With Halloween rapidly approaching, tis’ the season for all of the spooky goodies! Typically, horror extravaganzas such as Halloween and Friday the 13th are binge-watched every year in preparation for the October event. Once you’ve seen the cliché classics, repetition sorely steps in. Because of their assumed lack of fear, black and white horror films are often overlooked and underappreciated. However, many black and white horror films are the original staples in an otherwise diverse genre.
As the autumn air breezes in a chill of Halloween, what better way than to introduce yourself to a collection of black and white horror films that you might have missed. Here’s an official lineup of spooky, black and white horror classics that will send a shiver up your spine.
5) Nosferatu (1922)
Before the phenomenon of Twilight, there was a prehistoric time where vampires were seen as undead, sadistic monsters. Rather than sexy, bloodthirsty teenagers, the classic vampires were manipulative creatures looking to feast upon the oblivious living. Using hypnosis to influence, traditional vampires lured helpless women into their realm of mischief and terror. Motivated by the temptation to sink their canines into unsuspecting necks, vampires relied on calculated exploitation to get what they wanted.
Directed by F. W. Murnau as his illegal adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Max Schreck’s Count Orlok terrified audiences as one of the most unsettling vampires in cinematic history. While Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula orchestrated faux smiles through charm, Count Orlok incorporated the demonic, barbaric behavior that made Nosferatu the eerie masterpiece it is today.
4) Frankenstein (1931)
Based on Mary Shelly’s unforgettable novel, James Whale’s Frankenstein set the tone for black and white horror films. Unlike quintessential horror films, Frankenstein focuses less on Frankenstein’s Monster as a hideous monstrosity, and more as an innocent victim. As a destructive phenomenon, Henry Frankenstein creates Frankenstein’s Monster in hopes of producing human life. Motivated by greed and remembered as the true “monster” in the film, Dr. Frankenstein abandons his very creation.
Audiences and critics alike praised Frankenstein, and the film was a commercial success. The 1931 classic invoked several sequels and adaptations. For instance, James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein is a notable favorite. Whale was able to build Frankenstein’s Monster’s story further, all while adding elements of humor. Therefore, Frankenstein’s legacy still holds to this day as a cinematic take on the classic novel. It is the perfect movie to watch this Halloween.
3) Freaks (1932)
In 1932, Tod Browning “freaked” out audiences everywhere with the terrifying Freaks. Now viewed as a black and white horror classic, Freaks was once considered to be appalling and grotesque. The plot follows Cleopatra, a trapeze artist, looking to join a carnival sideshow with underlying intentions. Cleopatra’s fate ultimately becomes freaky, to say the least. From the unsettling “One Of Us” chant to the eerily satisfying climax, Freaks succumbs its viewers to an internal battle between right and wrong.
Following the success of Dracula, Browning brought the pre-code feature to life with a contrast of euphoria and terror. In actuality, the “freaks” are carnival performers just trying to make an honest living. As a result, the performers’ struggle with societal acceptance inadvertently labels them as the film’s antagonists. The ending scene of the original was apparently “too graphic” to show audiences, and was therefore discarded. Now edited and lost, Freaks remains to be a classic black and white tale of uniquely different people.
2) Night Of The Living Dead
Out of many classic black and white horror films, perhaps no other conveys such a recognizable aura as George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. The timeless zombie classic created a horror sub-genre that has remained resilient throughout the years. As such, the zombie sub-genre continues to thrive in various forms of media. Its implementation of grainy cinematography helped to further establish the film as a classic thriller. The plot follows a group of people housed together during the start of a zombie apocalypse across the eastern United States. Despite the film being 50+ years old, its legacy is forever engraved in the horror genre.
Many believe that more modern, popular forms of media like The Walking Dead and Dawn of The Dead have both used inspiration from the hit classic. In addition to its cinematic brilliance, the 1968 classic also became the first horror film to cast a black male for the lead role. For these reasons, Night Of The Living Dead has ended up on tons of lists for classic horror films. This Halloween, make sure you give the classic black-and-white zombie spectacle a watch.
Number one on this list is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which continues to strike fear in viewers. In fact, the black and white horror film became a game-changer for the genre. Psycho centers around Marion, a woman on the run who meets Norman Bates, a suspicious motel owner. The original film spawned a franchise of several sequels, though Psycho stands the test of time. Still remembered as one of the scariest moments in cinematic horror history, actress Janet Leigh wasn’t able to shower after the film’s iconic scene. Leigh’s performance as Marion channeled her into a household name. Her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, would also venture into acting as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s Halloween. Furthermore, the ’50-’60s “relaxed” lifestyle turned to dust as Hitchcock highlighted murder and violence during a time where “peace” was assumed.
While many considered Hitchcock to cater more toward a suspense narrative, Hitchcock’s best work came to life with the release of Psycho. The battered, suspenseful on-screen clash between Crane and Bates is often expressed as the driving force of the film’s success. As such, Psycho is regarded as a pioneer for the slasher sub-genre used by the likes of Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hitchcock’s classic helped to establish the slasher sub-genre and sharpen its credibility in the horror world. From its enchanting imagery to heart-pounding score, Psycho reigns supreme as a horror masterpiece in the modern world today. Because of this, adding Psycho to your movie watchlist for this upcoming Halloween is a definite must.