WW1’s Influence On Modern Horror Continues

It is a lesser known fact that without the First World War there would likely not be as much popularity for the horror genre. These types of films were heavily influenced by the real life horrors of the war. The impact WW1 has had on the genre is still present in works made in the 21st century.

The conflict caused a large scale of injuries for soldiers from Europe and the United States. These areas are where early cinema first took root. When veterans returned home from the front the public were confronted by the physical costs of the war.

Men were severely scarred by mustard gas, shell bombings and bullets. Facial deformities were common and shocking in their extreme nature. Society was not fully equipped to confront such real life images. As a consequence there became a stigma around those with visible injuries. They were respected by the public but also somewhat feared as well.

This fear was reflected in the media people consumed. It included literature, graphic novels and most importantly cinema. Lon Chaney Jr. the master of make up effects chose to make his characters look grotesque in a way that mirrored those coming back from the war.

This tradition of nightmarish looking characters is still seen today. Often the monsters in the movies being watched have a humanity to them underneath extreme scarring. This can be seen in the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series. More recently the horrors of the war itself have begun to be explored.

This is seen most clearly in the 2002 British film Deathwatch. It is set during the conflict and mixes ghost stories and extreme supernatural violence with the real horrors of trench warfare. It can be seen as a metaphor for the true terror that the soldiers of WW1 had to endure.


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