Saturday, October 9, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: "The Old Dark House" (1932)

 “The Old Dark House” is a film I only more recently discovered. Last year during the pandemic, when I subscribed to the exclusively horror film streaming service Shudder, I was browsing some of their older titles when I came across a film from 1932, starring Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton and Gloria Stuart, featuring a stormy night and a creepy old house. As a fan of old school horror, finding this film— directed by James Whale no less! — was such a gift. I loved its old-fashioned charm, and quickly the novel it is based on “Benighted” by J. B. Priestley, and read it. 

 And so last night we watched this film. The plot is simple: during a storm, strangers find their way to a creepy house in the Welsh country side, where the rain forces them to spend the night. The family who lives in the home— Ernest Thesiger of “Bride of Frankenstein” fame— is odd and unusual— and their hulking, bearded, silent servant played by Boris Karloff the stuff of legends. I loved seeing the birth of so many horror characters, tropes, novels and film in this story; Karloff’s character, especially, seems to have given birth to the Addams Family’s Lurch. 

 Now in my Halloween rotation, I feel that I will watch this film for— I hope— many Octobers to come. This film is a gorgeous, visual treat of Hollywood visionaries of the macabre from so many decades in the past— the rain, the lighting, the windows banging in the wind, the creepy characters with dark family secrets. “The Old Dark House” is a perfect film for any October night. 

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