To mark the highly anticipated DVD and Blu-ray release of the thriller that smashed the box office, The Pact, over the next few weeks, leading up to the film’s release, we’ll be guiding you through cinema’s most spookiest, scariest, creepiest and eeriest genre of all time; the ever popular ghost film. So, sit back, turn the lights down low, fondle your ouija board and pull your bed covers close, as we guide you through the history of cinematic ghosts. From the very birth of cinema to the present day. It’s all here – with a new blog each and every day, just for you! So, enjoy…

For thousands of years, ghosts, ghouls, entities and spirits of all kinds have haunted man’s mind. Popping up in literature, movies, television, paintings, music and anywhere and everywhere else, we’re obsessed with the moans and the groans of the transluscent dead. Dating back as far as far as the 1890s with the  silent, short and sweet (often no more than a minute or two) movies of Thomas Edison and other film pioneers, it has always been fascinated with the spooky.

Some of the very first moving images were of the grizzly and macabre nature. These include Thomas Edison’s 1 minute short of Topsy the elephant being electrocuted to death or, even earlier still, the 1895 short titled The Execution Of Mary, Queen Of Scots in which Mary is beheaded. Take a look at it here – I guarantee you’ll be convinced it’s real, even by today’s standards! These films and several others started a trend in cinema that has continued to grow and grow; the spectacle of death, gore and violence. Now we have Saw, Martyrs, Friday The 13th, Blood Feast – all films that make a spectacle of gore and death.

Original poster for Georges Méliès The House Of The Devil

So, it wasn’t much longer until ghosts and the supernatural begin to show up, and who better to send shivers up the folks of the 19th century, than Georges Méliès?! Yes, the man recently celebrated in Hugo.  Méliès was supposedly responsible for using the jump cut to create some incredible effects – a trick he apparently discovered by accident! Well, ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the very first ‘horror’ and vampire film, The House Of The Devil (aka The Haunted Castle) from 1896!  Running for 3 minutes (an impressive spectacle in itself back then!) the film shows Méliès perfecting his art of making things suddenly appear out of nowhere on film. Here is that very film…

Soon what followed was a whole flood of freaky tales of the supernatural. Méliès continued to deliver the goods with The Cabinet of Mephistopheles in 1897 and before you could scream “Yipes!”, ghosts were truly haunting these short films – many of which would be shown at carnivals and fairs (with ghost trains and freak shows). Edison, ever the money man, jumped on the haunted bandwagon in 1900 and released the comical Uncle Josh’s Nightmare (part of a series of Uncle Josh sketches)  along with British director George Albert Smith’s The Corsican Brothers (1898) and several others. Many of these directors had previously worked on stage often as illusionists and/or magicians – perfect practice!

It wasn’t long until the ghost classics of literature where soon adapted for the moving picture screen.  From 1901 to 1913, A Christmas Carol was turned into a short film four times (and you thought today’s Hollywood remakes were bad!), followed then by Macbeth in 1916!

Still from British director, Walter R. Booth Scrooge (1901)

So, as you can see, ghosts have been making a (silent!) racket since the very birth of film and have continued to get even more popular over the years.

Check out tomorrow’s blog for the next installment!

Break-out horror movie smash of the year that has been electrifying hardened genre fans and non-horror fans alike, “The Pact” combines the supernatural terrors of “Paranormal Activity” with the tense atmospherics of a serial killer thriller to create a unique, modern-day take on the classic ghost story.

And it’s out on October 1st! Pre-order yours here.

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