Spanish film traditions rely heavily on realism, musicals, and comedy, to the extent that fantasy genres and thrillers were almost unrepresented for decades. From the late 1960s, horror is the exception to this rule. The film that seemed to announce the trend is Gritos en la noche (Screams in the Night / The Awful Dr. Orloff, Jesús Franco, 1962), but it is the crisis of the late 1960s that forced producers to find cheap and popular formulas that could be distributed internationally. Horror thrillers could reach out beyond national boundaries, although differences in censorship restrictions sometimes forced the distribution of different versions. This is the period when British Hammer films, Italian giallo, and Spanish horror all flourished simultaneously, often-recycling motives, themes, stars, and filmmakers.
Three key figures in the golden age of Spanish horror were Jesús Franco, Armando de Ossorio, and especially, Paul Naschy. Naschy, a horror fan since childhood, with a particular interest in the Wolf Man, created the fictional character of Waldemar Daninsky and became one of the most prolific filmmakers in Spanish cinema, as well as one of the most popular. His fan base has only increased with the years, and he has become a cult figure. Armando de Ossorio created a saga around templar monks who rise from the grave, which can be seen as the continuation of the living dead cycle started by George A. Romero. Jesús Franco is also a cult figure that was very active in the gore subgenre. Another example in this first wave of Spanish horror is Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, who, after extensive work on television, where he adapted fantasy and horror classics for his legendary series Historias para no dormir, turned to the big screen. First, he made an accomplished gothic horror tale set in a boarding school, La residencia (The Boarding School, 1969), which included nods to Psycho and the serial killer tradition. His second horror film, the shrewd ¿Quién puede matar a un niño? (Who Could Kill a Child? 1976) took place in the daylight, more specifically on an island where children have become murderers. Vicente Aranda also tried his hand at the vampire genre with La novia ensangrentada (The Blood-Spattered Bride, 1972). As the Transition came and censorship disappeared, the films became more sexual and gorier.