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Horror Cinema


Cinema’s undead

Cinema’s undead
Image: German actor Max Schreck in Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens, 1922. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The figure of the vampire has haunted the history of cinema from its very early days. In his BFI Film Classic on F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu: Eine Symphonie der Grauens (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror), Kevin Jackson invokes the links between cinema and vampirism: like vampires, cinema is peopled by the half living, actors reanimated by the magic of the projector, coming to life only in the darkness. Horror fiction provides a way for us to confront our deepest fears, or to address our collective mourning, trauma or anxiety about political, social or environmental upheaval. In this chapter from Nosferatu (1922): Eine Symphonie des Grauens, Kevin Jackson writes that the film expresses the traumatic aftermath of the First World War. In the words of the film’s producer and designer Albin Grau, Nosferatu was “unleashed across the earth like a cosmic vampire to drink the blood of millions and millions of men”, but it also expressed the aftershock of the terrifying Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19 that killed more people than all the guns and bombs of the war. In this chapter on Let the Right One In (2008), Anne Billson explores the vampire’s cinematic meanings in relation to religion, sexuality and gender identities.

Vampires have long been associated with the crumbling ‘old world’ of the European aristocracy. But what happens when vampires come to America? In another cinematic analogy, some critics have likened the American vampire to the filmmakers and stars of early Hollywood, many of them émigrés from a Europe in turmoil. In this chapter from New Vampire Cinema, Ken Gelder discusses modern American vampire cinema, from Michael Almereyda’s New York vampire movie Nadja (1994) to the Tex Mex vampire trilogy John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998-2005).

Feminist and queer readings of the vampire have focused on vampire narratives as an expression of anxieties about sexuality and sexual desire. In the Introduction to Queer Horror Film and Television, Darren Elliott-Smith traces queer readings of the vampire from Nosferatu to the TV series American Horror Story (2011-present).


Global zombies

Global zombies
Image: Day of the Dead, 1985. (Photo by United Film Distribution/Courtesy Everett Collection / Mary Evans)

The zombie, the vampire’s undead cousin, has its roots in the transatlantic slave trade, which brought West African concepts of soul capture to Haiti, where the figure of the zombie developed in Haitian folklore, entering American consciousness as a result of the US invasion and occupation of Haiti from 1915-34. In this chapter from Otherness in Hollywood Cinema, Michael Richardson traces changing manifestations and meanings of the zombie in Hollywood cinema, from White Zombie (1932) through to George A. Romero’s cult movie Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its four sequels. Zombies enjoyed a resurgence in popular culture at the turn of the millennium, and in her overview article 'Zombie Films Since 9/11', Sarah Lauro explores how recent movies such as the Korean film Last Train to Busan (2010) place their zombie origin stories in the excesses of global capitalism, such as environmental abuse and reckless scientific experimentation.


Making the horror movie

Making the horror movie

Horror can be an appealing genre for first-time filmmakers. It has an engaged fan community, and provides opportunities for filmmakers to create impactful movies on a low budget. Shot on a micro-budget by novice directors, both The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2007) were hugely successful in their own right, leading to a series of prequels, sequels and spin-offs. In this chapter from the book The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead: A Mortal’s Guide to Making Horror Movies, Danny Draven takes aspiring filmmakers through a range of horror sub genres, from the supernatural thriller to the monster movie, with case studies of key movies and guides to further viewing. In this chapter from his book on The Blair Witch Project, Peter Turner traces the film’s script development, funding and production history as “an inspiring example of inventive independent filmmaking”. Tips and strategies for writing and, importantly, selling a script for a low-budget horror movie are provided by Marc Blake and Sara Bailey in this chapter from their book Writing the Horror Movie.


Homepage banner image: Description: Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (Ger 1922) Max Schreck (Image courtesy Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans)


Visit our Previously Featured Content page to view other topics including Filmmaking, Citizen Kane, World Cinema, Cinema of Japan, Peter Wollen, Thomas Elsaesser, Film Festivals and The Work of Stanley Kubrick.