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Throwback thrillers to terrify

Senior Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08


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The 1932 film 'Freaks' was banned and censored upon its initial release; 80 years later, it remains an effective, disturbing experience just in time for Halloween.


Never underestimate the power of black and white movies. Though these movies are from a generation where screen shots were limited because of conservative views, and technology lacked special effects as well as HD quality, there are a lot of films that have great substance and tend to go unnoticed simply because they’re not from this century. With Halloween just around the corner, it’d be a true shame to miss out on these classic horror movies that can keep you up at night, wondering what is lurking in the dark.

In 1999, Hollywood made the mistake of releasing a remake of “House on Haunted Hill” based off of the original from 1959. The remake received terrible reviews, and it will never compare to the classic Vincent Price original. Price was a well-known actor for appearing in horror or warped movies, and was also famous for his distinguished voice that had the power to make any narration sound terrifying. You can hear him narrate the end of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson; he gives the famous cackle at the very end. Despite his long resume in the horror movie genre (dating from the 1930’s to his death in 1993), a lot of his greatest movies go unnoticed. “House on Haunted House,” which Price stars in, is a classic example of the typical haunted house movie with a few spooky surprises. What usually turns people off is the fact that it was made in 1959, so no special effects were added. But at the time, directors managed to get creative with scares, and they certainly got creative within this film. “Expect the unexpected” is one thing to remember when viewing “House,” because the thrills can really sneak up on you.

Another classic Price is famous for is “House of Wax.” No, not the 2005 remake where (spoiler!) Paris Hilton gets a pole through her head. In the 1953 version, no one gets a pole through their head, but it does leave you wondering what happens when an artist goes mad and is willing to do anything to make their work more lifelike. Price delivers yet another astonishing performance that may leave you jumpy but wanting more. His list of movies goes on throughout the decade, so there are plenty to choose from.

Taking a step further back in time, 1930’s and 40’s Hollywood began to pump out the typical monster movies that we all know and love. Such titles include “The Wolf Man” (1941), “Dracula” (1931), and “The Mummy” (1932). 

However, one title that has gone largely unnoticed is “Freaks” (1932). Although the concept behind the movie is offensive, it’s important to keep in mind that this movie was made in a time before being politically correct was an issue. It’s a simple movie about deformed circus people who are very loyal to the leader of their sideshow, until a woman wants to marry him for his money. Of course, they find out, and it doesn’t end well for her. What makes this movie terrifying is the song they sing right before they strike and the fact that the camera never really shows what exactly happens to the woman. It is left up to our imagination. The climactic scene has been parodied in “South Park,” among other shows, and the film is widely regarded as a cult hit.

The list of horror movies goes on, including titles such as “The Haunting” (1963), where mysterious screams and shadows will leave you shaking, and “The Howling” (1981), which gives a very different perspective on the werewolf genre. We cannot forget Alfred Hitchcock, either; “Psycho,” “The Birds,” “Rear Window” and plenty more, still scary today. So put away “Halloween,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Saw” and try something more old-school. They’re not technical marvels, but these movies will leave you wondering what the bump you heard in the night was.

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