A & E

Horror Flicks Out of Hell: Three Macabre Classics for Halloween

Whether you love or hate them, horror films go in-hand with autumnal celebrations.

October is the month where folks dust off old VHS boxes from the attic and watch their favorite bone-chillers as the nights grow darker and longer.

Budget restrictions keep many students from going to the movie theater, but that shouldn’t prevent one from enjoying these spine-tingling classics.

At Clark’s Cannell Library even if what you’re looking for isn’t on the shelf, students can usually order what they desire through a library program called Summit.  

Summit is a nationwide collection of university libraries who share books, dvds and other media.

Students can find the movies in this article, considered by many to be some of the finest horror films of all time, in the Cannell Library database.

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Paying homage to the 1922 silent film directed by F.W. Mornau, director Werner Herzog’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre” weaves an atmospheric web of macabre darkness which showcases one of the most haunting performances in Klaus Kinski’s career.

Mornau made the defining vampire film after the Stoker family rejected his application for the rights to “Dracula.” The defiant Mornau changed character names and proceeded with production. Herzog’s contribution to the classic film follows Mornau’s original directorial vision while changing the names of the main characters back to their original status.

The music of German electronic band Popul Vuh sets a melancholic tone that contrasts against the lush Bavarian landscape and centuries-old historical towns that served as film sets. Herzog transports the viewer into a forgotten world of crumbling castles and haunted ruins.

In the film,the immortal Count Dracula unleashes plague, rats and pestilence against the corps-filled town of Wismar. Each scene was shot simultaneously in German and English, creating two very unique viewing experiences that enrich one another and enhance the cultural experience of the film.

Cast photo of "Freaks"
Cast photo of “Freaks” from MGM Studios Inc.

Freaks (1932)
After the success of Universal’s 1931 production of “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi, MGM wanted to cash in on director Tod Browning’s success. They asked for a motion picture to outdo the Universal monsters and Browning delivered in ways the company never dreamed.

Considered to be one of the most controversial movies of all time, “Freaks” was banned in numerous countries and is still banned in some states. The movie features actors legitimately afflicted with physical abnormalities and shows the horrible revenge they take against those who would do them harm. Many members of the cast were circus sideshow attractions whose physical appearance made actors of the era uncomfortable.

The movie was a raging success with the public upon release, but the producers weren’t smiling. They had large chunks of the movie removed, including a grotesque ending that was presumably lost forever after the film was physically destroyed. The studio also cut several lines in the film that gave humanity to the sideshow performers and criticized humanity for its own intolerance.

Provocative, daring and thought provoking, “Freaks” would be the last film Browning was given complete creative control over with with a big studio. Browning eventually retired in 1936. Although the only available copy is the edited version, the remarkable beauty and depth should not be missed– even if the true horror comes from the compassion and sorrow one feels for the cruelties these very real people had to live through.

A swarm of the titular living dead lurching towards the camera.
Photo still from Night of the Living Dead by Image Ten.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero’s landmark film is not only responsible for nearly all recognizable tropes of the zombie genre, it would be the last film produced before the MPAA began it’s rating standard.

The brooding, claustrophobic atmosphere of “Night of the Living Dead” holds perfect tension from the moment the first creature appears, to the last frame of the movie. The gore is achieved by a clever combination of chocolate syrup, roast ham and scraps from a butcher shop. The final result shocked a bleary-eyed nation not used to such imagery. Then combine the enduring, albeit unintentional, social commentary which sprang up around interpersonal relationships between the characters.

These elements help the movie remain poignant even after all these years. Although they played bitter enemies in the film, Karl Hardman and Duane Jones were actually good friends.

According to movie rating site, IMDB, Hardman teared up thinking about Jones and said he got a really raw deal. Jones was the first African American man to play a hero in a horror film, a controversial decision because the role didn’t require his character to be any particular race.

Commentary about the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the hippie generation can all be found beneath the film’s delicate surface, making “Night of the Living Dead” more than just a basic horror film. It is a sobering and jarring snapshot of the unwashed face of American history.

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