Things that go bump in the night
Dozens of ways to make your pulse race! Turn out the lights, roll the film--and be afraid. Be very afraid.
I've listed these movies (plus a select few tv shows) chronologically, complete with my highly opinionated pocket reviews. Please note that I am stingy with stars, and try to rate based on criteria more objective than simply "I loved it/hated it"--a movie has to be really outstanding to earn an 8 or higher from me. The lower I've rated a film, the later at night you should watch it.
Just starting your journey through the golden age of horror films? This 95-minute documentary is a great place to learn about must-see movies made circa 1920-1948. Included are clips from many classics, plus a good discussion of how censorship changed the game for filmmakers.
The documentary is included with several Universal horror film DVDs (mine came with the 75th Anniversary edition of Dracula). ” - blue_sock_monkey
Excellent overview of horror films focusing on three key eras: between the World Wars, the Hammer Films years, and modern. Many classic clips. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Smart, empathetic documentary on producer Val Lewton's career, focusing on his immensely influential work in the 1940s. Essential viewing for fans. (This runs occasionally on TCM, and is included as a bonus feature on the DVD for The Seventh Victim.) ” - blue_sock_monkey
A respectful and amusing overview of William Castle, who was better at promoting cheap horror movies than directing them. I learned things I hadn't known--for instance, Castle produced the classic Rosemary's Baby. This documentary, which features plenty of film clips including stars like Vincent Price and Joan Crawford, runs occasionally on TCM. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Here it is on the Internet Archive:
http://archive.org/details/The_Haunted_Castle_1896 ” - blue_sock_monkey
Sci-fi cinema is born! This film is genuinely entertaining, and not to be missed.
There are many versions available--restored, hand-coloured, different music tracks; most, unfortunately, are incomplete. Search one out and enjoy!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Trip_to_the_Moon ” - blue_sock_monkey
Another important piece of horror history, available on the Internet Archive. The director achieves actual suspense during the creation sequence.
http://archive.org/details/FrankensteinfullMovie ” - blue_sock_monkey
Before the 1930s monster craze, Robert Louis Stevenson's tale of the tragic doctor was probably the most popular horror story around--there were at least eight versions made before 1931. An adaptation from 1908 is lost; this 1912 one-reeler is the oldest known to have survived. Technically crude, but it does cram lots of action into its 8 minutes. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Like most adaptations, this one is based on the 1887 play rather than the Stevenson novella. Compared to other circa-1913 films I've seen, this is not especially good technically. But at twice the length of the 1912 version, it puts considerably more effort into developing characters and some mood. I particularly like the intertitle that describes Jekyll as a "martyr to science."
Available on the Internet Archive:
http://archive.org/details/DrJekyllAndMrHyde1913 ” - blue_sock_monkey
Wild sets, wild plot, wild camera, wild acting! (And you thought Conrad Veidt was just that Nazi in Casablanca who was mean to Bogart & Bergman.) The ultimate example of cinematic German Expressionism. Though not one of my personal favorites, this is essential viewing if you want to call yourself a horror fan. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Barrymore's first transformation scene is unforgettable. Equally amazing is Nita Naldi's dress, which appears to have been painted onto her rather than sewn.
What I especially like about this version is the attempt to explore the doctor's psychology. And you just have to love a horror flick that quotes Oscar Wilde. ” - blue_sock_monkey
A wee bit over-worshipped by legions of rabid fans--but its visual phantasmagoria is still engrossing. If all the actors were as good as Schreck, I'd rate it even higher. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër?
Awash with bizarre imagery, some of it created with an innovative optical printer, including the majestik møøse. A Møøse once bit my sister...
Sorry. The persons responsible for creating this review have been sacked. This really is a good movie, and distinctly different from anything else you might see in any other Jazz Age film.
Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretty nasti. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Chaney at full-throttle amidst splendidly atmospheric sets. This would be vastly better, though, if Philbin & Kerry didn't appear to be animated stick figures; they both must have taken acting lessons from Gustav von Wangenheim.
Incidentally, I'm one of the few people who prefer the finale as it now exists, rather than the soppy romantic version it replaced. ” - blue_sock_monkey
An early parody of Dr Jekyll. ” - blue_sock_monkey
I still get nightmares about that hairy hand. Directed by a master, this film is not only an excellent mix of chills & comedy, it almost single-handedly invented the classic haunted house atmosphere that we look for in movies today.
Leni's films--especially this one and The Last Warning--were strong influences on James Whale.
http://archive.org/details/The_Cat_and_the_Canary ” - blue_sock_monkey
A terrifyingly well-constructed nightmare. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Thanks to its immensely stylish cinematography and Art Deco sets, this is a highly influential film. But I confess that, as a movie, it left me cold--the politics are simplistic, and the message heavy-handed. I have nightmares about the present and the future, but they are not the same as Lang's. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Alfred Hitchcock's first suspense film. He didn't direct many films I would classify as horror, but this one surely qualifies.
http://archive.org/details/TheLodgerAStoryOfTheLondonFog_579 ” - blue_sock_monkey
Obviously, I can't rate the film itself--but I did enjoy seeing the reconstruction, which is 7.5/10. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Veidt (and his devoted dog) will touch your heart. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Ever been puzzled as to what inspired Una O'Connor's over-the-top shenanigans in James Whales's horror films? Watch this, and wonder no more. This is far from director Paul Leni's best work, but it's well worth a look, if only to see the "Phantom of the Opera" theater set put to good use. And pay attention to that sinister face cleverly created by the outer facade of the theater (about 15 minutes from the start). ” - blue_sock_monkey
This movie (based on a 1923 hit play) is the origin of every single film you've ever seen premised on the "she/he doesn't know she/he's dead" trick. The script is lumpy, but there are many moments of mystical foggy moodiness in this spiritual fantasy. Remade with better acting but less atmosphere in 1944 as Between Two Worlds, and also as a dreadful made-for-TV-movie, Haunts of the Very Rich 1972. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Fine performances and a highly original plot, plus Lang's distinctive direction. Everything works here: the complex use of sound, shadows, silhouettes, angles, focus, flashbacks, framing, and reflections; the script and casting; the insights into individual and mob psychology. Cynical, poignant, and forever memorable. One of the great films. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Wonderful from start to finish. Please stop reading this silly list and go watch this movie right now! ” - blue_sock_monkey
March is over-the-top once or twice, the make-up is weird--and it doesn't matter. Distinguished direction, a literate script, and strong performances establish this one as the definitive film version. ” - blue_sock_monkey
It's not all it should have been, due to a mediocre script and some missed chances in the direction; there are plot holes and more than one forgettable performance (from David Manners especially).
But Lugosi as the Count is indelible: He has been standing on that crumbling staircase waiting for you since time began. If you have time for only one Dracula, this is it. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Barrymore, looking very like the infamous Rasputin, gives his character evocative body language and vocal mannerisms, building to a pathos-inducing finale (though Marsh, as his victim, is not quite up to his standard). The sets by Anton Grot are eye-popping, and the cinematography is also very good, though needing better lighting. I could have done without the comic Scotsmen. ” - blue_sock_monkey
This Spanish-language version, made in parallel with the Lugosi classic, sometimes generates more atmosphere than its better-known companion; its women are also far sexier. The bad news is that most of its actors cannot act, and, in particular, Villarias has all the charisma of a tube of toothpaste. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Elegantly directed by cinematographer Karl Freund. Karloff is surprisingly touching in a relatively complicated role, and the atmosphere is deliciously eerie. Zita Johann is an intriguing heroine, while both Van Sloan and Manners are far more effective here than in Dracula (unfortunately, both also remain notably uncharismatic). Superb make-up by Jack Pierce.
The plot is uncomfortably similar to Dracula; beginning in the 1970s, vampires would return the favour, lifting the reincarnation element from this film for Dracula remakes. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Don't miss one of Laughton's best performances! And you'll never forget the panther girl. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Emotionally searing, and not for everyone. But the sideshow performers are treated with dignity, and the tale is compelling. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Fast, tense, and fantastically stylish. Highly recommended. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The plot is a bit weak, the acting often even more so--but the film makes up for a lot by generating an incredibly eerie mood. ” - blue_sock_monkey
"Have a potato." Never mind the weak plot, this is loads of fun: There's a drunken lecherous butler, a crazed pyromaniac, potholes the size of small counties, one religious zealot, an imminent flood, a mysterious dying man, a couple of fornicators, a knock-out white satin evening gown, and plenty of curtains billowing in gale-force winds. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Dark, with an exceedingly creepy premise. I found the love story more than usually annoying, though. If I focus on the wonderful cinematography, the sub-par acting (from pretty much the entire cast) doesn't bother me as much. ” - blue_sock_monkey
I love Fay Wray & Lionel Atwill, but I honestly found this tedious to sit through. ” - blue_sock_monkey
It could be better only if Joel McCrea had played Cabot's role. Everything else is perfect--and you'll cry at the end. ” - blue_sock_monkey
A delightful Whalesian romp, with terrific special effects. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Nobody screams like Fay Wray. Or has more reason to. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Poverty Row studio Majestic assembled a fine cast & shot much of this at Universal. While the movie needed a stronger script & direction, it's always worthwhile spending an hour with Dwight Frye's maniacal laugh. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Heavy cuts damaged the plot. But Lugosi and Karloff both shine here in intriguing roles. Plus we get exciting Art Deco sets, a collection of bottled beauties, and a whole crowd of devil worshippers. What more could a horror fan want? ” - blue_sock_monkey
Fantasy rather than horror, with a startling conclusion. I found the ethereal heroine to be stunningly annoying, though; without Fredric March, I wouldn't have made it to the end. Strong cast, high production values. ” - blue_sock_monkey
My all-time favorite. More importantly, one of the greatest films ever made.
http://stripgenerator.com/strip/692166/bride-of-frankenbunny/#main ” - blue_sock_monkey
Vivid performances by Karloff & Lugosi are the highlight of this tale about torture (which has little to do with Poe). The supporting cast is merely adequate, yet the direction shows some imaginative touches. ” - blue_sock_monkey
A talkie remake of the lost London After Midnight from 1927. Achieves a really spooky atmosphere, and boasts an unusually strong cast. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Starring the Elvis wolf man! Starts out well, has a few good moments plus bits of comedy--yet it never quite gels. And why is there a camel in Tibet?
As you'd expect, the transformations are crude, and Hull's rather unsympathetic werewolf actually stops to put on his coat before dashing out to rampage. My favorite scenes were the interactions with a tabby cat and a wolf at the zoo. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Lionel Barrymore in drag! Ingenious revenge plot!! Assassin Barbie doll victorious!!! And it all seems so very very reasonable. A personal favorite of mine. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Unusual touches of humor, plus strong atmosphere in key scenes--the influence of James Whale is obvious, though this film lacks his panache. Churchill as the heroine is a bit annoying, while Kruger is not quite dashing enough. Nonetheless, this is Holden's film, and she remains one of the most memorable vampires of all time. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The actors are so stiff, I thought the zombies had appeared long before they actually did. Weak story, stilted dialogue, and almost no action until the final moments. Skip it. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Sinister Basil Rathbone, a rich blonde, and a charming cottage isolated in the country--what better ingredients for murder? I confess it's only a so-so film--until the finale, which is both creative and well-done. ” - blue_sock_monkey
You'll hate the adorable tyke--but everything else works well. Crazy Expressionistic sets provide the perfect backdrop for a mad doctor, a hunchback, and a one-armed police inspector to tussle over the immortal monster. ” - blue_sock_monkey
One of several good adaptations of this classic novella. Rathbone is 10/10 as Holmes; the rest of the film--eh, not so much. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Good cast in mediocre remake--with not one iota of atmosphere--of Paul Leni's 1927 classic. Hope & Goddard are far more fun in 1940's The Ghost Breakers. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Better acting and atmosphere than the 1944 remake (but this one, alas, does not have Angela Lansbury). ” - blue_sock_monkey
The plot & pratfalls come at you fast & furious here. Immensely charming, well-produced comedy. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The (mostly) unseen menace is back, this time voiced by the inimitable Price. For mysterious reasons, his drug of choice is now "duocane" (rather than the original's monocane). It lacks the comedic flair of the Claude Rains outing, but perhaps has more heart. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Fast-paced comedy with immense charm, energetic performances. Barrymore is enjoying himself here, and you should, too. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Many fun moments through special effects, though the narrative lacks consistent momentum and the dialogue is often lame. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Universal relaunched The Mummy with this clumsy mix of laughs & chills. The Kharis story line doesn't work for me, & neither does this series. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Lugosi is fine here, despite being given little to work with, and a very weak supporting cast. ” - blue_sock_monkey
One of the most poignant of the classic Universal horror films. Ouspenskaya is the standout in a remarkably good cast. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Enjoyable parody of the haunted house genre--Joan Davis as the professional radio screamer become an instant favorite of mine with this flick. Keep an eye on that candle! ” - blue_sock_monkey
A weird little live-action short adapted from Poe's story. For no reason I can imagine, it's included as a special feature on The Shadow of the Thin Man DVD. It's not bad at all--but the 1953 animated version is far superior. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The first of producer Val Lewton's legendary psychological horror movies, and arguably the best. The famous set-pieces (the walk through Central Park, the swimming pool sequence) have never been outdone. And you'll be startled by the scenes in which Simone Simon and Tom Conway square off--both erotic and perverse, with violence simmering just beneath the surface. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Anker's charm and Lugosi's undoubted menace can't overcome a limp, dull story (and a disappointing set). The adorable-child-victim business is played out, too. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Or maybe this one is Lewton's best. I can never decide. I've seen it many times, and that walk through the dark jungle still gives me the shivers. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Great noir atmosphere. I find this the saddest of Lewton's films. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The setting is a little drab, with bland leads. But this film contains three astounding murder scenes that frighten me every time I see them. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Lon terrorizes Wales, then joins Bela in Never-Never-Deutschland for more havoc. Has its moments thanks to Chaney's portrayal of anguish, but lacks the irony and oomph of its predecessors. And the musical moments are silly. ” - blue_sock_monkey
My attention wandered--a lot. ” - blue_sock_monkey
One of the first films to take ghosts seriously, with convincing atmosphere and an unexpectedly adult story. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Bergman was never lovelier, while Boyer is creepy as can be--and, as a bonus, we get Lansbury in a distinctive naughty role. Better plotting than the 1940 original--but it has less atmosphere, and Cotton is hopelessly miscast. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Remake of Outward Bound 1930. I prefer the earlier version, which has a more intriguing mood. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Deadly slow and dramatically uneven, with weak special effects. Karloff and Chaney make it worth a look, if only-just; Carradine is no substitute for Lugosi. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Brilliant black comedy, with a splendid cast of fine character actors. ” - blue_sock_monkey
"They killed his wee doggie too!" A really interesting role for Karloff. Daniells and Atwater are also excellent. If only it didn't include that child with the whiney voice. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Lansbury sings a sweet song, Sanders blithely corrupts nice people, and the villain pays for his crimes in a most unusual way. Far more serious in tone than most horror films. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Loads of atmosphere offset a weak plot--and Karloff shines in an unsympathetic role. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Several creepy tales (my favorite is the haunted mirror) tied together with a twist that will drive you wild. One of the essentials. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Crazy plot but fun, in a low-budget, noirish kind of way. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Another ridiculous plot, but this one gives us some sympathetic characters, plus a strong finale. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Bedraggled premise in pseudo-Victorian setting. At least it's short. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Surprising amount of spooky atmosphere for a comedy, with excellent performances all around. Even the opening credits are great. Highly recommended. ” - blue_sock_monkey
An oddball sci-fi story (concerning rips in the fabric of time, or something like that), which is more notable for its moody, sometimes poetic cinematography than its plot or performances. Jones couldn't be less convincing, but Ethel Barrymore is around to lend this some class and gravitas. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Atmospheric, although not very Russian, with lovely use of lighting and costumes to create a unique mood for an unusual tale. ” - blue_sock_monkey
A boxing yarn not as compulsively watchable as A&C Meet Frankenstein. Good special effects, though. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Stylish, terrifically atmospheric animated version of the classic tale, chillingly narrated by James Mason. Worth any amount of trouble to seek out. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Most enjoyable adaptation of an urban legend that dates back at least as far as the 19th century in the U.S. Despite the Dublin setting, the film unfortunately doesn't have a particularly Irish feel, but the spooky tale is told with a light touch, not too many artsy flourishes, & at just the right (short) length. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Maintains good suspense--and I love the jello aliens. ” - blue_sock_monkey
A fun color-and-3D extravaganza, with Price a gleeful master of ceremonies. The pacing is off, and the heroine didn't much interest me--but I loved the wax museum sets. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Weird concept requires over-much voice-over exposition before reaching undeniably exciting finale. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Tune in for Karloff, not for the tale. It was distinctly weird seeing A&C in a Victorian setting. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The best of the radioactive mutants films: intelligent script, strong performances (especially Gwenn and Weldon) and direction, excellent pacing. Even the "grey men in grey offices" scenes are good. Don't miss Them! ” - blue_sock_monkey
Solid script and cast, good cinematography and locations. Very enjoyable, with an interestingly different (if all-too-rubbery) monster.
Incidentally, director Arnold's other credits include The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Mouse that Roared, & The Chicken of Tomorrow. ” - blue_sock_monkey
The plot summary makes it sound funnier than it really is, which is too bad.
http://stripgenerator.com/strip/676295/devil-bunny-from-mars/ ” - blue_sock_monkey
Sordid, sinister, and satisfying. A must-see. ” - blue_sock_monkey
Many episodes of this anthology series were of course suspense or thrillers rather than horror--one of the enjoyable aspects of viewing this show is that you can never be quite sure at the outset which way it will go. I prefer the 30-minute vignettes to the later hour-long episodes.
Hulu often has episodes available. Check out The Gentleman From America, Into Thin Air, The Older Sister (based on the Lizzie Borden case), and Lamb To the Slaughter. ” - blue_sock_monkey