The Beginnings of Horror

        In film, the horror genre is characterized by the attempt to make the viewer experience dread, fear, terror, disgust or horror. Its plots often involve the intrusion of an evil force, event, or personage, sometimes of supernatural origin, into the mundane world.

        Horror films have been around since practically the dawn of film making. Many of the earliest feature length 'horror films' were created by German film makers in 1910s and 1920s, many of which were a significant influence on later Hollywood films. Paul Wegener's The Golem (1915) was seminal; in 1919 Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was both controversial with American audiences, due to postwar sentiments, and influential in its Expressionistic style; the most enduring horror film of that era was probably the first vampire-themed feature, F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922), an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

        Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens ("A Symphony of Horror" in German) is a German Expressionist film shot in 1922 by F.W. Murnau. Murnau may not have had the rights, but he still decided to film his own version and made only slight changes to the story. The resultant movie has many similarities to Stoker's original tale. "Dracula" became "Nosferatu" and the names of the characters changed, with Count Dracula changed to Count Orlok. The role of the vampire was played by Max Schreck.

        Max Schreck, who played our vampire, had such a presence in any scene that he was in. He was frightening, but at the same time he fascinated us. His performance set the stage for all other vampire films. Since this was the first vampire film, it gave other vampire films to work with: their superhuman strength, sleeping in a coffin, etc.

        I have enjoyed this film for many years since first viewing it at age five. With it being a silent film, we get more of the intensity needed for a horror film. Also since it is in black and white, our imagination makes it seem scarier than if it had been in color.

Amy Wolford

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