Mute your voices as you throng into the cathedral of chills, petrified parishioners. Stifle all sound and gape at the screen where ministers of monstrosity preside over our ceremony. Muffle your moans and clutch your crucifixes. Nosferatu skulks at the window. The Phantom prowls in the cellars. Mr. Hyde shambles through the streets. While the chorus of adolescent vampires and the jeers of Freddy have ended, our film festivals have not. Waiting for a death rattle, you shiver in the silence, which presages the next pounce.
Sinister Cinema Part IV slows us down as we watch thirteen movies from the era before talkies. Although the observance of silence has been minimized in much of modern liturgy, the practice is an ancient one and encourages meditation on our own mortality. Quiet confession evokes terror for our own transgressions while wordless wonder at the body and blood invokes divine dread. As the priest lifts the host, we shudder at mystery. When we depart the sanctuary on Ash Wednesday, ceasing all conversations subdues us as we remember the grave. Refraining from singing the Alleluia and Gloria during Lent, we mourn for the horrors that we are. Because God spoke the universe into being and dignified humans by giving them language, silence can also be de-creational and de-humanizing. Silence is not perpetual though; the God who spoke the curse to our parents will speak a spell that will raise our corpses from the cemetery. Until the Lord’s final cry, noiselessness is essential for public and personal liturgy as it both induces raptness and evinces creatureliness.
Therefore, pledge a vow of silence with us as we read title cards and cower at the visage of Max Schreck. Still your shakes and hush your shrieks before the monochromatic shapes. Just remember that during the Age of the Silver Screen, no one can hear you scream.
The viewer may watch the following films on any day they choose, but form matters. The order of this ritual must be observed if the participant is to be the final girl (or guy). As you tour the decade of punk and glitter, remember the rule: the killer always returns. Every ghoul has one more gasp; no creature tastes of death just once. Right when you feel you have escaped is when the monster crawls from the grave.
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
- The Phantom Carriage (1921)
- Haxan (1922)
- Nosferatu (1922)
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
- The Hands of Orlac (1924)
- The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
- Faust (1926)
- A Page of Madness (1926)
- The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
- The Man Who Laughs (1928)
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
- Vampyr (1932)