Why Haxan Horror Documentary Still Scares A Century – Amrita Bazar
The film itself thus passed into film folklore, with the rights holders’ failure to renew copyright causing it to fall into the public domain, which was then collected and released over the years. It includes a 1968 edit by English filmmaker and horror expert Anthony Balch in collaboration with jazz musician Daniel Humer, and newly recorded sound by writer William Burroughs, who entered the secret exploitation film market at the late 1960s. This edit, the first example of a remix film, was released in the United States by Metro Pictures Corporation and was undoubtedly a theatrical success at the time.
Christensen’s film, however, is not simply a controversial or scandalous work. It’s a deeply innovative blueprint for many horrors to follow. The mixture of reality and fantasy was truly revolutionary. One hundred years after its first domestic release, the film still plays a prominent role in horror history. It was not the only film to deal with supernatural folklore – it had a variety of fictional European equivalents, from Viktor Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage (1921) to Paul Wegener’s Der Golem (1920) – but the ambiguity of the form of the film and its fantastic scientific realism made more evident, extended. Although difficult to see, it has become something of a necronomicon for occult and horror filmmakers; A rare sacred text that shows the potential of occult veils.
His psychological pathos
Christensen’s innovation doesn’t stop at the horror scenes, but extends to the film’s final chapter, where the strange events he depicts are given a 20th-century psychological interpretation. It’s a choice that gives the film an almost unbearable sadness.
Haxan’s final chapter revolves around the idea that occult behavior has its roots in mental disorders and is then demonized by sheer superstition. Furthermore, the film also explores how innocent people, including “witches”, are prosecuted for their unsubstantiated indiscretions through weaponized charges designed to defend notions of religion. The dramatic potential of such accusations later formed the basis of another horror subgenre, including films such as Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Gordon Hessler’s Cry of the Banshee (1970), and Mark of the Devil by Adrian Hove (1970). He often claims such charges, calling any torture bloody. However, instead of treating such violence as purely visual as these films do, Hakhan offers genuine insight into how misunderstandings of mundane psychological issues lead to horrific reactions to human suffering.
Haxan wasn’t the first film to explore horror in the dark depths of the human psyche, though it was certainly one of the most likeable. In fact, it seemed to be a regular fixture in European horror of the time. Two years earlier, German director Robert Wein had explored the potential for the same startling effect in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, in which a terrifying fantasy world is the product of a truly troubled mind. There is also a psychological issue in Owen’s other great horror of the time, The Hands of Orlak (1924); Is the pianist’s transplanted hand really that of the killer, driving him to commit more crimes, or is the trauma of losing his original pair driving him mad? Even Nosferatu’s cold-blooded presence and adverse effects on the other characters in Murnau’s film are diagnosed entirely as a mental illness rather than a supernatural result.
Volk is still unsure if Häxa shouldn’t be discussed in the same league as these peers. “The concept itself is very modern,” he concludes. “I really don’t understand why he is so hated by film historians [Carl T Dreyer’s] Vampire  or Nosferatus. I would say without a doubt that this is a remarkable mockumentary that surpasses all others. And the fact that it was lost and then found by horror fans literally puts it at the forefront of classic found footage horror.
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