Halloween is coming! All horror fans are already full of anticipation for the night of terror! And the perfect way to get in the mood for the festival of ghosts is a movie night with the best horror movies. These 13 top horror films are absolute insider tips from passionate horror film lovers!
Some prefer the light creepiness that sends gentle shivers down their spine. Others, on the other hand, love to be scared to the core. And for the very hardcore horror fans, there can’t be enough horror and horror in a horror film to send them into ecstasy.
In this selection of 13 best horror movie gems, there’s something for everyone! Here you will find no great classics, but top horror films that are lesser known or even real secret tips and of which you are unlikely to know any.
Most internationally known horror films come from the USA, but in our list you will only find one American film, because all over the world, filmmakers know how to scare you!
In total contrast to this is Hausu or simply House, a psychedelic, delightfully over-the-top and madcap horror film from Japan. If you’ve always wanted to see Japanese schoolgirls battling colourful glowing cat demons and man-eating pianos, you’ll love this film..
Plot: Oshare goes to the countryside to visit her aunt during her school holidays and takes her 6 best friends with her. Each friend fits a certain stereotype: the dreamy one, the sporty one, the nerdy one, etc. What the 7 psyched girls don’t know is that Oshares aunt is a bloodthirsty witch and her house is haunted by all kinds of scary creatures.
Recommendation: Colourful and loopy horror comedy for all friends of the absurd, surreal and, in the best sense, delightfully trashy.
Blood on the lips by Belgian Harry Kümel, is a melancholic film poem about the power and powerlessness of passion, in exquisitely beautiful images.
Plot: Stefan and Valerie have secretly married and are on their honeymoon. They rent a room in a dignified Grand Hotel by the sea in Ostend, which is almost empty. The elegant Countess Elisabeth Bathory and her androgynous companion Ilona soon arrive there and take a special interest in Valerie. Soon the corpses of young pretty women pile up in the surroundings – and Valerie succumbs more and more to the hypnotic fascination of the Countess Bathory.
Recommendation: Never were lesbian vampiresses more beautiful and seductive.
The imdb categorises this relatively unknown Hollywood film as a science fiction drama, but Seconds is also an existentialist horror film. I put my hand on it that watching this film will make you feel naked horror.
John Frankenheimer is best known today for his dark political thriller Ambassador of Fear. In it, the central theme is the loss of identity, in this film through the foreign influence of brainwashing. In Seconds, the change of identity takes place voluntarily.
Plot: A mysterious company offers its customers a very special service: they operate on them, give them a completely new appearance and fake the death of the customer to the world. The latter can now lead a new and supposedly better life in a colony of the ”Second”, the Seconds. Arthur Hamilton, a banker unhappy with his life, learns of the company and enlists its services… with gruesome consequences.
Recommendation: Unusual existentialist horror drama from Hollywood about one man’s attempt to shed his identity. For all creepy fans who love suspenseful and clever mind games.
European auteur filmmaker Ingmar Bergman made many films revolving around death, existential despair and the question of God, and the realm of horror strips. In his horror film The Hour of the Wolf, Bergman takes the viewer deep into the realm of nightmares.
Plot: The painter Johan Borg lives in seclusion with his wife Alma in a hut on the island of Baltrum. But he is repeatedly plagued by bizarre visions: a mysterious bird-man, a creepy woman in a hat and also his former lover Veronica Vogler. After an invitation to dinner at the castle of Baron Merken, who also lives on the island, the visions of demons and haunted images worsen. And his wife also begins to see strange things…
Recommendation: A surreal nightmare in which the boundaries between delusion and reality become increasingly blurred.
Ken Russell is a British director whose films conform to what the Brit half-ironically calls ”acquired taste”: balancing on the borderline of what the average Joe defines as good taste and often boldly crossing that line.
With his penchant for disturbing imagery, it is no wonder that Russell has immortalised himself in the horror genre with more than one film. The Devils is a historical film about nuns possessed by the devil and perhaps Russell’s most impressive film. The Hell Trip is a cult classic and The Bite of the Snake Woman scary camp at its finest. Nevertheless, for us Gothic deserves its place in this list because it is a great tribute to the era in which the modern horror film genre was born: the black romance (English: gothic fiction).
Plot: Gothic is based on a true incident and depicts a stormy night spent together in an opium frenzy by the poets Lord Byron and Mary and Percy Byshe Shelley. On one eerie, thunderstorm-ridden night, they conjure up their greatest fears and decide to write about them in a literary contest. In any case, if success is measured in the afterglow of the result, Mary Shelley’s entry clearly won: Frankenstein.
Recommendation: A must see for all those who love horror in the style of good old scary romance.
The second Japanese horror film we recommend to you is also the oldest in this list. Even in the silent era, the Japanese could easily compete with all other nations in terms of film-making!
Plot: A Side of Madness is an avant-garde, experimental film about a man who takes a job as a cleaner in an insane asylum in order to free his wife, who is locked up there. Visually, One Side of Madness is oriented towards the subjective perception of the characters. In doing so, he employs every conceivable kind of alienation of the film image, creating a nightmarish maelstrom of images.
The film was long thought lost until director Kinugasa miraculously found a print in his attic. Thus, this early masterpiece of psychological horror film has been preserved.
Recommendation: A much too unknown masterpiece of early horror film for fans of experimental films, but also for anyone with an open mind for extraordinary film experiences.
Here is the complete film on YouTube:
Sauna I discovered by chance while zapping on TV and just couldn’t change the channel. This film is an atmospheric horror film about guilt, shame and atonement in a barren, snowy (soul) landscape of enchanting beauty.
Plot: Finland at the end of the 16th century. A 25-year war between Russia and Sweden has just ended. The brothers Knut and Eerik are sent as surveyors to determine the border between Finland and Russia. The war has made hard and bitter men out of the two of them. After their mission leaves a young woman for dead, she haunts them: is it her ghost or all the repressed guilt the brothers incurred during the war?.
In a haunted village, they learn from the inhabitants about a sauna in a nearby bog, where one is supposed to be able to cleanse oneself of all sins…
Recommendation: Just the right horror film secret tip for all those who love extremely atmospheric horror films that subtly build up their aura of horror frame by frame.
A German horror film must not be missing from this list! The genre of horror films flourished in Germany during the years of the Weimar Republic and produced films that went down in film history as masterpieces and also strongly influenced Hollywood cinema: for example The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Caligari, Dr. Mabuse and Nosferatu. After that, horror films are found much more sparsely in the German film landscape than in other countries such as Italy, Japan or Korea.
And unfortunately, many of the attempts by German directors to work off international models seem half-hearted and tame. But that doesn’t mean there are no good German horror films to discover!
A horror film secret tip is the wonderfully luridly titled Babylon – In Bed with the Devil, a film with which director Ralf Huettner, according to his own statement, wanted to ”really kick some ass”. And he succeeded.
Plot: Maria gets involved in an affair with the sleazy salesman Lothar, who goes from door to door and talks people into buying pseudo-scientific devices that are supposed to protect against evil radiation and cancer. The horror begins when Maria discovers that she is pregnant and at the same time has caught a mysterious venereal disease from Lothar.
Recommendation: For fans of Body Horror à la David Cronenberg, but made in Germany. Pregnant women, sensitive people and people with a low threshold of disgust are not advised to watch this….
From Italy come many unknown masterpieces of the horror film. From the late 1950s until well into the 1980s, not only were auteur films and spaghetti westerns made in Italy, but theItalian horror film also produced particularly beautiful blossoms.
A subgenre of its own in which crime, thriller and horror films met was the so-called Giallo (Italian: yellow, from the yellow covers of Italian crime films). Typical elements of the genre include a mad serial killer wearing black gloves, the detailed depiction of gruesome murders with stabbing weapons, the play with gender roles and extreme stylisation through coloured light, unusual camera perspectives and through-composed image composition.
The first ”real” representative of this genre is optionally Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) or Bloody Silk.
Plot: In Bloody Silk all the typical features of the genre are already fully developed. Isabella, a young model is murdered. Inspector Silvestri is at a loss: he finds no clues to the murderer either in the dead woman’s boyfriend or in her modelling agency. Nicole, however, another model from the same agency, finds the dead woman’s diary and learns of blackmail and addiction. Before she can hand the diary over to the police, however, the killer tracks her down…
Recommendation: A feast for the eye and a hugely influential horror film that also represents the early image of all slashers. And that years before Black Christmas and Halloween appeared in Canada and America as the ”first” representatives of this genre.
Claire Denis is a master of elliptical narration, a dramaturgy of omissions. In her films, the viewer often has to work out for himself how images and scenes are connected. The horror film is the perfect genre for this kind of storytelling. For what is more frightening than the uncertain, than a horror that takes place only through hints between the images?.
Plot: In Trouble Every Day, the young American couple Brown spend their honeymoon in Paris. But the husband, Shane, is driven by something: a strange illness has taken possession of him. He is consumed by an irrepressible carnal desire. Without his wife’s knowledge, he visits a special clinic in Paris where excessive libido is examined and meets a doctor there whose wife is affected by the same disease. Their encounter has disastrous consequences…
Recommendation: A horror film that shows the terror of passion. The ideal viewer of Trouble Every Day likes a slow and enigmatic narrative and will not shy away from rivers of flowing blood…
Possession is the very big insider tip and in my eyes one of the best films of all time. When Andrzej Zulawski released another film last year after a 15-year break, my heart beat faster. Unfortunately, it was to be his last, because Zulawski died at the beginning of 2016. This brought the ”Polish directing monster”, as a German gossip magazine once called Sophie Marceau’s ex-husband, once again into the public consciousness.
Possession is Zulawski’s most personal film, as the director deals with the break-up of his marriage in it. This film is a marriage drama, horror film, political thriller, philosophical auteur film and jet-black comedy, and it portrays the feeling of separation in an incomparable way. Separation in every conceivable form: Separation from a loved one, from one’s child, from one’s home, from God, from any meaning in life.
Plot: Mark Zimmermann lives in West Berlin and works as a spy, for whom exactly is never quite clear. When he returns home after an important assignment, he finds that his wife Anna is dismissive and cold towards him. Soon he finds out that she is cheating on him with Heinrich, a drug guru gone completely mad. Anna begins to behave more and more strangely. Then Mark finds out that she has a third lover. And he’s not even human…
Recommendation: An incomparable monster of a film! Only the faint-hearted, those who are more into cosy creepiness, newly in love couples and people who need an explanation for everything in films should choose another film. After all, they don’t exist in life either… 😉
The Austrians have an eye for the abysses of the human soul. Well-known directors like Haneke and Seidl explore this theme again and again in their films, and just last year came I see, I see another horror film from Austria. But all these horror films are nothing compared to Angst, an Austrian film from 1983.
Plot: This shocker pulls the viewer right into the head of a mad serial killer from the beginning and lets him participate in his thoughts continuously via voice-over. A concept that later also influenced Gaspar Noé in his controversial film Human Enemy.
In Angst, the title says it all: although you know all along what must come next, the film creates an extremely oppressive effect. This film is just right for horror film fans who like it tough!
Recommendation: Grandiose psychogram of a serial killer for hard-core fans of brutal psycho-horror. All others better keep their eyes closed….
Agustí Villaronga, a Spanish master director little known here, went straight for the kill with his debut feature, creating an abysmal film that pays no heed to taboos and leaves its viewers with a thick lump in their throats.
Plot: The paedophile ex-Nazi doctor Klaus is chained to an iron lung – the glass cage of the title – after a failed suicide attempt in Spanish exile. His wife Griselda and daughter Rena care for him in a country house. Then a handsome young man with scars on his face turns up and offers to help as a carer. In truth, he is one of Klaus’ former victims and was sexually abused and tortured by him as a boy. He has come to take revenge….
Recommendation: Relentless psycho-horror film about the contradictions of perpetrator-victim relationships. Ingeniously realised, but not for the faint-hearted!
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Image source Cover: Hausu (1977) © Alive
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