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Supernatural Week - A brief history of things that can't be explained!
By James Whittington, Monday 10th May 2021
Supernatural Week-logo

Think of the word, Supernatural and probably the first thing that comes to mind is the classic, bedsheet ghost that you'd see in Scooby Doo!

Well, from May 15th Horror will expanding your mind with a weeklong celebration of the genre with a selection of chillers that will have you checking under the bed before you turn out the light.

The genre really gripped the cinema-going public from the early days of the silver screen where directors were only too pleased to bring long used theatre effects to the new art form and mix them with the new medium's ability to dazzle an audience. The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901) is a shorter than short, running just under two minutes piece, which packs as much as it can is duration. The story, for want of a better word, involves the owner of shop experiencing flying skulls, half humans and people who can walk through solid doors. Another fine example is The Phantom Carriage (1921) which used double exposure for its spectral effects for its story of one family's redemption.

For a genre that initially relied on effects it was the invention of sound that pushed it into the limelight. This added dimension gave it a sinister edge, where jump scares were created not by what was on screen, but the noises made off it.

The Uninvited (1944) kick-started a wave of similar movies. Packed with atmosphere and a cast which included Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey, whilst anthology movie Dead of Night (1945) dabbled with a comedy element to the chilling goings on. Apparently, the movie inspired Horror Channel favourite Chris Smith to create his movie Triangle.

Creature features and sci-fi invasions took over cinemas in the 1950s but director William Castle was on hand to deliver movies that used smart marketing and true showmanship to sell them, namely The Tingler (1959) which had "Percepto" a vibration device placed under certain chairs in screenings to make audience members think that the fear feeding parasite from the movie was there and for House on Haunted Hill (1959) "Emergo" was created which was simply a skeleton on a pulley system that was used in some screenings as it to give the appearance of the horror on screen coming to life.

Possession was a key word for the 1960s and 1970s where movies such as Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976) delivered big studio scares rifting on the demonic theme with box-office-bursting results. By adding a contemporary setting and very real effects, the films moved the supernatural element into everyday life making such terror even more believable than before. These opened the gates for more fantastical movies in the 1980s such as The Keep (1983) Hellraiser (1987), John Carpenter's Christine (1983) and Child's Play (1988) which added a more adult tint to the genre.

For most of the 2000s, Hollywood looked to its past for inspiration with movies like The Amityville Horror (2005), Thirteen Ghosts (2001) and Freddy Vs Jason (2003) for its supernatural kicks and more often than not they missed the mark. It would take the likes of Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity in 2007 to change the landscape. Made on a small budget and using the found footage genre as its hook, the movie chilled and thrilled audiences around the globe.

2010 gave us what would be one of the most subtle yet powerful additions to the genre, Insidious. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye and Barbara Hershey this movie played the horror totally straight with a story packed with invention, heart and jumps cares. It Follows (2014) added body horror and a very surreal tone using suggestion and surreal imagery to get under the skin where as Hammer's The Quiet Ones from the same year took amore traditional but just as impactful view of the genre.

What the future holds is anyone's guess, but if it continues to develop like it has, the supernatural genre may have the best scares yet to come.

Supernatural Week starts May 15th on Horror.


Related show tags: HELLRAISER, IT FOLLOWS, JOHN CARPENTER'S CHRISTINE, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, THE QUIET ONES, THIRTEEN GHOSTS, TRIANGLE
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