Welcome back to another edition of Horror History and today we are going to be taking a look at the latter half of the first decade of the 1900’s to see what filmmakers at the time had to offer the genre that we all know (and love) today as horror.
If you have missed any you can check them out here..
History of Horror Part 1 (1890’s)
Directed by Georges Méliès
As most of his previous work has displayed, Méliès was a massive fan of adding portions of his illusions act into his films and “Le Diable Noir” is no different.
Although there is a story happening in this film, the major focus is on the disappearing and reappearing objects from around the room with the newly added feature of items magically multiplying.
As for the aforementioned story within the film, a man checks into a room which an imp was playing in moments prior to his arrival. After a bit of back and forth between the guest and the transporting furniture, the imp makes himself visible to him. The man attempts to catch the imp but ultimately fails when the imp catches the bed on fire. Having been caught by the inn’s staff putting out the fire himself, the man is removed from the building while the imp reappears to take back the bed he was originally sleeping in to begin with.
The funnest party about this particular film is that the guest upsets one of the staff members from the start when he attempts to grope one of the ladies who is attempting to leave the room. She shuts him down immediately and leaves the room. This shows viewers that the staff has already had enough of this guest and prove this by immediately kicking him out once the fire takes place.
Directed by Segundo de Chomón
Not unlike Méliès, Chomón was a fan of using trick shots to make his films works. The biggest difference however is in place of only using the disappearing of objects from the set, Chomón uses a series of very well timed stop motion shorts in order to make the haunted house prepare tea and a snack for the trio who have dared to enter it. In addition to this, there is another fun feature where the set is rotating back and forth which forces the actors to slide from side to side of the set.
Although the title of the film explains exactly what is going to be happening throughout the presentation, there are a few key features which movies goers can appreciate including an incredibly creepy looking demon who appears for a quick moment and the nonchalant transformation of the home’s outside appearance to what looks like a solid block and then into a horribly creepy looking animated home.
Directed by Georges Méliès
Not only is this is the longest film Méliès has made in the horror spectrum but also his last. His career would continue to move forward for several more years but would no longer include anything that would truly be related to horror.
This is a full display of the illusions, camera tricks and more in which Méliès has shown throughout all his films over the years. There are multiple sets used, a very large cast and many, many trick shots used in order to accomplish various character transformations throughout the film. From a horror front, we don’t get anything more than the typical demons, imps and ghastly figures that we’ve seen used in most of his previous pieces but are introduced to what looks to be a version of hell as well as the spit roasting of a human being, which in itself, is pretty disturbing to think about.
As for his last “Horror” piece, next to the few mentioned additions, there really wasn’t much to follow here. Constant camera tricks, physical movements, fire and demonic imagery played the largest parts in the film but no real story was shown to be followed. At least, not one I could seem to piece together at least.
Directed by Segundo de Chomón
As Chomón is commonly associated with having a style similar to Méliès, I was expecting yet another series of the same old illusions. Luckily, I was wrong.
The title does not confuse from the main plot of the story. The devil is literally having a grand time by hurting, torturing and killing a series of women in a variety of ways, be it burning them alive, drowning them or anything in between.
The most prominent things in this film are the devil’s appearance which serves more like a skeleton with horns and the massive amount of fire used throughout the film. I am unsure if these stunts were done on stage or added in as an effect after the fact, either way, it was very impressive to look at thanks to the ability to have the print be coloured.
We also seem to come back around to the theme of evil begin defeated by the films end when one of the tortured women eventually takes advantage of the devil, kills him and seemingly takes over his position as hell’s leader.
Directed by D.W. Griffith
Jealousy, revenge, murder, a storyline and excellent acting all bundled up into an eleven minute film. “The Sealed Room” is exactly like the types of films I hope to find on my way through this journey. A film that will give me something more than a few magic tricks or an obsession with demons.
The story follows a king who has built a private room for his bride to do what she wants with it. In his eyes, it’s a place of privacy, to her, a place to bring her lover while avoiding the wrath her husband will surely bring to her if he finds out about her affair. Of course, the king does catch the pair together in the room and quietly gets his workers to build a brick wall, sealing the room closed forever.
Once the pair figure out that their only exit has been sealed, they panic and soon run out of air, both dying in the room.
This had everything i’m looking for in a film regardless of its genre. It has the superior acting to display feelings, emotions and actions that are being implied and follows a story with a start, middle and ending. I know some people don’t really care for a “traditional format” and would rather see people just be hacked up into pieces without explanation as to why, but myself, I like a full fleshed out story and this exemplifies what, to me, a movie should be and I suggest that anybody reading this click on he provided link and check it out immediately!
That wraps up the first ten years in horror of the 1900’s. One thing I would like to make mention of was that in 1908, there was a film made that went by the name of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Unfortunately for us, the film is considered to be lost but from the information gathered, the sixteen minute film would have likely been spectacular given the screenplay was adapted by George F. Fish and Luella Forepaugh who were the writers of the story’s stage play which likely meant that given everyone involved already knowing this play / story like the back of their hands, we could have likely witnessed something incredibly magical.
With that said, next week we’re moving on to the beginning of the 1910’s with the first ever film adaptation of “Frankenstein”, the second and third adaptations of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and much more.
This week on Beyond The Void Horror Podcast is back to review Sleepaway Camp (1983) & Sleepaway Camp 2 Unhappy Campers (1988)! They break down both with loads of trivia and bad humor. See what they think about these movies. You can listen here or you can Listen/Subscribe on iTunes here!