It’s Spooktober! As usual, I’m trying to watch more horror movies during October than I do the rest of the year. I never stop watching this kind of movie, but it’s a tradition, so I do my best to put more thrills on the screens.
Anyway, I mixed classics and recent releases, and I was searching for some older titles to have different viewing experiences. You read the title of the article, and you know where this led me:
What was the First Horror Movie?
The birth of cinema occurred in the late 19th century, as you may know, especially if you read the article I wrote on the invention of cinema, when the Lumière Brothers and other pioneers began experimenting with motion pictures. Even if “horror” was not yet recognized as a distinct genre, early attempts in filmmaking featured fantastic and enigmatic themes.
With “Le Manoir du Diable” in 1896, director Georges Méliès is frequently credited with making the first horror movie. The short film had images of demons, ghosts, witches, and the paranormal that were taken from centuries-old texts, stories, and theatrical performances. The movie didn’t have a well-developed plot, but it did lay the groundwork for the supernatural aspects that would later become essential to the horror genre.
The Universality of Monsters
With the premiere of “Dracula” in 1931, horror as a recognizable cinema genre really began to take shape. Horror had been included in movies before this seminal work, but the genre had not yet reached its full potential and frequently crossed over with mystery and other genres. The popularity of “Dracula” inspired an American horror movie fad in the 1930s.
After releasing “Dracula,” Universal Studios went on to produce more classic horror movies including “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Mummy” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933), and more. Actors like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, who became associated with the horror genre, earned fame thanks to these movies.
Le Freak, C’est Chic
Horror became a recognized and well-liked genre in the 1930s when pictures pushed the envelope and generated debate. It signaled a change in how people saw horror movies as they began to frighten and shock viewers.
With every new release, there was intense censoring and backlash, and certain movies, like “Freaks” (1932), were so startling at the time that they received significant editing to fit social norms. This picture, which Tod Browning directed and who had previously helmed “Dracula” (1931), is renowned for its distinctive and divisive subject matter.
It centers on the life of sideshow circus performers who are frequently referred to as “freaks” because of their physical anomalies and ailments. Browning portrayed real people with diverse infirmities and deformities, giving the characters believability. The actors’ togetherness and loyalty are highlighted in the main narrative as they face up against an outsider who is working against them.
For its time, “Freaks” was revolutionary because it gave these disenfranchised people sympathetic, fully realized characters. The movie was significantly modified over many years to make it less eerie because it was received with shock and controversy when it was first released. It wasn’t until much later that its distinct viewpoint and significance as a cult classic were acknowledged.
After that, the genre never really lost its edge, with mass exploitation on one side, but a constant reinvention and boundary-pushing on the other.
It will soon be Christmas time, you can prepare for that with my article about the first Christmas movie.