Horror movies have a certain creative freedom about them in that the vast majority of them are completely rooted in the known fantastic. We know they’re not real. We know that this can’t happen. And yet we suspend our disbelief because we enjoy it! We relish the thought of “what if” as well as the sense of intellectual superiority that comes with “You stupid mother fuckers! Why are you splitting up? If I were there, I’d…UGGHHHHHH!” We all know that frustration, right?
But what allows us to suspend our disbelief? Obviously, there are a swath of correct answers that can be offered in response to that question. The setting is grounded in reality. The scenarios are realistic, even if the villain isn’t. Hell, maybe we simply want to and that’s enough of a reason!
For me, the setting of a film is an integral part of my ability to suspend my disbelief and relish what I’m seeing on the screen. And by setting I don’t only mean the location, the physical place where the action is occurring. I also mean when the film is taking place. After all, setting a horror movie in 17th century New York is going to have a vastly different feel than 21st century New York, right?
So, I want to ask you what time periods really stand out for you as being something special when it comes to horror. I’m going to share a few of mine and then I want you to tell me in the comments some of your own favorites!
With shows like “Penny Dreadful” and movies like From Hell, we get to see horror tackle a time when class and elegance were of the utmost importance. This was a time when the differences between social, economic, and political classes could be seen as just as horrific as any monstrosity that beset people. There is also this wonderful time period where technology was exploding yet was still very archaic and, in many ways, barbaric. From their perspective, they were offering the very best that humanity had to give. From our perspective, it was mutilation and violence.
And while it doesn’t take place during Victorian period, Brotherhood of the Wolf also has a bit of that attitude. Incidentally, I happen to love that movie something fierce, so I lump it in here.
The Middle Ages
When I was younger, all I could read were fantasy books and the occasional horror novel that I managed to sneak past my parents. Something about a world of knights, princesses, castles, dragons, and all that fun stuff truly appealed to me. These were the stories where even the lowest farm boy could rise to become someone great, someone wonderful, someone with power.
However, that world was also rife with diseases, war, and violence. It was a time when armies would be sent off to war for the silliest of reasons. There was bloodshed on absolutely epic levels and I feel like that lends itself to creating a backdrop for some really interesting and exciting horror films.
The Caveman Days
Okay, hear me out here. The days of the neanderthal are vicious and brutal beyond belief. Hunting for food literally meant putting your life on the line or risking serious injury, one that could leave you crippled or maimed beyond recognition. Then there were the elements to deal with. What kinds of shelters were being created that could fend off flash floods, hailstorms, lightning strikes, etc… Yeah, some of them probably lived in caves but even that doesn’t offer the best of protections.
The “man vs. beast” horror trope could easily be used in this time period. Or, have some fun and create a new type of monster, something really terrifying and malevolent. Basically, give me Predator without guns.