The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Equal parts depraved horror film and German expressionist picture, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari isn’t much to enjoy these days. That’s no fault of the filmmaker or the film, it’s just a product of time, professional refinement, technical advancements and waning attention spans. We don’t view film in 2016 the way we did in 1920, and we shouldn’t. Just the same, the picture is worth a look, if you haven’t seen it, and the impact, influence and inspiration the production generated simple cannot be measured. By many, it’s often recognized as history’s first horror film, despite the fact that a number of shorter genre works predate The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, some by nearly three decades. What most of those other works don’t manage to do, however, is unnerve to the extent that this film does. Silent or not, flawed or not, there’s some mind boggling imagery to take in and a few visuals that will always maintain their iconic status. Again, just for a history lesson and a unique experience, this one earns a big recommendation, and while it probably won’t hold your attention the way an explosive Michael Bay picture might, watching it is as much an experience as a means of basic entertainment.
If you do look into this genre kick-starter, and you find that you enjoy Robert Wiene’s cinematic style, I’d take things one step further and recommend you look into Crime and Punishment, itself a very dark and interesting picture with a concept intricate enough that it manages to rival a lot of modern works.
Continue the countdown of the 15 films that defined the horror genre on the next page!