The horror genre has many lessons to teach us as an audience although being the genre most connected with that of ridiculousness. It is regularly associated with the reaction it seeks from its audience; both emotional and physical. In cinema success is measured by terrifying chills, bloody deaths and the volume of the audiences scream. The appeal of horror narrative in literature, film and theatre lies in the pleasures it associates with fear, suspense and terror; no matter what it is trying to convey to the audience. Even when writers layer the genre with academic thoughts on psychology, theology and the world in which we live in, horror remains the primary outlet to examine the notions of dread, uncertainly, mysterious and the abject.
Psycho (Hitchcock 1960), with its shocking bursts of violence and provocative sexual explicitness, tested the strict censorship boundaries of the day as well as audiences' nerve. This filmed changed the way the horror genre was seen. Prior to 1960 the genre was dominated by monsters and mythical creatures with Hammer productions dominating the market with Frankenstein and Dracula films. Hitchcock was known as being the ‘master of suspense’ and in Psycho decided to make the horror villain human rather than monster. Norman Bates, the central character in the film, was an awkward, gently-spoken young man reluctantly running the declining family motel and caring for his abusive, invalid mother. This was far from a monster the audience were used to seeing on screen. As the film progresses the audience are asked to see it from his point of view and Hitchcock toys with their sympathies in a way mainstream horrors hadn't done before. Psycho is credited with launching the "slasher” movie and re-inventing the genre, giving birth to the modern horror and moving the location of scary castles to everyday locations and changing the killer from monsters to humans. The horror genre was reborn.
As the horror genre developed throughout the seventies, evolving where Hitchock left off, the audience found themselves in a world of slasher films and splatter movies where the body count was rising with every new release and box office figures were high engaging a new audience to the genre.
Films such as ‘Carrie’ (DePalma 1976), ‘Misery’ (Reiner 1990), ‘Evil Dead’ (Raimi 1981), ‘The Exorcist’ (Friedkin 1973), ‘The Birds’ (Hitchcock 1963) have all been made into stage productions; treading the boards as a Broadway Musical or as serious drama. These adaptations have gained cult followings and mixed reviews.
In 2014 the London theatre scene will be dominated by horror on stage. Productions of ‘Fatal Attraction’ (Dearden 2014), ‘American Psycho’ (Aguirre-Sacasa 2013), ‘Let the Right One In’ (Thorne 2013), ‘Woman in Black’ (Mallatratt 1987) and ‘Ghost stories’ (Dyson & Nyman 2012) will lead the early part of the season. The power of stage horror doesn't just match that of horror cinema, it can...