For the longest time, I thought that George Melies’s The Haunted Castle was the first horror film.
However, as I did my research for my History of Horror series, I discovered a horror film that actually predated The Haunted Castle. Produced by Thomas Edison and first released in 1895, The Execution of Mary Stuart is an 18-second film that recreates the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Along with perhaps being the first horror film, this was also the first films to use editing for the purpose of special effects. There’s an edit about halfway through this film, one that allows Robert Thomae, the actor playing Mary, to be replaced by a mannequin. That may not seem like a big deal today and the editing is rather obvious to modern eyes but, in 1895, that sort of thing literally had never been done before.
So, with all that in mind, here is the first horror film: 1895’s The Execution of Mary Stuart!