Slaying It On the building blocks of horror.

Slaying It On the building blocks of horror.

  • Words Alex Anderson
  • Photograph Todd Hido

A century ago, moviegoers experienced horror in the dark. Furtive, crazed villains in ominous, dank rooms set audiences on edge. The architectural backdrops of these horror films were dismal and unbalanced. In flickering black and white, German silent movies of the early 1920s established the convention.

The sets of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari were strangely twisted. The hard angles, slashes of light and shadow, and unaccountably distorted walls and windows unsettled audiences as much as the insane Caligari himself. Nosferatu, a lurid vampire story set in Transylvania, horrified audiences two years later. It established Gothic architecture as the essential counterpart to the sinister and occult themes of early horror films. Untended, overgrown and gloomy old buildings soon became sta...

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