THE FIRST HORROR FILMS
The history of horror movies dates back to the start of cinema itself. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with horror so I guess you can say its in my blood. I’ve tried to include the most important examples that show the progress of the genre. Feel free to discuss, agree or disagree with me on this subject in the comment section below as your opinion always valued. I might even Publish the comments in this or future articles!
THE HAUNTED CASTLE 1896
The first examples of horror movies can be traced back to 1896 when the short film The Haunted Castle was released. Directed by George Melies (also responsible for Journey to the Moon) I believe this was also the first motion picture to surpass the 3 minute mark.
Plot wise its basically about a bat that flies into a castle and turns into the devil. He conjures up a woman. At some point some soldiers or something enter the castle and the devil taunts them. taunts ensue and at the end the soldier pulls a crucifix on the devil causing him to disappear. Doesn’t sound like much but bear in mind the feature was only 3 mins long.
Also bear in mind it wasn’t originally intended as a horror film or to scare people. (Its hardly terror inducing) but I guess it qualifies as the first horror film due the use of shape shifting demons skeletons etc… Considering the techology (or lack there of) I think Melies did alright!
MARY SHELLY’ FRANKENSTEIN (Thomas Edison)
Next in the line on embryonic horror films would be Thomas Edison’s film adatption of the Mary Shelly novel Frankenstein. Produced in 1910 this was thought to be long lost as well until its recent discovery. This version of Frankenstein clocked in at a massive 10 minutes in length. The film took a liberal adaptation of the plot, instead choosing to gloss over the scarier parts. I guess due to the time constrains of a 10 minute film it would be hard to get everything in. But It did allow for more in depth story telling than the previously mentioned Haunted Castle. This is getting closer to the spirit of the horror movie with the “Stop motion” (I guess you could call it that) like technique used to portray the coming to life of Frankenstein’s monster
Overall not a bad effort. It’s still pretty cool to watch now days as well. Its only 10 minutes and an easy watch.
Next in the History of horror movies is the 1915 silent film The Golem. Produced in Germany by Paul Wagener and Henrick Galen (Who went on to produce Nosferatu). The Golem tells the tale of a monster created out of clay to protect practicing Jews in Prague at the time. This would appear to the be the first full length feature as we know them today clocking in at 1 hour. The format of the story telling is also much closer to the films we have of today. The extended time allowed for more plot development and more attention to cinematography The film to me serves as an eerie precursor to the Nazi rise to power in the 40’s.
The film used also seems to have progressed with a much smoother feel to the motion. The accompanying soundtrack was also quite advanced setting the mood and attention of the viewer for the whole duration of film. I Have to admit I found this hard to sit and watch at first. After a few attempts, I mentally zoned in and was able to watch it and grasp what what was going on.
The Golem was also as far as I can tell the first movie to utilize the franchise idea, as it was followed up by 2 sequels.
THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI
Lastly, I’ve included the movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920. Important because it depicted events told from a flash back or memory. It also may have been the first appearance of a zombie (Not the modern kind, the mind controlled kind)in film.
The film came out of Germany, and directed by Robert Weine and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It tells the story of a man competing for the love of a woman. There is a a town fair on and a local showman runs a display where he awakens a man from a 25 year sleep. Is the newly awakened man running around killing the town folk under the control of the strange showman? Well I’ll leave you to find out.
As with many silent films it takes a level of patience to sit though. But again if you can do this the rewards are there. As with all the films mentioned above its a magical ride back in the history of film making and horror.
Next up we have NOSFERATU. Its basically the tale of Dracula with the names modified to get around copywrite issues. As it happens they were still sued and the movie was ordered destroyed. Luckily a few copies survived and the film eventually saw light of day. (or dark of crypt). This is the film that to me feels like a movie not just a curio from times gone past. The movie does not have dialogue, but to me sits well as a standalone movie. The score had been lost so that has been recreated. I’ve kept this one short as I’ve done a full review on the move HERE
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