Il nuovo cinema del terrore nasce in Inghilterra. A promuoverlo sono Terence Fisher, Jack Clayton e Robert Fuest, e gli attori Peter Cushing, Vincent Price e Christopher Lee.
Il nuovo film del terrore si differenza da quello classico degli anni Trenta per un carattere piu' negativo. Mentre l' horror movie classico rappresentava il "mostro" come vittima (e spesso al centro di una patetica storia d' amore impossibile), e conservava il carattere di favola, l' horror movie del Dopoguerra presenta invece il mostro come agente del Male fine a stesso. L' horror si focalizza nell' atto del fare del male, e i film indulgono nel mostrare cio' che prima veniva soltanto lasciato intuire:: l' atto dell' omicidio. Quell' atto diventa anzi l' essenza stessa del film, e pertanto i registi gli dedicano sempre piu' attenzione, fino agli eccessi di Robert Fuest. L' effettismo del nuovo horror esclude ogni messaggio morale. Le scene cruciali sono quelle piu' repellenti, e lo spettatore e' sempre piu' un morboso voyeur che vuol vedere dettagli raccapriccianti. Dalla sofisticazione della suspence si e' passati alla grossolanita' dell' esibizionismo.
Inevitabilmente si e' fatto crescente ricorso ad effetti speciali sempre piu' cruenti. Cio` ha avuto, se non altro, il merito di aprire la strada ad ambientazioni sempre piu' iper-realistiche.
The first generation of horror cinema was mostly grounded in literary sources (Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll, Edgar Allan Poe, 19th century British gothic novels). The new, post-Holocaust and post-Hiroshima horror often interpreted fears that were not only the fear of death and of dead people (ghosts) but fears that were political and sociological in nature. Horror cinema was often an ideological allegory. Zombies and monsters represented the "other", whether the communists (that were supposed to be infiltrating the USA) or the juvenile delinquents (that were supposed to terrorize entire cities). The monster was not the victim but the the person who is not integrated, the immigrant, the enemy. Horror movies had always been less about the fear of dying and more about the fear of the dead (ghosts and vampires). But now the "horror" also came from zombies, who were halfway between ghosts and extraterrestrial invaders, very corporeal ghosts, ghosts that used to be the protagonist's neighbors, friends and even family, suddenly turned into a terrible and deadly force set to destroy not only the protagonist's life but also the entire order of protagonist's society. It was also a post-expressionism (post "Mabuse" and "M") and post-Hitchcock cinema: visually less "chiaroscuro" and narratively less subtle. Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Jack Lee Thompson's Cape Fear (1962) are watershed events. Horror movies after them would tend to be gory. Horror cinema quickly turned into a total spectacle of eccessive visual effects, noise and screams, with more violence and more carnage, and led to the generation of Robert Fuest's The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971), Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and David Cronenberg's Shivers (1975). One important factor was technology: technology allowed filmmakers to create a hyper-reality that was only "hinted at" in previous generations of horror movies. Technology created its own collective subconscious. By that time George Romero's The Night of the Living Dead (1968) had already introduced a bloodied version of monsters, the zombies. Largely forgotten was the lesson of Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1967) and William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) Spielberg's Duel (1971), films that explored supernatural and metaphysical terror.
Brian DePalma's Carrie (1976) and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) marked the rise of Stephen King, the most successful gothic writer of the late 20th century.
By the 1980s the world was ready to rediscover the classics: Paul Schrader's Cat People (1982) was a remake of Jacques Tourneur's Cat People (1942), John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) was a remake of Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another World (1951) David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986) was a remake of Kurt Neumann's 1958 film, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (1978) was a remake of Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands (1990) revisited the theme of Frankenstein, Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stokerís Dracula (1992) was a new interpretation of the tale that Tod Browning had first explored in Dracula (1931). The 1980s also witnessed a boom in vampire movies with a twist, like Tony Scott's Hunger (1983) and Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (1987).
The border between the traditional thriller and the horror movie was blurred in classics like John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), a hybrid pioneered by Jack Lee Thompson's Cape Fear (1962). Of course, monsters of one kind or another popped up in many sci-fi movies, notably in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), straddling the border between the two genres.
Joe Dante's The Howling (1981) and John Landis' An American Werewolf In London (1981) were the classics of werewolf movies.
George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn Of The Dead (1978) are the films, both set in Pennsylvania, that launched the zombie movies worldwide.
Meanwhile, Italian directors like mario Bava and Dario Argento coined a different kind of horror. See also Italian horror.
John Carpenter's Halloween (1978), Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) revived horror cinema as an even more terrifying experience. The 1980s of the AIDS epidemic and of the drug epidemic turned out to be the ideal era for the boom of horror films.