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.

Two more classics of the silent film age battle it out today with what is considered by some to be the first horror movie The Cabinet of Dr Caligari versus the first big screen adaptation of a classic of suspense Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

At a carnival in Germany, Francis (Friedrich Feher) and his friend Alan (Rudolf Lettinger) encounter the crazed Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss). The men see Caligari showing off his somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt), a hypnotized man who the doctor claims can see into the future. Shockingly, Cesare then predicts Alan’s death, and by morning his chilling prophecy has come true — making Cesare the prime suspect. However, is Cesare guilty, or is the doctor controlling him?

The sets in the film were made out of paper and had the shadows painted on the walls.

Pros

Some beautiful production design. The backgrounds are brilliantly done.

Some visually disturbing imagery.

Cons

Silent films are not scary.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Scientist Dr. Henry Jekyll (John Barrymore) is intelligent and diligent, but also uptight and extremely serious about his work. When his friend, Sir George Carew (Brandon Hurst), takes him to a show featuring the sensual Miss Gina (Nita Naldi), an aroused Jekyll sets out on a quest to separate man’s saintly and sinful sides. His experiments succeed, and his evil alter ego, Mr. Hyde, is created. As the doctor uncontrollably alternates between Jekyll and Hyde, danger looms.

The film was shot in Manhattan in order to allow actor John Barrymore to continue his Broadway appearances.

Pros

For a silent film, the acting is great. It is more natural than most films of the era.

Solid production design and cinematography.

Great performance by John Barrymore.

Cons

Silent films are not scary.

While both films have interesting visuals, only one has better acting from its cast. Despite Caligari’s more impressive visuals, the winner of this showdown is….

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Have you seen either one of these films? Which one was your favorite? What horror films do you plan on watching for Halloween? Let me know in the comments below.

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