horror: “old dark house” subgenre

horror: “old dark house” subgenre
   The setting of the Overlook Hotel in the STANLEY KUBRICK–STEPHEN KING film THE SHINING (1980) belongs to the “old dark house” tradition in Gothic literature. Ever since the ghost of Hamlet’s father stalked the battlements of Elsinore Castle, the whole stock-in-trade of horror romanticism, especially the ghost story, has consisted of the inhabitants, properties, and atmosphere of the haunted house.
   Without the haunted house, says Eino Railo in his 1964 study of the subject, titled The Haunted Castle, “the whole fabric of romance would be bereft of its foundation and would lose its predominant atmos-horror:“old dark house” subgenre n 169 phere. ” These literary “old dark houses”—Stephen King refers to them as “bad places”—include such archetypal edifices in English and American gothic literature as Prince Manfred’s castle in Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1764)—an eerie distortion of Walpole’s own residence at Strawberry Hill; the strange country house in Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron (1778); Montoni’s mountain fortress in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794); Ambrosio’s Capuchin monastery in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796); the Mettingen estate in Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1799); Mr. Vileny’s family home in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1816); Roderick Usher’s bog-engulfed mansion in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839); the infernally possessed house in Bulwer-Lytton’s The Haunted and the Haunters; the legend-haunted ancestral Pyncheon estate in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables (1851); the vampire-infested Carfax Abbey in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897); the doppelgänger-inhabited New York town house in Henry James’s The Jolly Corner (1908); the house that serves as a gateway to the cosmos in William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland (1911); the deranged Hill House in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1962); the gleaming new suburban home in Anne Rivers Siddons’ The House Next Door (1973); the house that literally feeds off its inhabitants in Robert Marasco’s Burnt Offerings (1973); and the isolated, malevolent Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s THE SHINING (1977). Usually there is a specific room or area that is the source of the most intense ghosting, such as room 217 in The Shining (room 237 in Stanley Kubrick’s film). It might be the attic from which unholy shrieks and gibberings emanate in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847); or an upstairs room locked and bolted against intruders in J. B. Priestley’s Benighted (1927); or the secret crypt under the Belasco mansion in Richard Matheson’s Hell House (1971). And what spectral doings enliven these dreadful places! Thin-sheeted phantoms slip noiselessly through the corridors, half-seen forms shamble down the stairs, a gigantic armored man stalks the galleries, a wall portrait drips real blood, eldritch hands slip the latch.
   “How these antique towers and vacant courts chill the suspended soul,” wrote Walpole,“Till expectation wears the cast of fear; And fear, half-ready to become devotion, Mumbles a kind of mental orison It knows not wherefore. ”Add the natural elements to this conspiracy of dread—sudden gusts of wind that extinguish the fleeing heroine’s candle, streaks of lightning that fitfully illuminate the horrors emerging from under the bed, and cracks of thunder that punctuate the wails of lost souls—and the recipe for terror is complete.
   Dramatists and filmmakers quickly adopted the “old dark house” formula for popular consumption. Just a few of the classic plays include Matthew Lewis’s Castle Spectre (1797),G. K. Chesterton’s Magic (1913), George M. Cohan’s Seven Keys to Baldpate (1913), Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Bat (1920), W. B. Yeats’s Purgatory (1938), Patrick Hamilton’s Angel Street (filmed as Gaslight, 1938), and Agatha Christie’s Three Blind Mice (1952). From Hollywood came a plethora of hauntings, from silent films like D. W. Griffith’s One Exciting Night (1923) and Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary (1927)—remade as a vehicle for Bob Hope in 1939—to James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1932), to such modern classics as Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1965).
   British haunted-house thrillers have come in fits and starts, beginning in the 1930s with a few Hollywood-style gothics, like The Ghoul (1932), whose second half features Boris Karloff as an “undead” creature stalking a house full of heirs to a fortune, and a cycle of Tod Slaughter guignol pictures. Dead of Night (1945), an anthology film with several sequences set in disturbed houses, promised great things, but that potential was not realized until the 1960s and beyond with classics like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), about a young woman’s descent into madness in a London flat, and, of course, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.
   J. C. T.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Horror film — Horror Movie redirects here. For the Skyhooks song, see Horror Movie (Skyhooks song). A famous scene from one of the first notable horror films, Nosferatu. Horror films seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the… …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Fantasy (series) — For the fantasy subgenre, see Dark fantasy Dark Fantasy was an American Radio supernatural thriller anthology series. It had a short run of 31 episodes, debuting on November 21, 1941 and ending on June 19, 1942. Its writer was Scott Bishop, also… …   Wikipedia

  • Dying Earth (subgenre) — Fantasy Fantasy media Fantastic art Fantasy anime Fantasy art Fantasy artists Fantasy authors Fantasy comics Fantasy fiction magazine Fantasy films Fantasy literature Fantasy television Fantasy webcomics Genre studies History of fantasy Sources… …   Wikipedia

  • The Monster (1925 film) — Infobox Film name = The Monster writer = Crane Wilbur (play) Roland West Willard Mack Albert Kenyon starring = Lon Chaney Johnny Arthur Gertrude Olmstead director = Roland West producer = W.L. Heywood distributor = Metro Goldwyn Pictures… …   Wikipedia

  • H. P. Lovecraft — This article is about the author. For the rock group, see H. P. Lovecraft (band). H. P. Lovecraft H. P. Lovecraft, circa 1934. Born Howard Phillips Lovecraft August 20, 1890(1890 08 20) Providence, Rhode Island, United States …   Wikipedia

  • American literature — For the journal of the same name, see American Literature (journal). American literature is the written or literary work produced in the area of the United States and its preceding colonies. For more specific discussions of poetry and theater,… …   Wikipedia

  • literature — /lit euhr euh cheuhr, choor , li treuh /, n. 1. writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays. 2.… …   Universalium

  • performing arts — arts or skills that require public performance, as acting, singing, or dancing. [1945 50] * * * ▪ 2009 Introduction Music Classical.       The last vestiges of the Cold War seemed to thaw for a moment on Feb. 26, 2008, when the unfamiliar strains …   Universalium

  • B movies (The exploitation boom) — The 1960s and 1970s mark the golden age of the independent B movie, made outside of Hollywood s major film studios. As censorship pressures lifted in the early 1960s, the low budget end of the American motion picture industry increasingly… …   Wikipedia

  • B movie — This article is about the film type. For other uses, see B Movie (disambiguation). The King of the Bs , Roger Corman, produced and directed The Raven (1963) for American International Pictures. Vincent Price headlines a cast of veteran character… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.