Early Horror (20’s)

Welcome to the Early Horror section of our site!

Here, I will lay out a brief overview of what I am going to look at specifically in my Early Horror portion of the website, and give a brief rational as to why I am choosing to look at each of these things. I address the history of the time, the fears of the time, as well as how fear manifests itself in the body, and the neurological and physiological responses during a normal fear response, behavioral psychology, Freud and psychoanalysis, and early horror films with psychological themes.


I dicsuss the history of the 1920’s so that you can get a general feel for what was going on historically. It is important to have an understanding of the environment in which certain psychological theories emerged, as the history often affects the minds of the thinkers producing these theories.


Next, I will dive into the “Fears” segment. I will address what fear is, the physiological responses produced during fear, and the portions of the brain that are associated with fear. I will additionally address the specific fears of the time, so that you will have an understanding of why film makers chose to address what they did in their horror films. Clearly, if people have a fear of immigrants, for example, it would make the most sense to construct a film about a freakish looking “immigrant-like” individual, as it would produce the best effects in elliciting fear. In this way, the film producers are trying to see into people’s heads. They are taking what they know people are afraid of to bring about a desired response. Click here for a look at the fear segment of this time period.


This is a perfect segue into the next tab of my “Early Horror” page: Behavioral Psychology. This page will discuss classical conditioning, and it’s role in how to construct a scary movie. More specifically, it will discuss the contributions of Pavlov (the inventor of the concept of classical conditioning) and Watson, a leading behaviorist who conducted an experiment looking at how to condition fear into an individual. In this way, we see how behavioral psychology is applied to all genres of horror film (early horror, Hitchcock era, and psycho killers). Click here to navigate to the behavioral psych page.


Freud and psychoanalysis will be the next tab, examining many of Freud’s predominant theories for the time, and how they can be explicitly seen in the films I talk about in the next tab (Nosferatu, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Phantom of the Opera, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). For a look at Freud and his psychoanalytic theories, click here.


I analyze the major horror films produced during the 1920’s, focusing specifically on the psychological phenomena and references we see inherent in each, in order to demonstrate the influence of the hot psychological theories of the time. Freudian theories were very hot for the 1920’s, and thus we see lots of them in the films I analyze. Aspects of conditioning are inherent in all horror films, not just the ones I look at, and can thus be applied generally to all films. For this reason, my focus on each of the films I analyze doesn’t focus on the “behavioral psych” application, as it a a broad principle that can be applied to all film. For a look at the films I chose to interpret, click here.


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