Starting with the official birth of the genre, the first horror movie ever created was the Le Manoir du Diable by Georges Méliès in 1896. With a running time of a little more than three minutes, the French illusionist and film director was able to present a supernatural side, with an actual incarnation of the devil, to audiences for the first time, which laid the foundations for what was yet to come. All of this came just some years after the rise of the first filmmakers in the mid-1890s.
Later on, Nosferatu (1922) was the very first vampire movie created, telling the story of Dracula, an inhuman creature with superior strength and agility, as well as supernatural powers. The Count, who originally appeared in Brom Stoker’s seminal 1897 gothic horror novel, aimed to take control of the Earth and used humans as means to feed. Interestingly, according to Wired.com, vampiric creatures and spirits can be traced at least as far back as Mesopotamia and Ancient Greece, emerging in the early 1700s from folklore and superstitions in the Balkans.
Alien (1979) was the start of another iconic franchise, which continues to this day with Alien: Covenant, which is currently being screened in cinemas. The series depicts extra-terrestrials attacking with superior technology, using powerful weapons to target the Earth. Aligned with this concept, the British film director and producer Ridley Scott commented that: “I believe in superior beings. I think it is certainly likely”. However, in a tongue-in-cheek infographic, 888poker claims that the odds of the Earth being subjected to a world-ending alien invasion are 500/1, more or less the odds of a landing a ‘flush’ hand in poker.
Finally, let’s not forget superstition, such as the Mayan calendar forecasting the doomsday. This prediction, especially at the turn of the millennium, made the masses delirious about the supposed end of the world, in turn signalling the start of another sub-genre of horror movies. The movie 2012 is the first that comes to mind when talking about end-of-the-world disaster films; it also made it to the top of the ranking at Forbes as the greatest disaster film of all time.
Horror movies seem to have to evolved through the years, with the silent era giving way to more technological ways of producing purely terrifying movies, using all kinds of archetypes, such as vampires, werewolves, zombies, aliens, witches, giants, ghosts and even bringing the devil to live on Earth. Nonetheless, these terrifying ‘end of the world’ forecasts brought by both natural and supernatural entities keep triggering the audience’s curiosity, expanding the number of fans of this genre, no matter the unlikeliness of these events to occur.
Cover image by Peter Bernik via www.canva.com