by Paul Batters
It’s Halloween and classic film fans are enjoying their favourite classic films, be they silver-toned masterpieces, slasher films, schlocky D-graders or spooky atmospheric chillers. It’s almost impossible to pick an all-out favourite but there are those films which stand out and we all turn to for the thrills and chills that we love.
The following classic film fans, bloggers and writers have all contributed a classic horror film that they love. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to share yours!
Jennifer Churchill – Write and author of ‘Movies Are Magic’ https://instagram.com/p/BfuGI9uHZAp/
Classic horror film I love? Dracula (1931) Why? Two words: BELA LUGOSI. Oh wait, two more words: PRE-CODE (is that two words or just a one-word hyphenate?). It’s a perfect film. Scary. Timeless. Sexy. The close-ups of Bela! I even took my 3-year-old to see it at a local cineplex and he LOVED every minute of it. And I love the story of how it was filmed on the same set in both English & Spanish, as noted in my children’s book (have to plug my book).
Dominique Breckenridge – Entertainer and blogger at Dominique Revue
Night Must Fall (1937)
Though not your traditional Classic Horror Film, as it does not include the general “monster” in form of beast, creature, or ghost, and while I could easily place Curse Of The Demon (1957) as my fave Classic Horror Film, the events in Night Must Fall (1937) are horrific, nonetheless. Without ever seeing one actual horrific event play out on-screen, the images left to the imagination, far exceed any you could witness were they shown. All in form of … a hat box. Accompanied, compliments of, new employer at the house of widow Mrs. Bramson’s (Dame May Witty), in form of the maid’s beau from The Tallboys, pageboy, Danny (Robert Montgomery). A suspenseful annual Fall/Hallows’ Eve watch for me. (For the blog piece I wrote on Night Must Fall a while back: https://dominiquerevue.weebly.com/cinema-coffee-mighty-like-a-rose.html
Patricia Nolan-Hall – Blogger at Caftan Woman
The Mummy (1932)
Cinematographer Karl Freund directed an atmospheric and moody film of mystical love that survives beyond death written by John Balderston, the playwright of Dracula and Berkeley Square. Boris Karloff is commanding in the roles of the ancient priest Imhotep and the resurrected mummy Ardeth Bay. Zita Johann is luminous as his beloved, the long-dead Princess Anck-Su-Namen and the contemporary woman Helen Grosvenor. The unseen world clashes with the will to live and the rights of the living.
Erica D – Blogger at Poppity Talks Classic Film
The Devil Bat (1940) Starring Béla Lugosi as Dr. Paul Carruthers
“All Heathville loved Paul Carruthers, their kindly village doctor. No one suspected that in his home laboratory on a hillside overlooking the magnificent estate of Martin Heath, the doctor found time to conduct certain private experiments – weird, terrifying experiments.”
The best part of The Devil Bat is Béla Lugosi who delivers a wonderful performance. Clearly, Béla is in his element playing the part of a mad scientist and he exudes both ease and happiness on-screen. While this movie was made by a no-name studio, the result is not as bad as one would think. Producers Releasing Corporation was a member of Poverty Row, a term used to describe a group of studios who specialised in low-budget B-movies. Known for never spending more than $100,000 per production, The Devil Bat was the very first horror film they made. The movie was filmed quickly and cheaply but it is honestly not badly written and the sets are pretty good. In fact, the Dr.’s laboratory was nicely decorated and gives off a creepy, ghoulish feel that definitely puts you in a horror/thriller mood.
Maddy – Blogger at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films
The Innocents (1961).
My favourite haunted house/psychological horror film.
When Paul asked me to submit a few words on a favourite Horror flick, I just knew I had to share my love for The Innocents (1961).
The Innocents plays on our deepest fears. Fear of losing our grip on reality; fear of the dark; fear of what we think we’ve just glimpsed out of the corner of our eye etc. This is the type of horror film I like best. It’s my favourite horror film and I consider it to be the best haunted house and psychological ghost story ever filmed.
I also love how it’s written in a way which means you can view the events in one of two ways. Either the hauntings and possessions are real, or the governess is going mad and seeing things that are not real. Whichever of those explanations you choose to accept, the film remains equally terrifying either way.
The eerie and unsettling atmosphere is like no other. There are many terrifying moments that stay with you long after the film has finished. Who can forget the ghost in the lake? Or the ghost at the window?
At the heart of the film is Deborah Kerr’s magnificent performance, as a woman slowly unravelling and becoming more and more scared before our eyes. I highly recommend watching The Innocents on a dark night, or on a dark and stormy afternoon.
Jay – Blogger at Cinema Essentials
Night Of The Demon (1957)
My favourite classic horror film is probably Night of the Demon (1957), also known as Curse of the Demon.
The film stars Dana Andrews as a doctor visiting England for a conference on paranormal psychology. While there he incurs the wrath of cult leader Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) for suggesting that he is a charlatan. Unfortunately, people who get on the wrong side of Karswell tend to meet with unfortunate accidents. He places a curse on Holden that will summon an ancient demon, telling him that the curse will be lifted if he retracts his claims. But Holden loses the parchment he was given inscribed with the curse, meaning that the demon is coming anyway, no matter what.
Night of the Demon is a wonderfully atmospheric film directed by Jacques Tourneur (Cat People) and based on a story by M. R. James. Dana Andrews is a bit wooden as the lead, but MacGinnis is fine as a warlock who has unleashed forces he can’t really control. Despite the controversial decision to show the demon, there’s plenty of spookiness and suspense here, and a terrific finale as Andrews and MacGinnis both try to pass the cursed parchment onto each other before the demon arrives to claim its victim.
My own choice can only be the film which would not only help establish the classic horror film cycle of the early 1930s at Universal but also made Boris Karloff a star – of course that can only mean Frankenstein (1931).
Karloff’s amazing performance saw him steal the film from everyone, including Colin Clive in the title role as the scientist looking for the secrets of life. Whilst the iconic make-up was crucial in shaping the monster, Karloff’s sensitivity and quality as an actor truly brought it to life.
Some of the film’s classic scenes have become templates in film-making, as well as some of the most iconic moments in film history: the laboratory scene and the moment the monster comes alive, the first time the audience sees the monster, the innocent, touching yet tragic interaction with the girl at the lake, the mob with torches hunting the monster and the dramatic ending on the burning windmill. It all makes for a true classic of the silver screen and must-see viewing at Halloween.
A huge thank you to all contributors whose efforts are very much appreciated. Additionally, I encourage you to visit their blogs and sites to discover their work.
Hope you all enjoy Halloween and take the time to watch some classic horror films to give you chills and thrills!
Paul Batters teaches secondary school History in the Illawarra region and also lectures at the University Of Wollongong. In a previous life, he was involved in community radio and independent publications. Looking to a career in writing, Paul also has a passion for film history.