- As a genre, horror never achieved much appreciation until the 1970s. Of the great studios in the Golden Age, only Universal concentrated on horror films in the classical period, but this was because as a second-string major it was, ideally, an area without much competition from others. Attempts were made to seek legitimacy in the post-classical period with films like Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962), and its sequel of sorts Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte (Robert Aldrich, 1964) and Suspense (Jack Clayton, 1960) in Hollywood or, in Europe, Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960), but somehow the genre never seemed to take off in the high-end of the industry. Also, these were all worthy attempts to provide thrills, but were in the end too restrained.In times of economic difficulties, however, producing films that promised rawer sensations could become a life-saving strategy for producers. In the late 1960s, a mix of horror and sex started filling U.S. drive-ins and European screens, quickly reaching wide audiences. In time, gore and extreme violence would slowly make it to the mainstream (for instance with The Exorcist), but largely horror kept its status as low, unartistic filmmaking.Spanish film traditions rely heavily on realism, musicals, and comedy, to the extent that fantasy genres and thrillers were almost unrepresented for decades. From the late 1960s, horror is the exception to this rule. The film that seemed to announce the trend is Gritos en la noche (Screams in the Night / The Awful Dr. Orloff, Jesús Franco, 1962), but it is the crisis of the late 1960s that forced producers to find cheap and popular formulas that could be distrib-uted internationally. Horror thrillers could reach out beyond national boundaries, although differences in censorship restrictions sometimes forced the distribution of different versions. This is the period when British Hammer films, Italian giallo, and Spanish horror all flourished simultaneously, often recycling motives, themes, stars, and filmmakers.Three key figures in the golden age of Spanish horror were Jesús Franco, Armando de Ossorio, and especially, Paul Naschy. Naschy, a horror fan since childhood, with a particular interest in the Wolf Man, created the fictional character of Waldemar Daninsky and became one of the most prolific filmmakers in Spanish cinema, as well as one of the most popular. His fan base has only increased with the years, and he has become a cult figure. Armando de Ossorio created a saga around templar monks who rise from the grave, which can be seen as the continuation of the living dead cycle started by George A. Romero. Jesús Franco is also a cult figure who was very active in the gore subgenre. Another example in this first wave of Spanish horror is Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, who, after extensive work on television, where he adapted fantasy and horror classics for his legendary series Historias para no dormir, turned to the big screen. First, he made an accomplished gothic horror tale set in a boarding school, La residencia (The Boarding School, 1969), which included nods to Psycho and the serial killer tradition. His second horror film, the shrewd ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (Who Could Kill a Child? 1976) took place in the daylight, more specifically on an island where children have become murderers. Vicente Aranda also tried his hand at the vampire genre with La novia ensangrentada (The Blood-Spattered Bride, 1972 ). As the Transition came and censorship disappeared, the films became more sexual and gorier.Changes in legislation in the early 1980s polarized film production between quality projects on the one hand, and sex comedies on the other. At the same time, international horror films were progressively more propelled by expensive special effects, and The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) encouraged the respectability of the genre, which was becoming high concept. The key film in the return of horror to the Spanish film industry was El día de la bestia (Day of the Beast, Álex de la Iglesia, 1995). The films were now ironic and steeped in cinephilia. Other De la Iglesia films like La comunidad (The Community, 2000) and Crimen Perpecto (Perpect Crime, 2004) also included aspects of horror presented in a comic way.The latest wave of horror in Spanish film is headed by Catalan director Jaume Balaguero. He continues with the tradition of international casts. The Lynchinan short Alicia (1994) and Los sin nombre (The Nameless, 1999) were followed by the more accomplished Darkness (2002), shot in English with an international cast, and, more recently, [ Rec ], co-directed with Paco Plaza (and remade by Hollywood as Quarantine in 2008). Other recent instances include Jaime Bayona, director of the box-office hit El orfanato (The Orphanage, 2007), Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto [ 2001 ], who made his international debut with 28 Weeks Later [ 2007 ]), Xavier Villaverde (Trece campanadas [ Thirteen Curses ], 2002), and Nacho Cerdá (the body-horror short Aftermath [ 1994 ] and The Abandoned [ 2006 ]).
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.