After spending so much time thinking and writing about horror films over the last month, it was a pleasant surprise to stumble the great-grand-daddy of them all on YouTube yesterday.
Georges Méliès, as you almost certainly know, was a pioneering film-maker in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many images from his films have become iconic, and he often explored strange and macabre topics through his enthusiastic, theatrical style.
In 1896, Méliès made a film called Le Manoir du Diable which was almost certainly the first true horror film. Thomas Edison had shot a re-enactment of the execution of Mary Stuart the year before, but this was a single fifteen second scene, with no real narrative, and I would argue that it lacked the intent which makes for a horror film.
Le Manoir du Diable, known as The House of the Devil or The Haunted Castle in English, is a brief phantasmagory, with a chaotic stream of images showing us Mephistopheles (played by Méliès himself) performing various acts of sorcery. There is no story as such, but it is a showcase for the early special effects that Méliès developed.
If you love horror films as much as I do, Le Manoir du Diable is well worth three minutes of your time.