Join us as we delve into the historical world of horror movies, a genre aimed at provoking the minds of those who seek thrills from the adrenaline rush of fear and shock. Horror has been an official genre of film since the 1890s’ and has since grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with each new movie trying to outdo the last one. This blood-pumping film genre is inspired by centuries of literature by legendary authors like Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe and usually has an evil force in the plot as the opposing factor.
Horror takes a brilliant dive into fantasy and the world of supernatural fiction with characters such as evil witches, cults, demons, black magic, mummies, monsters, and evil spirits to name a few. As visual effects technology enhances, movie makers get more creative to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between what’s real and what is actually fiction.
Le Manoir du Diable – 1896
This two-and-a-half-minute short film, dubbed as the first horror film ever made, is the first of several short, silent films by Georges Méliès, a French actor, film director, and illusionist who pioneered developments in cinema in the early days. He popularized the use of special effects through substitution splices, hand-painted color, multiple exposure, and time-lapse technology.
Le Manoir du Diable translates into “The House of the Devil” or “The Devil’s Castle” and is set in an old medieval castle. It tells the story of an encounter with the Devil through a depiction of brief pantomimed sketches. Since the opening scene features a shape-shifting bat, it also claims to be the first vampire movie of its time. Based on satanic ritualism, the Devil vanishes at the end of the film when faced with a crucifix.
The short film was captured in Méliès’s garden in Montreuil, France, with many painted sets and added scenery. Until 1988, the film was presumed “missing” until a copy was found in the New Zealand Film Archive. At just under three minutes, the movie’s length is said to be very ambitious for its time, indicating the boldness of the director’s creative ideas.
Spirits of the Dead – 1969
The title Spirit of the Dead is from an Edgar Allen Poe poem written in 1827 and features three of Poe’s stories through a horror anthology directed by a group of European directors: Louis Malle, Roger Vadim, and Federico Fellini. Peter Fonda, Brigitte Badot, Alain Delon, Terence Stamp, and the fabulous Jane Fonda star in this classic film. There are a few erotic touches to the film with an inclusion of some explicit use of violence during a dissection scene.
Apparently, there was even more drama behind the camera, involving several changes to cast members and initial directors. Nonetheless, Spirits of the Dead is a timeless classic with great reviews. One particularly notable moment involves Alain Delon and Bridgette Bardot playing a high stake gambling scene, which is depicted far more realistically than is commonly seen in films that feature gambling or casinos.
Not only do the two actors do a brilliant job at portraying big-time gamblers, but it makes the viewer want to hit the closest casino and try their luck at some scary, yet exciting gambling sprees. In fact, you don’t even have to go to a casino these days, there are many online gambling sites like Sister Casino Spy to get your kicks.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948
This American Horror Comedy film was directed by Charles Barton and stars the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. At this point in history, directors were getting very creative in reaching a bigger and more diverse audience by introducing comedy into the horror scene. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the first of many to follow where the comedy duo meet characters from Universal’s horror film crew.
The United States Library of Congress deemed this film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 2001 and it was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry. September 2007 saw Reader’s Digest select it as one of “the top 100 funniest films of all time”. The film landed itself at 56 on the list of the American Film Institute’s “100 Funniest American Movies”.
With everything from Dracula, scary werewolves, and creepy wax museums to love scenes, party scenes, and the legendary Invisible Man, this edgy film and its excellent visuals are all you could ask for from a classic comedy horror. It’s a timeless film reminding us of the brilliance that is horror and the endless possibilities that its characters and storylines offer.