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For as long as Hollywood has been around, filmmakers have endeavored to make dreams

come to life.

As far back as a century ago, in films infancy, attempts at grand spectacle were

already being made, and Hollywood has never stopped trying to improve its capacity to

blow our minds.

But it was also discovered early on that going straight for the fear center was just as effective,

and often cheaper, than giving the audience visions of the fantastic.

So today, we're going over 10 early films that are every bit as unsettling today as they were decades ago-

some that were even deemed too disturbing for mainstream audiences.

Freaks (1932) Tod Browning was already a veteran film director

by the time he scored an enormous success with 1931s Dracula, the Bela Lugosi-starring

classic that helped to define the horror genre.

Due to that films groundbreaking success, Browning was given pretty much free rein to

create a unique vision for his next project.

He did not fail in that respect; his 1932 film Freaks has been described as inhabiting

a genre all its own, one that no other filmmaker has dared to touch.

Its the story of circus sideshow performers, a trapeze artist and strongman, who conspire

to kill one of their fellow performers for his inheritance.

But the cast was populated with actual freaks- circus performers recruited by the producers,

including conjoined twins, a limbless man known asThe Human Torso”, and others

with the types of deformations that audiences had simply never seen.

Test audiences were treated to a horrifying ending in which the scheming pair are attacked

by the freaks during a rainstorm, with the strongman castrated and the trapeze artist

mutilated beyond recognition.

Most of this ending has been lost, as these test audiences were appalled and one woman

even threatened a lawsuit against production company MGM, claiming that the film caused

her to have a miscarriage.

Despite being given a new ending and undergoing other extensive cuts, the film was still considered

extremely controversial upon its release.

It effectively ended Tod Brownings career and was completely banned in the UK for 30 years

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1959) Shot in 1959, The Brain That Wouldnt Die

didnt see a theatrical release for three years, as distributors were leery of its content.

American International pictures, never a studio to shy away from schlock, released the film

to drive-in theaters in the summer of 1962 to shocked audiences, who got a look at what

might be considered the first gore film.

A mad transplant scientist accidentally decapitates his fiancee, but manages to keep her head

alive in his lab with mad transplant science.

While he searches for a new body for her, she develops a telepathic connection with

a hulking monster that lurks behind a locked door in the lab.

The monster gets free- but the chaos that ensued was not exactly what

1960's audiences were used to seeing.

Its first victim has his arm ripped right the hell off, the stump leaving a bloody smear

on the wall as he collapses.

The second, the mad scientist himself, has a giant chunk bitten out of his neck and spat

onto the floor as the lab burns down, killing everyone in it.

This type of shocking violence, coming near the end of what had been a reasonably conventional

sci-fi movie, disturbed audiences and contributed to the films reputation as beinga head

of its time- no pun intended.

Ah! La Barbe! (1906)

Segundo de Chamon has been called the Spanish

George Melies and the most significant Spanish filmmaker of the silent era.

Like Melies, he was a pioneer in camera tricks and editing techniques, and employed both

early and often- to sometimes disturbing effect.

In one of his most famous short films, Ah!

La Barbe!, also known as The Funny Shave, a man is jovially preparing to shave when

he decides to take a taste of his shaving cream.

This apparently leads to some odd hallucinations, as he sees a series of grotesque caricatures

before him in the mirror, each one freakier than the last.

While the films subject doesnt appear to be particularly alarmed, its safe to

say this is not anything wed ever want to see in our bathroom mirror in the morning.

It takes our hero nearly two full minutes to snap out of his shaving cream induced stupor

and react in the appropriate manner.

The Man Who Laughs (1928) The 1928 film The Man Who Laughs was an American

production with a German director famous for working in that countrys typical Expressionist style

It is a romance, and a melodrama, and not at all a horror film.

But its main character, Gwynplaine- although hes supposed to be sympathetic- is simply

impossible to look at without hearing a small creaking sound in that part of your brain

where nightmares come from.

The character is disfigured as a child with a horrifying, permanent grin, making him sympathetic

in the way that the Hunchback of Notre Dame or the Phantom of the Opera is supposed to be.

He works as a circus freak, of course, and pines for the love of a blind girl before

receiving a big inheritance and happily sailing away to England.

Really, thats it.

No terrifying turns of plot, no real horror elements to the story at all,

but, just look at Gwynplaine.

Look at him.

Obviously, its an extremely unsettling character.

It should come as no surprise that the hero of this little-remembered 1920s melodrama

is the obvious inspiration for one of the most towering villains in all of pop culture.

L'Inferno (1911) The long and storied history of Italian cinema

begins with the 1911 film LInferno, the very first Italian feature film ever made.

The film raked it in at home and overseas, grossing $2 million in 1911 money in the United

States alone, despite- or maybe because of- the fact that its really freaking disturbing.

Even today, the films old-timey qualities tend to enhance the creepy factor rather than

diminishing it.

Its based on Dantes Inferno, and its depictions of hell- with suicides hanging

from trees and demons torturing hopeless souls- were freaky enough to be reused several times

in films as late as 1954.

In fact, censors required that the 33 year-old footage be removed from the 1944 film Go Down, Death

because- among other reasons- of a scene in which a womans naked breast is briefly

seen, which must also be a cinematic first.

LInferno showed very early on that people would pay good money to have the shit scared

out of them, and filmmakers around the world took note.

Maniac (1934) Maniac was directed by Dwain Esper, who was

not so much a film director as he was a smart businessman who knew how to exploit the publics

taste for the strange.

Esper worked outside the traditional Hollywood system, taking his pictures on the road and

advertising them with lurid flyers promising all manner of craziness that was forbidden

by the Hays Code in Hollywood films.

He bought the rights to the aforementioned Freaks, and was also responsible for a lot

of exploitation dreck with titles like Marihuana: Weed With Roots In Hell.

Produced in 1934,

It tells the story of a Vaudeville actor and sex pervert who murders his doctor and assumes

his identity, but the whole film plays as if it were put together by an actual lunatic.

True to its subject matter, it features startling amounts of partial and actual nudity for a

film its age, and features one notoriously gruesome scene where a live cat has its eyeball

popped out, which is thought to be either a very good special effect or the clever use

of a cat with a false eye.

The film serves up plenty of psychoanalyzing and purports to be some kind of cautionary

tale, as if it werent giving its audience exactly what they came to see.

Haxan (1922) The 1922 Danish film Haxan, subtitled Witchcraft

Through the Ages, is a visual masterwork for its time.

Presented as a documentary, it puts forth the idea that the Salem witches were suffering

from mental illness, but this is neither here nor there; when the film segues away from

its informational portions and into its vignettes, thats when the unadulterated horror takes over.

Director Benjamin Christensen portrays a truly terrifying Satan who lures women from their

beds in the middle of the night; there are also depictions of torture, grave robbing

and full-on nudity, though more of the artistic than gratuitous type.

It was all enough to earn the film a ban in the United States, although it was highly

acclaimed in Denmark and Sweden, and was the most expensive Scandinavian production of that time.

Some of its more disturbing footage would be recycled for later low budget exploitation

productions, such as the aforementioned Maniac.

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) While she is not exactly a household name,

the experimental films of Maya Deren influenced a legion of Hollywood filmmakers.

She boldly embraced any and all techniques that would serve her vision, and her films

are notable for pioneering techniques like jump cuts, superimposition, multiple exposures

and slow motion.

Perhaps her best known short film, 1943s Meshes of the Afternoon is a masterpiece of

ominous mood and circular narrative whose influence on film in general is plain.

Our heroine, Deren herself, is having a very weird day.

Events seem to keep repeating themselves, things in her home keep moving around, and

then theres the matter of the black-cloaked man with a mirror for a face.

The shorts unprecedented use of bizarre camera angles and its droning, percussive

and unnerving soundtrack add to the entire hallucinatory experience.

Derens intent was to create a visual representation of devastating psychological issues, and its

safe to say she succeeded.

While few are familiar with this piece, film scholars acknowledge its impact; in 2015,

the BBC cited it as the 40th greatest American film- of any kind- ever made.

Eyes Without a Face (1960) Among horror fans, the 1960 French-Italian

film Eyes Without a Face is legendary.

Released the same year as Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho, Eyes Without a Face barely passed

European censors due to its subject matter and received an edited release in the US.

Its the story of a mad doctor who is obsessed with finding his disfigured daughter a new

face, even if the donors are less than willing.

This 1960 film literally shows, with unflinching detail, the surgical removal of a young womans face--

and thats not even the creepiest part.

The daughter is forced to wear a mask to hide her disfigurement, and its proto-Michael Myers

blankness is absolutely transfixing, and not in a good or comfortable way.

Of course, when we actually do get a look at her under the mask, it is not any better at all.

Despite a lukewarm reception upon release, the film has come to be considered a masterpiece

and its influence on other filmmakers has been substantial.

John Carpenter has acknowledged that Michael Myerslook was inspired by the film,

John Woo largely copied the face transplant sequence for his film Face/Off, and yes- Billy Idol

also cited it as the inspiration for his hit song of the same name.

Un Chien Andalou (1929) Un Chien Andalou was produced by the Spanish

filmmaker Luis Bunuel and famed artist Salvador Dali.

As one might expect from any work in which Dali is involved, it does not make a hell

of a lot of sense.

There is no actual plot; title cards jump fromeight years latertoaround

three in the morningtosixteen years agowith nothing seeming to change very much.

The film is punctuated throughout with odd and disturbing imagery, such as a shot of

a woman prodding at a severed hand with a cane, but it is the films opening sequence

that earns it its place among the most disturbing things one could ever hope to see.

A man idly fiddles with a razor, contemplating the moon.

Suddenly, theres a woman sitting in a chair.

She stares ahead dispassionately, not even flinching as the man slices open her eyeball,

and the camera lingers as its insides spill out.

There were many theories as to how this effect was achieved, but Bunuel eventually disclosed

that used a dead calf, shaving its skin down to make it appear as human as possible.

Notes between the director and Dali revealed that the film containsNo idea or image

that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind”, and thatnothing in the

film symbolizes anything”.

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