When it comes to horror movies, there’s always been a fascination with the firsts. The first horror movie, the first slasher film, and of course, the first scary movie.
But what exactly is considered the first scary movie? Let’s dive in and find out.
Defining “Scary Movie”
Before we can determine which film was the first scary movie, we need to define what we mean by “scary movie.” Horror as a genre has evolved over time, with filmmakers constantly pushing boundaries and trying new things. So what might have been considered scary in the early days of cinema may not have the same effect on audiences today.
For our purposes, let’s define a scary movie as one that is meant to elicit fear or unease in its audience. This can include everything from supernatural horror to psychological thrillers.
The Early Days of Cinema
The earliest films were primarily short clips meant to showcase new technology rather than tell a story. It wasn’t until around 1903 that filmmakers began experimenting with narrative storytelling in their films.
One of the earliest examples of a horror film is Georges Méliès’ 1896 short film “Le Manoir du Diable” (The House of the Devil). While not necessarily scary by today’s standards, it featured some spooky imagery such as bats and demons.
The Silent Era
The silent era of cinema saw a rise in horror films, with German Expressionism leading the way. Films like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920) and “Nosferatu” (1922) are still considered classics today.
But when it comes to the first scary movie, many point to “The Phantom of the Opera” (1925) as a contender. Starring Lon Chaney Sr., it tells the story of a disfigured musician who haunts the Paris Opera House. It featured elaborate sets and makeup, and Chaney’s performance is still praised today.
The introduction of sound in cinema opened up new possibilities for horror filmmakers. One of the most famous early talkie horror films is “Dracula” (1931), starring Bela Lugosi as the titular vampire. While not as scary as it once was, Lugosi’s performance is still iconic.
Another contender for the first scary movie during this era is “Frankenstein” (1931), directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff as the monster. It was a critical and commercial success, and its influence can still be seen in horror films today.
The Evolution of Scary Movies
Since those early days, horror movies have continued to evolve and change with the times. From slasher flicks to found footage films, there’s no shortage of ways to scare audiences.
So which film can truly be considered the first scary movie? It’s a difficult question to answer definitively, as it depends on how you define “scary.” But whether you look to “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Dracula,” or “Frankenstein,” there’s no denying that these early films helped establish horror as a genre and paved the way for future filmmakers to scare us in new ways.
Horror movies have come a long way since their earliest days, but one thing remains constant: our fascination with fear. Whether we’re watching a classic like “The Phantom of the Opera” or a modern-day slasher flick, we love to be scared. And while we may never truly know which film can claim the title of first scary movie, we can appreciate how these early pioneers helped establish a genre that continues to captivate audiences today.