The First Horror Film And Five Modern Movies Carrying The Torch of Terror

Picture yourself back in 1896. The air is crisp as the industrial age is still young. Telephone and electricity are only just becoming commonplace. And there is NO INTERNET! Relax, don’t freak out, it’s just imagination. The late-19th century is a terrifying time when the world was mostly unaware of what funny antics cats were up to. Trolls were only in fairytales. Photography was taking the next step into becoming moving pictures. And the horror film genre was preparing for its unholy birth.

French illusionist and inventor, Georges Méliès was experimenting with motion pictures. Years before his Trip to the Moon, Georges made what is widely considered the first horror film The Haunted Castle.

Méliès’ film was lost for nearly a century until the New Zealand Film Archives discovered a copy. The Haunted Castle is a ghost-centric horror film. So, in the spirit of the 120-year-old piece of motion picture history, here are five great haunted movies from around the world!

Ju-On: The Grudge (Japan, 2002)

Your shirt tag is sticking out.

Familiar to most for the American remake starring Buffy (Sarah Michele Gellar), the original is creepier than the slick U.S. version. The story is the same, a spirit haunts a home and torments anyone who enters. Unfortunately, real estate is a booming business, leaving new homeowners to learn about the spirits the hard way. Japanese horror is unforgiving which is why the land of the rising sun does so well with the genre.


Shutter (Thailand, 2004)

A car accident seemingly kills a young woman and sets this horror film into motion. Tun, the passenger during the crash, convinces Jane, the driver, to flee the scene. Soon after, Tun starts to find bizarre, blurry faces in any photo he takes. Jane, riddled with guilt over the dead girl, starts to investigate who she was and begins to unravel an unnerving mystery about Jane’s friends. While there is an American remake that is good in its own way, the Thai version is brilliant from start to finish.


The Orphanage (Spain, 2007)

The highest rated horror film on this list (87% on Rotten Tomatoes if you’re into that sort of thing). The Orphanage is the story of Laura, a woman coming back to the orphanage where she spent her earliest days. Laura’s return leads her through a macabre mystery about the fate of the children who once lived at the orphanage. The Orphanage avoids the usual jump-scares that so many horror movies use as a crutch.


Grave Encounters (Canada, 2011)

I am not a fan of the found footage genre as a whole. But films like Grave Encounters (or Chronicle) do it right. Grave Encounters follows a ghost-hunting television crew investigating an abandoned psychiatric hospital. As we all know, these shows are mostly a bunch of grown adults being astonished by particles of dust caught on camera. In Grave Encounters, the crew finds what they’ve been searching for, and it’s beyond imagination. Unfortunately, it’s more than their EVP meters, and other gadgets can handle.


The Woman In Black (UK/US, 2012)

The unofficial next chapter in the Harry Potter series, Daniel Radcliffe goes undercover as lawyer Arthur Kipps in a period piece about a haunted estate. Kipps is sent to oversee the sale of Eel Marsh House only to find that the property is not exactly vacant. Delightfully classic in almost every way, The Woman In Black is patient and chilling. Radcliffe grows and expands with every new role and carries the haunting story with ease.


Honorable Mention: The Conjuring (US, 2013)

“She’s behind me again, isn’t she?”

James Wan’s (Insidious, Saw) The Conjuring is a modern day horror classic and should undoubtedly be on this list. However, The Conjuring gets plenty of praise, so I put it here as an honorable mention. The Conjuring is slow-burn haunted horror at its best and Wan is undoubtedly a modern day master of the horror genre.


So, what have we learned?

The horror film genre
is as old as movies themselves!

Horror movies tap into primal fear but wrapped in the safe and warm blanket of entertainment. If you’re not going to be brave the other 364 days of the year, at least shut off the lights, curl up on the couch, and cower in terror with a great horror film on this unholy day of Halloween.

Ruben Diaz
Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.