What Are Gothic Movies?

Gothic films are a subgenre of horror films that attempt to recreate the themes and settings of classic gothic literature. Although there are many others and variations, the themes frequently revolve around dark subjects such as obsessive emotional states, villainous family plots, evil, and the supernatural. The setting in which the characters exist is a defining feature of many gothic films, often acting as a character in and of itself, providing both atmosphere and plot advancement. There have been attempts to create film versions of classic gothic literature from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as to capture the essence of the genre in new tales set in modern times, since the beginning of the motion picture industry. These films differ from horror films in that they rarely employ the same devices to create suspense, rarely feature scenes with large amounts of gore, and tend to focus more on character interaction as a source of tension or plot.

The portrayal of the environment around the characters is one of the aspects of gothic literature that some claim has been enhanced gothic movies. The movies are able to convey the dark sense of mystery that some settings should have through the use of lighting and realistic sets. Scenes of busy, ambivalent cities and tall castles that could not have truly existed but project the necessary emotions for the story are made possible special effects in movies. Set design quickly became an important part of gothic films because it serves as a player in many stories isolating characters, drawing them together, or concealing truths.

Characters in gothic films play a significant role in the genre. The movies reflected the same device that the novels did in quickly establishing certain archetypes that played sometimes predictable roles in the plot. Certain actors were so popular as the hero, the virgin, the comic relief, or the villain that they became typecast in the archetypal roles and performed them over and over again in subsequent films.

When dealing with supernatural elements that frequently appear in fiction, some gothic films were also able to create a sense of suspense. To portray a deformed character or a ghost, makeup and other effects were used early on. Later, special effects were able to more convincingly materialize supernatural characters and events, allowing viewers to maintain their suspension of disbelief. More complex special effects allowed for the depiction of the wildly fantastical scenes described in some novels as they were originally imagined.

Stories with long ancestral histories and novels with first-person expositions are two examples of gothic movies that haven’t always translated well from page to screen. Some romantic plots are so complicated that relaying the information without constant narration can be difficult. There are also some gothic films that fail to capture the story’s subtext, such as Victorian writers’ fear of sexuality, women’s oppression, or social hierarchy criticism.