It is very difficult to bring history to life and many movies have surprisingly managed to accomplish this tough task through horror movies. Horror movies tend to be more frightening when they are given cultural context audiences can relate to and these movies did set their terror during the specific times and places in history.
Here are movies that integrated some events which are found in history books:
1. Pan’s Labyrinth
The Historical Background: The movie took place during the summer of 1994 in Spain; 5 years after the Spanish Civil War and early Francoist period. The film went on to depict many actions carried out by a Falangist captain in his efforts to hunt the Spanish Maquis rebelling against the Francoist regime.
Horror: Ofelia moves with her mother to her stepfather’s house who is military commander against republican rebels. At night, a fairy leads her to a faun who informs her that she is a princess and she needs to participate in three tasks to prove her royalty.
The Historical Background: Deathwatch takes place within the horror of the conflict itself. It is set during WWI and the film follows soldiers of the British 5th Battalion’s White Company, who took refuge in an abandoned German trench after becoming lost following an assault on the enemy line
Horror: In 1917, nine British soldiers find themselves lost in enemy territory on the Western Front. They take refuge in a corpse-filled, rat-infested enemy trench where they wait for rescue. As night falls, however, the men sense that they are not alone – and soon they begin to die one by one. The viewers can also interpret them as representations of PTSD for soldiers.
3. The Witch
The Historical Background: The events were set in the 1630s and the movie shows a Puritan family which is living on a New England farm after they were banished from their colony over a certain “religious” dispute. But then a series of incidents occur on their farm which includes the disappearance of their youngest child, the family then suspects an evil presence in the forest.
Horror: In Bell, Book, and Camera: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television, Heather Greene described The Witch by saying, ‘ frame by frame this movie is an American witch narrative complete with accusations, suspicions, spell work and a missing baby.” The movie shows witchcraft myths, Baba Yaga, Satan as a goat, and child endangerment too.
The Historical Background: Apostle took place in 1905 on a remote Welsh island where a cult was rumored to be founded. The protagonist Thomas traveled to the island to rescue his sister who was held for ransom. The issues of faith raised during these events were relevant to Richardson who is a former missionary persecuted during the Boxer Rebellion for preaching Christianity in China.
Horror: Richardson was told that land remains fertile due to animal sacrifices and the cult had imprisoned a witch-like deity that fed off blood to make the wildlife grow.