Modern movies might have the benefit of big-budget CGI effects and gallons of fake blood, but there's something to be said for the understated horror and beautiful simplicity of black and white horror movies. Their old-school style lent itself to some pretty terrifying scares. Here are five of the best black and white horror movies that will terrify you, but be warned-these movies may make it hard to sleep!
F.W. Murnau was the master of the German Expressionist films, and his masterwork is "Nosferatu". Without the benefit of spoken dialog, Murnau relied on lots of atmospheric lighting, visual spectacle, and the ultra-creepy Max Scheck as Count Orlock, aka Nosferatu. There are quite a number of truly terrifying moments throughout this movie, made even more remarkable by the fact that everything is communicated visually. Look for the creepy shadows that signal impending doom.
"Night of the Living Dead"
Movies had been shot in color for years, but George Romero opted for the black and white treatment for his 1968 film "Night of the Living Dead". Whether this was done out of budgetary necessity or for terrifying effect doesn't matter because the end result will scare the pants off of you. Aside from the film's social commentary (consumerism equals zombieism, yadda yadda), the action within is damn scary, especially for the time. And the film's climax will leave you breathless. Truly, this is one of the most terrifying films ever.
"The Black Cat"
Another film in the same vein as Expressionist film "Nosferatu", "The Black Cat" is an excellent achievement in the realm of terrifying old-school cinema. Plus, the potent combination of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff is impossible to beat. The plot was absolutely ghoulish for 1934, dealing with Satanic rituals and the terrors of prison camps even before the horrors of the Holocaust. If the dreary lighting and Lugosi's ominous delivery don't terrify you, you may not have a pulse.
James Whale did a fine job with his Gothic horror films for Universal, but the first of the "Frankenstein" movies may be his best. You know the basics of the story by now: doctor plays God, creates a monster; monster runs amok. But if you haven't seen this version of the story, you may be surprised to find so many unnerving moments, especially when the monster happens upon a little girl throwing flower petals in a lake. When the movie cuts from there to the girl's death procession, there's no doubt you'll be as horrified as viewers were over eight decades ago.
David Lynch: subversive, creative, gross, and just plain weird. All of this traits are on display in "Eraserhead", which is more or less the story of a man's disillusionment and misunderstanding of the world around him. Or something. It's kind of up for debate what is really going on here, but everyone agrees on one thing. They all agree that the "baby" is at best terrifying, and at worst will make you lose your lunch before forever committing to some form of contraception. David Lynch has that power.