I thought about how there’s so little you know of me or my tastes. From tumblr to here, I was more focused on showcasing cinematography in horror and all the beautiful shots and lighting and yet never expressed what are my favorites. Who are my favorite directors, favorite Stephen King adaptations, who are my favorite final girls and today’s post… what are my favorite supernatural horror films? It’s one of my two favorite subgenres, the other being psychological horror. These are in no order but there are five discussed today. These are also films that I know inside and out, I can turn it on and watch it without hesitation and still enjoy it after twenty-something times.
A. Hellraiser, 1987, dir. Clive Barker
B. The Evil Dead, 1981, dir. Sam Raimi
C. Suspiria, 1977, dir. Dario Argento + 2018, dir. Luca Guadagnino
D. The Fog, 1980, dir. John Carpenter
E. Phantasm, 1979, dir. Don Coscarelli
What do these five films have in common with me? They are entertaining. They are heavy with special effects, gore, interesting use of lighting and color as well as good ole cinematography and minus the recent Suspiria release, these are all in the same family as in “time”. 3 films from the 80s, 2 films from the 70s. I had to think long and hard to basically showcase five out of perhaps 20 films that I think are also great and I will also recommend those at the end of this post.
Hellraiser, based off the short “The Hellbound Heart”, is something that hasn’t been seen in horror before its release. We’re talking bdsm, the enjoyment of pain, the pleasure of pain, a fucked up family dynamic and where the monsters are not the Cenobites. The Cenobites are doing their job but the true villains of the film are Frank and Julia. We don’t hide the “monsters” or cenobites in darkness, we are going to bathe them in light, showcase every wound, every stitch, every sort of peek of bodily harm. It is a cult film, I can guarantee the general public wouldn’t have a clue about this film or its sequels unless you are a horror fan or a film film. The Cenobites are great monsters to explore, the idea of hell within Hellraiser is interesting, it isn’t a place where you burn for all of eternity. The final girl, Kirsty, is effective, she fights back and fights back alone, she gets to a point where she’s not afraid. There’s a fire in her that you don’t see often in final girls.
The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and I would include the “reboot/remake” in 2008 are fun and unique in their own right. This is your classic “cabin in the woods” setting where anything can happen. You’re out there in the wilderness, alone (or in this case, your friends/family) and things are fine when it’s daylight and you feel safer. It’s at night when it’s the chaos arrives. It also doesn’t help that the ground itself has laid dormant but possessed by evil entities which could have easily been avoided if they never read the book of the dead. What I love are the camera angles, the grittiness of the film, it reminds me of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The character Ash Williams is created but really the Ash we know doesn’t show up until maybe the last hour or half hour of the film, he’s kinda “weak” ish which, I mean, I’d be shook as hell too as all my friends and family become possessed or killed or assaulted. It’s kill or be killed idea that I think is the moral of the story… and there are deadites. We like the deadites. And yes, I excluded Army of Darkness because despite deadites and Ash being featured, it’s more comedy to me.
Suspiria, Suspiria, oh Suspiria. You’ve been on my mind since October and I’m still in love with you. The original, Argento classic, with the Goblin soundtrack blasting in the back as there are beautiful color schemes to coincide with these elaborate and yet graceful ways of dying. The plot (for both films) is an American girl, Suzy (or Susie) is coming to Germany to a prestigious dance company. The problem is that the company is run by a coven of witches. The major difference is that the remake also ties in a political angle that on second watch, makes more sense to why it was in the film. Also, the main girl, Susie in this 2018 film, is uncovered to be Mother Suspiriorum and becomes the head witch in the coven. Plus there’s more actual dancing and performing whereas the original lacks dance sequences and Suzy defeats Helena Markos and escapes as the school burns. I love a good witch film and both of these are possibly in my top 10 “witch” horror films.
The Fog is fun. The Fog is one of my favorite John Carpenter films. Released in 1980, it is about a town dealing with its horrific past that comes in the form of ghosts. Even though it’s 1980, it definitely feels like a 70s film (I say the same about the Shining, those films right on the cusp of one decade and into another). The film also deals with… a sense of helplessness and being trapped. We have Adrienne Barbeau’s character, Stevie, is trapped in a lighthouse, miles away from any immediate help, and then we have the characters of Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Nick (Tom Atkins) trapped in a vehicle, a church, as well as other characters are contained in homes or ships, these places that are deemed “safe” are not safe from this supernatural force that has taken over a small town during its 100th anniversary. It’s got ghosts, lots of familiar faces, I mean, Janet Leigh is also in this. You can’t get better than that!
And here we come to Phantasm. The GP doesn’t know about Phantasm and that is a shame. Especially when one of the most underrated horror villains is created: The Tall Man. It’s such a mind fuck of a film. To explain what Phantasm is…. Zombies, brothers, a funeral home and circular chrome weapons. Why do I like it? It’s different. It’s not a typical supernatural horror movie that has good guys, bad guy, save the world. It’s more like good guys, a bad guy with dwarf zombies that do his bidding and it’s really to save their own asses because the bad guy uses the dead. The characters are likeable, even The Tall Man, as intimidating as he is, you want to know more about him. There are also sequels that continue the story, I’ve seen them except the recent one, which might be number 5? Phantasm is also a film you have to watch more than once to understand.
I picked these handfuls as some of my immediate favorites. I own these on either dvd or vhs and to just toss them in and watch them and still get the same “vibe” each time is great. Other supernatural horror films I enjoy are: It Follows, Hereditary, The Exorcist, Drag Me to Hell, The Conjuring… there are so many great films that go beyond the genre of horror.
In later features, I’ll do my favorite Wes Craven films, favorite final girls, Witch-y Vibes films, slasher, haunted house, and many more!