Six artfully terrifying films to watch this Halloween


Tony Hernandez II

Physical media copies of the films mentioned.

Tony Hernandez II, Photographer

  In the last decade, mainstream horror has been dominated by films with jump scares, minimal character development, and a lack of originality. However, there have existed horror films that artfully capture the very things that humans are afraid of. Just in time for Halloween, here are few of the greatest of the genre.  

  “House” (1977) directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi  

  A campy and surrealist dream of a film about a group of schoolgirls visiting the country home of one of the girls’ ailing aunt.  Is “House” an episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” on acid, a feminist tale of vengeance, or just a visually beautiful joke? It doesn’t matter when a film is as fun, unapologetically crazy, and visually sumptuous as “House.” 

  “Antichrist” (2009) directed by Lars Von Trier 

  After the death of her toddler son, a severely depressed woman is forced on a trip into the woods by her psychiatrist husband, who hopes to cure not only depression, but her fear of the woods. What happens soon after is a battle of the sexes and a visceral examination of grief, guilt, and the effects of miscommunication. Charlotte Gainsbourg gives a fearless, at times terrifyingly understanding performance of a woman’s descent into madness.  

   “The Cremator” (1969) (in Czech with English subtitles) directed by Juraj Herz 

   A terrifying character study set in Prague during the 1930s in which a cremator named Karl is radicalized into Nazism and descends into madness as he eliminates anyone who goes against his ideology. Rudolf Hrušínský’s portrayal of Karl is one of the most terrifying performances in cinematic history, as he manages to humanize such a vile and warped character while infusing dry humor and wit into would have easily been just a caricature in the hands of a less talented actor. “The Cremator” is stylishly edited, has amazing subjective shots, and will leave you both engrossed and disgusted for days.  

  “The Lure” (2015) (In Polish with English Subtitles) directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska 

  A horror musical based on Hans Christian Anderson’s, “The Little Mermaid, in which two mermaid sisters come up on land. Soon after, they discover their ability to exist as humans so long as they are not near water. They realize that life on land is not what they expected when one of the sisters falls in love with a human and begins to grow distant from her sister. While not faithful in details, “The Lure” is closer thematically to Anderson’s work than any other previous adaptations. It explores the themes of unrequited love, sexual awakenings, and sisterhood with fierceness.  

  “Suspiria” (2018) directed by Luca Guadagnino 

  Set against the backdrop of 1970s Berlin, a young Mennonite girl named Susie joins a dance troupe secretly run by a coven of witches, begins to prosper as a dancer, and develops a close relationship with the alluring, maternal and sensual head dance instructor, Madame Blanc, played by Tilda Swinton. “Suspiria” is a beautiful deconstruction of the misogynistic mythology built around witches, and captures the external and internal struggles dancers endure for their craft in a way similar to films such as “The Red Shoes” (1948) and “Black Swan” (2010).  

  “Under the Skin” (2013) directed by Jonathan Glazer 

  A genderless alien disguised as an alluring woman begins to question their identity and attempts to assimilate into society. Scarlett Johansson’s gives a remarkably restrained, quietly devasting, and sensual performance. With little words, Johansson beautifully captures their transition from seductress luring men to their death to an almost childlike creature observing those around them and longing to be human and feel connected to something or anyone. Equally brilliant is Mica Levi’s ambient and moody score and Glazer’s brilliantly controlled and almost detached direction. “Under the Skin” is a terrifying film that captures the loneliness and alienation of being a human. It is a quietly unnerving and sophisticated piece of cinema.