Every October, in anticipation of the Halloween holiday, people begin revisiting their favorite horror films. I am personally not the horror film fanatic a number of my friends are, but I do enjoy a good movie no matter what its genre is. So in an attempt to broaden the horizons I am recommending some of the best and often overlooked horror films ever made.
This film comes from Hammer Studios, the production company that revived both the Dracula and Frankenstein myths in the fifties with regular stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. This particular film was directed by Freddie Francis (a renowned cinematographer best known for his work with David Lynch) and stars Oliver Reed. In many ways this film is more of a thriller than a horror film, but the amount of camp that is customary with a Hammer production takes it out of the genre.
Island Of Lost Souls, 1932
Erle C. Kenton directs this highly influential and controversial Bela Lugosi picture. Island Of Lost Souls is best known for its vile depiction of animal cruelty, but that did not prevent the film from being re-made twice.
Jack The Ripper, 1976
From Jess Franco (Vampyros Lesbos and Venus In Furs) comes this highly exploitative depiction of the world’s most infamous serial killer. The most memorable part about this film is the outstanding performance of its lead, regular Franco collaborator Klaus Kinski.
A genre bending case study on the history of superstition, Benjamin Christensen’s Haxan contains some of the most breathtaking visuals ever committed to film. This film is also unique for its use of vignette’s, designed to read like a scholarly excercise rather than a narrative.
Nosferatu Phantom Der Nacht, 1979
Werner Herzog remade F.W. Murnau’s classic with a decided slant toward realism rather than expressionism. Herzog brings all the trappings of his own films (a score by Popol Vuh, an emphasis on landscape) to Nosferatu with great effect.
The Black Cat, 1934
Edgar G. Ulmer’s art-decco masterpiece unites Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a classic tale of revenge that has a number of bizarre torture scenes to boot.
The Unknown, 1927
Todd Browning teams once again with Lon Chaney in one of America’s greatest horror films ever made. In an interview in the fifties, actor Burt Lancaster commented that this film was the most emotionally challenging film ever made.
Of course there are dozens of other excellent horror films like The Wicker Man (1973) or Cat People (1942) that could be recommended. But the purpose of this piece was to hopefully draw some attention to films that remain obscure to most audiences.