For me, the progression of horror has always been most visible in terms of villains. In the early days, there were the archetypes: the mad scientist, the monster, the devil. These were beings who were incontrovertibly evil, with no vestiges of humanity present. Then we shifted in the 60’s into an era of “good men gone wrong,” for example Norman Bates in Psycho who’s madness is explained at the end of the film. In the 70’s the villains shifted to faceless beings who were unstoppable and unexplainable: Michael Myers in Halloween or the creature in The Thing. The 80’s produced the first “fun” horror movies in the realm of Gremlins or the later Nightmare on Elm Street sequels. They were movies that introduced young audiences to horror and led to a much more educated horror fandom. The 90s became very self-referential, and Scream in many ways exemplified that era. The early to mid-2000’s introduced villains with heightened ideals that yielded horrifying results (i.e., Jigsaw) or corporate monsters that grew vicious because their desires were limitless (i.e., the torturers in the Hostel films). That merged in the early 2010’s into a trend consisting of re-booting old franchises, creating new based-on a-true-story films, or the current push for “elevated genre” films that explore societal issues.
The interesting thing from my perspective is that the villains are now any combination of those explored in the past. Our villains are multifarious, but our battlefields and the issues being explored in them are very specific to our times.
Contributor: Ryan LaPlante from wefixyourscript.com