Classic Horror Movies

Some classic horror movies are as old as film itself. The first horror movie (The Devil's Castle, 1896) was only two minutes long, but it set the tone for a genre that thrives to this day. The horror genre didn't begin with Jason, Freddy or Michael; here's a primer on the old school classics that inspired today's directors.

Silent Horror

Silent horror movies have a certain creepiness that modern films can't match. The stuttering black and white images and long silent scenes create a menacing atmosphere that shrouds the viewer long before plot or character come into play. Here are a few of the most famous:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) - Director Robert Wiene created a surreal nightmare about an evil carnival hypnotist, Dr. Caligari. The shadowy, distorted sets created a feeling of menace and unreality that was copied for decades by other filmmakers.
  • Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922) - This German silent movie was the first film rendition of Bram Stoker's Dracula-it's unauthorized nature forced name and location changes. Max Schreck's turn as Count Orlok is easily one of the creepiest and most visually arresting vampires in movie history.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) - Lon Chaney, Sr. starred in many silent horror movies, but this is considered one of his masterpieces. This silent adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel allowed Chaney to display his makeup mastery, much as he would do in The Phantom of the Opera (1925).

Classic Horror Studios

In an effort to appeal to the youth market, many film studios have specialized in horror movies over the years. Some of the studios most closely tied to classic horror movies are:

  • Universal - Building on the success of Lon Chaney, Sr. and his classic horror movies, Universal produced a string of iconic horror movies beginning with Dracula and Frankenstein in 1931 and continuing through The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Wolf Man (1941) and The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954).
  • American International Pictures - Formed in 1956 to exploit the teen market, AIP struck golf in the 1960's with a series of movies based on Edgar Allen Poe stories. Directed by Roger Corman and starring Vincent Price, House of Usher (1960) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964) are considered classics of the horror genre. AIP was also the US distributor for the classic Godzilla movies of the 1960s.
  • Hammer Film Productions - From the mid 1950s through the mid 1970s, this British film company produced a string of popular horror films that made actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee internationally famous. Working with Universal, Hammer created remakes of many of the classic horror tales including an eight film series of Dracula movies and a six film series of Frankenstein movies.
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