The history of horror is a vast and perhaps foolhardy thing to tackle. No matter how hard you try, there are films and horror subgenres that will slide through the cracks. People with weak nervous system mustn’t watch such films - he should have a long spoon that sups with the devil. They are mostly for the young and brave.
But horror is somewhat unique among the film genres in that there is a recognizable pattern that happens again and again. A film will come along and terrify an audience capturing their imaginations and making bank. Filmmakers flock to the cash cow like vampires to blood which leads to sequels and imitators – sometimes better than the original. But eventually the sequels run out of steam and the subgenre created by the original smash hit fades into memory lurking in the corners of history waiting to be rediscovered and reborn - this process is commonly referred to as cycles. Although other genres behave similarly, the unique appeal of horror from its low budget requirements to broad multinational appeal, make horror especially susceptible to these boom and fade cycles.
But as we look at how the genre changes over time, we must not think of the history of horror as being a rigid one way street. New films can't avoid borrowing from old films all the time, a constant remix of subgenres and new techniques to make something for the contemporary culture.
So who did the first horror films borrow from? Monsters, murderers, demons and beasts have been around since antiquity, ghost stories told round camp fires since we learned how to talk. But the roots of filmed horror were an extension of a genre of literature that got its start in the late 1700s: Gothic Horror. Developed by writers in both Great Britain and the United States the Gothic part of the name refers to pseudo medieval buildings that these stories took place – think of an old castle on a dark and stormy night – gloomy forests, dungeons and secret passage ways.