The Classic Horror Films We Love – A Collection Of Favourites

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/

Dracula (1931)

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.

Frankenstein (1931)

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.

The Mummy (1932): A Unique Monster in the Universal Pantheon Of Monsters

by Paul Batters

 ‘My love has lasted longer than the temples of our gods‘ Imhotep (Boris Karloff)

Directed by the great cinematographer Karl Freund, The Mummy (1932) is one of the great films from the classic horror cycle that began at Universal with Dracula (1931). A huge success at the time, it would cement Karloff (billed by only his last name) as a huge star. 

With Boris Karloff now hailed as the heir to the throne vacated by the death of Lon Chaney Snr (and incidentally and arguably missed out on by Bela Lugosi), opportunities for his talents were sought out after his film-stealing performance as the Monster in Frankenstein (1931). Like the Monster ‘created’ by Colin Clive, Karloff’s Imhotep would also be brough to life. However, unlike the determined doctor using science to bring his creature to life, the long-dead mummified body of Imhotep would be re-animated by magic. Thus The Mummy is truly a supernatural horror film, closer in essence to its’ predecessor Dracula and indeed even sharing similar tropes.

What makes The Mummy unique is that the story is one not directly drawn from a literary classic or traditional folklore. Unlike Dracula and Frankenstein, and even The Wolfman, the story of The Mummy was one concocted from the minds of movie-makers alone. True, the idea of a mummy brought back to life had emerged during the silent era but it the story for the 1932 classic came primarily from the writing of John Balderston and the creative team at Universal. Balderston, of course, is famous for the stage-play he co-wrote for Dracula, which would be adapted for the film version. Gifted with the job of writing the screenplay for The Mummy, Balderston borrowed the key storyline from Dracula and adapted it to the idea of a re-animated mummy seeking out the reincarnation of his former love and doing battle with those trying to protect her. 

There are carbon copy elements from Dracula down to characterisation and casting as well. Like the vampire count, Imhotep aka Ardeth Bey (Boris Karloff) is a supernatural being with a powerful will, incredible powers of telepathy and hypnotism and great wisdom and knowledge from their dark powers. Perhaps the most important aspect of the story was taken from the stage production of Dracula, was the concept of the undead being seeking out the reincarnation of his long dead love. It was a plot device that worked well and adds a tragic, as well as horrific element to the story. Zita Johann would play Helen Grosvenor/Princess Ankh-es-en-Amun and despite a solid stage career, is primarily known for her role as the object Imhotep’s love and desire. David Manners plays a similar role to the one he played in Dracula as Frank Whemple, the young man in love with Helen and seeking to protect her. And the ever-wise and sagacious expert of the occult is again played by Edward Van Sloan, this time named Professor Muller. 

Of course, at the time of the film’s production, the world was still excited by and in the grip of ‘Tutmania’ and the mysteries of Ancient Egypt after the exciting discovery of the Boy-King’s tomb in 1922. Many of the film’s Surrounding the discovery was a great deal of sensationalism and mystery, particularly with the story of the ‘curse’ (a completely invented tale to sell newspapers) and the amazing finds in the tomb. Note that the opening of the film starts with the ‘1921 Expedition’ which is certainly a nod to Carter’s 1922 discovery. Indeed the love of Imhotep is named after the wife of Tutankhamun. But of course, in classic Hollywood style, a fair amount of the ‘Egyptology’ in the film is invented and appropriated rather than based in fact and history. But it feels convincing and authentic, which is the key to a film’s success – convincing the audience of its believability.

Yet, interestingly enough there were other influences outside of Ancient Egypt and the already lifted tropes from Dracula. As film historian Paul M. Jensen points out, the story was also inspired and influenced by the short story written by Nina Wilcox Putnam called Cagliostro, a tale of an 18th century Italian occult figure who claimed to have lived through the ages. Balderston would also draw from this to shape the character of Imhotep. Initially, Cagliostro was the vehicle for Karloff which Universal wanted to capitalise on after his amazing success after Frankenstein. The Mummy would be the final result. 

From start to finish, The Mummy is an eerie homage to the tragedy of love unfounded, as much as it is an atmospheric horror-melodrama. The opening scenes are unforgettable and perhaps the most memorable in the film, as the audience watches the young archaeologist (Bramwell Fletcher) scream and go mad with an endless, maniacal laugh as the re-animated mummy goes ‘for a little walk’. It remains a remarkable moment in classic film yet the only time that the audience sees Karloff in the celebrated and heavily promoted make-up, created by the legendary Jack Pierce. Yet the dread and menace of Ardeth Bey touched with the pathos and tragedy of his cruel death and lost love, is beautifully conveyed by Karloff. His stiff movement and measured tone barely hides the power underneath. His deathly stare would become famous as well, with Freund perfecting the technique he pioneered in Dracula by directing two lights into Karloff’s eyes. Freund’s camera work lifts the film out of his own sometimes pedestrian direction. 

The flashback is also exceptional and gives fascinating back story, as well as give the audiences the depth of the tragedy of Imhotep and the sheer horror of his punishment by being buried alive. It feels like a silent film within the main story and the audience cannot help but feel sympathy for the terrible fate of Imhotep, even if his alias Ardeth Bey emanates fear and dread. It’s a strong visual montage sequence that gives The Mummy a greater depth and perspective.

There are many wonderful moments of supernatural horror and magic, which also make the story unique. The Scroll of Thoth (an invented plot device) is more than superstition but has a magical power that is all too evident to not only Imhotep but the learned Muller – and of course the audience discovers this in the opening scene. Statues come alive to give warning or execute justice and offer protection (as is the key role of the goddess Isis) which is particularly effective and again assists in underpinning the supernatural atmosphere of the film. The effect of Imhotep reaching out to send death to those attempting to thwart his plans add to the tension, as well as highlight how dangerous and determined the risen mummy is in his quest.

Of the classic monsters, the Mummy itself is perhaps over-shadowed by the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and The Wolfman and does not seem to inspire the same dread and fear as its’ fellow creatures. It is perhaps also unfortunate that it would be nearly ten years before the next cycle of ‘Mummy’ movies would be produced by Universal. Whilst enjoyable and certainly lots of fun, the pedigree isn’t there and they are a far cry from the atmosphere and quality of the original film. In fact, other than the title, the four latter films hold no real connection with the original film, other than exploiting the make-up and re-using scenes from the original. In some ways, the Mummy has suffered the same fate as the Frankenstein Monster, becoming a one-dimensional and mindless automaton instead of the tortured and tragic figure as first portrayed.

Nevertheless, The Mummy is a wonderful showcase for the talents of Boris Karloff. The film remains a jewel in the Universal crown of classic film and one that still gives classic film fans the chills. 

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.