Road to Halloween: Matt’s Top 5 Black & White Horror Films

Written by Matt Butler October 29, 2017

horror films

What does it mean to be classic? The term’s thrown around so much, we forget if it means age, quality or a mix of the two (it’s the last one). It’s really a question of artistry and how that art makes its mark on the landscape. Honestly, I’m just up for some good old-fashioned camp. Classics or no, this list blends the old with the very old.

5. Nosferatu (1922) – Directed by F.W. Murnau

horror films

Vampires have been dealt a bad hand. And I’m not just talking about Twilight. Vampires, by nature, have it rough. They can’t step in sunlight, they can’t touch silver, they can’t go near wooden stakes, crosses, garlic. They can’t look themselves in the mirror. They can’t enter a room without spoken approval. When you get past the eternal life thing, vampires are pretty fragile. Nosferatu is a trip back to when we could take vampires with some semblance of seriousness. When vampires could be likened to the scourge of the black plague. No one will rush to this movie’s defence for its thrills and chills, but Nosferatu’s still worth the recognition for its influence on the way we see vampires. Also, that shadow walking up the stairs scene is still pretty clever.

4. It Came From Outer Space (1953) – Directed by Jack Arnold

horror films

One thing you might appreciate about these early horror films: They’re short (and sweet). It Came From Outer Space clocks in at 81 minutes, and that’s longer than most. This gives these movies an almost episodic feel, like some hour-long version of The Twilight Zone (which is a cool idea. I wonder if anyone’s thought of making that, but you know, for a contemporary audience). It Came From Outer Space feels more like an episode of Star Trek. It’s all about our innate fear of the unknown and our impulse reactions to it. And even if the alien and effects look hokier now, the tone and performances are enough for us to take the story seriously (enough).

3. House on Haunted Hill (1959) – Directed by William Castle

horror films

Five people stay the night locked in a haunted house, all with the promise of $10,000 should they make it out alive. Of course, it’s Vincent Price who owns the house, because he also owns the movie. Price takes B-movie acting to Shakespearean proportions. His line delivery is so cool and casual, you believe everything about his character. It’s his tranquil performance that makes the twist ending so gratifyingly ridiculous.

2. Frankenstein (1931) – Directed by James Whale

horror films

Back in the early days of cinema, movies looked just like plays. It makes sense, since movies grew out of theatre. And of all the movies on this list, Frankenstein stands as the most theatrical and dramatic. Someone could put this script on a stage and it would work just as effectively. Though it’s the set design that really sells the gothic, secluded atmosphere of Frankenstein. It looks like something Tim Burton would aspire to make. You also can’t do without a horror darling like Boris Karloff, who brings in just the smallest dose of sentiment needed to round out this freak of nature.

1. Eyes Without A Face (1960) – Directed by Georges Franju

horror films

Of all the films on this list, I want you to see this one the most. I first heard of this movie’s existence when Edgar Wright recommended it in his Criterion Collection. So I was expecting good. What I got was great. Eyes Without A Face is a beautiful kind of disturbing. It’s all about this doctor who kidnaps young women and surgically removes their faces. But it’s okay! He’s doing it for his daughter, who has no face (car-crash, think Two-Face, but the whole face). You can expect the type of body horror you’ll get from Eyes Without A Face, but even when it shows you nothing, what it implies is enough to set you cringing. This is a film that will make your skin crawl. Just like this poor girl’s face, it absolutely deserves attention.

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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