In the spirit of the season I thought it would be a great time to discuss those essential spooky Classic Hollywood films. Recently watching a slew of Alfred Hitchock, the veritable American master of psychological thrillers, I was inspired to see what else Hollywood had to offer in the way of really good horror/thriller films. In the past, our horror films used to have grounded foundations in the human psyche, the unseen, the paranormal. In present day horror film we see an abundance of gore, often involving chainsaws, angry wildlife and sometimes empty shells of humanity who bring no cause to their maniacal tendencies.
Dare I say Classic Hollywood did it better. Of course I do!
Lets start with the basics. What drives the best thrillers/horror films from the past- FEAR and Necessity.
With all the different levels of fear we can see a plethora of options, and Hitchcock exploited the best of them.
Rear Window portrays Jeff ( Jimmy Stewart) obsessed with a worst-case marital scenario across the courtyard, because he’s afraid of marrying his girlfriend (Grace Kelly).
Psycho portrays Norman Bates unwilling to let go of his mother. Fear of being alone, and major psychological problems abound there.
In the Monster Collection we see a slew of misunderstood villains.
In Boris Karloff’s Frankestein, lonely scientist Dr. Frankenstein creates a man, or monster,of his own. Not only a challenge to his professional career- the driving force, but a salute to the human need for companionship. Both noble endeavors, and yet misunderstood by the masses, causing poor Frankenstien(the monster) to be chased down with torches.
In Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, we see some lovely uncontrollable tendencies that we can’t necessarily blame our villian for.
The basis of all these Classic Hollywood greats is of course, the presence of real human emotion- justification brought on by a horrid childhood, insecurity, a scarring experience, fear of commitment, a wish for the ideal and more. Bringing to light the human plight to satisfy the most basic needs. That’s where the horror comes from- the familiar vein we find in ourselves.
For more Spooky choices this season, I recommend two of my faves, the tv series The Twilight Zone, and Dr. Strangelove. What are your favorite spooky classic films?