The Halloween season is here and in the run up to the big day I decided to examine what is considered “scary” in the world of horror movies.

Going with Rotten Tomatoes list of the 31 scariest movies, I decided to compare each film with another horror film from the same year to determine which one I found scarier.

The next showdown pits two horror classics against each other with Tod Browning’s follow up to Dracula, 1932’s Freaks vs Karl Freund’s foray into the Universal monster canon The Mummy.

Freaks

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.”

Browning takes an interesting approach to this thriller by flipping the roles of hero and villain.

Pros

There are some rich and interesting characters throughout the film.

The characters are likable and engaging. There is a full realization to them that makes you care about them as a viewer.

The closeness of the community makes the story and its ending more entertaining.

The ending is fantastic and the finale with Cleopatra and Hercules is earned.

Cons

The movie isn’t scary. Putting it in the horror category speaks more to the perception of the performers than to anything horrific or scary in the film.

It’s a slow film that establishes the conflicts up front and then takes way too long to get to the point. As satisfying as the end is, it takes too long to get to it.

There is a scene after the villains get their comeuppance that is not necessary and frankly silly. Browning had the perfect end for the film with the reveal of what happened to Cleopatra.

The Mummy

A team of British archaeologists led by Sir Joseph Whemple (Arthur Byron) discover the mummified remains of the ancient Egyptian prince Imhotep (Boris Karloff), along with the legendary scroll of Thoth. When one of the archaeologists recites the scroll aloud, Imhotep returns to life, but escapes. Several years later, Imhotep has taken on the guise of a wealthy man, as he searches Egypt for his lost love, who he believes has been reincarnated as the lovely Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann).

With its themes of resurrection, reincarnation and lost love, the Mummy set the standard for the many, many remakes, reboots and copycat films to come.

Pros

Boris Karloff is perfect. Quiet, menacing and powerful, Karloff steals and commands every scene that he’s in.

Great production value. Freund masters the look and feel of the film through its impressive sets and locations.

The menace of the Mummy is a slow burn that is satisfying as the creatures plans come into focus and its targets feel its power.

There are some amazing shots of Karloff that are nightmare inducing.

Cons

The supporting cast is forgettable and so are their stiff performances.

The ending was anti-climactic.

Both films have some impressive visuals and their dark themes are very entertaining. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to disagree with Rotten Tomatoes again on this one and say that the scariest of the two films is definitely……

The Mummy

Let me know what you think. Have you seen either film? Which one is your choice for the scarier film Let me know in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.