Monday, October 30, 2017

Horror Movies Recommendations 2017: Artsy Subtle Classics for Annual Viewing

I almost didn't do my annual horror movie review this year. It's been a year of bad 'uns, I tell you!  So while I only have one new film to recommend this year I did finally get through some classics that you should add to your must-watch list! All the films below are going to be part of my annual Halloween watch list for life! They're so richly layered in the cinematography and deeper themes that you can watch them year after year and get an entirely different perspective as you mature.

The Black Coat's Daughter

Just my type of horror, a creepy, atmospheric slow burn! I haven't been this scared while watching a modern horror movie in a long time! Beautifully shot and mysterious, this is an art film meeting horror in the best ways. As a Mad Men fan it was nice to see Kiernan Shipka (famous as the Draper Daughter) play against type. Rent on YouTube.


Going on with the art film motif, here's horror of the arty-est sort. If you want a straight-forward horror movie, this isn't for you. This is the first in Roman Polanski's "apartment trilogy" of films that all deal heavily with paranoia and the anxieties of city/tenement living. Like The Black Coat's Daughter this moves slowly. Although there are horror elements, it could be classified as a psycological thriller or character study. The best part of Repulsion is how it rewards repeat viewings. A lot of questions are left unanswered and actions open to interpretation. You could say the young lead has androphobia, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, post traumatic stress disorder, it's all open-ended. How much of what was seen is real, for instance? How much of it is a pleasant fantasy or a horrible nightmare? How does this relate to the life of Polanski himself? You could write a whole college course on this one!  It's a classic for a reason and it will definitely be a part of my Halloween watching for years to come.

Also a bonus, surreal and affecting but not too scary by modern standards if you want a horror film that's not TOO frightening to watch.  Rent or buy it on YouTube here.

The Haunting

In the viein of Repulsion, The Haunting is another 1960s horror film that uses black and white to its advantage and has psycological rather than visceral scares. You can analyze the characters and their actions on and on, debating their motives and what's reality and not for our unreliable narrative. You won't find a more arresting haunted house on film, either. For being so character the environment was not neglected, old-fashioned techniques were utilized to their max to create a claustrophobic atmosphere. Avoid the remake! It gets every possible thing wrong! Watch on Youtube here

Sunset Boulevard

"A dozen press agents working overtime...can do terrible things to the human spirit."

A dark noir that uses horror tropes to expose the dark side of Hollywood. Sunset Boulevard called "The definitive Hollywood Horror Movies" by film critic Richard Coreless. On the surface this is just a DAMN FINE, well-crafted, compelling film that sucks you right, hypnotizing you from frame one to the conclusion. It's also a cautionary tale about the Hollywood star system; its obsession with youth and unattainably perfect looks and the damage the inherent objectification of celebrity worship does to the human soul. Despite many heady themes including ones about the importance of creating movies, or any art, with integrity, you'll find this noir classic a great fit for Halloween watching. (There's even a creepy old house! Haunted with proverbial rather than literal ghosts!) Available on Netflix and Youtube Here

And funny how 3 out of four of these and black and white! I wish I had more to recommend this year but let's go with quality of quantity this time. It would have been easier to write a list of what NOT to watch.

Random Bonus: I watched our thrifted VHS of Michael Jackson's Thriller / Making of Thriller combo dozens (hundreds?) of times as a kid. See the behind-the-scenes feature here and the full music video. It's a fascinating look at just how hard it was to craft those few minutes of magic, the strict adherence to detail is unrivaled amongst all music videos, there can be no doubt! Wanna fight about it? Bring it! All these years later it's still the most beautifully shot tribute to classic horror I've ever seen, no bias,, that art direction! The smoke, the colors, the make-up~! Also, it's so weird to watch this again realizing he was 24 when this what shot? What...what are we doing with our lives? 

Have a happy halloween! We're excited because it's our (AJ and mine's) first day off together in eeh...I don't even know, it's been so long! We're going to order some vegan pizzas and chill with friends and beers :) Then get back to the crazy hustle for Christmas shoppers!

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Horror Flick Recommendations: October 2012 // Vintage Picks/Amazing Set Design | October 2013 // Classics on Netflix //  My Top 13 Unique and Scary Films for Halloween //2015 Recommendations // 2016 Recommendations
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  1. You know...I've seen Sunset Boulevard a few times and never knew it's classified as horror! Anyhoo...thanks for this list, Vanessa. As a horror film fanatic, I can't believe I haven't seen some of these. Admittedly, I haven't seen really good ones that came out this year so I've been binging on some not-so-new Japanese horror.:)
    Belated happy halloween!

    1. Sunset Boulevard uses the tropes of horror to expose the Hollywood system's flaws more than it's a true blue horror, it's a classic that defies genre. Still not bad watching for Halloween though! What are your favorite horror movies? There's so much good J and K horror!

  2. I used to love horror movies.. but I can't handle them anymore.

    1. Haha, I feel you, my tolerance for the most violent ones has gone down for sure.

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