Horror History: The First Horror Film

Horror has been a staple of modern film making for quite some time, but where did it start?

The first official horror film was a silent French movie entitled “Le Manoir du Diable” which translates to “The House of the Devil.” In the US and other English speaking nations, it was renamed as The Haunted Castle. Released in1896, the film is a whopping 118 years old at the time of this writing.

The film itself is very short and runs barely more than 3 minutes. You can watch the entire thing in the link below.

Modern cinema wishes they could rock puppet bats this hard.
It featured several mainstream horror icons, such as ghosts, boiling cauldrons, the devil, and even the first vampire on screen. More than that, it may contain the first “pitchfork poke to the ass” to ever be seen in a movie. The film also used a great deal of hard cuts to make the characters vanish and reappear.

“The House of the Devil” was made under the direction of Georges Méliès, who would go on to direct dozens of other films. Before his death in 1937, he would be recognized as one of the first masters of film. Walt Disney said that Méliès, “discovered the means of placing poetry within the reach of the man in the street.”

Meant to amuse audiences, some say that “The House of the Devil” was not entirely horror. It is usually argued that the satanic imagery, specters, and skeletons on the screen make it fit the horror genre despite the comedic angles.

On a more bizarre note, there could be one other film that is considered horror that precedes “Le Manoir du Diable” made by the great inventor Thomas Edison in 1895. It’s a very short clip entitled “The Execution of Mary Stuart.” In this clip, Mary Stuart, Queen of the Scots is beheaded for treason.

It’s been argued that this is more of a snuff film than horror, but it is still an odd entry into the lore of horror cinema.

In the modern age of horror, we are treated to some of the most visceral and graphic representations of the genre. Looking back on the history of filmed horror gives an amazing perspective about how far the genre has advanced. Do you have any other early horror films you would like to share? Toss them in the comments below.

Tony Southcotte hails from the Rocky Mountains somewhere around the state of Colorado. Possibly raised by grizzly bears, this gritty denizen of the arena now spends most of his time grappling with Java updates and dysfunctional RAM. With not much fiction under his belt, it might seem tempting to bet against Mister Southcotte, but an impressive knowledge of everything from PVC pipe to psychedelic drugs makes Tony a storehouse of fiction waiting to hit the paper. Plus, you know, there’s the possibility of him ripping you apart like a grizzly bear.

 

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