The History of Horror Movies

Nov 06
Movie 1: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Movie 1: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Movie 1: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – zoe


sourced from

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was the silent film that kickstarted the whole Horror genre. The plot of the movie features a hypnotist, dangerous due to insanity, who uses a somnambulist, a sleepwalker, to commit murders. In the poster for this movie, we see a deranged-looking man carrying a lifeless woman through what seems to be a dark cave. Although, the most eye-catching part of this poster is the bold, white typography that you probably looked at first. This bold, decorative typeface was very commonly used for horror movie posters in that era.

The typography used in this poster is a sans serif decorative font. It is a combination of both sharp and rounded points as well as light and heavy line weights. There is also a combination of different x-heights in the type. The combination of different kinds of type makes this poster more unsettling because of the lack of unity in the typography. Also, this type gives us an idea of the main focus of the movie by making the most important words the biggest.

In addition, the typography used in the poster can often tell us what kind of movie, or horror movie, the viewer is about to experience. This type of typography, when used for movie posters, shows that the movie will be more psychologically thrilling rather than outward horror. Some good examples of this typography being used in other eras would be The Shining poster, which is mentioned in the 1980s page, and the poster for the movie Frankenstein.


These are some mock-ups that I made of mine and Jasmine’s names using this font. As we can see, there is a variety of different line weights and it does not feel very unified at all. Although this typography is very unsettling to look at, it definitely works for this type of movie. If any other font was used, it would absolutely change the feel of the poster, as well as the expectations for the overall vibe of the movie.



original photo found on

As an experiment, I decided to create an alternate version of the poster for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but instead of using the font that already exists on the poster, I swapped it for something different. Instead of the decorative font on the original poster, I used a bold serif font. Clearly, when the font for the title is changed, so does the whole vibe of the poster. Immediately, the vibe changes from silent psychological to serious and chilling. Many people do not realize how important typography is for the message. if the typography changes, ao does the message that it gives off, without even changing the words.






Movie 2: Nosferatu

One could argue that Nosferatu was the beginning of the vampire craze in the Early 1920s and the start of horror movie culture. Unlike the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, where it focused more so on suspense and psychological disturbance, this film also has a violent and gory undertone. These kinds of films were the beginning of a new error of entertainment for the general public and movie lovers alike.

Interesting enough the typefaces that were used for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the Nosferatu’s original posters, although they came out in the same era, are quite different in appearance. The Nosferatu poster uses a serif typeface that is quite elegant, with think stokes and little variation. Traditionally, this type of typography or calligraphy make a design look more gentlemanly and well-mannered. This is also a reflection of the era, where chivalry was not dead.

The Nosferatu poster is mainly black and white with a shadow of a man-like monster creeping up a staircase. The typeface is set in an uppercase, modern serif typeface, highlighted in yellow and white at the bottom of the page. The letterforms are long and thin with low set crossbars. It was not unusual to see type appear this way, this gives the viewer comfort of familiarity. The thrill of what this horror is about remains hidden in the shadows, very much like the villain of the movie.jasmine-and-zoe-nosferatu-style-01

Since the original Nosferatu poster features an elegant font, I decided to try to re-create the same appearance with a typeface similar to the original. Using my name (Jasmine) and Zoe’s, I tried to give the same feeling that the original artwork did.

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