If you love Halloween as much as I do, then you most likely love one of the most intergral parts of the Halloween season: Horror films. Halloween is a time when our human desire to be afraid is so perfectly tapped into, constantly crossing the line between mischevious fun and serious horror.
Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a real down-grade in the quality of horror. We've esentially split into two categories: Torture porn, a genre which houses films like Saw and Hostel, and Jump Scare, which consists of movies like The Crazies (the remake) and Friday the 13th (the remake). There's a subdivision now of the jump scare genre which consists of a killer murdering the most dispicable people in the world which we come to hate over the course of the movie, then watch them get brutally masscared one by one. This is not horror. This is comedy. The horror aspect of a horror film comes from taking a small peak into the world that lies beyond, and rooting for our heroes to make it out okay. If we don't like them then there's no horror because we don't care.
As varied in plot as these films are, they all adhere to one fact: they're forgettable as hell. There's a reason icons like Michael Meyers have stuck with us throughout the years. You see, memorable moments come from being emotionally invested in what's going on in a movie. People often get so sewpt up in the pop culture surrounding someone like, say, Michael Meyers, that they rarely take the time time to exlpore why that pop culture exists: because the movie that it stems from is at heart, good.
To genuinely create or evoke the feeling of horror or terror in someone is an amazing skill. I'm not talking about a series of strange whispers followed by a bloody man in a mask made of burlap sacks jumping out in the foreground, I'm talking about a truly scary atmosphere.
I feel bad for our generation that they've been lost on silent films. It's truly an amazing way to view a film. Granted, I don't wish silent films were still being made, but it's a very interesting and important part of film history. And the best silent films of all were the german expressionist films of the 20's, which were truly the first step in making film an art form as opposed to something akin to say, a modern day video game.
Silent films are so interesting because they're the bare bones of film, there's no tricks, it's all the way it is, which a limitiation modern day horror filmmakers sorely need. Which brings me to Nosferatu.
Nosferatu is nowhere near a film that you'll jump and scream at while watching it. It won't shock or disgust or horrify you beyond belief. That's not what it's trying to do. Nosferatu has a certain subtle creepiness to it that's never really been re-captured. Watching the movie feels like you're entering a lucid nightmare. It just looms over you like Dracula's shadow with its eerie and spine tingling ways. No, you won't jump in your seat and scream, but the strength of Nosferatu comes in its lasting impression. It leaves you chilled to the bone thinking about it. However, it's gonna take a little while to explain why this film is so effective in it's storytelling and horror.
The biggest failing of modern day horror is that it shows you everything. Gore is too much a commodity these days and theres no class behind it, its just thrown at you like pounds of blood thrown on an actor. The first horror films to really deal in the supernatural were the german expressionist horror films. American horror of the day often dealt with real human deformities, and if there was any superntural element it was always explained to be a hoax by the end of the movie. Films like Nosferatu are so effective because we're told very little about the inner workings of what happens in the life of Dracula (Orlok in the German prints). You get the sense that you've only been exposed to a tiny sliver of a world beyond our own, a tiny mistake or break in the chain where those two worlds crossed, even if only for a little while. The true horror of Nosferatu doesn't come from what's on camera, it comes from what our mind creates about what's not on camera. The reason modern day horror movies aren't scary if you think about them is because there's no layer to them, as soon as you apply a bit of thought they fall apart. Nosferatu is a film that gets scarier when you think more about it, which proves who truly deeply layered it is. The filmmakers know that the human mind can create things far worse than their special effects team, and so the reason so little is explained in Nosferatu is because our minds can run wild with it and create whatever we want from it, it treats it's audience with respect and intelligence. Perhaps in F.W. Murnau's mind, he knows what the world beyond ours is like or what the answers to the gaps in supernatural to natural logic are, but there's nothing in the film to contradict our thoughts. There's subtle implications, not overt exposition, which emotionally involves its audience and creates true horror. We can really see this in the way this movie portrays Dracula. In the subsequent and much more famous 1931 version (of which I am a huge fan), Dracula is an all-powerful, unstoppable sex god who can have his way whenever he wants. This film's Dracula is very different He's a deformed shut out from society who craves blood like a crack addict. The suave and in control Bela Lugosi portrayl is not prevalent here, Shreck is equivalent to a junkie. This portrayl, in my opinion, is more sympathetic, and even scarier in a way. He has more of a reason to suck blood, not just because he's hungry, but because he seems to despise mankind for throwing him out. This Dracula has real motivation. Now that's scary.
This movie is a 10. If you're not a bitch about silent film then watch it right now. It'll leave you pretty creeped out.