January 11, 2024

If You Liked That, You’ll Love This: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

So you’re in the mood for classic horror, are you? Black-and-white film stock, overdramatic performances, and shambling monsters that teeter between life and death? Then let’s look beyond the monster flicks of Universal and look to German Expressionist films instead, and in particular, at The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), directed by Robert Wiene.

In this silent film, the plot revolves around the mysterious Dr. Caligari, the operator of a sideshow spectacle at the local fair, and his fortune-telling “sleepwalker” Cesare. Of course, fortune-telling is the least of Cesare’s abilities, and the full unraveling of the crimes and characters in this film is chilling and shocking. The climax felt nothing like that of any other silent film I had seen, instead harkening to the best of Shyamalan’s twisted thrillers.

Visually, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is utterly unique and captivating. Similar to the Gothic beauty in The Bride of Frankenstein, this silent film creates a strange and dreamlike world that blurs the lines between reality and imagination. The artistic design not only adds to the film’s creepy atmosphere but also mirrors the creative flair seen in both of these horror classics. Shadow, darkness, and visual artistry mark both films as memorable experiences and I urge all fans of The Bride of Frankenstein to check out The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as well.

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