Classic Horror Documentary Over 100 Years Old, Stream Now Without Netflix

By Brian Myers | Updated

Germany was responsible for producing some of the greatest horror films in the Silent Era, with several titles still giving audiences chills a century after their theatrical releases. Nosferatu, The Grinning Man, and The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari are but a few of the iconic films that film buffs and horror fans still revel in, with some audiences finding them more terrifying than their American and British counterparts.

However, a lone Swedish film stands out as more frightening than them all, as the nation’s 1922 film Haxan provided the penultimate journey into terror.

Old Film’s Can Be Terrifying

Haxan is a film consisting of seven parts, each exploring different aspects of witchcraft and demonology. Director Benjamin Christensen utilized folklore, historical documents, religious texts and studies, and the 15th-century German treatise Malleus Maleficarum (a book the Catholic Church inquisition squad used for witch hunting) to produce a narrative film that is part documentary/part storytelling.

The film used old woodcuts, prints, and other artwork in combination with live-action sequences that are acted out terrifyingly.

An Imaginative Film

Haxan begins with an educational approach, providing a great background to the belief in witches and demons from the earliest days of recorded history through the Middle Ages. When it segues into the second part, the folk tales surrounding Satan begin. The Christian adversary (played by director Benjamin Christensen) is portrayed as a creature that spreads terror across the land, befouling married women and invoking harm on Catholic religious leaders.

Bone-Chilling Black And White Scenes

The more frightening scenes Haxan offers occur in the middle three parts of the film. Here, audiences see reenactments of suspected witches being questioned, tortured, and eventually executed. The fear from the accused and the paranoid vitriol from the aggressors are clearly defined and felt by viewers as the film works its way from scene to scene.

Goes Into The Historical Basis Of Witchcraft

Haxan‘s final two parts give a progressive perspective of witchcraft. The film reviews the number of people who “confessed” to the crime of witchcraft, heavily suggesting that they all did so under the act or the threat of torture. Christensen goes further with the idea that some of the accused were suffering from mental and/or emotional maladies that might have led others to believe that they were possessed by demonic forces.

A Silent Era Masterpiece


The movie is lengthy, particularly for the Silent Era. The 105-minute runtime fills audiences’ minds with the terror of witches and devils but then pivots to the real-life horror and misery that witch hunts have created across Europe for centuries. Haxan’s ability to take victims from centuries before and generate an equal amount of sympathy and fear is much of what makes it an equally terrifying and educational film.

Christensen’s use of historical art, combined with costumed performers and constructed models, drives the visual effects of Haxan to the limit of what the mind can endure. It’s a film that will stand out in your memory long after the final frames have passed.

You can stream Haxan for free with Tubi and Kanopy or rent the film On Demand through Vudu and AppleTV.