Yep, that’s right. Get Out (2017), a modern-day quirky remake of another fright film, The Stepford Wives (1975), is a top box-office draw of the summer, pulling in more than a $175 million worldwide. Not bad for a movie made for at a cost of, wait for it, $5 million.
There is a lesson here.
Americans love a good scare — as does the rest of the planet.
When it comes to horror movies, the world is a global village. Fears of things that go bump in the night travel from continent to continent until their dark shadows reappear in every American bedroom closet.
Here are 7 films that reflect man’s common love of being scared to death.
Picking the silent horror movie that started it all is no easy task. As soon as folks began telling stories on celluloid, they tried to scare the pants off us. Ground zero for the first and best fright factories was the German cinematic scene. But which silent film is the best? You could make an argument for Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922), the great-grandfather of all vampire flicks. But the right selection is that quintessential work of German Expression telling a tale of murder and madness. Film critic Roger Ebert described The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as “the first true horror film.” I would explain the plot, but that would ruin it. Watch—and then sleep with the lights on.
This was the first hit film by an upstart production studio in London called Hammer. An astronaut brings back an organism that tries to eat the earth, but Dr. Quatermass is on the case. After they made a pound or two on this film, the studio tried its hand with more classic horror subjects — Frankenstein and Dracula. They discovered a cash cow and cranked out campy Gothic horror movies up through the 1980s.
The only topic that inspired Italian filmmakers more than the American West was American horror films. The list of remarkable Italian terror tales on film is long. Hands-down the most awesome film from one of Italy’s horror movie makers, Dario Argento, is the frightening story of a demon outbreak at a late-night cinema show. The 1987 sequel was just as good.
The Ramsay brothers were India’s horror filmmaking family. For decades, they cranked out an endless series of scary B-flicks with zombies, vampires, ghouls and ghosts (and music and dancing) that mixed plots inspired by Western horror films with Indian superstition and mythology. In this film, a blood-drinking witch terrorizes a rural village.
Released in the U.S. as Samson vs. the Vampire Women, this film was lampooned by Mystery Science Theater. Low blow — el Santo was an authentic Mexican superhero. An established masked wrestling star, he made dozens of horror and science fiction movies battling everything from mad scientists to killer mummies, robots, and creatures from outer space. Most of the plots are derivative of Western movies. This film is about — well, the title says it all.
Don’t forget Africa. Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is so underappreciated. This zombie film made on a tiny budget outshines most of what is made in the West.
There is so much great Asian horror cinema that even picking one country to focus on is tough. Chinese schlock films are suffused with zombies, ghosts, and vampires. Post-war Japanese cinema adored a good fright fest from classics like Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968) to modern J-Horror. Many of the best Japanese horror films like Ringu (1998) have been remade for American audiences. But let’s give it up for South Korea, which has really come on in recent years, delivering terrific fright films like The Host (2006) and Train to Busan (2016). The film that has gotten the most buzz on both sides of the Pacific is Gokseong (titled The Wailing in the U.S.). This movie is The Exorcist (1973) without the happy ending.