A Brief History of Spanish Horror Cinema

Natasha HARMER


     I’ve been a fan of the horror genre for years, since I first snuck the 2008 remake of ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ out of my house and over to a friends’, innocently disguised in a kids DVD box at the tender age of 11. Prior to that my only experience of horror (putting the term loosely) was the 2002 alien flick Signs. The scene in which Mel Gibson slides a knife under the kitchen door so he can see the reflection of the intruder gave me nightmares for years! It was a long time until I could get into bed at night without panicking that a slimy green hand would shoot out from under the bed and grab my foot.    

  Over the years though I’ve become somewhat immune to the jumps and scares of your average horror film, and this brings me on to the subject of Spanish horror-cinema.  The only horror film I’ve seen of recent years that I can say genuinely creeped me out is Spanish found-footage film REC. Other Spanish horror films that I’ve seen, and in my opinion films that are leagues above most horror’s to come out of America recently, are The Orphanage, Pan’s Labyrinth, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (although not entirely horror) and The Others.

  While the US have dabbled with ‘gorno’, a blend of gore and porn, Spain have taken on the genre of psychological thrillers with films such as Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone.

 But why Spain and why horror? I’m going to take a look at the history of Spanish horror, and try to find out why it has become such a huge tradition in Spanish film, starting with the work of Paul Naschy, who’s considered to be the true king of Spanish horror.
Growing up during the Spanish civil war, Naschy had to escape real life horrors by absorbing himself in adventure comics and movies. He broke into the film industry as an extra in films like King of the Vikings.
In 1967, he wrote the script for Hell’s Creatures and played the lead role of tormented werewolf Daninsky. He then played the character a number of times in more than a dozen sequels and his portrayal of the character gave him the cult status as a horror icon.
When the Spanish film industry began to abandon the horror genre, Naschy became a producer in order to keep the genre alive.

  While other countries are now producing ‘gorno’ horror (a blend of gore and porn) Spain have cornered the psychological thriller market. Since the films of Naschy, Spain has emerged as one of the most prolific countries for horror cinema, with successful franchises such as REC, a claustrophobic found footage style zombie film which has been noted as one of the best horror films of recent years. Guillermo Del Toro, although Mexican, directed Pan’s Labyrinth, a successful horror/fantasy, and Alejandro Amenabar wrote and directed English speaking Spanish horror The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.

   Naschy is considered the king of Spanish horror, and kept the genre alive and made it a popular genre in Spain. Since then Spain has become one of the biggest countries for the production of horror films, and arguably the best.

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