If you finished “V/H/S 99” and felt the impulse to learn a bit more about the format’s history, a good place to start is 1945’s “Dead of Night.” Don’t let this oldie’s age fool you: This pitch-black horror anthology from the famed British production company Ealing Studios packs an ooky-spooky punch.
An early sign of the film’s greatness is its framing device, which arguably blows every other film on this list out of the water. An architect (Mervyn Johns) arrives at a cottage he’s been hired to renovate. And after his host (Roland Culver) leads him into the sitting room, the architect realizes that he has met all of the other guests before in a recurring dream. While he doesn’t know a lick about them personally, the architect is able to predict everything that happens in the house with unnerving accuracy. More disturbing still, the architect reveals that his dream always ends in tragedy. To cut the tension, the guests regale each anecdotal examples of other bizarre, supernatural occurrences. Of the lot, the concluding tale, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy,” is the standout. Directed by Brazilian-born Alberto Cavalcanti, the segment tells of a famous ventriloquist whose puppet appears to have a mind of its own. Blending identity horror with a predatory showbiz setting, “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” asks us to decide who’s pulling the strings … only, you might not like the answer.