For your viewing pleasure in horror, here are my favorite horror films (Arranged by date)
Posle smerti aka After Death (Yevgeni Bauer, 1915) Yevgeni Bauer is closes to Chekhov of all the silent Russian filmmaker, for his stories are about characters with little dilemmas, they are sincere creation on the screen, take the character of Andrei Bagrov in After Death, an idealist who is in seclusion after the death of his Mother, rejecting the life of society, he live in solitude, away from attachment, until he meet a girl that dazzle him with her big black eyes, but even then, he goes back to his room, back to his solitude, when the girl stalk him into he temptation of romance, he refuse, her sudden death of suicide become a guilt of conscience that he takes upon himself as he becomes obsessed at recalling her imagery. After Death is a film about the obsessions with the image, of memory, recalling that short acquaintance with her, regretting decision he had made, and living with regret is unbearable to him, it drive him to death. I can’t recall an earlier silent film than After Death with its obsessions with memory, neurotics, sub-conscience, dreams, the supernatural and imagery, it has to be among the first. Bauer was the most artistic of the early Russian silent filmmaker, simple, but masterful use of style, with long takes and camera movements, and little dependency on inter-titles. I don’t if Manoel de Oliveira has ever scene this film, for it shows a clear influence on his film, The Strange Case of Angelica, for both characters are in love with a dead woman, or the image of a dead woman. Magical.
Les Vampires (Louis Feuillade, 1916)
Satana likuyushchiy aka Satan Triumphant (Yakov Protazanov, 1917) Before there was Ingmar Bergman and his masterpiece, Winter Light, the inability of conquering temptation in time of spiritual crisis, there was Protazanov’s Satan Triumphant, the story of a preacher, Talnoks, he is on strict religious meditation, reject the basic pleasure of life, even when he listen to music, he despise the temptation of listening to sound and seeing the beauty of nature, the pleasure of eating, reject the pleasure of love, preach to others to be like brothers and sisters rather than wives and husbands, his dry emotion make him ruthless toward others when they seem to be enjoying life, he reject everything, believe that love is in God, but welcome his rage, he closes his window to the sunset, but welcome the storm and thunderous as anger of God, he deem the world as full of sin, shouting, “Look! It seems that God himself is going to visit our world, we are lost in sin”, his wishes comes true, but it is not God, but Satan that turns his world upside down. What a charming Satan, witty and always with a smile, lurking into tempting poor Father and his congregation into temptations, he is perfect at everything he does, rather masterfully and all powerfully, he play piano like no others, driving everyone into temptation of believing the sincerity of its emotion, he uses the convincing argument of Nature’s creation of beauty and God’s creation of ugliness, tempting the Father into taking the wife of a Hunchback for the sake of the argument of beauty should not belong to beast, “Should that beautiful woman, her neck, her eyes, really belong to a Hunchback? Is this what nature has wanted?”, rarely one could find such sensuality in a silent film as is in Satan Triumphant, Protazanov made the film in the same year as his adaptation of Tolstoy’s Father Sergius, one’s man fight of temptations, one against the world, in Satan Triumphant, it is one man’s fight to spread the temptation, to give in, to have, to own, to love, the right to have everything for oneself, the first part of the film end with the downfall and death of Talnoks, the second part began with the rise of his son as pianist, Sandro, but Satan does not leave him alone neither, when he is not present, it is his music and painting, sound and vision that drive him into temptations and vices, can her mother save him? She beg him to find himself again, “You have ruined yourself, your talent, your future”, he answers, “But that is life”, she try harder, “That is a distorted picture of life”, he goes into rage, “All joy is based on evil” Can she save him? Watch it to know it. Despite the fact that most of the ending of the first part and second is lost forever, Satan Triumphant is a timeless epic of early Russian silent cinema.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919)
The Phantom Carriage (Victor Sjöström, 1921) It could be argued how much of an influence The Phantom Carriage must have had on Bergman while making The Seventh Seal, one thing is clear, this film and the cinema of Victor Sjöström had a definite influence on Bergman’s cinema, take the opening scenes of Cries and Whispers, it is right out of the opening sequence of The Phantom Carriage. The story of guilt and redemption, told in the style of Dickens’s Christmas Carol, in a style that make use of special effect to its perfection, with an ending that is right out of a D.W. Griffith film, all combined, makes a classic of silent cinema to watch.
Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926)
Le chute de la maison Usher (Jean Epstein, 1928)
Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931)
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1932) I was in the mood to watch Dr. Mabuse again tonight. Much have been said that Lang’s Dr. Mabuse was about the Nazi Germany, as true as that statement is, the film is also about Lang’s experiment with sound cinema, for what is Dr. Mabuse but a sound? We never see him, we only hear him, and when our curiosity is finally fulfilled, we see the face of the sound behind the curtain, what do we see? We see a megaphone, a little machine, and we feel tricked at first, but then realize how well crafted trick it was by Lang, he uses the new technology of sound to trick us into using our ears in creating images, rather than just our eyes being the observing machine of images. Sound equally create images in our mind in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, at the hands of Lang, cinema make a masterful transition from silent into sound.