Horror 4




Robert Sheppard, Editor-in-Chief, World Literature Forum

Robert Sheppard, Editor-in-Chief, World Literature Forum


By Robert Sheppard, Editor-in-Chief, World Literature Forum


  1. Introduction: What is Horror and Horror Fiction?
  2. The History and Development of Horror Fiction: Overview
  3. Awards and Associations for Horror Fiction
  4. The Horror Timeline for Fiction and Film: Chronological History and Development of the Horror Genre
  5. The Essential Works of Horror Fiction

Horror!——–Horror!———–What is horror? A common definition of horror is often given as “a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay.”  “Horror Fiction” then is fiction that elicits and evokes such emotions in the reader, or viewer when rendered in cinema or television. It is a genre of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, scare or startle viewers or readers by inducing the feelings of terror and horror. It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere which elicits and magnifies and elaborates such response. The Einsteinesque intuition that “everything is relative” applies equally to horror, as the specific source of such emotion may depend on who we are, what we have experienced and what haunts our subconscious mind, perhaps being supernatural as with vampires or demons to some, or non-supernatural, as with sexual terror, to others. Often the central menace of a work of Horror Fiction can be interpreted as a code or metaphor for the larger or deeper fears of a society. The horror genre undoubtedly has primordial origins in legend and myth originating around the campfires of forests, jungles and caves, but in its modern literary incarnation reformulated in the 18th century as Gothic Horror, the genre in Western Literature traces its origin to the seminal publication of the Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole with its myriad progeny.

By this relativistic definition, horror can deal with the mundane or the supernatural, with the fantastic or the normal. It doesn’t have to be full of ghosts, ghouls, and things to go bump in the night. Its only true requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones is therefore just as much a horror novel as Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Tim LaHay’s Left Behind series is just as full of horror as Dan Simmons’ A Winter Haunting. We could even maintain that the bestselling book of all time, the Bible (or runner-up Koran), especially as interpreted by the “fire and brimstone” threatening tradition of retributive Fundamentalism could easily be labeled horror (fiction?) with its fallen angels, demonic possessions, Antichrist and an Apocalypse absolutely terrifying in its inexorability and inescapable scope.

In his horror anthology Prime Evil, author Douglas Winter stated, “Horror is not a genre, like the Mystery or Science Fiction or the Western. It is not merely a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion”—-perhaps the deepest and oldest in human consciousness. He was correct and his words have become a rallying cry for the modern horror writer.


One of the defining traits of the genre of horror is that it provokes a response: emotional, psychological and physical. One of H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous quotes from his celebrated essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” about the genre is that: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

Horror takes us back to where we came from. The old “fight or flight” reaction of our evolutionary heritage once played a major role in the life of every human. Our ancestors lived and died by it. It lay at the root of our struggle for survival. Then someone invented the fascinating game of civilization, and things began to calm down. Development pushed wilderness back from settled lands. War, crime, and other forms of social violence came with civilization and humans started preying on each other, but by and large daily life calmed down. Something of primal life was lost. We began to feel restless, to feel something missing: the excitement of living on the edge, the tension between hunter and hunted. So we told each other stories through the long, dark nights…when the fires burned low, we did our best to scare the daylights out of each other. The rush of adrenaline feels good. Our hearts pound, our breath quickens, and we can imagine ourselves on the edge. Like sexuality, with which it is often linked, horror is one of the pathways that leads us back to primal life.

Yet we also appreciate the insightful aspects of horror. Sometimes a story intends to shock and disgust, but the best horror intends to rattle our cages and shake us out of our complacency. It makes us think, forces us to confront ideas we might rather ignore, and challenges preconceptions of all kinds. Horror reminds us that the world is not always as safe as it seems, which exercises our mental muscles and reminds us to keep a little healthy caution close at hand.

In a sense similar to the reason a person seeks out the controlled thrill of a roller coaster, readers in the modern era seek out feelings of horror and terror to feel a sense of excitement. Horror makes us feel primally alive. Additionally, horror fiction is one of the few mediums where readers seek out a form of art that forces themselves to embark on a foray of reconnaissance into the unknown, confronting ideas and images they might rather ignore and to challenge preconceptions of all kinds.


Horror 3


What makes horror literature so pervasive is that its need to evoke the necessary atmosphere and sense of emotional dread is utterly dependent on who we are as readers — as people. As children, we might be afraid of the shadows looming from a half-closed closet door or of the monster we believe lies under the bed. Terrors of the imagination run wild at that age. The fiction of R.L Stine perhaps takes us a step further as we grow towards adolescence. As adults, our fears become more sophisticated, more grounded in worldly events. They become the death of a loved one, the terminal illness of a small child, the fear of our lives running out of our control. Horror peels away the thin and often unreal veneer of our daily lives and “civilized” environment, derailing our lives and sending us careening into the abyss. Horror, by nature, is personal–an intrusion into our comfort levels. It speaks of the human condition and forcibly reminds us of how little we actually know and understand, let alone control.

Horror fiction is radical. As accomplished horror writer Robert McCammon said, “Horror fiction upsets apple carts, burns old buildings, and stampedes the horses; it questions and yearns for answers, and it takes nothing for granted. It’s not safe, and it probably rots your teeth, too. Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader’s own will. And since horror can be many, many things and go in many, many directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose.” Horror is thus that which cannot be made safe—-because it is about our relentless need to confront the unknown, the unknowable—a rendezvous with a seductive impalpable menace from the darkness beyond our experience which may also embody some hidden beckoning towards a potentially deeper life, and the emotion we experience when in its thrall.

Sometimes a distinction is made in the types of emotional response to horror fiction. In 1826, the gothic novelist Anne Radcliffe published an essay distinguishing two elements of horror fiction, “terror” and “horror.” Whereas terror is a feeling of dread that takes place before an event happens, horror is a feeling of revulsion or disgust after an event has happened. Radcliffe describes terror as that which “expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life,” whereas horror is described as that which “freezes and nearly annihilates them.” Both are intrinsic to the genre.

Edgar Allen Poe---Master of the Horror Short Story and Detective Fiction

Edgar Allen Poe—Master of the Horror Short Story and Detective Fiction

The History and Development of Horror Fiction: Overview


Horror fiction has its roots in oldest primordial collective consciousness of mankind, folklore, ritual, shamanist exorcisms and religious traditions, focusing on the eternal unresolved fears of death, afterlife, evil, the demonic and the principle of the thing embodied in the person. These were elaborated over eons in stories of witches, warlocks, vampires, devils, ghosts and demonic pacts such as that of Faust.

Gothic horror in the 18th century


Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto---Where It All Began

Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto—Where It All Began

Eighteenth-century Gothic horror drew on these sources branching out from the seminal and controversial The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole. This marked the first time a modern novel incorporated elements of the supernatural instead of striving after pure realism. In fact, the first edition was published disguised as an actual medieval romance from Italy discovered and republished by a fictitious translator. Once revealed as the contemporary work of the son of a powerful Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, many found it anachronistic, reactionary, or simply in poor taste – but it proved to be immediately popular. That first novel, however, established the seed elements and foundations of the genre in evolution of Gothic Horror, inspiring such follow-on works as Vathek (1786) by William Beckford, the Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian by Anne Radcliffe and The Monk by Matthew Lewis. A significant amount of horror fiction of this era was written by women and marketed at a female audience, a typical scenario of horror fiction being a resourceful female protagonist menaced in a gloomy and mysterious castle.

Horace Walpole: Son of a Prime Minister and Father of the Gothic Horror Genre

Horace Walpole: Son of a Prime Minister and Father of the Gothic Horror Genre

Horror in the 19th century

Mary Shelley: Wife of Percy Shelley and Mother of Frankenstein

Mary Shelley: Wife of Percy Shelley and Mother of Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

The Gothic tradition blossomed into the genre modern readers call Horror Literature in the 19th century. Influential works and characters that continue resonating with film, television and cinema today saw their genesis in such works as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), the short stories and related works of Edgar Allen Poe, the works of the Irish master of the genre Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Louis Stevenson’s classics such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).  Each of these novels or novellas created an enduring icon of horror which would in turn be translated and rendered in modern re-imaginings on the stage and screen.

Frankenstein's Monster

Frankenstein’s Monster

Horror in the 20th century

The proliferation of cheap periodicals, as early as the turn of the century, led to a boom in horror writing. One writer who specialized in horror fiction for mainstream pulps such as All-Story Magazine was Tod Robbins, whose fiction dealt with themes of madness and cruelty. Later, specialist magazines and publications emerged to give horror writers additional outlets, including Weird Tales and Unknown Worlds.

H.P. Lovecraft: The Father of Cosmic Horror

H.P. Lovecraft: The Father of Cosmic Horror

Influential horror writers of the early 20th century broadened and deepened the medium. Most particularly, the venerated horror author H.P. Lovecraft, modern Dean of the genre, with his monumental Cthulhu Mythos pioneered the genre of Cosmic Horror featuring cruel and inscrutable quasi-deities indifferent to human suffering, and M.R. James, grandmaster of the ghost story are credited with redefining that era.

Cthulhu R’Lyeh Rising---by Horror Grandmaster H.P. Lovecraft

Cthulhu R’Lyeh Rising—by Horror Grandmaster H.P. Lovecraft

Early cinema was inspired by many aspects of horror literature, and early Horror Cinema started a strong tradition of horror films and subgenres based on horror fiction that continues to this day. Up until the graphic depictions of violence and gore on the screen commonly associated with the 1960s and 1970’s slasher films, splatter films, and weird comic books such as those published by EC Comics (famous for series such as Tales From The Crypt) satisfied readers’ quests for horror imagery that the Big Screen could not provide.

Many modern novels claim an early description of the living dead in a precursor to the modern zombie tale, including H.P. Lovecraft’s stories such as “Cool Air,” (1925) “In The Vault,” (1926) and “The Outsider,” (1926). Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend would also influence an entire genre of apocalyptic zombie fiction epitomized by the classic films of George A. Romero.

Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend  becomes a Will Smith Cinema Classic

Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend becomes a Will Smith Cinema Classic

Contemporary horror fiction

The crowning master of contemporary horror writers is Stephen King, known for writing Carrie, The Shining, It, Misery and many more, raising the horror genre to Bestseller status.  Beginning in the 1970s, King’s stories have managed to attract a huge audience, for which he was prized by the U.S. National Book Foundation in 2003.

Stephen King: The "King" of Contemporary Horror Fiction

Stephen King: The “King” of Contemporary Horror Fiction

Stephen King

Indeed, Stephen King’s influence over the Contemporary Horror genre is so pervasive that he is often regarded, apropos of his name, as the “King of Contemporary Horror.” But as with other kings his impact has been regarded with deep ambivalence. Some have credited him with virtually creating the contemporary genre, others with destroying it. Neither judgment is wholly appropriate.

The root of this conundrum lies in the nature of the publishing industry and its emulating sister, the “Hollywood” of the film industry. Back in the seventies, an unknown writer burst onto the scene with a novel called Carrie. The work went on to be made into a wildly successful film, and a new genre was born. That author, Stephen King of course, set the stage for what horror was to become in the eighties and early nineties.

Almost overnight, King’s brand of fiction became a multi-million dollar industry. Publishers saw the dollar signs looming before them and charged full speed ahead, making horror into a mass-consumption product. They gave it a specific identity, a specific formula. Writers responding to the laws of supply and demand then popped out of the woodwork, eager to embrace and attempt to duplicate the stunning success of Mr. King.

According to King’s harsher critics, it was at this point that horror literature lost its identity. Instead of “evolving, ever-changing,” horror became defined — typecast if you will — forced to conform to a certain method and a certain manner for both publishers and film producers.  Publishers flooded the market with books that matched this formula, giving readers more and more of what they demanded. Hollywood got into the act, making movie after movie with the same basic themes, the same old scares, so much so that today we have horror films that parody these very elements. Before we knew it, horror novels and horror movies had become synonymous. Even worse, it was difficult to tell one horror novel from another, so important had the formula become. A market glut swiftly followed. Horror’s originality, its vital essence degraded.

At this point horror seemed to lose its stature and legitimacy in the realm of high and respectable literary art, becoming regarded by many in the literary establishment as hack work. As the horror boom of the eighties turned into the drought of the nineties, horror went underground. In order to save itself, it became a chameleon, masquerading as other genres, hiding itself in other styles. And perhaps by this process it attained a measure of regeneration and renewal. Horror once again focused more fully on emotion; it once again began to delve deep inside and force us to confront who we are, to examine what we are afraid of, and to wonder what lies ahead down the road of life.

Thus ironically, those writers whose works perhaps define the quintessential essence of horror are not considered horror writers. Millions of people read Stephen King, but the average King reader doesn’t read other horror writers. Dean Koontz’s books are filled with the strange and fantastic, yet he vehemently argues against being labeled a horror writer. John Saul thinks of himself as a writer of thrillers; Clive Barker a master of the fantastic. Robert McCammon stopped publishing altogether to avoid being trapped in a box not of his own choosing when the publishing world demanded more horror instead of the historical novel he had so desperately wanted to produce.

The Erotic Gothic Bestsellers of Anne Rice

The Erotic Gothic Bestsellers of Anne Rice

Thus Best-selling book series of contemporary times often exist in related genres to horror fiction, such as Werewolf Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Kitty Norville Books from Carrie Vaughn and the Erotic Gothic Fiction of Anne Rice. Elements of the horror genre continue to overflow and expand outside the channels of the genre. The Alternate History of more traditional historical horror in a novel such as The Terror exists on bookstore shelves next to genre Mashups such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the Historical Fantasy and Horror Comics epitomized by such works as Mike Mignola’s Hellboy. Horror serves as one of the central genres in more complex modern works such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, a finalist for the National Book Award. Popular contemporary horror authors include Brian Lumley, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell and Peter Straub.

Awards and Associations for Horror Fiction

The Horror Writers Association Issues the Bram Stoker Awards for Excellence in Horror Fiction

The Horror Writers Association Issues the Bram Stoker Awards for Excellence in Horror Fiction

Achievements in horror fiction are recognized by numerous awards. The Horror Writer’s Association presents the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement, named in honor of Bram Stoker, author of the seminal horror novel Dracula. The International Horror Guild presents its own annual awards, as do organizations such as the Australian Horror Writers Association with its annual Australian Shadows Award. Other important awards for horror literature are as subcategories included within general awards for fantasy and science fiction in such awards as the Aurealis Award.

Bram Stoker, Author of Dracula

Bram Stoker, Author of Dracula

The History and Development of the Horror Genre: The Horror Timeline for Fiction and Film

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal and The Silence of the Lambs

The following is a Chronological Precis of the Development of the Horror Genre in Literature, Film, Music and Television from Earliest Times to the Present:

600 BC to 200 AD—- The bestselling book of all time, the Bible, Old and New Testaments, along with its sequels including the Koran, could easily be labeled horror, for where else can you find fallen angels, demonic possessions, and an apocalypse absolutely terrifying in its majesty, inclusive of the lives of all of us, all in one volume?

The Bible as Horror Fiction?

The Bible as Horror Fiction?


An order comes out of the Vatican, authorizing the commencement of an Inquisition to re-establish the orthodoxy of the faith. The charge of heresy soon becomes entangled with the charge of witchcraft, and in this form took until the seventeenth century to die away.

1307 – 1321

La Comedia, or The Divine Comedy as it came to be known, of Dante Alighieri is written in Italy. This semi-autobiographical poem sets forth one of the most influential descriptions of Hell in the literature, though Dante’s vast and intricate plan has, in the public eye, been superseded by Milton’s vision 1667. Even less well-known are the two sections after Inferno that complete the poem, Purgatorio and Paradiso.

Nothing ere I was made was made to be
Save things eterne, and I eterne abide;
Lay down all hope, you that go in by me.
— trans. Dorothy L Sayers

Dante's Inferno:  Greed

Dante’s Inferno: Greed


Vladislav Basarab of Transylvania gains the crown of Wallacia for the first time (until 1462, and again briefly in 1468). From his father he earned the nickname ‘Dracula’, son of the Dragon, but he earned for himself the name Vlad the Impaler, for his favorite method of execution, the precise details of which you don’t want to know about. Despite a large amount of slander by his political opponents, many of the tales of his cruelty were true (he is said to have killed over 40,000 people in his reign). He was also a staunch defender of Christendom from the Turkish threat. O’ Religion!

1470 – 1516

The Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch in this period produced paintings of religious theme and nightmarish impact — the best known is The Garden of Earthly Delights. They came to the attention of the Inquisition after his death, but powerful patrons protected the collection.


The first edition Danse Macabre is published in Paris by Guyot Marchant, inspired by the Black Death, or Plague. The verses and illustrations are taken from the murals adorning the Cemetery of the Innocents. The first set of couplets, by an unknown author, deal with death coming to the forty stations of men. The matching verses for women are credited to Martial d’Auvergne.


The first edition of the Malleus Maleficarum is produced in Germany by the Dominican inquisitors Hienrich Institoris (aka Henry Kramer) and Jakob Sprenger. Literally ‘the Hammer of Witches’, it codified the form of belief in witchcraft that spread, through fourteen editions by 1520, throughout Europe. It contributed enormously to the witch craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries in which thousands of people were tortured and killed.


Hans Holbein the Younger, in his lifetime regarded as one of the greatest and most productive artists of Northern Europe, publishes forty-one ‘Dance of Death’ woodcuts in Les simulachres & historiees faces de la mort.

The Damnation of Dr. Faustus

The Damnation of Dr. Faustus


An incredible series of gruesome plays jostle each other on the stages of England. The first is traditionally Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy (1585) followed by Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (1587), Dr Faustus (1587) and William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (1594). Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600) and Macbeth (1605) are also morbid little pieces of some note. Cyril Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (1607) and John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi (1613) are the latter examples, and indeed the last examples of death portrayed in front of an audience in European theatre until Victor Hugo’s Hernani in 1730.

1587 – 1589

A semi-fictional biography of a Johannes Faustus, scholar and reputed magician, is published in Germany. Christopher Marlowe reads the English translation and creates his play The Historie of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor Iohn Faustus. This is the prototype of the Mad Scientist, later echoed in such characters as Dr. Frankenstein, who sells his soul for knowledge (1818).The tale was more or less directly retold by Goethe in 1808 and Charles Maturin in 1820. Goethe’s version was adapted as an opera by Charles Gounod, libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre, in 1859.


Paradise Lost is John Milton’s epic poem of the fall from Heaven, the English poet dictating his work to his daughters after being left blind in 1652. A strict Puritan, Milton still questioned Christian orthodoxy, and it is his depiction of Satan, his realms and his struggle against omnipotence that give the poem its power. Paradise was regained in 1671.


Not the largest or most gruesome of the witch trials (Bamberg, Germany, 1623-1633 comes to mind), the events in Salem, Massachusetts are definitely the most famous. A group of young girls began to claim local women were bewitching them. The first arrest was a slave Tituba who provided all the details that could be wished to capture the imagination. Prominent theologians such as Cotton Mather provided legitimization, and things ran on from there.


The first major work of what became known as the Graveyard Poets is published with Thomas Parnell’s A Night-Piece on Death. The group focused on the melancholy and mortality of man, an introspective style that finally led into the wilder fantasies of the Romantics. Other examples include Robert Blair’s The Grave (1743), Thomas Warton’s The Pleasures of Melancholy (1747) and Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Gray in 1752.

1720 – 1740

The heyday of Bach, during which he writes his massive Toccata and Fugue in D minor, little realizing that this gloomy little organ piece will appear as the sound-track to a James Caan movie (Rollerball in fact, Norman Jewison, 1975). Even without this filmic application, this piece is quite capable of evoking funereal atmosphere within the first few notes of that ominous central motif.


The Austrian Government commission a report on various peasant customs, prompted by mass hysteria in the village of Medvegia. The report, supervised by Johannes Fluckinger, goes into great detail about vampire activity in the area, and is quickly spread through international journals and fashionable society. It caught the public imagination, and the attention of scientists and philosophers, for decades to come, in both England and the Continent.


The Castle of Otranto is written by Horace Walpole — considered the first Gothic novel. It was followed by such creations as (the tedious) Vathek (William Beckford, 1786), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and certain satires, notably ‘Gothic’ was heavily influenced by the excesses and writings generated by the ‘Inquisition.’ ‘The Gothic is a literature of decay. This is a moral judgment; for after all, the matter of the Gothic tale is a great structure succumbing, crumbling, sinking into all perversions of the architectural, human, vegetable and animal’


Gottfried August Bürger writes the poem Leonore, a popular treatment of the folk tale motif of the lover who comes back from the grave; ‘And now are you afraid?’ and, incidentally, ‘Denn die Todten reiten schnell.‘ It was translated into English by William Rosetti in 1844 under the title The Hunt.

Ugetsu Monogotari

Ugetsu Monogotari


The Japanese student of literature and critic Uneda Akinari, publishes Ugetsu Monogatari, or Tales of Moonlight and Rain. Drawing inspiration from popular myth, this collection of romantic and chilling stories includes ‘The House Amidst the Thickets’, ‘The Chrysanthemum Trust’ and ‘The Carp that Swam in my Dreams’. ‘The House’, in which a soldier comes home from the war to find everything exactly as he left it… exactly, formed the basis for the 1953 film Ugetsu, by Mizoguchi Kenji.


Henry Fuseli, the then professor of painting at the British Royal Academy, paints The Nightmare. He was considered insane by most of his contemporaries.


Donatien-Alphonse-François de Sade, better known as the Marquis de Sade, writes Les 120 Journées de Sodome, ou l’Ecole du libertinage (The 120 Days of Sodom), ‘the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began’ whilst incarcerated in the Bastille — though the uncompleted novel wasn’t properly published until 1931. The combination of his (hardly unusual) licentious ways and love of literature produced an extraordinary fusion that saw him persecuted throughout life, and beyond. If nothing else, he certainly had a philosophy (and no, he never met Sacher Masoch). Other novels include his most readable, Justine, ou les Malheurs de la Vertu (Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue, first version in 1791) and its sister volume, l’Hisoire de Juliette, sa soeur (ou les Prospérités du vice) (Juliette, or the Triumph of Vice) in 1797. He has featured as a character in various, usually bad, novels and films such as ‘The Skull of the Marquis de Sade’ by Robert Bloch (filmed by Freddy Francis in 1965); and there are an almost surprising number of adaptations of his work. Most are somewhat obscure, and only Pier Paolo Pasolini’s masterly adaptation of Sodom, released under the title Salòo le centoventi giornate di Sodom in 1976, has risen to any public attention.

1790 – 1825

For a brief thirty years horror flourished again on the British stage. Three theatres, Drury Lane, Covent Garden and the Haymarket, played host to such dramatisations as Fitz Ball’s The Devil’s Elixir, Matthew Lewis’ The Castle Spectre, James Planche’s The Vampire (1819) (introducing a new form of stage machinery, ‘the vampire trap’), and Milner’s Frankenstein, or The Man and the Monster (1818). These productions were ‘expensive, spectacular and decidedly bloody’, but none were staged after 1825 when ‘the devil was no longer in fashion.’

Anne Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho

Anne Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho


Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho is the most famous work from one of the most prominent Gothic authors. A prose poet, she proved to be a great influence on Lord Byron [1816] and Walter Scott, in contrast to both Matthew Lewis [1795] and Horace Walpole [1765] who were ‘ancestors of a whole school, finding its culmination, perhaps, in the supernatural and macabre stories of Poe [1833] and Charles Brockden Brown.’ Radcliffe introduced the ‘poetical landscape’ into the modern novel, and her popularity was immense. Other works include The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797) and The Romance of the Forest (1791).


The Monk, ‘charged with all the adolescent sexual intensity of the 19-year-old who wrote it.’ is published anonymously. It is the most readable of the Gothic novels to the modern reader and, as the Marquis de Sade puts it, ‘is superior in all respects to the strange flights of Mrs. Radcliffe’s imagination’ [– Reflections on the Novel (1800)]. There were calls for the book to be banned, particularly once the author’s identity was made known, one Matthew Lewis, playwright and member of parliament. Ann Radcliffe [1794], whose work in part inspired it, was so horrified she wrote The Italian (1797) in reply. A film was made in the early seventies by Ado Kryou, and Paco Lara’s version came out in 1990. It wasn’t very good.]


The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand, thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

— The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

‘His genius had angelic wings, and fed on manna’, said William Hazlitt of Samuel Taylor Coleridge though opium would have been closer to the mark. Other works by this British poet include Kubla Khan (1798, the famous (if not necessarily actual) interrupted transcript of a drug-induced dream) and Christobel (1801) [1872]. Coleridge is also known for being one of the premiere critics of English literature, and is credited with the ‘rediscovery’ of the original, unbowdlerised Shakespeare.


‘Wake Not the Dead’, by Johann Ludwig Tieck, becomes the first known English vampire story when it is translated from the German.


Between the 15th and 17th of June Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Dr. John Polidori stay at a villa by Lake Geneva. Quite possibly under the influence of laudanum, they declare they will each write a ghost story. From this meeting both the Vampire sub-genre and science fiction itself are created in English [1818], [1819]. The story of that night has been told a number of times on film, most notably in Ken Russell’s Gothic (1986).

E.T.A. Hoffman: Master of the Uncanny

E.T.A. Hoffman: Master of the Uncanny


Ernst Theodor Willhelm Hoffmann (known as ETA for his regard for Amadeus Mozart) publishes Nachtstücke (or Night Pieces), containing his best known grotesque tales, such as ‘Der Sandmann’ and ‘Tale of the Lost Shadow’. He was a great influence on the German Expressionists of the early twentieth century [1910s].


Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein — or the Modern Prometheus is published, the first science fiction novel [1816]. It will also have a great influence on horror though the popular image of the monster is taken from the multitude of films [1910], [1930s], [1948]. Like much of the contemporary literature it was quickly adapted for stage [1790-1825] but it wasn’t until 1991 that it became an opera, with Richard Meale and David Malouf’s Mer de Glace.


Nightmare Abbey is written by Thomas Love Peacock, a send-up of the genre the author saw as an ‘encroachment of black bile.’ It contains caricatures of Mary and Percy Shelley, Byron and Coleridge, and is extremely funny.


Dr. Polidori’s The Vampyre is published in the New Monthly Magazine, ‘the first vampire tale of any substance in the English language.’ Originally attributed to Byron, the lead character is in fact a caricature of the poet. A theatrical adaptation by Charles Nodier appeared in 1820, and this was further turned into an opera by Heinrich Marschner, with libretto by Wilhelm Wolbrucke, in 1828. In 1992 Charles Hart provided substantially different lyrics for The Vampyre: A Soap Opera.


In Spain the court painter Francesco Goya produces a series of eighteen frescos known as the Black Paintings, including Saturn Devouring His Children, as a response to the French invasion. He had always tended towards dark subjects, exemplified in an earlier series satirising witchcraft beliefs, and the engraving The Sleep of Reason (Produces Monsters).


Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Titanic and shocking in the extreme to the listeners of his day, Berlioz’s masterwork retains the ability to conjure up just the grotesque and frightening images of nightmare and death he had in mind when he named movements of the symphony March to the Scaffold and Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath. Robert Schumann described ‘malformed creatures of all sorts… lamentations, howls, laughter, cries of pain… demoniac orgies… death bells’ in the final movement (with not a little discomfort)’.


Notre Dame de Paris (with its perhaps more descriptive English title The Hunchback of Notre Dame) lurches on to the scene, along with the bells and gargoyles, courtesy of Victor Hugo, a French author noted for his human dramas such as Les Miserables. [1923].


The German folklorists, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm publish the fruits of their research in Kinder und Hausmarchen. It includes ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘The Bone Flute’.


The Baltimore Saturday Visitor publishes MS Found in a Bottle by the unknown author Edgar Allan Poe. Between here and his death in 1849 he publishes many short stories, including ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1839), ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ (1842), ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ (1843) and ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ (1846). He has some claim to be the father of the detective story, and has described himself as ‘insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.’ He was the first significant proponent of the fiction that would dominate the next century. [1960].


The Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson publishers his first anthology, Tales Told for Children, including such delights as ‘The Red Shoes’ (with a haunting pair of severed feet), ‘The Little Mermaid’ (Disney gave it a happy ending) and ‘The Snow Queen’.


With the Industrial Revolution and a suddenly-educated (and over-crowded) public, horror adapted into a more visceral and immediate field. The result was the Penny Blood (known as Penny Dreadfuls to their critics) and the stage equivalent, the Penny Gaff. The earliest and most influential of the publishers was one Edward Lloyd, who started with Thomas Prest’s The Calendar of Horrors in the ’30s, and then evolved the more recognisable form. Prest was also responsible for Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber (first published as The String of Pearls in 1847, and performed on stage in the same year. [1980s])—-(Don’t eat that pie!), the only character created in the period still being used. Varney the Vampire, or, the Feast of Blood, by James Malcolm Rymer, 1845, has had some influence on the vampire sub-genre and a possible companion piece, Wagner the Werewolf was written in 1846 by George Reynolds. ‘It was thought at the time that “Penny Dreadfuls” were the origin of all youthful crime, and parents not only banned them, but, when discovered, burned them without mercy.’


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is published by Lewis Carroll (actually the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), followed by Through the Looking Glass in 1872. Not horror in themselves, the novels have had some influence on the genre, particularly in the 1980s.


A depressive and alcoholic young composer, Modest Mussorgsky, produces his masterwork. Ivanova Noch’ na Lïsoy gore, popularly known as A Night on Bald Mountain, describes the adventures of a man who, stranded on St John’s Mountain on Walpurgisnacht, observes the witch’s sabbath.

1868 – 1869

Robert Browning writes The Ring and the Book, a macabre study of a Duke killing his wife, all based on a yellowing legal paper he had come upon in 1860. It is still the longest narrative poem in English literature. Browning is most noted for his dramatic monologues dealing with madness and obsession, including Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower Came [1974] and Porphyria’s Lover (1842).

Sheridan Le Fanu---Irish Master of the Horror Story

Sheridan Le Fanu—Irish Master of the Horror Story


Sheridan Le Fanu publishes ‘Carmilla’ in Through a Glass Darkly, in some ways similar to Christobel [1797]. An influential story, it has also been filmed a number of times, under many different names (including Karl Dreyer’s Vampyr [1931] and Roy Ward Baker’s The Vampire Lovers (1970)). ‘Le Fanu was more revolutionary than Poe, for he began the process of dismantling the Gothic props and placing the supernatural tale in everyday settings.’

Sheridan Le Fanu

Sheridan Le Fanu


This decade saw a movement in France known successively as L’Esprit Décadent and Symbolisme. The writers that typified it, the earlier Charles Baudelaire, Joris Karl Huysmans (A rebours (Against the Grain), 1884), La Bas (Down Here), 1891) and Guy de Maupassant (La Horla, 1886), produced some of the finest works of the European macabre. The movement was violently opposed to the restraint of resemblance in art, and of morals or religion in anything that would prevent the experience of l’horreur et l’extase de la vie, as Baudelaire wrote in Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), which upon printing in 1857 was seized, and six of the poems banned. Extremes were sought, of terror, pleasure and pain. Huysman’s A rebours appears by implication in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey, as the symbol and instrument of ultimate foreign corruption. To explain, the poet Paul Verlaine said “It is made of a mixture of the carnal spirit and the sad flesh, and of all the violent splendours of the declining (La Bas) Empire.”

Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray


After an initial set-back Robert Louis Stevenson publishes The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. It was often filmed, usually badly — though [1908] and [1931] are worth noting. The earliest stage adaptation was T. R. Sullivan’s in 1887.


One of the world’s most infamous crimes occurs with the murder of at least five London prostitutes. While the police received hundreds of letters purportedly from the killer, only one is believed genuine, signed Jack the Ripper. His identity remains unknown, though theory’s abound [1913].


In this decade, and into the next one, the Grand Guignol flourished on the Paris stage (and was still around a lot later). The term originally referred to a puppet (possibly the work of one Laurent Mourquet a century before), but came to refer to brief plays based around violence, murder, rape, ghostly apparitions and suicide. There was indeed a Théâtre du Grand Guignol, but the art-form was most prominent in Montmartre. London also played host to several seasons over the next fifty years, in a less intense form, notably in 1920-22. [1930s].


A popular and transitional author in the move from historical to contemporary settings for horror stories was Ambrose Bierce. This year saw the publication of Can Such Things Be?, a collection of ghostly tales following on from his grimly realistic war stories. He was also known for his black humour, as demonstrated by The Devil’s Dictionary (1906, under the original title The Cynic’s Word Book).


The King in Yellow collects two series of linked stories by Robert W. Chambers, and H. P. Lovecraft [1923] was a fan. As well as several names taken from Chambers’ work (some taken in turn from Bierce), the direct ancestor of The Necronomicon can be found in the linking element ‘The King in Yellow’, a play which brings a strange doom on those who read it.


Herbert George Wells publishes The Island of Doctor Moreau, not his first work, but his most macabre. The two succeeding years see The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds, novellas of science horror. The latter has been adapted many times, the most notable being Orson Welles’ memorable radio play [1938] and the [1950s] movie.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula


Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker publishes Dracula, or The Un-Dead. [1456], [1922], [1925], [1927], [1930s], [1960s], [1970s], [1990s]. ‘Dracula’s Guest’ is a related short story, and not necessarily a missing chapter as is widely thought. Other works by this Irish stage manager are not as memorable, and include The Lady of the Shroud in 1908, and The Lair of the White Worm in 1911, which desperately needed Ken Russell [1986].


The American writer Henry James publishes the novella The Turn of the Screw, ‘the favourite ghost story of people who don’t like ghost stories’ an early presentation of the evil child tale. It was adapted memorably as both opera (by Benjamin Britten in 1954, libretto by Myfanwy Piper), and film (Jack Clayton’s dead creepy The Innocents in 1961).


Joseph Conrad’s Heart of   Darkness is published. As an exploration of the darker side of the soul   it deserves mention, and is also considered the first twentieth century   novel. Francis Ford Coppola moved the premise into Vietnam to see what would   happen in 1979, whereas Nicholas Roeg’s telemovie (1994) was set in the   original’s time period.


‘The Monkey’s Paw’ is W. W.   Jacobs’ contribution to the genre, and a significant one it is — probably   the most famous short horror story, certainly of those written this century.

M.R. James--Grandmaster of the Ghost Sory

M.R. James–Grandmaster of the Ghost Sory


The first collection from M. R.   James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, is published, heralding one of   the most respected of this century’s horror authors, particularly in his   speciality of the quiet but creepy ghost story.


The Listener is published, a book of short stories   by Algernon Blackwood containing his best-regarded work, ‘The Willows’.   Blackwood was only one of a number of successful authors belonging to the   Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult society created in 1888 by Samuel Liddell   MacGregor Mathers, and whose most infamous member was Aleister Crowley. Other   notable members were William Butler Yeats, Arthur Machen (debuting with ‘The Great God Pan’ in 1894), Lord Dunsany and the incredibly popular (in his   time) Sax Rohmer who gave the world Dr Fu Manchu. This group represented not   only most of the weird fiction originating in the UK at the time (one report   lists Bram Stoker as a member), but is the last flourishing of English horror literature till James Herbert and Clive Barker [1984].

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde---Movie from the Story by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde—Movie from the Story by Robert Louis Stevenson


Among the first experiments   with film there were a number of gruesome and fantastic scenes, but the first   real horror movie was probably William N. Selig’s 16 minute version of   Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde [1885].


A number of German films were   made in this decade using the premise of artificial creatures. They include Der   Golem (Heinrich Galeen, 1914), Der Golem (Paul Wegener and Carl   Boese, 1920, ‘its splendid sets, performances and certain scenes all being   clearly influential on later Hollywood films, especially Frankenstein.Homunculus (Otto Rippert, 1916) (actually a serial   totalling 401 minutes — ‘the most popular serial in Germany during WW I,   even influencing the dress of the fashionable set in Berlin’ and Alarune   (filmed at least three times, firstly in 1918 by Eugen Illes). Metropolis   [1931], of   the next decade, also fits the pattern and gives us Rotwang the Inventor,   perhaps the earliest, and certainly a still effective, cinematic mad   scientist. A variation (and an incredibly influential one at that) was provided by Robert Wiene in 1919 with The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. In this case the entire landscape was artificial, created in the mind of a   madman.

Horror Film Classic---The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Horror Film Classic—The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari


The first Frankenstein   movie is made, directed by J. Searle Dawley and with the involvement of the   innovator Thomas Edison [1818], [1930s].

Gaston Leroux's Phanthom of the Opera

Gaston Leroux’s Phanthom of the Opera


Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, by Gaston Leroux, is published.   Although every Gothic novel had its midnight prowlers and deformed relatives   kept under the stairs, this introduced sympathy for the devil on a, dare we   say, operatic scale [1925], [1986].


The Lodger, by Belloc Lowndes (filmed in 1926 (by   Alfred Hitchcock), 1932 and 1944, and done twice as an opera), is an early   notable example of many, many works based on Jack the Ripper though Robert   Bloch’s ‘Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper’ (1962) [1959] may be better known. However Alan   Moore and Eddie Campbell’s still incomplete From   Hell (issue 1, 1991) will become the definitive work of fiction on the   subject, we suspect [1984].


Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du   Printemps, or The Rite of Spring, a tale of the simultaneous   triumph and cruelty of spring, nearly caused a riot at its initial   performance due to its unconventional and disturbing use of rhythm. The   program concerns a primitive ritual in which a girl dances herself to death, eminiscent of “The Red Shoes.”


The German director Friedrich   Murnau shoots Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Gravens and is immediately   sued by the Stoker estate [1897] (who probably hadn’t heard of the 1921 Hungarian Drakula   — and that’s all we know as well). This is despite substantial changes to   the source (a habit taken up by later screen-writers), enough to count as a   different story. It was remade with lots of rats in 1979 by Werner Hertzog.


Howard Carter and his patron Lord Carnarvon open the tomb of Tut-ankh-amon. Carnarvon died soon after,   starting rumours of a curse [1930s].


And I will show you  something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you,
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

The Waste Land, ‘The Burial of the Dead’
Published by T. S. Elliot

(not just a cat fancier)


The first issue of Weird Tales is published, the first all-fantasy magazine in the world, it   survived thirty-two years without ever showing a profit. The inaugural editor   was one Edwin Baird, soon succeeded by Farnesworth Wright and, much later, by   Seabury Quinn. The magazine attracted a still-famous plethora of authors ([1923], [1939] and [1942]) and a   small but dedicated audience. Indeed the attempts by public officials of   various cities to ban the November ’24 issue over C. M. Eddy’s story ‘The   Loved Dead’ only increased sales. It was later joined by Famous Fantastic   Mysteries in ’36 and Amazing Stories, and was revived in 1974 and   again in 1984.


Among WT‘s (Weird Tales) first   contributors (and who was later offered the editorialship after Wright, but   declined) was one Howard Phillips Lovecraft with ‘The Nameless City’. In   succeeding works such as ‘The Rats in the Walls’ (1923), ‘The Call of   Cthulhu’ [1927]   and ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1931) he developed ‘the Cthulhu Mythos’, a   cosmos of insane and unknowable gods with little regard for humanity. [1939]. His work is in essence the culmination and logical   extreme of the traditional horror tale, concerned with foreign lands and   beasts, yet his meticulously detailed locations, particularly of his home   state, bridge the gap towards the modern style.

Lon Chaney as The Hunchback of Notre Dame from Victor Hugo's Classic

Lon Chaney as The Hunchback of Notre Dame from Victor Hugo’s Classic


Universal Studios produce a silent Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wallace Worsley) starring Lon Chaney   Snr, ‘the man of a thousand faces’ [1831].


The unfinished novel The   Trial is released against the wishes of the (deceased) Franz Kafka (and   indeed the actual trial was never written). Kafka has captured the essence of   waking nightmare in an ever-shifting dream-scape of bureaucracy gone mad, and   ‘at least indirectly influenced much of modern horror fiction.’   Orson Welles made a good-looking movie of the novel in 1962, starring Anthony   Perkins as Josef K.


In America, Universal Studios   foreshadow their later successes with Rupert Julian’s The Phantom of the   Opera. Many subsequent versions have been released, but few have the   restraint and style, and none have Lon Chaney Snr, in his most famous role [1911], [1986].


The first ‘performance’ of Dracula   was a reading in 1897 (to protect stage rights), but it is actor Hamilton   Deane who writes and stars in the first proper stage version [1897], [1927].


Bela Lugosi, a Hungarian actor and former cavalry officer, appeared in the American version of the Dracula   stage-play (written by John Baldeston) [1925], [1930s], [1970s].

Cthulhu R’Lyeh Rising---by Horror Grandmaster H.P. Lovecraft

Cthulhu R’Lyeh Rising—by Horror Grandmaster H.P. Lovecraft


The Call of Cthulhu was written by H. P. Lovecraft [1923], [1981].


Followed immediately by The Great Depression. In the economic down-turn of the next decade radio plays   and pulps took people’s mind off their problems and saw the creation of such   as the hugely popular The Shadow (1930) and The Spider (1933), both dark   vigilantes, wreaking havoc on the underworld. The former started as a radio   narrator of the ‘Detective Story Hour’, leading into success in magazine   (edited by Frank Blackwell) and novel (the first written by stage magician   Walter B. Gibson) formats, with over 280 novellas detailing his exploits. In   early 1932 the Shadow appeared in his own radio show, and was portrayed by   Orson Welles in 1937-8, and Lynn Shores directed the first movie in ’37,   followed by two serials. The Spider first appeared in The Spider Strikes,   written by R. T. M. Scott, but was soon the work of ‘Grant Stockbridge’, a   pseudonym for several writers, most frequently Norvell Page, totalling 118   novellas (and yes, the first movie serial appeared in 1938, the sequel in   1941). Both of these characters can still be found today, mostly in reprints   and comics (and the lacklustre 1994 version of The Shadow), but the   best preserved of the group appeared in 1939 and is just as well-known as   ever. The adventures of Batman have been published continuously since his   inception, and have had many interpretations, but the recent portrayals of   Tall, Dark and Moody (notably Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns   (1986) and Tim Burton’s cinematic version of 1989 and 1992) are simply a   return to Bob Kane’s original conception. Then there’s Batman Forever,   which was too messy for words.


This was the decade of the   Universal monster movies, where ‘the impossible took place in a tight, false   world of studio-built landscape, where every tree was carefully gnarled in   expressionistic fright, every house cunningly gabled in gothic mystery, every   shadow beautifully lit into lurking terror’]. Tod Browning’s Dracula   started it all and became the money-spinner of 1931 for the studio [1927]. 1932 saw James   Whale’s Frankenstein [1910],   introducing the man who ousted Lugosi as the studio’s resident ghoul, Boris   Karloff (whose much-repeated make-up was created by Jack Pierce) [1974]. Frankenstein was also the year’s top grosser,   whereas Karl Freund’s The Mummy in ’33, also starring Karloff, did not   do so well financially. However, the plethora of sequels kept them busy for   quite some time. The Wolf Man (George Waggner) blitzed the box-office   in ’41, introducing Lon Chaney Jr. in his most famous role [1933]. [1948], [1939-1945].


It was also the last decade of   the pulps, by this stage there were titles for just about every taste, and   the ‘Spicy’ — read mildly erotic — range was introduced. Inspired by a   visit to the Grand Guignol Theatre in Paris [1890s], Henry Steeger, president of Popular   Publications, revamped the Dime Mystery Magazine, adding Terror   Tales and Horror Stories in the next two years. The horror pulps   would last till 1941 — typical content being described as ‘sex-sadism with   luscious females on the covers suffering the usual ignominies: whippings,   roastings and mad-virus inoculations.’


As mentioned with regards to The Shadow and ilk, radio plays were also popular at the time, with a number   dedicated to the supernatural. This debuted the soon-to-be-familiar format of   the anthology play (a consequence of the number of horror short stories). One   of the first was Lights Out in 1934, broadcasting Arch Oboler to a   national audience, but it wasn’t till the [1940s] that the dedicated late-night horror   show took off.

Fritz Lang's Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis


Fritz Lang’s M is released, the first serious movie based on a serial killer (played brilliantly by Peter Lorre), its impact for the modern audience is still   considerable. The German director had already made the classic Metropolis   five years earlier. Lang’s The Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933), a Gothic  thriller, pitted the police protagonist of M against an insane scientist. Joseph Losey remade M in 1951.


In France, ‘Julian West’ —   actually the Baron Nicholas von Gunzburg — financed the Karl Dreyer film Vampyr,   on the condition he played the lead role]. Not much of an influence (except   possibly on Francis Ford Coppola [1963]), it is still a wonderful movie [1872].


The classic Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde movie is released (Rouben Mamoulian). It won its lead, Fredric   March, an Academy Award [1885].


Charles Addams first appearance in The New Yorker. He quickly became a regular, and by 1935 his   cartoons had evolved into his immediately recognizable   style. His darkly comedic visions of death and the macabre lasted until 1989,   and spawned The Addams Family television show [1964] and a more recent   movie double, in 1991 and 1993. ‘…if the cartoon needed a caption, he felt   he had failed in some way, even if the caption was brilliant.’


The Werewolf of Paris is published, a novel by Guy Endore,   and is notable for providing the basis for The Wolf Man [1930s]. Guy Endore also   wrote the screenplay for what may have been one of the fascinating early   vampire films Mark of the Vampire (Tod Browning, 1935) — if the   studio had left it alone.


The Carmina Burana has been   around since the twelfth century, a group of songs concerning morality,   religion and, most of all, drinking and gambling — collected from over   Europe by the residents of a Bavarian monastery. However, it is only here   that it becomes relevant to us, when the composer Carl Orff sets it all to   music and creates the quintessential horror sound-track. O fortuna…


Panic was caused across America   by the broadcast of Orson Welles’ report-style radio dramatisation, Invasion   From Mars, based on The War of the Worlds. Many people tuned in   from another popular radio show and missed the opening explanation, believing   it to be a real invasion [1896].


The Arkham House publishing   company is founded by August Derleth and Donald Wanderi. Admirers of Lovecraft’s work, they were determined to ensure it survived both the author   and Weird Tales [1923]. Derleth and other authors such as Robert Bloch [1959] and Robert E. Howard began to utilise the mythos in   their own stories, with mixed success.

1939 –   1945

The British Board of Film   Censors banned the screening of horror films, both local and imported, for   the duration on the grounds they would affect war morale.   The movies they did let through were generally edited out of all recognition.   It is interesting that during this period, one of the most popular British   radio serials was John Dickson Carr’s Appointment with Fear (1943); a   weekly short dramatisation with a host known as the Man in Black (played by   Valentine Dyall). While some Americans had similar sentiments (Variety   regarded The Wolf Man [1930s] as ‘dubious entertainment at this particular time’) the   public proved them wrong.

1939 –   1945

It was a time of atrocity. The   Nazi Movement in Germany, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, attempted the   genocide of the Jewish people, creating one of the enduring symbols   of the Bad Guy. Meanwhile, on August the 6th and 9th of 1945, America showed   the world a new type of Horror; its canvas: Hiroshima and Nagasaki [1954].


After the popular radio plays   of the Thirties, often incorporating horror motifs, or at least dark and   shadowy heroes [1930s], horror on radio came into its own in this decade.   Examples were programs such as Dimension X, Inner Sanctum, I   Love a Mystery (1939) and Suspense (1942). By 1950 however, the   more visual mediums were taking precedence, and the programs fell by the   wayside. Individual shows can be found in later years, for example CBS   Mystery Theatre, but they are few and far between.


Ray Bradbury publishes ‘The Candle’, his first short story, in Weird Tales. He would go on to   write The Martian Chronicles (originally The Silver Locusts) in   1951 and Something Wicked This Way Comes in 1963 (admirably filmed by   Jack Clayton [1898] in 1963). Carnivals were never the same again. Other   achievements include the fascist future of Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and   his collections of poetically macabre short stories such as The October   Country (1956).


‘Kiss me and I’ll claw you to death’ ran the publicity tag for Val Lewton’s Cat People (directed by   Jacques Tourneur), produced, as all his work, to a list of titles provided   for him by his superiors at RKO. What RKO wasn’t expecting (and wasn’t sure   it wanted) was a series of movies of subtle horrors and meticulously   maintained atmosphere. Examples include Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson,   1945) and I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943) and the   mostly unrelated sequel Curse of the Cat People (Robert Wise and   Gunther Fritsch, 1944). Cat People was also remade with lots of sex,   Nastassja Kinski and a rather nice panther in 1982 (and Robert Bloch also   wrote a comic version for TV in 1973).


William Gaines takes over his   father’s publishing business and changes the name from Educational Comics to   Entertaining Comics. As well as SF and action titles they would also produce   America’s first and most famous horror comics, the likes of Tales from the   Crypt, Haunt of Fear and Vault of Horror, all edited by Al   Feldstein. EC became a cult sensation — until 1954, that is, when Dr.   Fredric Wertham’s infamous The Seduction of the Innocents: The Influence   of Comic Books on Today’s Youth saw print. The backlash was incredible,   EC was brought under the scrutiny of a US Senate Subcommittee and business   went downhill fast. Mad Magazine remains the only survivor of the   publishing house, though several of the old titles are seeing reprint. As   Gaines said in the nationally televised court case: ‘It would be just as   difficult to explain the harmless thrill of a horror story to a Dr. Wertham   as it would be to explain the sublimeness of love to a frigid old maid.’   Tributes to the EC tradition include the excellent Tales From the Crypt   television series and Creepshow (George Romero, 1982).


The first of the Abbot and Costello movies using the trappings of horror — A&C Meet Frankenstein   (not too mention Dracula and the Wolf Man), directed by Charles Barton. A   ‘fairly lively spoof which put an end to Universal’s monsters for a while’, [1930s].


One of the most successful   portraits of a futuristic totalitarian regime is presented in George Orwell’s   Nineteen Eighty-Four. The other main contender in this field of   political nightmares is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).


This is the magic year for horror on television, when everybody decided to convert their radio series   into a more visual medium. Lights Out had started as a series of   specials in 1946, and became a regular series, and Appointment with Fear and Suspense also made the transition. A less successful show of ’49   was Starring Boris Karloff, which turned into Mystery Theatre Starring   Boris Karloff, and then hit pay-dirt as Thriller. [1960s].


The main action this decade, in the cinema at least, was science fiction, but most of it fits snugly within   this assembly. It hadn’t taken long after World War II for another conflict   to appear and these films were a telling indication of Cold War tension (and,   by the way, of the rush of UFO sightings that began in earnest in 1947), in a   decade ‘in which anxiety, paranoia and complacency marched hand in hand.’   The themes were internal invasion, corruption and paranoid fantasies. The classic Invaders From Mars (William Cameron Menzies, 1953) and It   Came From Outer Space (Jack Arnold, 1953) are early examples (though,   really, the first sign was Spencer Gordon Bennet and Fred Brannon’s The   Purple Monster Strikes (1945)), and The Thing [1951] and Invasion of   the Body Snatchers [1956] are probably   the best of the breed. Only in War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953 [1896]) and Earth versus the Flying Saucers (Fred F.   Sears, 1956) were large scale invasions portrayed. Naturally enough,   post-holocaust movies started to appear, and it was also the decade of the   monster movie, giant ants, silly robots, hairy beasts (and mixtures of the   two), Neanderthal men, lizard-skin girl-lusting critters and on and on (Jack   Arnold’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is the best   example), mostly the product of science gone wrong. Mind you, the Japanese   had their own thoughts on that subject [1954].


Acclaimed British writer John Wyndham produces The Day of the Triffids, his best known work along   with 1957’s The Midwich Cuckoos. The books had reasonable film   adaptations in 1963 (Steve Sekely), 1977 (Wolf Rilla) and 1995 (John   Carpenter, the latter two known as The Village of the Damned).


The Thing is released, directed by Christian Nyby   (really under the control of Howard Hawks). It was an adaptation of J. W. Campbell’s ‘Who Goes There?’ (1938) and ‘contains the first space monster on   film, and is quite nimbly made.’ The story was re-adapted by John   Carpenter in 1982 (it looked real good, but did anyone understand it?).


The first performance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is given, and while its events are a metaphor   for contemporary American politics, it is also a fascinating look at the hysteria   of the witch hunts [1692]. Miller is the highly regarded mainstream writer, Death   of a Salesman (1949) possibly being his most famous play.


And Vincent Price appears in the film that truly established his horror reputation, André de Toth’s House of Wax. Price specialised in playing exquisitely evil villains, ranging   from the intermittently possessed Charles Dexter Ward (The Haunted Palace,   Roger Corman, 1963) to the Abominable Doctor Phibes (Robert Fuest,   1971 — the 1972 sequel’s pretty good too). Although very fond of camping it   up, he is the genii of some truly chilling moments in movies such as he   produced with director Corman [1960].


Gojira was the highly impressive start of a   long line, and if you don’t recognise Inoshiro Honda’s film, perhaps its   occidental title will give you a hint: Godzilla: King of the Monsters.   Well over twenty films have been devoted to the exploits of Godzilla, mostly   the product of Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya, and other examples followed:   Baragon, Ghidorah, Gaos, Gamera, Rodan, Manda, Mothra… All followed a   strict ritual of killer breath and city-destroying tendencies (Tokyo suffered   many ignominious deaths). And the reason for all this isn’t too hard to find   [1939-1945].   The US version added Raymond Burr as a reporter to the original, released in   1956. [1998]


The first modern vampire novel   is published — Richard Matheson’s I am Legend. This would have a   great influence on the horror writers of the seventies, and was filmed twice   (L’Ultimo Uomo della Terra (aka The Last Man on Earth, Sydney   Salkow and Ubalda Ragona, 1964) and The Omega Man, (Boris Sagal,   1971). I am Legend is perhaps the best resolved of the many looks at   Man Alone in the City. As well as a novelist Matheson has had great success   with short stories and writing for movies and television, including the   original Night Stalker (1972) and [1960].


Lord of the Flies by William Golding appears, and   proceeds to win the Nobel prize for literature, impressing and shocking with   the veneer of civilization slipping away from a group of   shipwrecked children. And a pig’s head. It’s had a couple of adaptations,   none of which we really want to mention.


Roald Dahl produces his first   collection of twisted tales, Someone Like You. Kiss Kiss followed   in ’59. This prolific author is also known for his children’s stories, Charlie   and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and Witches (1983), both having   been adapted into successful films. The word ‘revolting’ best sums up his   fiction (in the nicest possible way).


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel),   is a nicely written and complex tale (based on Jack Finney’s 1954 novel),   interrogating rather than reflecting the fears of its decade [1950s]. It was remade in   1978 by Philip Kaufman, and again by Abel Ferrara in 1993. ‘Invasion of   the Bodysnatchers is one of the worst titles imaginable created by the   pods that ran Allied Artists… McCarthy came up with a very good one which   he stole from Shakespeare. That title fit our picture perfectly: Sleep No  More‘ — Don Siegel (in Fangoria #4). The studio also had their   hand in downplaying the original powerful last scene.


Det Sjunde Inseglet, or The Seventh Seal, is Ingmar   Bergman’s classic about a knight (the ubiquitous Max von Sydow) playing chess   with Death during the plague. Inspired by paintings in the churches of   Bergman’s childhood, it is unsubtle but powerful, and not a little   disconcerting (the hacksaw was certainly a surprise). Not to be confused with   The Seventh Sign, a strange little flick with Demi Moore in it.


Wisconsin farmer Ed Gein is   arrested on suspicion of the murder of one Bernice Worden. His farmhouse is   duly checked and the remains of approximately fifteen women were found in   various small pieces. Dominated by his mother, her death led him to exhume   and dissect corpses, fashioning crude clothing from their skins. Whilst   talking candidly about his cannibalism and desecration, he was indignant   about a charge of theft [1959], [1974].


The magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland first appeared, edited by the ever-punning Forest J. Ackerman   and influencing an incredible number of later horror stars. It lasted 190   issues under Ackerman’s reign and didn’t last long without him — it now   appears as the occasional retrospective by the Ackerman himself.


Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, ‘perhaps the most critically respected genre   novel of the last fifty years has influenced just about everybody,   really. If they only knew it, for she is perhaps the opposite of the   archetypical horror author — both popular and critically acclaimed during   her life, but too soon forgotten. Other novels such as We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) and various short stories such as The   Summer People form a body of work both quiet and profoundly disturbing.   In 1963 Robert Wise created an extremely successful adaptation of Hill   House with The Haunting.

The Shower Scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Horror Thriller Psycho

The Shower Scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Horror Thriller Psycho


Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho is released, featuring an obese Norman Bates and his mother, all based on the   life of Ed Gein [1957]. The author has had innumerable successes with both   novels and short stories as well as television and movie work, and was the   first person to win the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1975.   Bloch also wrote Psycho 2 in 1983 (unrelated to Richard Franklin’s   film) and Psycho House in 1990. [1939]


The first of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is released, edited by Herbert van Thal, becoming one of   the most well-known and influential of anthologies. The series became annual   in 1962, and concentrated on new fiction from number five on. Van Thal   continued till his death in 1983, and was replaced by Clarance Paget. In 1990   Pan put out Dark Voices, a best of the series, and it is now   continuing under that name.


From the sublime to the ridiculous. William Castle obviously wanted people to come and see his   movies. Or did he? In The Tingler he wired the seats in the theatre   and delivered mild electric shocks to the audience. The King of Gimmicks (but   by no means the only one), his quest was to scare the pants off America, and   is also known for devising a system whereby the audience vote between   alternative endings. The film was Mr. Sardonicus (1961) and the choice   was to punish the villain or not. The unpunished version was never filmed. House   on Haunted Hill (William Malone, 1999) was the first movie from Dark   Castle Entertainment, a production company specifically created to remake   Castle’s Films.


Where Universal [1930s] had left off,   across the Atlantic, Hammer’s House of Horror took over. The small British   studio had existed since WWII, but gained its name with treatments of all the   old favourites, updated for modern audiences and more lenient censorship   laws. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee hit the screens in The Curse of   Frankenstein in ’57, as the doctor and monster respectively; the double   act was repeated in Dracula in ’58 and The Mummy in ’59; all   directed by Terence Fisher, who added Curse of the Werewolf in ’61.   Sequels followed until both producers and audience ran out of steam, though   the studio produced a great variety of product, including effective   psychological horror and the dark SF of the Quatermass films. Considered the   last gasp, The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (’74), was a   co-production with a Hong Kong studio and involved martial arts. In 1990 the   British band Warfare released Hammer Horror, an authorised Hammer concept   album. ‘With Universal one had always known that nothing ghastly would   assault the eye. With Hammer, one was constantly in danger from the sight of   dripping blood, rotting corpses and bits of brains, all in vivid color; to   say nothing of well endowed young women falling victim to the monster in various   stages of undress.’

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone


Rod Serling creates a modern   legend. Starting in 1959, The Twilight Zone lasted five seasons, and   was renowned for the care taken with its production. While the best-known of   its type, the Sixties had a number of successful anthology shows of more   interest to the horror fan. Tales of the Unexpected (1960), Thriller   (with Boris Karloff, 1960) and The Outer Limits (1963 — remade in   1996), which followed on from the success of Alfred Hitchcock Presents   [1960] in   1955. ([1949].


Alfred Hitchcock ‘apparently   had the time of his life’ directing his most successful film, Psycho,   based on [1959]   and forevermore typecasting Anthony Perkins. It was followed by various   sequels (number 2 is rather good) and a telemovie, Bate’s Motel   (Richard Rothstein, 1987). An incredibly prolific director, Hitchcock is   regarded as possibly the master, and definitely unique, in the field of   psychological horror. His distinctive style can be found as early as 1926 (The   Lodger) and as late as 1972 (Frenzy, ‘a closed and coldly negative   vision of human possibility’).   Other works include Vertigo   (1958, adapted from D’entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas   Narcejac, though the book was written specifically for Hitchcock) and ‘The   Birds’ (1963, based on Daphne du Maurier’s story. People still haven’t   stopped using Hitchcock’s imagery in their own films [1960s].


And just to give Hammer a run   for their money, horror auteur Roger Corman shoots the first of his   adaptations of Poe [1833]. House of Usher stars Vincent Price [1953] and was written for the screen by Richard Matheson [1954], and combinations of the three proceeded through The   Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Premature Burial (1961) and The   Masque of the Red Death (1964), among others. This cult figure was the   master of the cheap budget and the quick shoot, but was also responsible for   discovering Francis Coppola [1963], Joe   Dante, and Martin Scorsese. Corman had already directed such delights as Attack   of the Crab Monsters in 1957 and the original Little Shop of Horrors   in 1959. He was still happily doing what he does best in 1991, with an   adaptation of Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound, ‘pure Corman’.


The release of Peeping Tom (just preceding Psycho [1960]) causes fear and consternation among the viewing   public, and effectively ended director Michael Powell’s film career in   England. The reason is the film’s always surprising, intelligent and nasty   look at an innocuous young man who takes voyeurism to new lengths. Similar   ground was covered in Britain later, to critical success, in William Wyler’s   classic The Collector (1965).


Mondo Cane (also known as A Dog’s Life),   the brain-child of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, is a key   precursor to the cannibal film [1979], showing a montage of bizarre and sometimes horrific   events from around the world. Not only a commercial success, it   garnered an Oscar nomination for best song.


Dementia 13 is the first major movie of Francis   Ford Coppola, a powerful and varied director. Other genre outings include the   wonderful Apocalypse Now (1979), and don’t we wish he’d kept the same   style for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)?. Dementia 13 itself is   a strange creation, and quite effective. Influenced by Psycho [1960] it also contained   elements that makes it one of the embryo slasher flicks [1974].


America enters the Vietnam war   in earnest, President Johnson receiving permission from Congress to take ‘all   necessary action’ against the Communist regime in North Vietnam [1970s].


John Astin and Carolyn Jones are the stars of a new TV show, The Addams Family, based on the   cartoons of Charles Addams [1932]. Unlike The Munsters, ‘essentially a straight-forward   Stupid Dad comedy,’   which also premiered in the   same year, as well as numerous cartoons featuring the trappings of horror   that would follow, The Addams Family was a truly macabre program,   maintaining the essential dignity of its characters in their naïve   interactions with the outside world. It contained sixty-four episodes,   running in American prime-time till September 1966. A guest appearance on Scooby-Doo   lead to an animated series between ’73 and ’75 (with a young Jodie Foster as   Pugsley) and movies were made in 1991 and 1993, directed by Barry   Sonnenfield. They were purportedly based on the original cartoons and not the   TV show, but there is some disagreement.

Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby

Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby


Ira Levin publishes Rosemary’s Baby. This is the first prominent sign of a more introspective form of   horror, building on the paranoia of the 1950s – fear of self and invaders within society (referred to   by various sources as ‘Watergate Horror’). A faithful film adaptation follows   in [1968].


George Andrew Romero invents the   Zombie movie (or at least gives it life), with Night of the Living Dead,   a claustrophobic, effective and really cheap movie. Direct sequels are the   classy Dawn of the Dead (1979) and Day of the Dead (1985),   whereas the film was remade in 1990, written by Romero and directed by the   original FX creator, Tom Savini. Dan O’Bannon continued the tradition in Return   of the Living Dead (1985) (with one dire sequel, and then the   encouragingly straight ROTLD3). Still not content, the prolific Skipp,   and Spector have edited short story anthologies roughly set in Romero’s   universe (The Book of the Dead 1 and 2, 1989 and 1990). Other less   official follow-ups abound. Romero’s ability to realistically portray   less-than-realistic subjects is also shown in one of the great vampire films,   Martin (1977).


Rosemary’s Baby is Polish director Roman Polanski’s   best regarded movie, winning an Academy Award for Ruth Gordon as Supporting   Actress [1967].   A controversial figure, Polanski has left a large mark on his chosen medium,   showing great variety in subject matter and style — from black humor to   commercial thriller. Other credits include Repulsion in ’65, The   Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, Your Teeth are in My Neck in ’67,   Le Locataire (or The Tenant, 1976) and the more recent Death   and the Maiden (1995). The director has also shown some skill in front of   the camera, including Guiseppe Tornatore’s Une Pure Formalite‘ (1994).   ‘An entire generation has forgotten the debt modern horror films owe to Roman   Polanski, the man who dragged the beast from the depths of collective   unconsciousness to the surface where it has festered successfully ever since.’


This is the decade where film really started to see how far it could go in terms of gritty and sordid realism as America reeled from the images and their eventual loss of the Vietnam War. As Robert de Niro so prosaically put it: ‘Each night… I have to clean the come off the back seat. Some nights I clean off the blood.’ Outside the genre, violent movies were drawing the crowds, the like of Taxi Driver, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter, following on from 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde. It was also the decade of the (s)exploitation movie, though for the horror fan the most notable of these is Spermula, by its title alone (we’re not sure if The Sexorcist counts).


While there are certainly individual novels of great merit in the genre up to this point, horror fiction had been dominated by the short story since the demise of the Gothic Novel in the previous century. That all changed in this decade, and the novel would soon be the dominant form. Preceded by such successes as Levin [1967], Fred Mustard Stewart’s The Mephisto Waltz (1969) and Blatty [1971], the deluge began in 1973, soon finding Stephen King [1974] as a champion.


The re-growth of the popularity of horror on the stage started slowly this decade, the first real indication being Don Taylor’s The Exorcism (1975), playing at London’s Comedy Theatre, starring Honor Blackman and Brian Blessed. The show didn’t last long due the death of another lead, Mary Ure, but received rave reviews. The Rocky Horror Show [1973] and other successes had already occurred, including major adaptations of Blithe Spirit (originally by Noel Coward in 1942) and Sherlock Holmes (1974), with America taking the hint with The Crucifer of Blood (Paul Giovanni) three years later. Another American version of Dracula (1979) [1927] was a ‘miracle of production design and barely concealed eroticism’, though the English tour somehow turned high drama into comic absurdity. This all set the stage, so to speak, for greater things to come, in the [1980s]


A critical year for all death and speed metal, gloom and doom rock fans with the release of Black Sabbath’s first album. Make all the cracks you want about their imbecility, their inability to play their instruments beyond the most rudimentary of levels, their pretentiousness, whatever — the fact remains that there could have been no satanic/death/end of the world/crazed killer from beyond the pale metal without these Birmingham lads.


Getting the whole gritty-film-thing off to a fine start was Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, based on Anthony Burgess’ novel of 1962. With its alienating view of rape, ultra-violence and Beethoven, it engendered a rather large amount of controversy, but also carried its own message about the rights of the individual. Not strictly a horror story, excess pushes it into the genre. Stanley Kubrick’s other major horrific foray was The Shining (1980). ‘At 14 [David Duchovny] saw A Clockwork Orange “which didn’t necessarily make me want to be an actor, but did make me want to be a criminal!”‘ [interview in The Sun-Herald, 21/1/96].

The Exorcist

The Exorcist


William Peter Blatty publishes his thoughtful and theological novel The Exorcist [1973]. It ‘is as superior to most books of its kind as an Einstein equation is to an accountant’s column of figures.’ A rather good sequel, Legion, was written in 1983.


Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left was loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s Jungfraukallan (1959, aka The Virgin Spring, winner of a Best Foreign Film Oscar), but became a notorious film in its own right, detailing an intricate revenge on three rapists. It created a tradition followed by Mario Bava’s LHonL II (1972, really Twitch of the Death Nerve (or Carnage, or Bay of Blood…)), House by the Lake (William Fruet, 1977), the ‘wildly misanthropic’ Last House on Dead End Street (Victor Juno, 1977), The New House on the Left (Evans Isle, 1978) and Don’t Go in the House (Joseph Ellison, 1980). Yes, House (Steve Miner, 1986) is theoretically another example (it even shared Sean S. Cunningham as Producer with the original), but is just embarrassing. Wes Craven has directed a number of films in the genre including The Hills Have Eyes I (’77) and II (’85), and with other successes such as [1984] and [1996] has a popular reputation. ‘Director Craven now considers [The Last House on the Left] so grim that it even shocks him.’


The Exorcist is made into a movie, written by Blatty and directed by William Friedkin. It becomes the top grossing movie up to that date (so to speak), and won Blatty an Oscar, along with Best Sound (and eight other nominations) and was a wonderful movie. It was followed by an expensive but somewhat silly sequel in 1977, then Blatty returned in top form for Exorcist III in 1990. A re-edit of the original appeared in 2000.


Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show opens for 50p a ticket at the Royal Court Theatre, quickly becoming a hit and ultimately achieving true cult status. The camp production is a send-up of [1950s] SF and horror movies. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a celluloid version with the same director (Jim Sharman) and most of the cast of the original was a commercial failure in 1975, but has since also achieved a cult standing. The sequel, Shock Treatment (Sharman, 1981) has done less well, but is worth checking out.

Stephen King's Carrie Ushers in a New Era in Contemporary Horror Fiction and Film

Stephen King’s Carrie Ushers in a New Era in Contemporary Horror Fiction and Film


A Maine author gives up trying to write science fiction and suspense novels and tries again by padding one of his horror novellas to double size. Carrie becomes an instant best-seller, and launched a career that would see Stephen King become one of the most widely read modern authors (‘whatever he writes is mainstream fiction.’) Other novels include ‘Salem’s Lot (1975), The Stand (1978/1990) and It (1986), and he has also had considerable success with short fiction (for example Skeleton Crew in 1985), novellas (Different Seasons in 1982) and non-fiction (Danse Macabre in 1981), as well as more experimental forms — the serial novel The Green Mile (1996) and the e-book Riding the Bullet (2000). His sharp eye for detail and character have proved somewhat resilient to being adapted for the screen, though there are notable exceptions [1990]. A more spectacular flop, however, was the 1988 stage musical of Carrie which lost its producers some eight million dollars. Because of its popularity King’s fiction has become centre stage in the American debate over censorship, particularly within schools, though Omni Magazine says on the matter his works are ‘almost simplistically humane and moral.’ Some of the pre-Carrie novels were later published under the name of Richard Bachman.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Ushers in the "Splatter" Horror Genre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Ushers in the “Splatter” Horror Genre


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper) is perhaps the most notorious of the slasher genre. This is the second important work to be based on the case of Ed Gein [1957] (other examples are Three on a Meathook (William Girdler, 1973) and ‘probably the most clinical and closest to the truth’ Deranged (Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby, 1974 — not to be confused with 1987’s twisted study of trauma shock directed by Chuck Vincent)). Halliwell says of Massacre, it is ‘nothing but shocks and gore, but the beginning of the wave of such deplorable movies…’ whereas McCarty reckons that ‘rather than gobs of graphic gore, it’s the pervading atmosphere of violence and depravity… that makes it seem so relentless.’


Harlan Ellison is awarded the Edgar award for his short ‘The Whimper of Whipped Dogs’ (a story unlikely to have been commissioned by the New York Tourist Bureau). The enfant terrible of the modern era has had great success in a multitude of forms and mediums, proving himself ‘one of the field’s most controversial yet talented writers.’


Young Frankenstein combines Mel Brooks’ usual silliness with a reverent recreation of the mood (and actual sets) of the [1930s] Frankenstein with a rather strange and popular result. Indeed, from a list compiled in 1983 it was the fourth most popular horror film made since 1950 (behind Jaws [1975], The Exorcist [1973] and Jaws II (1978)). Mel Brooks is possibly more interesting for being the Executive Producer for David Lynch’s The Elephant Man [1990].



Jaws, written by Peter Benchley from his own novel, saw the coming-of-age of the monster movie, and became the top-grossing movie of the seventies. It is director Steven Spielberg’s purest entry into the horror genre, though Duel (1971), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Minority Report (2002) are pretty damn funky. Jaws won Oscars for John William’s music, Sound and Editing. As at least somebody in Hollywood believes, when you’re on a good thing, stick to it: various sequels followed. ‘Depending upon how you look at it, this is either a poor man’s Moby Dick or a rich man’s Creature from the Black Lagoon.


The album Welcome To My Nightmare is released, including Steven and the title track, possibly rock musician Alice Cooper’s best known work (particularly as it was succeeded by his stint in an asylum). This was succeeded by the From the Inside album (1978). Cooper makes the occasional cameo in movies such as John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness (1987) and as Freddy Krueger’s dad (not necessarily one of the hundred maniacs).

Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice Ushers In a New Era in Eroticized Vampire Lore

Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice Ushers In a New Era in Eroticized Vampire Lore


Interview with the Vampire is released by Anne Rice. Adding far more to the mythos than ‘Salem’s Lot, it heralded the new direction of Vampire fiction, portraying a vibrant and truly alive community of the undead. Anne Rice became a prominent horror author, her work including a number of direct sequels to Interview, including The Vampire Lestat (1985). She has also had success with historical fiction, and soft and hard-core pornography. Meanwhile the historical vampire novel was also being successfully treated with series from Les Daniels (starting with The Black Castle) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (starting with Hotel Transylvania) both from 1978. Neil Jordan directed a successful version of Interview in 1994, and Michael Rymer took on The Queen of the Damned in 2002.


Dario Argento releases perhaps his best movie, Suspiria, though Profundo Russo, aka Deep Red (also 1976), is another contender, and we’re personally fond of Phenomena (1983) and Opera (1990). A master of style and occasionally substance, Argento moves from realistic crime fare, such as his earlier work and Tenebrae (1982), to the ultimate in baroque slasher movies. He is one of the best-known of a large number of European film-makers who explored the boundaries of horror in the Seventies and Eighties, along with the like Mario Bava (for example Black Sunday, 1960) and the amazingly prolific Jesse Franco. ‘It’s like when you come out of your apartment in the morning, and the sky’s just so blue you have to roll your head around to look at it. That’s the way [Argento’s] films make you feel.’

They Came From Within, aka Shivers (among others), is an early work of Canadian director David Cronenberg, one of the best modern directors of understated psychological horror (well, and overstated…). This and his Rabid (1977) take Romero’s premise [1968] and add a healthy dose of sexual release. His unique visions continued in The Brood (1979), Dead Ringers (1988, an adaptation of Bari Wood and Jack Geasland’s 1977 Twins, at least for legal purposes), The Naked Lunch (1991, sort of an adaptation of the controversial William S. Burroughs’ 1959 novel), and Crash (1996 — even more controversial, from Ballard’s novel), though he is possibly best known for his remake of The Fly (1986 — winning an Oscar for make-up). Cronenberg also made a convincing psychiatrist/psychopath in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (1990), [1987].


The young child as evil being has another success — David Seltzer’s The Omen is released (directed by the prolific Richard Donner). Seltzer has a widely quoted, and over-rated, remark about only doing it for the money. It won an Academy Award for its music. A series of novels detailed the cinematic plans for the series, which evaporated due to falling returns after number three (which at least let us see Sam Neill as the Anti-Christ). There was also a competent if unambitious fourth entry.


And in the master’s chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can’t kill the beast
Hotel California, The Eagles


The Swiss artist Hans Rudi Giger opens his ‘Necronomicon I’ exhibition in Europe. It is banned in France and Germany for the supposedly pornographic contents of his ‘landscapes’. However, it was their quality of horrific inhumanity and macabre industrialism that attracted international attention and landed him a particularly successful design contract [1979]. In 1984, the American punk group The Dead Kennedys included a Penis Landscape as a poster in their album Frankenchrist; to have it also banned. ‘Necronomicon II’ was exhibited in 1985, and he also did design work for the film Species (Roger Donaldson, 1995).


Halloween introduced the world to Michael Myers, one of the classic slashers, and indeed it was the first popular indication of the shift from sordism to more mainstream or less serious works as characterised by [1980]. It was the work of talented director/writer/musician John Carpenter, whose other genre outings include The Fog (1980), The Thing (1982) [1951], and Village of the Damned (1995) [1951]. Halloween was designed to be the first in a series of movies unrelated apart from their date, but after (currently) six sequels following the exploits of Michael Myers, only Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Tommy Lee Wallace, 1982) remains of the plan.


Alien, ‘nothing less than a gigantic “Boo!”‘ They were trying to film Dune but ended up with the most Lovecraftian movie ever made (certainly more so than any of the adaptations), with no small thanks to Mr. Giger [1978]. And the actors were just as surprised at the chestburster scene as everybody else was. It was directed by Ridley Scott, who also gave us Blade Runner (1982) (not to mention a couple of non-horrific but nonetheless wonderful movies on the side). Alien was followed by the very different, but still influential, Aliens (James Cameron, 1986); Alien3 (David Fincher, 1992) was good-looking but disappointing, and that goes double for Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997). The original won Best Visual Effects for its year. Dark Horse Comics gave the acidic critters their own title, including the cross-over Aliens Vs Predator (1990).


Also released was Mad Max, an independent Australian movie that created a genre. It was the first feature of George Miller, a former doctor who had became interested in the mentality of using cars as a weapon whilst working in casualty (as opposed, he says, to the machinations of a gun culture). While at heart an action movie, this post-apocalyptic melee contains elements of horror not present in the two sequels (1981 and 1985). As well as these, Miller went on to more mainstream successes (including Witches of Eastwick (1987)), but isn’t the George Miller who directed Man From Snowy River.


Another sub-genre was brought under scrutiny this year with Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato), one of the first films banned in Britain in the ‘video nasty’ cases [1982]. Though cannibalism had been a part of the movies almost since its inception, the Cannibal Movie is of a specific type, involving primitive tribes, displayed as filthy and almost sub-human, with explicit savagery and often the undercurrent of soft porn. As well as [1961], other examples include Deep River Savages (Umberto Lenzi, 1972), Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals (Joe D’Amato, 1976) and Prisoner of the Cannibal God (Sergio Martino, 1978).


A new fantasy magazine, Fantastica, is sued by Fantastic Films and forced to change its name. After four issues of the original concept that simply wasn’t being read, the format was changed to fit in with the title. Originally edited by Bob Martin, Fangoria is currently the best-selling horror ‘zine, and with a predilection for lurid images, snappy captions and well-written articles it’s still going strong. There were other film-orientated ‘zines, like GoreZone and the British FEAR, but Fangoria has outlasted them all.


This is when ‘the tide ebbed’, certainly in the genre’s biggest crowd-puller, the cinema. Horror was losing a lot of its mainstream appeal, becoming the domain of the teenager, whereas the grittiness of the seventies became the cartoon violence and escapism of the eighties. The ever-increasing realism of special effects led in one direction to movies where watching flying bits of body became the point, though there are more than a few examples of the power of the medium in capable hands. Despite this, the horror novel had now become firmly established with both quality work and a plethora of formularized shocks (Dean R. Koontz being a prime example). Along the way the British ‘mature-age’ comic industry came into its own, creating its own cult following [1984].

Sweeney Todd---Don't Eat That Pie!

Sweeney Todd—Don’t Eat That Pie!


After the re-emergence of horror on stage in the [1970s], producers became more confidant, and we started seeing bigger budgeted shows, starting with Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in 1980 [1840s], and [1986]; but not everything was a success. We have already commented on Carrie‘s demise [1974], and musical versions of A Clockwork Orange (1988, penned by Anthony Burgess, who later condemned it [1971]) and Metropolis (Michael White, 1989) also failed to draw crowds. The Woman in Black (Stephen Mallatratt, 1989), however, is a big-budgeted and long running-show, a ‘stunning adaptation’ of a novel by Susan Hill (1983).


Friday the 13th, directed by Sean S. Cunningham, is released. The first in an ever-increasing series it is perhaps most notable for not having a hockey-masked killer called Jason. Still, it was a slaughter-spree among teenagers at a holiday camp and ‘propelled the independent, low-budget splatter movie into the big time.’ Jason X in 2001 was the tenth in the series, and since then he’s met Freddy (2003). Frank Mancuso, producer of the series since number 2, is also the force behind the otherwise unrelated Friday the 13th TV series (1987).


Thomas Harris releases Red Dragon, creating Dr. Hannibal Lector, one of the most successful (if non-realistic) portraits of a serial killer, and a precursor of the craze to come. Harris’ success is the combination of a sparse but effective narrative with a chilling eye for detail, a trend continued in the sequels The Silence of the Lambs (1988) [1991] and Hannibal (1999). Michael Mann adapted Red Dragon as Manhunter (1986) masterfully, and Brett Ratner provided a more commercial but still effective version in 2002.


An American Werewolf in London, directed by John Landis, is, um, strange. It also received an Oscar for Best Make-up. ‘Any resemblance to characters living, dead or undead is purely coincidental.’ Landis’ Innocent Blood (1992) didn’t do so well in the US and was retitled A French Vampire in America, in Australia at least. This film almost gets an entry of its own for not feeling obliged to kill the vampire in the final act — but while it’s great fun it simply doesn’t have the same sense of dignity that made the original such a success. An American Werewolf in Paris (Anthony Waller, 1997) didn’t have much bite.


Horror enters the reasonably new field of role-playing games with Sandy Peterson’s Call of Cthulhu, released by Chaosium. Based on Lovecraft’s fiction, and with an emphasis on atmosphere and characterisation, it became one of the most popular (non-D&D) RPGs available [1927]. Other examples of horror in role-playing are Mayfair’s Chill (1990) and White Wolf’s Vampire (1991). Peterson had an even bigger success as designer of the computer game Doom.]


In England several movies were proceeded against by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the first of the ‘video nasty’ cases. The movies were Cannibal Holocaust [1979], Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, 1979), I Spit On Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1980), Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap, Umberto Lenzi, 1980) and SS Experiment Camp (originally Lager SSadis Kastrat Kommadatur, or SSadistic Castration Camp Commander, Sergio Garrone, 1976). The court action was successful, and the videos banned. This is but one indication of the shift in public awareness of horror since the Seventies.


With a little publicity from Stephen King, an obscure film made in 1980 becomes another ‘instant classic’ of horror. In Evil Dead, director Sam Raimi creates a tangible air of menace with some superb camera work, even if the cast are hard to tell apart. The hilarious sequel appeared in 1987, and we wish they had kept the original title of the increasingly separate third entry — Medieval Dead. Sam Raimi was also instrumental in the production of Shaun Cassidy’s American Gothic, and directed The Gift (2000).


Clive Barker, a London playwright, releases his short story collection The Books of Blood. They are the first mainstream success of one of the most prominent and important figures over the next decade, fuelling controversy about the limits horror should abide by. ‘For in spite of his spectacularly warped imagery, deadpan black comedy, and morbidly fetishistic sexuality, Clive Barker is essentially a nihilist.’ The Books are soon followed by the novel The Damnation Game (1985), whereas Weaveworld (1987) is the first of a number of dark fantasy novels, the best of which is Imajica (1991). [1987].


Alan Moore, already an accomplished writer in the British comics scene, takes over the regular Swamp Thing title at issue 20 for DC. Along with his V For Vendetta (with David Lloyd) and Watchmen (with Dave Gibbons), he was able to show a innovative and enormously intricate style, with subjects ranging from Super-Heroes, fascist dictatorships, pure horror and the occasional pirate ship. His popularity led DC to hire more British writers for the mature-age, horror-orientated market and in 1993 Karen Berger grouped this particular style under the Vertigo imprint. Moore had long since left for other things (including From Hell [1913] and his subsequent work in the so-called America’s Best Comics imprint), and Neil Gaiman’s revolutionary Sandman was the star, among notables such as Hellblazer. Gaiman went onto success in other mediums with American Gods.

Nightmare on Elm Street Epitomizes the "Slasher" Sub-Genre

Nightmare on Elm Street Epitomizes the “Slasher” Sub-Genre


Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is a movie that takes itself seriously, in direct contrast to the cult figure of wisecracking (and teenager-slicing) Freddy that grew out of it [1972]. Strangely, of the currently seven films in the series, only the odd numbered movies are worth watching, though the first and last (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare) are much more than that, perhaps forming a trilogy with Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988). Of various strange offshoots (including a TV series), the film Freddy vs Jason (2003) was the most successful, and kind of fun.


Video technology for home use had been available since the late Seventies, and started becoming an option for movies not deemed worth a cinema release. This year the obscure Blood Cult claimed to be the first horror film designed explicitly for the video market. The trend caught on, but instead of encouraging a wider variety of less-mainstream work, a deluge of sequels and remakes was the result, perhaps as a result of the monopolisation of the production and distribution companies. Troma and Full Moon studios offered alternatives with their distinctive styles, managing to mix sequels with the distribution of more innovative work, but neither could be said to be producing memorable successes, perhaps the best being Stuart Gordon’s work with Full Moon.


The word ‘splatterpunk’ is invented by David J. Schow at a party, and refers to fiction that pushes the limits of taste into gory and sexual excess, a cousin to the SF cyberpunk movement, both of which were anticipated by John Shirley. The modern trend perhaps dates back to The Exorcist [1973], and Clive Barker kicked it into high-gear with [1984]. Sammon lists three main influences: the splatter movies of Romero [1968], Argento [1976] and the like, punk rock and video pornography. The ‘movement’ caused a great deal of argument in the late Eighties, and led to the erotic horror thing [1989].


Gothic, directed by Ken Russell. It was based on the events of [1816] using, among other things, images from [1781]. This British director has long been known for his vivid film-making, notable examples being The Devils (1971, based on Aldous Huxley’s 1952 The Devils of Loudun), Altered States (1980, from a novel by Paddy Chayevsky (who disowned the movie)), and the hilarious Lair of the White Worm (1989), [1897].


Dan Simmons becomes one of the most powerful new-comers in the field with Song of Kali, ‘quirky, tough-minded, literary horror-fiction’ followed by Carrion Comfort in 1989. As well as success in the horror field his SF is getting him noticed — Hyperion won the 1990 Hugo award.


And all the achievements of [1911] and [1925] pall, on the side of sheer exposure and returns, to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera. With lyrics by Charles Hart, with Richard Stilgoe, and stage effects one imagines would mirror William Beckford’s wilder dreams, it expresses all the overpowering romanticism of its source.

Clive Barker's Hellraiser---Back to Cosmic Horror

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser—Back to Cosmic Horror


Hellraiser marked Clive Barker’s entry into the movies in a spectacular fashion (well, he was involved in Underworld (George Pavlou, 1985) and Rawhead Rex (Pavlou, 1986), which is why he took up directing. And then there were his much earlier but only recently released efforts, Salome (1973) and ‘The Forbidden’ (1975-8). Oh well). Under all that gore is a very well-made, powerful (and oddly poetic) movie, unfortunately the start of an increasingly irrelevant series. Clive Barker adapted the story from his own Hellbound Heart, and then went on to direct the far more accessible Nightbreed (based on Cabal), and the disappointing Lord of Illusions (1995). Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992, based on Barker’s The Forbidden) and sequel show the dangers of trying to mesh Barker’s work with more mainstream horror ideas. Resurrected lover indeed.

Clive Barker: Stage and Screen Nihilist?

Clive Barker: Stage and Screen Nihilist?


Peter Jackson succeeds the atmospheric The Quiet Earth (Geoff Murphy, 1985) as the voice of horror from New Zealand with Bad Taste, the first of (currently) three splatter movies (with Meet the Feebles in 1989 and Braindead in 1992) from this popular and cult figure. His claims as his two principle influences George Romero [1968] and Buster Keaton. However, these movies didn’t prepare the world for his excellent treatment of a 1950’s murder case in Heavenly Creatures (1994) — or a movie or three about hobbits.

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson


The first of the Hot Blood series is released, edited by Jeff Gelb and Lonn Friend. The meshing of explicit sex and sexuality with the horror field came of age, and has become the most obvious trend of written Nineties genre fiction. Still mostly collections of short stories (though, more accurately, it’s the anthologies that are getting the label attached) further examples include Dan Simmons’ Lovedeath (1993), Dark Love, 1995, edited by Nancy A Collins and others, and, perhaps the most successful so far, Ellen Datlow’s 1994 anthology Little Deaths.


For the horror genre as an entity, the Nineties seemed to be a decade of compromise and self-consciousness. It split into increasingly self-contained factions — the vampire genre, young adult novels, the production-line sequel machine, the indulgent nostalgia market, and even the extreme end of the business seemed to draw in on itself. Even the wonderful successes of the late ’90s ([1996] and [1999]) have seemed to have little effect outside their particular niche.

What did deliver the goods? The best results seem to be come from those who can play with genre, and still keep a straight face: Jeunet and Caro’s marvellous double Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, Michael Almereyda’s dark comic adaptation of Dracula [1897], Nadja, Gregory Widen’s The Prophecy and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense all manage some intriguing twists. We also have some favourite authors of our own — David J Schow, Tanith Lee, Joe R Lansdale, even Stephen Donaldson, all take an intelligent and non-restrictive attitude to what horror actually is.

Indeed, what the Nineties did offer was the chance to redefine the genre — present real straight-edged vehemence coupled with an intelligence and knowledge to explore consequences, unbound by convention. It was being shown in the late Eighties, the sort of attitude that gave Simmons’ Song of Kali, Harris’ Silence of the Lambs [1981] and John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer their sheer power. It was shown in the likes of Mike Leigh’s Naked, Geoffrey Wright’s Romper Stomper and Metal Skin, Rolf De Heer’s Bad Boy Bubby, and the novels of people like Kathe Koja. With all this, not even Hollywood was immune… [1999]


Twin Peaks, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, proved that horror can still be successful on television, though it was eventually suspended due to a lack of ratings. The show ran for thirty episodes over two seasons and was followed by a rather good (if not quite as expected) movie in 1992. The show built on a great many sources, including the dramas Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944) and Born to Kill (Robert Wise, 1947 — featuring a victim called Laura Palmer), and has even been seen as a study of Marilyn Monroe’s death. While Mark Frost has since became a successful novelist (starting with The List of 7), David Lynch, remains one of America’s most innovative film-makers, with works such as Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive (2001).


Misery, (nicely directed by Rob Reiner from King’s novel [1974]) wins an academy award for its lead actress Kathy Bates, the first acting Oscar awarded for a horror film since [1931]. Followed by The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1995), Kathy Bates in Dolores Claiborne (Taylor Hackford, 1995) and The Green Mile (Frank Darabont, 1999), the 1990s have started treating King’s plots, and mood, with respect. There has even been some watchable TV mini-series (Mick Garris’ The Stand in particular).


Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is released to popular and critical acclaim and much debate. Whether or not a ‘meretricious piece of sleaze,’ it is superbly written and directed (but the book’s better). It won Best Actor, Actress, Director, Film and Adapted Screenplay in the 1991 Academy Awards. It was followed by Hannibal (2001), a brave attempt to film the unfilmable. [1981].


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is a lovingly detailed look at the world of 1980’s commercialism through the eyes of a psychotic murderer, a book ‘gutted…, becoming a media scandal, at the hands largely of those who had not read it or — worse still — had read excerpts only.’ The book was filmed in 2000. With The Informers in 1994, Ellis introduced a more explicit horror metaphor for his vision of universal soul death.


With a distinct lack of original genre successes in early ’90s cinema, it seems horror fans (among many others) were more than happy to follow the career of Quentin Tarantino, debuting in style with Reservoir Dogs. Powerful and disturbing, it has been followed by a selection of movies, from QT-scripted True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993), Oliver Stone’s enormously fun re-mix of Natural Born Killers (1994) and then the undiluted vision of Pulp Fiction (1994), that are perhaps most notable for having such a wide variety of style and effect. His first official horror entry — Robert Rodriguez’s From Dust till Dawn (1996) — showed he should stick to making gangster flicks. ‘Quentin, I walked out of your movie [Reservoir Dogs], but I want you to take that as a complement. See, we all deal in fantasy. There’s no such thing as werewolves or vampires. You’re dealing with real-life violence, and I can’t deal with that.’ [Rick Baker, in Quentin Tarantino: Shooting From the Hip].

R.L. Stine's Goosebumps---Over 300 Million Copies Sold!

R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps—Over 300 Million Copies Sold!—-Who Said Kids Don’t Read!


Goosebumps, by Robert Lawrence Stine was the publishing phenomena of the decade, shifting an enormous volume of material and generating a number of less successful spin-offs (such as the TV show in 1995). For the first time in a long time, people were reminded that kids do like to read , with the series racking up sales of 300 million volumes. There were many other authors who also rode the wave, perhaps the best being Christopher Pike (who’s Sati and The Last Vampire are excellent novels). The more recent, and more spectacular, success of Joanne Kathleen Rowling’s Harry Potter series (fantasy with a dark edge) shows it hasn’t stopped yet, and there is interesting work for a variety of age groups, from the studied but compelling tragedies of Lemony Snicket, to the grandeur of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. Various authors’ attempts at adult fiction (Stine’s Superstitions and Pike’s A Season of Passage) did not translate.


Chris Carter’s The X-Files had the ability, at its best, to walk into a cliche and then twist it into something wonderful. Appearing at the tail end of the direct Twin Peaks [1990] influences, it has now started a whole lot more of its own — conspiracies and pseudo-science are all the rage, whilst Carter added his own serial-killer of the week Millennium to the mix [1997]. Meanwhile, the other shows that dared carve out their own niche on our screens didn’t last as well, but did some good things — American Gothic and Forever Knight were the best, and even Kindred had… potential. Then came Buffy. The X-Files movie (Rob Bowman) appeared in 1998.


The Scream series at the cinema and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) on TV provided the new look of horror — media-savvy, slick, self-referential, hugely popular — and occasionally scary (Buffy season 2-3 in particular contained more than a few chilling moments). They are also significant in providing stardom to their creators and principal writers, Kevin Williamson and Joss Whedon — a rare (and wonderful) thing. A link to the past is provided by Wes Craven [1972] who directed the Scream series, and also the similarly referential New Nightmare in 1994. Despite all this success, most follow-ups, even by Williamson and Whedon (such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Angel) have been less interesting.


The imminence of millennium’s end was not without its influence, providing a couple of SF-type things about the date itself (the best of which was Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)), but also the return of the religious film in a big way. This was preceded by The Prophecy (Gregory Widen, 1995) and made more obvious with the like of Stigmata (Rupert Wainwright, 1999) and, God help us, Arnold Schwarzenegger in End of Days (Peter Hyams, 1999). Russell Mulcahy’s Resurrection (1999) was another interesting contender. There were various interesting anthologies (Douglas Winter’s Millennium was good reading (renamed Revelations in the States), but why did it only cover 100 years?) and a world-wide multi-billion dollar panic as well. To our mind, the best of the lot started in this year — season two of Chris Carter’s already promising follow-up to The X-Files [1993] called, funnily enough, Millennium. Under James Wong and Glen Morgan, the show explored a multitude of possibilities in an always-fascinating fashion, leading to a spectacular climax (and then there was season three, which we don’t really want to talk about).


Although better known internationally for its giant monster movies [1954], Japanese cinema has a strong tradition of more subtle horrors. This year, Hideo Nakata’s Ringu appeared, achieving great success at home and abroad. Other recent examples are Sogo Ishii’s Enjeru dasuto (aka Angel Dust, 1994), Takashi Miike’s Oodishon (Audition, 1999) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (Pulse, 2001). They are challenging and evocative films, often involving shifting perception, alienation and growing dread. Ringu was based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki, and there is a complex web of alternates, including remakes, sequels and a prequel (Gore Verbinski did the US version). Hideo Nakata has kept busy, including the excellent Honogurai mizu no soko kara (Dark Water) in 2002.


This year, the neo-realism bubbling under the surface of the decade became mainstream, and the results were extraordinary. David Fincher’s Fight Club and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty were non-compromising, non-genre cinema made with clarity. Of course, there has never been a lack of intelligent drama, but these share with horror the sense of danger and wonder in the transgression of limits. There were a number of direct precedents, such as Fincher’s earlier work (in particular Se7en, 1995) and Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998), and numerous other signs as well [1990s]. US television drama was pushing new boundaries, and works like Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze) showed a similar attitude with more fanciful fare. The writer of American Beauty, Alan Ball, went on to do the series Six Feet Under (but we prefer The Sopranos).

The Blair Witch Project: New Media in Old Bottles

The Blair Witch Project: New Media in Old Bottles


The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez) proved that if slick and self-referential weren’t strict requirements for success, then perhaps media-savvy was. Whilst at heart a gimmick, it did not compromise itself, and scores many points for simply doing its best to scare people. The sequel arrived in 2000.

The Essential Works of Horror Fiction

Novels by Year:


The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole


The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe


Frankenstein – Mary Shelley


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson


The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde


The King in Yellow – Robert Chambers


Dracula – Bram Stoker

The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells


The Turn of the Screw – Henry James


The Boats of the Glen Carrig – William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland – William Hope Hodgson


The Lair of the White Worm – Bram Stoker


The Green Eyes of Bast – Sax Rohmer

Claimed – Francis Stevens


The Hands of Orlac – Maurice Renard


The Werewolf of Paris – Guy Endore


The Devil Rides Out – Dennis Wheatley


The Edge of Running Water – William Sloane


The Uninvited – Dorothy MacArdle


Donovan’s Brain – Curt Siodmak


All Hallow’s Eve – Charles Williams


Great Mischief – Josephine Pinckney


Fear – L. Ron Hubbard

Ringstones – Sarban


Conjure Wife – Fritz Leiber


The Dollmaker – Sarban


I Am Legend – Richard Matheson


The Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney


The Ka of Gifford Hillary – Dennis Wheatley


The Dreamers – Roger Manvell

A Stir of Echoes – Richard Matheson


The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

The Monster from Earth’s End – Murray Leinster


Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury


Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin


Black Easter – James Blish


Fengriffen – David Case


The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty

Hell House – Richard Matheson

The Other – Thomas Tryon


Burnt Offerings – Robert Marasco

The Night Stalker – Jeff Rice


The Search for Joseph Tully – William H. Hallahan

The Sentinel – Jeffrey Konvitz


Audrey Rose – Frank DeFellita

The Manitou – Graham Masterton

Salems’ Lot – Stephen King

The Killing Gift – Bari Wood


The Fury – John Farris

Interview with a Vampire – Anne Rice

The Omen – David Seltzer


The Howling – Gary Brandner

The Shining – Stephen King

Watchers – Dean R. Koontz

Suffer the Children – John Saul


Dagon – Fred Chappell

The Black Castle – Les Daniels

Fallen Angel – William Hjortsberg

Wolfen – Whitley Strieber


The Dead Zone – Stephen King

Ghost Story – Peter Straub

Hotel Transylvania – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


The Land of Laughs – Jonathan Carroll

The Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

Cold Moon over Babylon – Michael McDowell

Bellefleur – Joyce Carol Oates

The Orphan – Robert Stallman


The Jonah Watch – Jack Cady

The Jonah – James Herbert

The Hunger – Whitley Strieber

The Keep – F. Paul Wilson


The Nestling – Charles L. Grant

Fever Dream – George R.R.Martin


The Predator – Anthony John

Christine – Stephen King

Phantoms – Dean R. Koontz

The Armageddon Rag – George R.R. Martin


The Ceremonies – T.E.D. Klein

Usher’s Passing – Robert R. McCammon

The Color Out of Time – Michael Shea

The Witches of Eastwick – John Updike

The Tomb – F. Paul Wilson


Requiem – Graham Joyce

Ghosttrain – Stephen Laws


It – Stephen King

Necroscope – Brian Lumley

The Light at the End – John Skipp & Craig Spector


Valley of Lights – Stephen Gallagher

Flesh – Richard Laymon

On Stranger Tides – Tim Powers


Roofworld – Christopher Fowler

Little Brothers – Rick Hautala

Resurrection Dreams – Richard Laymon

The Empire of Fear – Brian M. Stableford

The Suiting – Kelly Wilde


Ancient Images – Ramsey Campbell

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy Collins

Beneath Still Waters – Matthew J. Costello

In the Land of the Dead – K.W. Jeter

The Wolf’s Hour – Robert R. McCammon

Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons


Rune – Christopher Fowler

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett


Boys’ Life – Robert R. McCammon

Summer of Night – Dan Simmons

Vampire$ – John Steakley


Chiller – Randall Boyll

Bad Brains – Kathe Koja

Anno Dracula – Kim Newman


The List of Seven – Mark Frost

Guilty Pleasures – Laurell Hamilton

Blood of the Lamb – Thomas F. Monteleone

The Golden – Lucius Shepard


Bride of the Rat God – Barbara Hambly

Resume with Monsters – William Browning Spencer


Relic – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child


Crota – Owl Goingback


The Green Mile – Stephen King

The Ignored – Bentley Little

The Chosen Child – Graham Masterton

Reliquary – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Fog Heart – Thomas Tessier


The Uncanny – Andrew Klavan


Strangewood – Christopher Golden

The Descent – Jeff Long


Dead until Dark – Charlaine Harris

City Infernal – Edward Lee

Declare – Tim Powers


Prey – Michael Crichton

Demons – John Shirley


Lost Boy, Lost Girl – Peter Straub


Lost Echoes – Joe Lansdale


The Terror – Dan Simmons

Short Stories:

 (Starred names mean the author has produced a significant body of short horror fiction of equivalent interest.)

Aickman, Robert *

Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal

Ringing the Changes

Arthur, Robert*

The Footsteps Invisible

Satan and Sam Shay

Bangs, John Kendrick

The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall

Barker, Clive*

The Hellbound Heart

In the Flesh

Rawhead Rex

Beaumont, Charles*

The Crooked Man

The Howling Man

Perchance to Dream

The Vanishing American

Benet, Stephen Vincent

The Devil and Daniel Webster

Benson, E.F.

Mrs. Amworth

Bierce, Ambrose*

The Damned Thing

The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge

Bishop, Michael

Seasons of Belief

Bixby, Jerome

It’s a Good Life

Blackwood, Algernon*

The Empty House

Old Clothes

The Wendigo

The Willows

Blish, James

There Shall Be No Darkness

Bloch, Robert*

The Cheaters


The Feast in the Abbey

The Hellbound Train

Hungarian Rhapsody

Lucy Comes to Stay

The Opener of the Way

The Skull of the Marquis de Sade

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

Bond, Nelson

The Monster from Nowhere

Boucher, Anthony

They Bite

Bowen, Elizabeth

The Demon Lover

Bradbury, Ray*

The Crowd

The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl

The Man Upstairs

The October Game

The Skeleton

The Veldt

Brennan, Joseph Payne

The Calamander Chest


Broster, D.K.

Couching at the Door

Bulwer-Lytton, Edward

The Haunted and the Haunters

Cady, Jack*

The Night We Buried Road Dog

The Sons of Noah

Campbell, Ramsey*

The Chimney

Cave, Hugh


Clark, Curtis (Donald Westlake)


Collier, John*

Green Thoughts

Thus I Refute Beelzy

Collins, Wilkie

The Haunted Hotel

The Terribly Strange Bed

Crawford, F. Marion

For the Blood Is the Life

The Upper Berth

Cross, John Keir

The Other Passenger

Dahl, Roald*

The Man from the South

Royal Jelly

William and Mary

De Maupassant, Guy

The Horla

Derleth, August

Logoda’s Heads

Mr. George

Wild Grapes

Dickens, Charles

The Signalman

Disch, Thomas N.


Du Maurier, Daphne

The Birds

Ellison, Harlan


Etchison, Dennis

The Dark Country

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

The Yellow Wallpaper

Hartley, L.P.

The Traveling Grave

Harvey, William Fryer

The Beast with Five Fingers

Hichens, Robert

How Love Came to Professor Guildea

Hodgson, William Hope*

Horse of the Invisible

The Thing Invisible

The Voice in the Night

Hopkins, Brian

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Howard, Robert E.

The Cairn on the Headland

Pigeons from Hell


Irving, Washington

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Jackson, Shirley*


The Lottery

One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts

Jacobs, W.W.

The Monkey’s Paw

James, M.R.*

The Ash Tree

Casting the Runes

Count Magnus

Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad

Jerome, Jerome K.

The Dancing Partner

Keller, David H.

The Thing in the Cellar

Kersh, Gerald

The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy

King, Stephen*

Children of the Corn

The Crate

The Mist

The Raft

Sometimes They Come Back


Kipling, Rudyard

The Mark of the Beast

The Phantom Rickshaw

Kirk, Russell

The Surly, Sullen Bell

Klein, T.E.D.*

The Events at Poroth Farm

Nadelman’s God

Lansdale, Joe*

God of the Razor

The Night They Missed the Horror Show

On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert

Tight Little Stitches in the Dead Man’s Back

Lee, Tanith

Elle Est Trois (La Mort)

Le Fanu, J. Sheridan


Green Tea

Leiber, Fritz

The Automatic Pistol

The Girl with the Hungry Eyes

Smoke Ghost

Ligotti, Thomas*

The Last Feast of Harlequin

Long, Frank Belknap

The Hounds of Tindalos

Lovecraft, Howard Phillips*

At the Mountains of Madness

The Call of Cthulhu

The Color Out of Space

Cool Air

The Dunwich Horror

The Lurking Fear

Pickman’s Model

The Shadow over Innsmouth

The Shunned House

Machen, Arthur*

The Bowmen

The Great God Pan

Marryatt, Frederick

The Phantom Ship

Martin, George R.R.

The Pear Shaped Man

Matheson, Richard*

The Doll That Does Everything


Little Girl Lost

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet


McCammon, Robert R.*

Night Calls the Green Falcon


Middleton, Richard

The Ghost Ship

O’Brien, Fitz-James

What Was It?

Onions, Oliver*

The Beckoning Fair One

The Rosewood Door

Poe, Edgar Allan*

The Black Cat

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

The Pit and the Pendulum

The Premature Burial

The Tell-Tale Heart

Priestley, J.B.

The Grey Ones

Quinn, Seabury

(Any sample of the Jules de Grandin stories)

Rainey, Stephen Mark*

Fugue Devil

Rice, Jane

The Idol of the Flies

Russell, Ray



The Open Window

Sredni Vashtar

Schow, David*

Pamela’s Get

Serling, Rod*

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

The Odyssey of Flight 33

Sturgeon, Theodore

Bianca’ Hands



A Way of Thinking

Wakefield, H. Russell*

He Cometh and He Passeth By

Wellman, Manly Wade*

The Devil Is Not Mocked

The Valley Was Still

Wells, H.G.

The Flowering of the Strange Orchid

The Sea Raiders

Valley of Spiders

White, Edward Lucas


Whitehead, Edward S.


Wilson, David Niall

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Non-Fantastic Horror Novels of Note

Bloch, Robert – Psycho

Gallico, Paul – Too Many Ghosts

Gilbert, Anthony – Willard

Goldman, William – Magic

Harris, Thomas – Silence of the Lambs

Ketchum, Jack – Offspring

Koontz, Dean R. – Intensity

Leroux, Gaston – The Phantom of the Opera

Lowndes, Marie Belloc – The Lodger

Miller, Rex – Slob

Raven, Simon – Doctors Wear Scarlet

Slade, Michael – Ghoul

Sturgeon, Theodore – Some of Your Blood

Copyright Robert Sheppard 2014 All Rights Reserved

About robertalexandersheppard

Robert Sheppard , Author, Poet & Novelist Pushcart Prize fof Literature 2014 Nominee Professor of World and Comparative Literature Professor of International Law Senior Associate, Committee for a Democratic United Nations (KDUN) E-mail: rsheppard99_2000@yahoo.com Robert Sheppard is the author of the acclaimed dual novel Spiritus Mundi, nominated for the prestigious 2014 Pushcart Prize for Literature in two parts, Spiritus Mundi the Novel, Book I and Spiritus Mundi the Romance, Book II. The acclaimed “global novel” features espionage-terror-political-religious-thriller action criss-crossing the contemporary world involving MI6, the CIA and Chinese MSS Intelligence as well as a "People Power" campaign to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly on the model of the European Parliament, with action moving from Beijing to London to Washington, Mexico City and Jerusalem while presenting a vast panorama of the contemporary international world, including compelling action and surreal adventures. It also contains the unfolding sexual, romantic and family relationships of many of its principal and secondary characters, and a significant dimension of spiritual searching through "The Varieties of Religious Experience." It contains also significant discussions of World Literature, including Chinese, Indian, Western and American literature, and like Joyce's Ulysses, it incorposates a vast array of stylistic approaches as the story unfolds. Dr. Sheppard presently serves as a Professor of International Law and World Literature at Peking University, Northeastern University and the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of China, and has previously served as a Professor of International Law and MBA professor at Tsinghua University, Renmin People’s University, the China University of Politics and Law and at the Law Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in Beijing, China. Having studied Law, Comparative Literature and politics at the University of California, Berkeley (Ph. D.Program in Comparative Literature), Northridge, Tübingen, Heidelberg, the People’s College and San Francisco, (BA, MA, JD), he additionally has been active as professor of International Trade, Private International Law, and Public International Law from 1993 to 1998 at Xiamen University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Graduate School (CASS), and the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. In the US he serves as a Professor at Kean University, as well as having taught at Bergen Community College and Pillar College in NJ. Since 2000 he has served as a Senior Consultant to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Beijing and has authored numerous papers on the democratic reform of the United Nations system.
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