Mark Murphy

Film Director




Mark Murphy

Film Director




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How Horror Films Have Changed Since The 1980s

How Horror Films Have Changed Since The 1980s

(Warning: May Contain Spoilers!)

Today, in this article, we will discuss how horror films have changed since the genre’s peak in the eighties, how they affected the audience, what special effects they used, and what technology they used. I hope you find your reading interesting.


Friday the 13th

The first horror film that comes to mind, when speaking about the 1980s, is Friday the 13th, which is a slasher that premiered on the 9th of May in the year 1980, in the USA. The film made slasher horror popular and introduced Jason Voorhees, a recognisable antagonist to any fan of the scary genre, but he did not gain that kind of look until the third film in the series, where he wears a Fibrosport style Detroit Red Wings goalkeeper hockey mask.

The filming process for the gorier segments, such as the Robbi Morgan death scene, uses prosthetics worn by the actor. This would be of course due to the lack of technological power to produce a computer-generated image that looks realistic, which was the case in the 1980s with the budget that this film was made on.

The film also used jumpscares in an attempt to scare the audience with a sudden and loud change of imagery. This is quite a prominent part of the horror genre in gaming and films!

The Shining

This film, which was released in the same year as Friday the 13th, there is a plot of psychological horror and is based on the novel released in 1977. The Shining has also been most notably parodied by The Simpsons in Treehouse of Horror V in season 6 of the popular series.

The film features a famous line, “Here’s Johnny!”, which Jack Torrance says when he attempts to break down the bathroom door with an axe, and is one of the most famous scenes in the history of horror. Another notable scene is when the elevator gushes out a sea of blood and is seen as one of the most terrifying scenes in the genre.

However, behind the scenes, Shelley Duvall, the actor of Wendy Torrance in The Shining, suffered extreme amounts of stress from shooting the film with Stanley Kubrick, the director of the 1980 film, who made her cry for 12 hours per day for nearly the entire week during the weeks they produced the film. This resulted in her losing clumps of hair and showing Kubrick them. That in itself makes the film even more terrifying due to how the film was produced and what the actors endured behind the scenes.



Scream is another famous slasher in the horror genre, with an iconic antagonist in Ghostface. The film was released on the 18th of December in 1996 to audiences in Westwood, Los Angeles, and on the 20th of December, to the rest of the United States of America.

The creator of Scream, Kevin Williamson, grew up watching other horror films and was inspired to write the plot of the film after watching the news of murders by the Gainesville Ripper. The film has also been parodied by Scary Movie, which is a popular film in horror comedy, with the antagonist also being Ghostface, and the opening scene and idea of the killer phoning his victims are inspired by 1996’s Scream.

However, due to the film’s nature, there have been multiple copycat crimes that have been inspired by Scream. This involved a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old murdering the 16-year-old’s mother with a bladed weapon, who was stabbed 45 times. This same duo also claimed to need the money from the murder to buy two Ghostface costumes and a voice changer used by the antagonists in Scream, wanting to go on a killing spree to reenact the film.


American Psycho

American Psycho is a satirical horror film released in the year 2000 on the 21st of January at the Sundance Film Festival and premiered in the rest of the USA on the 14th of April of the same year.

This film had to be edited after its initial release due to sexual scenes, for it to receive an R rating, changed from an NC-17 rating, by the Motion Picture Association of America. The film had also been condemned for being too graphic and violent and split its critics and audience’s opinions on its nature of it.



This film is a sci-fi horror film, launching the lastest decade of the horror genre into outer space. Prometheus was also initially released in the capital of France, Paris, on the 11th of April in 2012 and made a profit of roughly $403.4 million!

This entry into the Alien film series was also filmed with 3D cameras, during the peak and excitement of three-dimensional productions, and won multiple awards, such as the Fright Meter Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film also heavily made use of CGI, short for computer-generated imagery, showing how far technology has come to produce a good-looking horror film without the use of physical props, while also using some real locations, such as Dettifoss’s Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland at the waterfall.


This film is a supernatural horror film that was released in 2017, initially at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and follows a group of bullied children who come together to end a shape-shifting monster, which is disguised as a clown called Pennywise.

The film heavily differs from the previous incarnation of It, where, in 1990, Pennywise was an actor that wore a red wig and nose and white makeup. This was also a miniseries that aired on television, whereas the 2017 version of It brought the fear of clowns to the 21st century with CGI and practical special effects to make the film that bit scarier. These special effects came in with a ton of makeup to form Pennywise, which would seem very unsettling and unnatural to plenty of viewers.

The actor, Bill Skarsgård, is also talented with his face, which meant less CGI had to be used for the frightening clown’s form in the film, such as moving his eyes to make them look cross-eyed but is looking at the audience, and using his mouth to give a sinister smile, which even looks like that without the makeup.


Coming into the current decade, I believe we are yet to see a notable horror film. However, older films like The Exorcist are getting another entry into their series, The Boogeyman, which is a film that will be based on the short story that was released in 1973 in Cavalier magazine, which has the same name.

In Conclusion…

After all of the research done to type up this article, I believe that the horror genre has changed a lot in a lot of areas from the technology used to make the productions a reality to the effects and talents of the actors. The technology has gone from using basic physical prosthetics in the 1980s to using complicated software and hardware in computers to make production much easier, whereas using physical objects and whole sets would prove difficult to create the effects in films like Prometheus, and the actors have become more talented and struggle less in the production phase, from the cruel effects on Shelley Duvall to the enjoyment that surrounded Bill Skarsgård while he played Pennywise in 2017’s It.

Thank you for reading this article today, and I hope this read was enjoyable for you! 

Written by Mark Murphy Director

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