Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901)

DIRECTOR: Walter R. Booth


An elderly proprietor who owns a curiosity shop is startled by apparitions that appear.

The Haunted Curiosity Shop by Walter R. Booth is another chance for me to dive into the early short films that basically birthed the horror genre that we all know and love today. Jumping a few years ahead since the last short film review. I decided to go and watch a short that wasn't directed by either Georges Méliès or his British counterpart, George Albert Smith. I wanted to move away from those two cinematic pioneers and see what the other early filmmakers had to offer.

Giving this short film a review is going to be a rather difficult thing. This early on in the world of cinema, it's hard to differentiate styles and see where these filmmakers are different like you would today. I can't sit and talk about this movie in comparison to Georges Méliès like I could talk about
 how a Brian De Palma film looks stylistically different to a David Fincher movie. All these early shorts have the same sort of look and feel to them.

Like the two pioneers mentioned above, this was a neat little short that features a lot of 'magic' like wonder and trickery. The short features disembodied heads, bodies that have been split in two and reconnected at the torso, and the magic antique cupboard where spectres emerge from it. You can't help but feel amazed at what was achieved in an art form that was just getting itself off the ground. I still find it incredibly cool and interesting to see the very beginnings of cinema and how far we've come.

One aspect that I noticed about this short and the six years since I watched 
Georges Méliès first short film is the quality of the picture. The quality regarding film stock has improved quite a lot. Unless I've seen a version that has been restored or cleaned up by a historical society, I have no actual idea. The Haunted Curiosity Shop looks leaps and bounds more clear than the three previous short films that I had watched. The graininess is almost completely gone by this point.

Lastly, the performances are hard to rate because it's a silent film. I tried researching the actors, and I have to assume that the man playing our elderly curator is Walter R. Booth himself. If not, please correct me in the comments section. The performances on a visual level are filled with a sense of bewilderment and wonder. Like a play, it's great to witness the performances and see how much fun the actors look like they're having. I can only imagine how long it took to get each of the shots right back then.



- A woman's body is separated at the torso.

(No Blood or Gore is shown)

The Haunted Curiosity Shop is another silent short film that came out at the turn of the last century. It's wonderful to watch and see how much cinema has progressed over a hundred and thirty years. Going back to the origins has gifted me a chance to see how much the genre I love has changed. This short feels innocent and fun. Very lighthearted and magical. Not exactly horror but with ghouls and ghosts, it lends itself to the earliest genre tropes. Worth a watch.

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