Gothic elements include the following:
1. Setting in a castle.
2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense.
3. An ancient prophecy
4. Omens, portents, visions
5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events.
6. High, even overwrought emotion
7. Women in distress
8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male
9. The metonymy of gloom and horror.
10. The vocabulary of the gothic.
- Fear, Terror, or Sorrow
The gothic novel was invented almost single-handedly by Horace Walpole, whose The Castle of Otranto (1764) contains essentially all the elements that constitute the genre. Walpole's novel was imitated not only in the eighteenth century and not only in the novel form, but it has influenced writing, poetry, and even film making up to the present day.
The action takes place in and around an old castle, sometimes seemingly abandoned, sometimes occupied. The castle often contains secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, dark or hidden staircases, and possibly ruined sections. The castle may be near or connected to caves, which lend their own haunting flavor with their branchings, claustrophobia, and mystery.
(Translated into modern filmmaking, the setting might be in an old house or mansion--or even a new house--where unusual camera angles, sustained close-ups during movement, and darkness or shadows create the same sense of claustrophobia and entrapment.)