In a genre filled with big budget remakes and recycled story lines, fans of the horror genre are longing for a taste of the past. As the movie business attempts to stay on the cutting edge of technology, many horror fans…are left in mourning. The days of practical effects have been replaced with “computer magic”, and the “original” killer is now a shadow of what he used to be thanks to countless remakes and rehashed plots. Classic films like Psycho, The Exorcist and Halloween are household names; but are the golden days over?
The Golden Age of Horror
The golden age is generally defined as the 1960s through the 1980s. The benchmark or “kickoff” of the golden age began with the film Psycho. Released in 1960, it is considered a horror classic and one of the most recognized films in history. The infamous “shower scene” is regarded as one of the most notable scenes in the history of cinema. Alfred Hitchcock, in many respects, is the torch bearer for the golden age of horror. Psycho broke ground in the genre and set the tone for the next 25 years.
During the golden age, the genre expanded into many different sub-genres. Movies that dealt with demonic possession, telekinesis and psychotic killers became wildly popular. Historic films like The Exorcist (1973), Poltergeist (1982) and Halloween (1978) are some of the legendary classics that helped to define horror sub-genres.
Franchise Horror and Iconic Killers
The creation of “franchise horror” was also a product of the golden age. The Exorcist, The Omen, and The Amityville Horror are just a few of the franchises created during this time. However, Halloween, Friday The 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street are considered the most famous franchises of the genre. These franchise films all introduced unstoppable killers that would become synonymous with each respected franchise. The creation of Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Voorhees (Friday The 13th) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) supplied the horror fan with not only a high body count, but also an iconic killer.
As each franchise grew in popularity, audiences knew each killer on a first name basis. The names Michael, Jason and Freddy needed no last name and no explanation. Over the years, those “slasher kings” have become pop culture icons thanks to the longevity of each respected franchise. As for the films themselves, the simple idea that “evil never dies” always provided an explanation as to why the brutal killer…could never be killed. Horror fans jumped at the chance to see the body count rise, and their favorite horror icon cheat death…yet again. Needless to say, fans packed theaters to see what the next installment of their favorite franchise would bring.
Death of the Golden Age
As the 1980s slipped into history, the golden age of horror was laid to rest. However, to this day, many fans of the genre still cling to these films and consider many of them to be ultimate classics. The use to practical gore effects, outstanding make-up, and tremendous musical scores, are the hallmarks for this period of horror cinema. If imitation is honestly the best form of flattery, the golden age of horror is the benchmark for which others strive.