The Silent Age (1896-1928)

This is the simplest age to define because the words definitively describe it. The movies in this era are all silent. The first horror film is usually considered to be the 1896 Georges Melies short, Le Moanoir du diable (The House of the Devil), released in the UK as The Devil’s Castle in December of 1897, and in the United States as The Haunted Castle. Like it, other early horror films were shorts that either depicted supernatural events or were adapted from literature; for example, by Edgar Allan Poe and Dante.

Horror characters that remain iconic in horror today first appeared during the Silent Age and have been made (and remade) over and over again:

Frankenstein (1910). Based on the novel by Mary Shelley (16 min.)
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1912). Based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (12 min.)
Nosferatu (1922). Unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (94 min.)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). Based on the novel by Victor Hugo (133 min.)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux (93 min.)

German Expressionist filmmakers were influential during the early years of horror with productions such as:

Der Student von Prag (1913). Directed by Paul Wegener and Stellan Rye (60 min.)
Der Golem (1915). Directed by Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegener (60 min.)
Des Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920). Directed by Robert Wiene (76 min.)
Waxworks (1924). Directed by Leo Birinski and Paul Leni (65 min.)
Nosferatu (1922). Directed by F.W. Murnau (94 min.)

Though many of these were not considered “horror” movies at the time, they nevertheless contained horror themes, with macabre elements included within them. Looking back on them now, we consider them, at least in part, to be horror films. For example:

The Unholy Three (1925). Directed by Tod Browning (86 min.)
The Magician (1926). Directed by Rex Ingram (83 min.)
The Cat & the Canary (1927). Directed by Paul Leni (82 min.)
The Man Who Laughs (1928). Directed by Paul Leni (110 min.)

Because he frequently portrayed disfigured characters utilizing groundbreaking makeup that he designed himself, Lon Chaney was known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” and was the first horror star. He was Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, as well as a number of other misshapen human creatures.

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Below is a list of movies featured on this blog or mentioned on one of our social media channels.  We will update it regularly.

Balaoo the Demon Baboon (1913)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The Cat & the Canary (1927)
Der Golem (1915)
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
Faust (1926)
Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Kurutta Ippeiji aka A Page of Madness (1926)
London After Midnight (1927)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
Metropolis (1927)
The Monster (1925)
Mr. Wu (1927)
Nosferatu (1922)
The Penalty (1920)
The Phantom Carriage (1922)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Student of Prague (1913)
The Unholy Three (1925)
The Unknown (1927)
Waxworks (1929)
The Golden Age (1928-1946)