Happy Halloween!

My Horny Hump Day post is here.

Scifi Media is hosting an awesome Halloween blogfest. I freaking love Halloween, so I was happy to discover a blogfest for today. Participants will share their scariest book, movie, ghost story, etc. At least one person will win an award.

I was undecided as to topic for awhile—my own ghost story, a famous ghost story, a haunted cemetery, my beloved haunted amusement park rides. (Kennywood can get bent for shutting down their classic Gold Rusher and totally redoing Noah’s Ark.) Finally I went with one of my greatest loves, silent cinema.

Lon Chaney, Sr., was the master of silent horror, and one of the silent era’s greatest male actors, if not THE greatest male actor of the silent era. He did all his own makeup, and truly deserved the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Faces.” One of his quintessential roles was the Phantom of the Opera. Mary Philbin (Christine)’s reaction at the unmasking was real, since Lon kept his makeup secret all during the filming.

It’s scariest in full-screen mode. Who’d want to see that coming at them on a gigantic screen in a darkened theatre, as a foreboding organ plays? Lon never fails to creep me out in his horror films. It’s a tragedy he died mere weeks after his first and only sound film was released, since he had a fantastic voice and had been slated to play Dracula.

The first two minutes of this clip from The Conquering Power (1921) are one of the scariest scenes I’ve seen in silent cinema. (This isn’t the best print available.) I first saw it in early 2005, during my early days of becoming a serious silent connoisseur, and was so creeped out, even in the middle of the day.

I so want to see this film now. Vampyr sounds so creepy, a man in an empty village having nightmarish visions he’s not sure are real or a dream. It’s been described as a feverish avant-garde vision, something that’s exactly up my alley. It was the first sound film for the classic Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. His most famous film is 1928’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, which emotionally guts me every time I watch it.

Perhaps because I don’t watch many modern movies, I still have the capacity to be as scared and creeped-out by silent and early sound horror films as my great-grandparents. These films managed to be creepy and scary without being as grisly or graphic as modern movies. The power of suggestion and less as more doesn’t only apply to sex scenes. It applies to horror scenes too.

12 thoughts on “Happy Halloween!

  1. Organ music can be so creepy. I don’t know if it is because of movies or the movies just capitalized on it, because the two just always seem to go together for me.


  2. I’ve never watched any silent movies, but I do agree the older movies can be scarier than modern ones. I remember watching The Birds and the silent moments w/o dialogue and music just got to me. They really knew how to create suspense back then and put you on the edge of your seat.


  3. Happy Halloween!

    Kennywood Park such fun!

    I enjoy the old ones too for the same reasons, it’s not fun to watch a movie with your eyes diverted. I love being scared not sickened. The Saw and all those, no thanks!


  4. I still enjoy the old black and white Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Those had some excellent story lines – even if the acting was less than superb. Lon Chaney would have made a great Dracula.



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