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It is dark and shady in the UFA studios of the 1920s. Weimar is at the centre of a widowed and wounded continent and at the mercy of the oppressive reminiscence of the 1st world war.

In one of its tales, a frightening freak show is brought to town by a mysterious Dr Caligari. To an audience way too redolent and yet not convalescent of the thunderous cannons, rattling gunshots and howling sirens. Yet two years have not passed from the terror of the battle, when this belligerent Horror comes home.

It is a brand new freak show in a moving picture on a silver screen and it is featuring a fright more frightening than war itself: the war survivor, or more accurately, the poor soul the war has left behind… Shell shocked, inane, restless, emaciated and most characteristically sleepwalking Dr Caligari’s super freak Cesar comes to disturb, devastate and destroy the happy days of your everyday Jane…

And Cesar does not walk alone. Other monsters are queuing up behind him, making their terrifying way into the German film scene…

One of them, in particular, is casting his lanky shadow to reach for the 21st century from his own grave…The one and only Nosferatu. Father of all celluloid Draculas and vampires to come… Sailing the oceans in his own coffin, bringing with him plague and death.

Scary creatures; and watching the films, I wonder “this great evil. Where does it come from?”. Of course the appeal then must have been in their mirroring the general status quo. Their monstrosity is in fact a display of a human condition. Cesar’s Somnambulism is a post-traumatic symptom not uncommon at the time. Nosferatu’s is similarly a sleepwalker (or a nightwalker): he who cannot find peaceful rest because of the bloody and tragic conflict he has experienced.

Today Cesar and Nosferatu are quirky vintage characters with an acquired cult status. Yet this Halloween, their memory is more pertinent than ever. Because again we find ourselves at the beginning of a century – just like when Caligari and Nosferatu were produced (respectively in 1919 and 1921) – with the same uncertainties, doubts and anxieties: we are at the brink of an American election with frightening prospects… and we are watching it all unfold from a broken post-Brexit Europe…

Uncertainty breeds fear and terror reigns in instability. So let us celebrate the vampires and the sleepwalkers and all the evil; may they thrive in our modern nightmares and may they bring us a Happy Halloween…!

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