In our first horror edition of Retropiece Theater, we go all the way back to the early 20th century and take a look at Segundo de Chomón’s The Haunted House.
As a cinephile, it’s always fun to take a look at a genre’s earliest or first incarnations, and for horror that means going back over a century. Societies may change over time, but one thing that will never change is our desire to be frightened. It makes us feel alive, and horror movies are a great way to provide that quick jolt to the heart. These days, filmmakers rely heavily on CGI and special effects (which are great when utilized right), but 1908’s The Haunted House is horrifying in its purity and innocence.
Directed by Spanish director and film tricks master Segundo de Chomón, The Haunted House is a very short film that packs in many of the horror tropes we’ve come to consider the foundation for most any horror movie coming out today. Three strangers, two men and one woman, stop at a quaint, yet sinister looking cottage in the woods after what appears to be a day out in the country. I wouldn’t have stopped there, and even though the movie is over 100 years old, the place looks very haunted and a bit uninviting. There’s even some flying wraith-like creature in the sky above the house. As soon as they get in, the haunting begins, and they buck up on full-fledged poltergeist activity.
They don’t flee, but I suspect that’s because if they did, the film would only run about two minutes. In any case, the trio remains, and the paranormal activity goes from cheesy, and slapstick to outright macabre when a horrifying looking monster with long nails, and jagged teeth gets in on the action. The rest of the movie is amusing, and fun to watch, but whenever that creature was on the screen, I was weirded out. He’d be perfect inspiration for someone’s creepypasta on Reddit. Let’s not even get into him trying to eat them.
Several scenes show why Chomon is lauded for his movie tricks prowess. The stop motion was pretty impressive considering the date of the film, and it’s in those scenes where you can tell he wasn’t taking himself too seriously the most. Still, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, take the time to check it out.