Though new horror movies like black phone and X are known for pushing the boundaries, horror fans can’t help but remember classics that still give them chills. While most older horror films are written off as dated and un-scary, some stand the test of time and can still be quite horrifying.
From silent classics like nosferatu to surreal gems like Eraserhead, there are plenty of older horror films that haven’t lost their ability to give viewers nightmares. Even though there are plenty old fright fests to choose from, users on Reddit took to the site to mention movies that terrified them the most.
House On Haunted Hill (1959)
Though it featured the movie theater gimmicks that made director William Castle famous, House on Haunted Hill still packed a spooky punch. Ziptata praised the classic chiller, saying, “The original House On Haunted Hill…pulled some genuine jump scares out of me”.
Older horror movies usually don’t feature many jump scares, and that’s what made the movie’s more shocking moments even better. Even for a film in the ’50s, it does an excellent job of establishing an eerie mood that builds slowly as the story progresses. House on Haunted Hill is playful, but there is still a dangerous energy that keeps the audience on their toes throughout the running time.
Eraser Head (1977)
Generally considered one of David Lynch’s best films, Eraserhead was the movie that introduced the world to the master of surrealism. Theblindowl3 had a unique reaction to the film, commenting, “I couldn’t finish Eraserheadit gave me such bad anxiety.”
The film is now best remembered for its surreal themes, but when it was initially released, it played well with horror audiences. Unlike most entries in the genre, Eraserhead doesn’t go for the easy scares, and instead establishes a surreal tone that makes the audience feel uneasy. Nothing particularly horrific happens, but the fact that it is a dark mirror for real-life issues makes many viewers squirm in their seats.
Fake documentaries aren’t usually the place that horror hounds go to get scared, but the silent film Häxan is a rare exception. A deleted user was surprised by the old film, saying “Häxan 1922 Swedish silent film. I found it pretty creepy. I think very old documentaries are inherently scary.”
Supposedly capturing the history of witchcraft in Europe, the film’s odd tone is met with even odder visuals. The filmmaker’s interpretations of devils and other occult figures are presented in a nightmarish way, and the silent nature of the film makes it all the more creepy. Several scenes in the documentary are packed with imagery that pushed boundaries in the 1920s.
Eyes Without A Face (1960)
Ranked highly among the best French horror films of all time, Eyes Without a Face has lost none of the presence that it possessed in the ’60s. Mindthebearz was succinct in their thoughts on the film, stating “Eyes Without a Face is truly horrifying!”
Like in a year of movies Psycho that helped kick off a new generation of horror, Eyes Without a Face still stands alone in its creepiness. The subtle blankness of Christiane’s mask is a precursor to future slasher villains, and the entire movie has a hypnotic quality. The gruesomeness of the story is all played offscreen, and yet it is more chilling than the goriest movies of today. Eyes Without a Face proves that what is not seen is often scarier than what is.
The Innocents (1961)
The classic horror novel Turn of the Screw has seen its fair share of adaptations over the years, and The Innocents is one that still has the power to shock. User monsteroftheweek13 didn’t mince words when they commented “I think The Innocents (1961) is the oldest film I’ve seen that truly frightened me.”
Ghost stories are as old as time, and The Innocents put a unique spin on it by including the corruption of youth. The book that the movie was based on was edgy for its time, and in many ways so too is the film. Visually, the movie uses deep focus to show the audience the emptiness of the manor, and there is a claustrophobic inevitability to the terrible things that happen.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Even though the remake was absolutely laughable, the original version of The Wicker Man was one of the best examples of the folk horror genre. Cambot took things personally when they wrote of the movie”The Wicker Man (1973)…This movie hits home with some of my darkest fears.”
Juxtaposing its beautiful scenery with horrific events, the film gets darker and darker until the audience feels just as trapped as the main character. The unreasoning nature of cults adds to the horror, and there is a nightmarish illogic to the climax that is just as shocking today as it was in the 1970s.
The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920)
The German Expressionist period of silent films is often lauded as a highlight of early cinema, and one of its best films is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligaria. Bondsthatmakeusfree tapped into the nightmarish nature of the film, saying “The first time I watched The Cabinet of Dr. caligari, I was constantly feeling something was very, very wrong the entire time…extremely off-putting”.
The entire film plays out like a nightmare, and there is nothing recognizable for the audience to latch onto. Shadows are painted across sets, and the world has a slanted quality that gives an unreal impression of falsehood. On top of that, the creepy ghoul that stalks the streets is a precursor to some of cinema’s best monsters, even without the gruesomeness of modern films.
The Birds (1963)
Human versus nature is one of the oldest story types, and it took the Master of Suspense to breathe new life into the killer animal genre. Nagayuki discussed which old film scared them the most, writing “Personally I’d have to say The Birds…Nowadays I still see it as fairly freaky.”
Most of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films are known for their complicated storylines, but The Birds was a rare example of his simple genius as a storyteller. The unprovoked nature of the attacks make it all the more terrifying, and the fact that the movie had a profound effect on viewers is a testament to its power. Similar to the effect that Jaws had on sharks, The Birds still has viewers thinking twice about the world’s feathered creatures.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Few films represent as profound a change in horror as the late ’60s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. SadButterscotch2 referenced a specific moment in the film when they said “The scene in the basement…never fails to make me go silent with discomfort…Most movies get less scary as you get older…but I think that movie’s gotten scarier with time.”
before Night of the Living Dead, zombies were a tired trope conjured up by voodoo witchdoctors, but George Romero came onto the scene to completely revolutionize the medium. Along with his retcon came unspeakable horror in the shape of gruesome flesh-eating that had audiences fleeing theaters in droves. Even today, the gritty cinematography and horrific implications of the story are enough to chill the blood.
Modern audiences have seen dozens of Dracula adaptations, but nosferatu was one of the first as well as the best.Tondrias succumbed to the eerie power of the movie, saying “nosferatu: to this day this film’s imagery gives me the good kind of chills.”
Max Schreck’s looming presence as Count Orlock has yet to be topped in any vampire film, and the overall atmosphere is almost unspeakably horrifying. Technically speaking, the film pushed boundaries despite being made during the silent era. There is a hypnotic quality to the movie that lures the watcher in until they are trapped under its spell.
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