Period Settings are all the Rage, So Where’s the Horror?
The past is a magical place, at once familiar and alien. It’s where our ancestors live and, today, where we set many of our biggest and best films.
Recent years have been littered with amazing period films, from the fantastical action of Kong: Skull Island which borrowed a Vietnam War-era aesthetic, to The Shape of Water which combined 1960s anxiety with a touching love story and achieved an impressive 92% score at Rotten Tomatoes.
In fact, there’s been a broader trend of filmmakers looking back in their movies, owing perhaps to the fact that the past seems simpler. It’s easier to focus on a character when they’re free from the web of complication that smartphones, modern media and the internet bring to a story.
One subgenre which has remained relatively untapped though has been period horror. So, join us as we take a closer look at the issue.
Historical Horror Remains Rare
Now, before you get at us saying that there’s plenty of horror set in the past – we know. Even if you include movies like 2017’s IT though, set in the 1980s, pickings remain relatively slim.
Looking at recent costume horror films reveals the extent of the problem. The Little Stranger (2018), Crimson Peak (2015), The Witch (2015) and The Woman in Black (2012) are amongst the few notable period horror pictures of the last decade.
Instead, horror filmmakers (or, perhaps, studios) prefer to focus on the modern. It could be that they believe modern settings are simply more relatable to audiences and, therefore, all the scarier. That’s a matter of opinion, but there’s no doubting…
Period Pieces are Hugely Popular
If you think period settings are a turn off for most people, a quick glance at the highest grossing movies of 2017 list at https://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/ will set you right. Wonder Woman, It, Dunkirk and the Greatest Showman all turned in huge box office numbers, united by their historical settings.
It’s not just in movies either, with recent video games enjoying huge success by returning to period settings, like Battlefield 1, Call of Duty WW2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and more. The trend doesn’t stop there, either, with https://games.paddypower.com/c/slots mining historical settings to create rounded experiences, like Napoleon: Rise of an Empire or Spartacus: Gladiator of Rome. Even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which started life as a book and evolved into a film shows some of the period appeal with a comedic horror crossover.
No matter where you look, whether it’s film, video games or books, there’s an undeniable trend towards period pieces. But does it really matter? After all…
Scary is Scary
It’s a fair point, why would it matter where or when horror is set? Horror taps into something that we all share – a fear of what might be lurking around the corner or inside each of us.
The truth is that whilst more period horror films isn’t essential – we’ll take good horror, no matter where and when it’s set – a broader range of locations, settings and backstories only serves to welcome more fans into the fold, and with more fans, we inspire more people to work within the field.
Horror is often derided for its predictability, which is exactly why the genre needs to step out of its comfort zone in the present and prove that the past really is a terrifying pla