Many horror fans have become desensitized in the 21st Century. As special FX technologies have advanced, fear practitioners have pushed the envelope beyond all semblance of an extreme. And while innovations are always shocking at first, overuse of tropes and motifs have made even the most depraved imagery commonplace. Even jump scares have lost their power.
Horror fans looking to find that elusive thrill may be well advised to look backward instead of forwards. Before the advent of special FX, CGI, and modern film editing techniques, early cinematographers concentrated on mood and aesthetic over shock and awe—with terrifying results. Add the surrealism that time adds, the degradation of film and sound qualities, and some of the first stabs at horror movies become truly nightmarish.
Related Article: 10 Awesome Horror Movies RUINED by Their Ridiculous Twists
Below, in no particular order, are 10 old movies too disturbing for mainstream audiences. The video comes courtesy of YouTuber Blame it on Jorge and includes historical context and background information on each film. If you can’t stream, the 10 films are listed and briefly summarized below the video. Many are lost to time but all can be investigated on YouTube. Enjoy!
Official Synopsis: In today’s video, we take a history lesson and travel back in time to some of the earliest works in film. However, because it’s my channel, we also take a look at some of the creepiest, eeriest, and downright most unsettling black and white movies ever produced. Some that were deemed too disturbing for modern audiences.
Freaks (1932, Directed by Todd Browning)
Official Synopsis: When trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) learns that circus midget Hans (Harry Earles) has an inheritance, she marries the lovesick, diminutive performer, all the while planning to steal his fortune and run off with her lover, strong man Hercules (Henry Victor). When Hans’ friends and fellow performers discover what is going on, they band together and carry out a brutal revenge that leaves Hercules and Cleopatra knowing what it truly means to be a “freak.”
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962, Directed by Joseph Green)
Official Synopsis: A doctor experimenting with transplant techniques keeps his girlfriend’s head alive when she is decapitated in a car crash, then goes hunting for a new body.
Ah! La Barbe (1905, Directed by Segundo De Chomon)
Official Synopsis: Ah! La Barbe is a 1906 French short film directed by Segundo de Chomón. The film shows a man who, whilst shaving, eats a portion of his shaving cream.
The Man Who Laughs (1928, Directed by Paul Leni)
Official Synopsis: Disfigured by a king as a child, an 18th-century clown (Conrad Veidt) again becomes the pawn of royalty.
L’Inferno (1911, Directed by Giuseppe de Liguoro, Adolfo Padovan, and Francesco Bertolini)
Official Synopsis: L’Inferno is a 1911 Italian silent film, loosely adapted from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. L’Inferno took over three years to make, and was the first full-length Italian feature film ever made.
Maniac (1934, Directed by Dwain Esper)
Official Synopsis: A vaudevillian (Bill Woods) poses as a mad doctor (Horace B. Carpenter), injects a patient and eats a black cat’s eye.
Häxan (1922, Directed by Benjamin Christensen)
Official Synopsis: A hybrid of documentary and fiction, this silent film explores the history of witchcraft, demonology and satanism. It shows representations of evil in a variety of ancient and medieval artworks, offers vignettes illustrating a number of superstitious practices and presents a narrative about the persecution of a woman accused of witchcraft. The film ends by suggesting that the modern science of psychology offers important insight into the beliefs and practices of the past.
Meshes of the Afternoon (1943, Directed by Maya Deren, and Alexander Hackenschmied)
Official Synopsis: Meshes of the Afternoon is a short experimental film directed by wife-and-husband team Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid.
Eyes Without a Face (1960, Directed by Georges Franju)
Official Synopsis: Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is riddled with guilt after an accident that he caused disfigures the face of his daughter, the once beautiful Christiane (Édith Scob), who outsiders believe is dead. Dr. Génessier, along with accomplice and laboratory assistant Louise (Alida Valli), kidnaps young women and brings them to the Génessier mansion. After rendering his victims unconscious, Dr. Génessier removes their faces and attempts to graft them on to Christiane’s.
Un Chien Andalou (1929, Directed by Luis Buñuel) [Featured Image]
Official Synopsis: Un Chien Andalou is a 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí.
About Blame it on Jorge on YouTube: I make all sorts of videos, most notably my top lists, but also skits, vlogs, and so on.