When I was browsing for classes to take this semester I came across an upper level course examining the American Horror Film. I’ve always been a fan of the genre and I’ve written a few short horror stories myself so this class was an exciting prospect for me. We are in our fifth week now and it has not disappointed!
These first few weeks we’ve been looking at early horror movies in the 1930s and 1940s and it’s been fascinating to see how current events at the time influenced the films created. Thus far I have watched Dracula (1931), The Black Cat (1934), Freaks (1932) and Cat People (1942). These movies deal with a number of topics but largely representations and impressions of “the other.” The tension in them parallels the fraught feelings globally following the first world war and then the conflicted roles of women during the second world war.
At first I thought I would view these movies as silly and outdated, but there are still moments in each film where my skin crawled. I didn’t find Dracula himself frightening, but boy did Dwight Frye bring the creepy in his portrayal of Renfield. His voice and his expressions were so unsettling. There’s a scene in particular on the boat where his terrifying smile is all that we can see surrounded by the shadows. That scene haunts me. The swimming pool scene in Cat People is equally freaky as the shadows assault Alice’s mind.
Through this course I have found that I prefer the suggestion of horror versus the graphic flavor of horror. Movies like Hostel (2005) are scary in their own right, but I don’t get as much enjoyment out of it because I’m squeamish and look away during the gory scenes that encompass the majority of the film. I thoroughly enjoyed the film It Follows (2014) and the fear, for me at least, comes through in the slow freaky stalking of the main character Jay.
Do you watch horror movies? What do you prefer? Do you have any recommended watches for me?
Here’s what’s currently in cue:
The Curse of the Cat People (1944)