Halloween is a time for scary things, and nothing’s scarier than an old horror movie. Despite the flashy special effects often found in today’s horror movies, creepy old movies like Rosemary’s Baby still maintain a following.
Hunt Library Video Collection Manager Jeff Hinkelman attributes this popularity in part to old film’s character types. “Some of the older films survive better because you’re sympathetic [to the monster],” he said, using The Mummy as an example. “How much do you really connect with the Saw guy?”
Gary Kaboly, director of exhibition for the Pittsburgh Filmmakers, believes that the love of classic horror films is due instead to their superior writing and acting. But these advantages often fail to appeal to young audiences, he added. “Younger fans do not have the patience to follow the story,” he said. “They prefer to be shocked.”
Pittsburgh Filmmakers shows old horror movies during the Halloween season and sometimes during the Sunday night Directors’ Series at the Regent Square Theater. For example, Filmmakers recently showed Rosemary’s Baby, written and directed by Roman Polanski in 1968. This creepy thriller details the unusual pregnancy of its main character, Rosemary, who begins to panic when even her friends and family start plotting against her.
There are many other vintage horror movies perfect for Halloween. For a good scare, Hinkelman recommends the following:
The Mummy (1932) Directed by Karl Freund, this movie depicts a mummy resurrected after almost 4000 years that tries to reunite with its love. Elements of horror combine with the universal theme of undying love.
The Unknown (1927) This is a silent film starring Lon Chaney and directed by Tod Browning (Dracula). The film — too zany to explain — stars an armless carnival knife-thrower.
Halloween (1978) A 6-year-old boy murders his older sister and is sent to a mental institution. Fifteen years later, one day before Halloween, he breaks out and trouble ensues.
Dracula (1931) Despite the number of modern remakes, the Tod Browning version of Dracula remains the best. Most people are familiar with the plot of Dracula, but this movie is worth watching for its acting and atmosphere. In recent years, the film was re-scored, so you’ll need to find a copy without the new music for the original effect.
Aside from Hinkelman’s recommendations, you might also try Tod Browning’s other films (Freaks, London After Midnight, and more) and classic Universal flicks like Frankenstein (1931) and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), in addition to slightly newer movies The Thing (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
Need more Halloween? Read up on recipes and scary places on campus.