I know what you’re probably thinking: “Where’s the review for ‘X-Men: Apocalypse?’” Don’t worry; It’s coming. I don’t when, but it’ll come. However, I can tell you it won’t be this month, as I’ve decided that I’m going to review horror movies (or just horror-themed movies) for this month of October.
Anyway, why am I spotlighting a silent movie, you may ask? Well, really, it was because I decided to watch it because it was Halloween when I saw that it was airing on TCM for the occasion. And it left that Halloween effect on me, for better or worse. (By the way, this is what I do to get in the mood for trick-or-treaters: Watch horror movies or horror-themed movies (as well as Halloween TV specials, not all of them horror-themed), play horror games or horror-themed games, and don’t participate in anything else.) This movie is among the last surviving silent movies of the German Expressionist Movement, and is often pointed to as the first “true” horror movie. (I doubt it was, but it’s the earliest surviving one, so whatever.) So, what are my thoughts on this landmark film? Well, sit back, relax, and hope that my writing entertains you.
This area might seem slow-moving and boring at first (especially for modern sensibilities), but it picks up big time in the fourth “act” (of six, by the way). And it all comes together at the end, just for the entire story to be thrown into suspicion by a twist ending that’s too good to spoil. Before that point, you think you’ll be given the “Hollywood ending,” but once the ending truly comes, it throws anything resembling one out the window. I don’t want to spoil anything, however, so if you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it. Sorry I can’t be more detailed here, but this is the kind of movie that relies on twists and surprises. Let me put it this way: It’s sad, suspenseful, atmospheric, tragic, and even gives the viewer a “make-up-your-own-mind” option with its twist ending.
Story Grade: 100% (A+)
Strip the monumental acting away, and you’re left with characters strong enough for the story told… and truthfully, not much else. They complement the story perfectly, but have too much riding on one personality trait for them to be that likable outside the confines of the story told. Let me put it this way: Most of the inner turmoil experienced by the characters is expressed through the acting, and not so much the characters themselves. You’ll feel for these characters, but they don’t contain any of the depth required for the intro scene to feel earned in its assessment that the main character went through a great deal more than the person he’s talking to. (See? Aside from Dr. Caligari himself and Alan, I don’t even remember anyone’s name.)
Characterization Grade: 80% (B-)
There’s truthfully not much of it, due to the movie being a silent one, but what’s here is… decent.
Script Grade: 85% (B)
This is the area where most of the movie shines. For a movie shot on a shoestring budget, everything is very fully realized (except for the sets, which look like something out of Whoville by today’s standards). Everything from the lighting of each scene, to the chase scenes, to the scenes where the somnambulist (whatever that means) is standing perfectly still, all the way down to the tiniest of details, everything is as close to flawless as you can get from a movie of this period.
Direction Grade: 98% (A+)
This is one area where the people involved stepped up their game to the fullest capacity. As I said before, the characters are made not by the writing behind them, but for the performances of each one of the actors. Some might call the acting melodramatic, but since they had to rely on overexpression due to the lack of talking, it’s forgivable. (Or at least it is for me.)
Acting Grade: 100% (A+)
This movie legitimately left me shaking in my boots. (Or it would have if I had boots on at the time.) That’s all you need to know.
Scare Grade: 98% (A+)
Pretty much everything I mentioned that the movie excelled at earlier factors into this area, plus one more aspect: The color palette. It’s not much, but it feels as if the colors from their eight shades were used as well as they could.
Execution Grade: 95% (A)
What more can I say about it? It clearly laid down the framework for multiple horror movies to follow, and I’m glad to claim that I saw it after a (short) life of not seeing it. If you haven’t seen it, I absolutely recommend you track down a copy.
Final Grade: 94% (A)
Well, that was rather difficult to put together. What am I doing next time? Well, it’s another silent movie from the German Expressionist movement, and if you’re familiar with that movement, you probably know which one I’m talking about. For those who aren’t, I’ll leave it a surprise.