Why horror is experiencing a new golden age

A new exhibition at London’s Somerset House uses horror to tell a subversive tale of British history. Curator Claire Catterall discusses why horror is resonating in the mainstream

Horror has seeped out from the sidelines and into popular culture. A crop of filmmakers and studios have been credited with reviving a more thoughtful take on the genre, and occultism has gone from a fringe practice to an increasingly prominent fixture in the worlds of publishing, social media, and podcasting. Meanwhile, artists working with make-up and SFX – from Isamaya Ffrench to Malina Stearns – are popularising eerie or outright gruesome aesthetics in visual arts as well as the beauty industry.

Somerset House delves in this with The Horror Show!, a landmark exhibition which helps to contextualise what its senior curator Claire Catterall calls “a new golden age of horror”. The show promises to explore beyond the genre (anyone looking for a deep dive into gory film and literature should know it lives up to that promise) and uses horror as a lens to revisit the last 50 years of British life and society. As such, politics play a significant part, as do shifts in technology and social life – all retold through the eyes of artists as well as historic materials and ephemera.