Horror movies – at least from Hollywood - these days are more humour than horror, even if unintentionally. Long gone are the days of movies that would make you feel the horror creep inside you and stay there for a while. When it comes to real scares – and, of course, if you like real scares - these classic, black & white Hollywood horror flicks would win almost every time over a modern-day creeper.
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – first published in 1886 and written by Robert Louis Stevenson - is perhaps one of the most adapted works of written fiction in history. Our favourite, though, is the 1931 horror adaptation called Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
It’s the story of a man who inherently believes that good and evil is within our own selves, and goes ahead to prove his crazy hypothesis with an even crazier potion that, for some time, makes him a rampaging murderer. Sufficiently creepy, philosophically deep and with a soundtrack that still makes us jump up whenever we hear it, you’d probably need a blanket to be safe in while watching this one.
Phantom Of The Opera
A lot of people from this generation would probably know Phantom of the Opera from the annoying Iron Maiden song of the same name, though if we go back a bit, we’d realise that it’s actually based on one of the classics of the silent-films era (which was in turn based on a 1909 novel). It arguably does a better job at scaring the daylights out of us without saying a word than most articulate horror movies of today.
It’s set around the fictional Paris Opera House, whose management is so fed up of the ghost that haunts it and his weird requests that they decide to leave. Without giving away any spoilers, it could be described as a love story of the Opera Ghost – as he’s called – with a young actress, except that it’s one-sided, he’s a ghost and it’s not a love story at all.
Eyes Without A Face
Ever seen the iconic poster from this movie with that girl and her creepy, blank mask? We’re pretty sure you have, as it’s one of the most iconic photographs from the black and white era of Hollywood. Eyes Without A Face is a 1960 film made in French that has gone on to achieve a classic as well as cult status, partly due to its lyrical and poetic nature.It’s a story of a disfigured girl, who is the one with the creepy mask, though she’s not the monster of the film. That is her dad, who is so driven to hide his daughter’s disfigurement (due to an accident which he caused) that he goes to all lengths to fix her face. Of course, plastic surgery wasn’t all the rage back then as it is now, though actual solutions to the problem is not what this film is about. The dad is actually crazy, and is kidnapping and murdering other girls to get the parts required for the transplant. To be honest, that mask does look pretty dead to us, too.
Freaks is one of the rare films on this list that absolutely bombed at the box office when it first released. And if you were a movie-goer in 1932, you’d understand why; it’s immensely controversial and has one of the most shocking endings.
The setting is a circus, with a stark divide between the people who looked different from others and other circus workers set up right from the beginning. It’s mainly set around a trapeze artist who appears to have fallen in love with a midget, but soon reveals, rather rudely, that she was only interested in his inheritance, and that they’re all a bunch of ‘freaks’. Apparently, that was really not cool, as what the supposed ‘freaks’ do to her in the following part of the film is the most shocking part of it all.
If you only remember Psycho – easily one of the most iconic films of all time, not just horror – from that photo of Anthony Perkins dressed up in his mother’s gown with a knife in his hands, you absolutely remember it right. While it was certainly not Alfred Hitchcock’s first film when it was released, it has since turned into his most acclaimed works till date.
Based on a 1959 novel by the same name, Psycho is a brilliant study in psychological horror (quite literally, too, as it’s a staple of most film-school curriculums around). The protagonist may appear to be Marion Crane, who is the unfortunate subject of everything that happens in the film, but it’s actually the story of Norman Bates; a motel manager with some complicated mommy issues they haven’t yet sorted out. There are no – or at least infrequent – jump scares or scary ghosts to make you jump off the couch in this one; this one is for when you want the horror to unknowingly get under the skin, and stay there for days.
Night Of The Living Dead
Hollywood has overdone zombies to an irritating extent, so much so that now they’re seen as a hilarious movie trope than anything to be really scared of. It wasn’t always like that, though, as the first movie on zombies was actually scary, and set up grounds for all zombie fiction to come after it.
Night of the Living Dead is your usual zombie plot, but done up in signature black and white horror style and with a consistent sense of impending doom modern zombie flicks don’t even come close to matching. It’s about a group of people who’re running away from hordes of the undead suddenly rising around the country, and take shelter in a farmhouse to stay safe. Many of the modern zombie-movie tropes originated here; squabbles among the group on what course of action to take, a fortified spot to take shelter in, going out to the undead areas to get something they desperately need etc.
The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix has garnered a lot of attention lately due its unconventional take on traditional haunted-house formula, as well as its brilliant source material in the 1959 novel of the same name. The Haunting – a 1963 horror film - is one of the earlier adaptations on the book, and remains our favourite one.
The movie is creepy not because of ghosts or any other apparitions; it’s creepy because the house itself is out to get them. The movie revolves around a scientist and his two subjects who are invited to stay in a supposedly haunted house. While things start out in the usual psychological-horror-movie fashion we’re all so used to by now, the inhabitants soon realize that there may not be any ghosts at all; some houses are just haunted.
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