My Top Five Alternative Horror Films

5) Black Sabbath (1963)

What’s Halloween without an anthology film to make your blood run cold? Mario Bava’s striking, colourful and dreamlike film tell stories that vary from telephone stalking to a chilling vampire tale. Aside from inspiring the name of British heavy metal band- Black Sabbath, the film had quite an effect on Quentin Tarantino. In shaping Pulp Fiction, he looked to this film, stating- “what Mario Bava did with the horror film in Black Sabbath, I was gonna do with the crime film.” In many ways, the 1963 film legitimised the horror anthology as a meaningful sub-genre that could be gripping and artful.

4) The Black Cat (1934)

Despite being a horror film from the 30s, there’s something deeply unsettling about The Black Cat. Part of this comes from the film’s understated creepiness, be it Hjalmar Poelzig’s (Boris Karloff) insidious intentions or the use of shadow. One such scene has an implied torture that particularly feels boundary pushing in the pre-code era. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are electrifying in a story that pits their characters in a bitter conflict. Beneath the veneer of Hollywood respectability, Black Cat has a horrific and rotten core. The careful dance between these elements is the film’s true power.

3) The Haunting (1963)

Despite a glowing endorsement from Martin Scorsese, The Haunting has always felt like an undervalued movie within the genre. This has become even more apparent with Mike Flanagan’s dramatic and emotionally nourishing Netflix adaptation. However, the film still proves to be a excellent exercise in ambiguity (built upon the foundation of solid character work). The film’s spooky bumps in the night can either be the manifestation of the supernatural workings of its central location (Hill House). Or the product of a psychologically scared woman who yearns for acceptance and a place to belong.

2) Demons (1985)

Demons wreck shit in a cinema, with thumping metal music blaring and occasional self referential moments. Nothing much to say here. The premise speaks for itself. But in all seriousness, this is one of those trashy horror films that you’d be enticed to see because of its intriguing poster. Fortunately, Demons lives up to the promise of its foggy and elusive wrapper.

1) Prince of Darkness (1987)

I love Prince of Darkness. It’s bonkers, disconcerting and ambitious in its melding of scientific intrigue and supernatural horror. In what feels like an ode to Italian horror cinema, John Carpenter constructs a film that’s leisurely paced but potent in the evoking of its central evil. It may not be as celebrated as Halloween or The Thing, but for my money, it’s Carpenter’s most fascinating film.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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2 Responses to My Top Five Alternative Horror Films

  1. Gabrielle_V says:

    I’m loving your choices, these look like great alternatives to the endlessly rehashed mainstream classics that get wheeled out every Halloween 🙂 Black Sabbath just got added to my watchlist!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good choices; not seen The Black Cat for a while, will give it a shot! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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