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The History of Horror Movies: 15 Films that Defined the Horror Genre

Black Christmas (1974)

Bob Clark might have been the sharpest tool never used in the toolshed. Time has distorted more than a single historical fact, but the neglect of this man’s prowess may have been blurred to an extent unrivaled in the last 40 years. Without Bob Clark, we don’t have John Carpenter’s Halloween, and without that, well, the face of horror as we recognize it would likely bare much different features. In some ways, this is the most influential piece in horror’s history, and while it does receive plenty of acclaim from hardcore fans, it remains an underappreciated commodity among casual genre followers. That’s a damn shame, as it’s very close to being a perfect picture.

Everyone out there is familiar with the old urban legend that centers on a mysterious stalker who torments a babysitter with sinister telephone calls, all the while hiding away in the very same house from which the babysitter paces nervously. This is territory that, today, has been so thoroughly explored that it no longer packs much of a punch. Perhaps the most notable example of this story being used to success is Fred Walton’s When a Stranger Calls. It’s an awesome little picture, but it loses its own identity beyond the first act. Black Christmas never loses its self, and it’s infinitely more chilling than When a Stranger Calls.

While Hitchcock’s Psycho serves as one of the purest initial slashers, it’s radically different from efforts like Black Christmas, which lean on a much more primal fear as opposed to the heavy psychological multi-layering of Psycho. We win with either approach, but Clark’s Black Christmas makes a smoother transition to broader audiences because everything about the film feels plausible, whereas most won’t ever even imagine lifting $40,000 from their bosses only to skip town and land in the lap of a demented motel clerk, as we see in Psycho. Do these differences clearly illuminate one film as being radically superior to the other? No. However, Black Christmas holds different forms of appeal that a lot of younger audiences would probably find more appetizing than the intricacies of Psycho.

Continue the countdown of the 15 films that defined the horror genre on the next page!

About The Overseer (2283 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

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