ player in a church. A scary-looking man, however, begins to haunt her everywhere. The Mystery Man is played by director Herk Harvey himself. 

Watch Carnival of Souls

Silent Night, Bloody Night 

Parent of the American horror-slasher genre, even before Halloween – John Carpenter’s Night of the Witches, Silent Night, Bloody Night was filmed in 1972 by Theodore Gershuny. A dangerous man in an asylum inherits a large house. After a few years he comes out of the asylum to sell the house because he needs the money. A series of heinous murders take place in the small town. 

Independent film with a very particular direction that displaces and surprises the viewer. Shot with dull, leaden colors in a gloomy winter atmosphere, shot with makeshift means, it is by no means a packaging film, and this makes it an authentic tale, immersing you directly in the places where the story takes place. 

Watch Silent Night, Bloody Night

Onibaba – The assassins

The aesthetic component of Kaneto Shindo’s cinema is evident in Onibaba, horror film that tells the story of two women left to fend for themselves who live by robbing and killing stray Samurai. 

Inspired by an ancient Buddhist fairy tale, the film tells the story of two women who live in extreme poverty, in a hut on the bank of a river. They survive by killing and robbing samurai exhausted by combat, with techniques they have refined over time. 

One day a neighbor, Hachi, tells the two women that the son of one of them, who went to war, is dead. The man also proposes to help them in their thefts and murders. But women don’t trust and refuse. But over time one of them will slowly fall in love with Hachi. One night the woman kills a mighty knight in a creepy mask with one of the tested traps. But when he takes off his mask, he discovers that behind it are the non-human traits of a frightening demon.  

Kuroneko

Another particularly interesting horror film by Kaneto Shindo is Kuroneko. In the Japanese Jidai-geki era, which began in the 17th century, a terrible civil war tore apart the villages of the country. Two women living in a bamboo house are raped and killed by a group of unscrupulous samurai. Some time later, in the same area, some samurai are found bled dead. The governor sends a valiant samurai to investigate. 

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