Top Horror Documentaries: From Haxan to A Haunting in Connecticut
As the third annual Stanley Film Festival in Colorado prepares to open its supposedly haunted doors, in a hotel which apparently influenced Steven King’s classic THE SHINING, it has never been clearer how the thirst for thrills in film and beyond has changed.
No longer are audiences merely content to sit, popcorn in hand, and wait to be shocked by outlandish CGI. Immersion and realism is the name of the game, as viewers demand a slice of reality with their ghosts and ghouls.
However, despite the clamour for haunted hotel tours, live action games, themed rides and Halloween experiences, with even online casinos now channelling our deepest fears – just check out this game from Slotocash based on horror move Ghost Ship – it is clear that horror documentaries still often touch the rawest nerve.
Horror documentaries have had an undeniable influence on cinema, and that in itself is a credit to how the genre has evolved and adapted to the ever changing tastes of audiences, who want to feel the spine-tingling suspicion that those tales depicted on their screens could really be true.
Here, we take a look at a selection of some of the most popular horror documentaries and how they have helped shape the scene.
As a horror documentary, HAXAN, a Scandinavian seven-part silent-film study of the myths surrounding witchcraft, is still widely considered to have been ahead of its time and a stand-out example of the genre.
Director Benjamin Christensen switches up the narrative style by using a clever combination of dramatisation, art history, historical fact and analysis to bring viewers an intriguing piece of filmmaking which blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction, and undoubtedly inspired generations of investigation as art, as well as critical examinations of folklore. Take a peek at the trailer here:
Released in the same year as the famous film (a faux documentary in itself, whose low budget shaky camerawork style spawned many a high-grossing imitation, such as CLOVERFIELD and the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series), CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH instead delves into the real life mystery.
Archive footage and interviews with the families and friends of three young student filmmakers, who went missing while filming a documentary on the Blair Witch myth, brings a personal twist to the tale, which the sensationalist style of its cinematic counterpart cannot recreate. Watch a clip here:
With its stock dramatic music and voiceovers, it’s no wonder that Hollywood snapped up this classic haunted house documentary for a 2009 movie adaptation. When their son falls sick, a New York family is forced to move to Connecticut and into a house that was once a funeral parlour, and events soon begin to take a sinister turn. Treated with the reverence usually saved for disaster documentaries, how A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT is chronicled reflects the audience’s appetite for wanting to believe.
AMITYVILLE: THE HAUNTING and AMITYVILLE: HORROR OR HOAX? (2000)
One of the most controversial and enduring ‘ghost stories’ to have gripped America, Amityville continues to divide critics over its authenticity, providing plenty of material for horror screenwriter Daniel Farads to get his teeth into in this two-part documentary.
It is a tale that spawned a thousand off-shoots, including several film series, and also lawsuits. The intrigue surrounds the publication of a book by Jay Anson in 1977, which supposedly chronicles the haunting of the Lutz family, who moved into a Long Island house in which the horrific murder of an entire family had previously taken place.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the infamous case, the History Channel commissioned a special programme to delve into the story’s murky past and attempts to separate truth from fiction, and myth from reality.