Horror has evolved with time, with each handful of decades seeming to bring in its own little anxieties. As a result, it is a direct result of the constantly evolving and changing times that we have a myriad of different horror tropes, from the monster movie to the slasher flick. Why is it that as the political and social dichotomy shifts lead to a brand-new trend to scare and creep the general populous with?

Oddly enough, this is far from coincidence. Way back in 1947 Siegfried Kracauer wrote one of the first exposes on the topic From Caligari to Hitler linking the German expressionist film movement (which included Nosferatu, the original vampire film mythos) to the rise of totalitarianism in Germany at the time. How strange, that an expressionist movement would birth a movie touting a monster that feeds on being lesser then themselves to sustain its life force, while the poor were routinely forced into subservience under Hitlers regime. (Kraucer 79)

While that has nothing to do with the American horror industry, which is the focus of this site, we felt it imperative to mention in this ongoing conversation of how horror changes and re-arranges to reflect social instability.

World War 2 may have been off the coast of Europe, but it was in our theaters during the earliest conception of film. The horror movies of yesteryear were focused on horrifically disfigured monsters almost unrecognizable to the human eye. Figures like the Phantom, who are turned wicked by the cruelty of his fellow man. This reflects the status of those returning home, missing eyes, limbs, and the like, discarded and lacking guidance. This trend of monstrously disfigured monsters and mythical oddities would continue until the next wave.

When the world was faced with  genocide. Horror movie monsters became less terrifying as a result. Anxieties turned to the Atom Bomb with the focus being far less on the ‘monster,’ but more on the wanton destruction of war.

This would be an ongoing trend for the next half century: the genre would change with the modern anxieties. However, during this period, we have reached what can almost been seen as a stagnation. The rise of technology and ease of access has left kids desensitized what generations before might have considered appalling or scary, which is likely responsible for the heavily reliance of cheap horror tricks like jumpscares and a violin sting represented in many teen horror films. Hollywood has lost touch with what scares the youth because their fear is far more existential in nature.  The postmodernist trends of a decade ago fail to land with this new generation, and due to publishing companies like Blumhouse they no longer need to. It has been proven that you can flip your dollar because the demographic will turn out in droves to see anything they are legally allowed to see in theaters.

It is stagnation born of convenience.