When one talks about the great classic horror films, the names "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" often pop up, or even "Robert Mitchum." But the classic 1951 A Christmas Carol, starring the unforgettable Alastair Sim, can be seen as one of the great horror films of the silver screen. It has all the elements of a good scare story: it's actually about three spirits who frighten Ebenezer Scrooge out of his suicidal lifestyle, to bring him back into the world of the living. This particular film takes the story seriously, so that we don't see any songs or comedy sidekicks or anything of that sort. The film itself is framed in the style of the classic horror movies and German expressionist films, with masterful use of shadows and music to build up suspense.
For example, look at the scene where Scrooge comes home and sees Jacob Marley's image on his door knocker. He enters his home, when he thinks that someone is following him…and in the space of a few seconds, he becomes concerned, the nervous, then frightened, as he rushes up the stairs. The music at this moment is an ominious bass, which combines with the eerie shadows of the stairwell and banister to give this scene a "feel" that moves the audience and makes them uneasy…in precisely the same style as the great horror films. Likewise with the next scene, where Scrooge hears someone dragging chains up the stairs, and he becomes more apprehensive - until suddenly the door to his room is hurled open, and he cries out in fear. Even though we, the viewers, are so used to horror film stereotypes that we know the door is going to open, we are still caught off-guard by Scrooge's sudden panic.
There are tortured spirits, cinematic horror tricks of darkness and lighting (most notably when the Ghost of Christmas Future takes Scrooge to the site of his own grave), and a lingering feeling of sadness…most of all because we are seeing the life of a lonely man who is too afraid of the world to come out and let himself feel for others, even to the point of losing the woman he loves. But in the end, the spirits work their miracle, and Scrooge is returned to the land of the living. We feel this movie in our hearts…but also in our nerves, as this Christmas Carol uses the techniques of the horror film to affect us.
This is one reason why the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol is still the greatest "Christmas Carol" of all: it is a true horror movie.