Camiele’s Top 10 Favorite Black-and-White Horror Films
3. Eraserhead (1977)
Yeah, it’s gonna get tougher to remain at least partially subjective. David Lynch is just… Okay, I know I’ve used genius to describe at least three of the directors and films on this list, but this Top 3 for me at least deserves the modifier.
Eraserhead is a complete and utter mindf*ck. There are so many moments when you’re not sure just what the hell is going on only to be hit with a dream sequence that brings at all together. It’s a marvelously quirky and unsettling piece of cinema made all the more freakish by the fact that it is actually in black-and-white. There’s a great amount of mysticism when stripping away all color from a film. Not only does it act as its own sort of commentary on the fundamental flaws of attempting to bring color to an otherwise uninspiring world (at times). It’s a way to calm down all the noise in order to get the viewer to actually focus on the film, “listen” to it breathe and tell you a story without all the fanfare.
Eraserhead does this better than most simply because you kind of do have to sit absolutely still in order to really drink in every aspect. Of course, the hard part is not squirming as you watch the main character interact with all the horrendously distorted and psychotic people in his waking world (never mind his outrageous dreams).
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This one! This is the film that really got me invested in zombie flicks. So much so that not until 28 Days Later would another zombie horror actually affect me. It’s all well and good to say that, considering this is actually the first of the subgenre (or at the very least the first to use it to such an extent). However, you simply have to watch the film to understand why it’s so damn influential.
First of all, George A. Romero’s vision of a world overrun by creatures far beyond any sort of reasoning, his commentary on both racism and sexuality, the graphic nature of the death scenes (which even by today’s standard’s would give you pause). It all adds up to a film that has changed the way we see horror. What really got me about Night of the Living Dead, however, were the sounds. Intricate care was taken when regarding the sound engineering of this piece. There’s very little in the way of a soundtrack, the actual score used sparsely. The sounds of humans eating flesh are enough to make (no pun intended) your skin crawl. It makes you wonder at your own appetites and how far we really are away from being the mindless cannibals Romero put on screen 50 years ago.
1. Freaks (1932)
And here it is. My favorite black-and-white horror film. Never mind the lore surrounding the making of the film, Freaks is really just an absolute marvel. It’s the film that notoriously got Tom Browning officially kicked out of Hollywood, but ask him now if you could and I’m sure he’d say it was 100 percent worth it.
Casting actual carnival performers in the nominal roles was always going to be a hard sell. But the result was a film that’s equal parts horrifying and poignant. If you read through my list of 100 films, you’ll know that Freaks has a special place in my heart. I’ll openly admit it now: I almost cried watching the film. Not from terror or fear, but because ultimately all Hans wanted was someone to love him. When you take into consideration everything that leads up to the deliciously graphic and horrifying climax, you can’t help but feel your entire soul leave your body.
But also keep in mind this film was pre-Code, meaning most of what got Browning shunned by Tinseltown in the first place would never pass nowadays. Truly a one-of-a-kind film, because it wouldn’t be able to happen in the 2018. So really, Freaks is a film apart and receives all my love as one of the most jolting examples of cinematic horror of all time.
Welp! We’ve reached the end of my list this year. It’s always fun to go back and remember what makes certain films stick in your mind over others. But, of course, my list is nowhere near the end all be all and ultimately isn’t even exhaustive.
What black-and-white horror films should I take a look at? Are any of your favorites on this list?