200 Greatest Horror Films and the History of Horror (Top 180)

secondsmovie

Special Mention: Seconds
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Written by David Ely and Lewis John Carlino
USA, 1966

John Frankenheimer’s ultimately terrifying Twilight Zone-like, futuristic thriller Seconds, received mixed reviews and was critically panned at the Cannes Film Festival. But what do they know? This provocative film underscores the Faustian theme – the yearning for youth and desire to live life over again – and the price to pay for everything gained. Seconds is a chilling character study and a distressing examination of happiness, loneliness, consumerism, and the American dream. Thankfully, repeated showings on late night television helped the film find a much-deserved cult following. Seconds features dazzling, disorienting, rich, black-and-white cinematography from the legendary James Wong Howe, whose use of long takes, wide-angle lenses, and skewed framing gives Seconds the feel of a Kafkaesque nightmare. Saul Bass contributes a spectacularly haunting title sequence that immediately sets the mood along with the edgy jangle of Jerry Goldsmith’s excoriating score. John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Ronin) directs Seconds as a nightmare, heightening every shot to maximum discomfort. The unbroken hand-held camerawork on many angst-ridden sequences, including an outdoor orgy, gives Seconds a unique, rough feel of the ‘60s and ‘70s underground. And the echoing sound effect of a drill near the end will make you scream.
Frankenheimer’s claustrophobic hellish vision of an unhappy man examining his life to see what went wrong is essential viewing. Rock Hudson’s portrayal of a tortured soul (now an abstract painter) struggling to fill in the blank canvas of what he calls life, is a tour de force performance. Seconds is a masterpiece and one of the greatest psychological horror films ever made.

DragMeToHell

180. Drag Me To Hell
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Ivan Raimi and Sam Raimi
2009, USA

Many horror pioneers who’ve attempted to return to the cinematic styles that jump-started their careers have usually walked away with mediocre results (George Romero’s Diary of the Dead) and sometimes utterly embarrassing by-products (Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears). Sam Raimi on the other hand, effortlessly slips back to his Evil Dead roots with the outrageously fun Drag Me to Hell complete with all his trademark flourishes. This is horror directed with a light touch and delivered with hilarious, delightfully campy thrills. Among the pic’s many highlights is the unforgettable, and brutal, parking lot brawl between Lorna Raver and Alison Lohman — and the tongue-in-cheek style seance featuring the menacing goat-like “Lamia” (a direct homage to Jacques Tourneur’s 1957 Night of the Demon).

When a Stranger Calls 1979 (5)

179. When A Stranger Calls
Directed by Fred Walton
Written by Steve Feke and Fred Walton
1979, USA

When a Stranger Calls originally started out as The Sitter, a short film made by director Fred Walton, but because of the massive success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, it was expanded to form the basis of a feature. The slow-burn approach is book-ended by some truly excellent classic horror movie moments – the opening alone serves as the entire basis for Wes Craven’s Scream — and Walton does an incredible job of mounting the tension almost entirely using sound. Everything from the constant phone ringing to the killer’s creepy voice to the powerhouse score keeps viewers at the edge of their seat. Charles Durning gives a more than capable performance – virtually stealing the show when he breaks down, completely nude, in front of his reflection in the washroom mirror. Highly recommended!

YoureNext

178. You’re Next
Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett
USA, 2012

You’re Next might be structured as a classic home-invasion horror movie, but it also comes with a number of fresh ideas, keeping viewers guessing all the way until the end. Written by Simon Barrett, this indie horror opus from director Adam Wingard is effective at keeping the atmosphere creepy and tense as we witness a group of black-clad killers in animal face masks and brandishing crossbows take a country home and its family under siege. You’re Nextfeatures a killer retro ’80s-horror synth score, a blood-soaked finale, and a superb cast that includes Larry Fessenden; Re-Animator star Barbara Crampton; prolific mumblecore filmmaker Joe Swanberg; director Ti West (House of the Devil), and Upstream Color co-star Amy Seimetz.

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177. My Bloody Valentine
Directed by George Mihalka
Written by John Beaird
1981, Canada

My Bloody Valentine was made at the height of the slasher/holiday trend and is noteworthy as one of the most distinctly Canadian horror films ever made. Produced by Happy Birthday To Me gurus John Dunning and André Link, and directed by George Mihalka, My Bloody Valentine is one of the best in the slasher genre for several reasons: Mihalka’s direction is first-rate; the score by Paul Zaza is effectively creepy; the small town location and mining mill makes for a refreshingly unique setting; the film features a decent body count (though not much blood); and finally, the killer has bragging rights on wearing the best costume of all slasher villains (the unstoppable miner’s identity is hidden by a gas mask and he has a construction helmet complete with its own headlight). My Bloody Valentine is competently made, well shot, expertly paced and features a great cast along with some creative ways to kill them off one by one.

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176. Don’t Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino)
Written and directed by Lucio Fulci
Italy, 1972

Lucio Fulci’s stylish, modern-day murder mystery about a child killer on a rampage in a remote southern Italian village is a clever and complex social commentary on the effects of mob mentality on vigilante justice, pedophilia, traditional values, and the ignorance of modern thinking. Not only does Fulci toss around themes of Catholic guilt, sexual repression, psychological trauma, small town narrow-mindedness, and hypocrisy, but Don’t Torture a Duckling also features some of the best-directed scenes in the filmmaker’s canon (which is saying a lot). The most powerful scene follows the local townsmen who stalk Maciara, a local woman who is rumored to be a witch and just released from police custody after having been deemed innocent and harmless. When the men catch up to her, they each take turns beating her viciously with chains and whatever else is within their reach. Don’t Torture A Duckling is unforgiving at times as a few scenes are crude, bloody and extremely unsettling. Nevertheless, it acts as a powerful social commentary and might just be Fulci’s best, and most underrated film.

slither-movie

175. Slither
Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn
2006, USA

This tongue-in-cheek horror flick was the first film directed by James Gunn before he went on to direct Guardians of the Galaxy. What is it about? In a nutshell, Slither is about clueless rednecks brainwashed by slimy acid spewing extraterrestrial multi-tentacle mutant slugs. The film’s aliens enter their victims through their orifices and turn them into flesh eaters who grow so morbidly obese that they literally explode. It’s the best kind of B-horror movie — one whose laughs are just as effective and intentional as its imaginative gross-out effects, and a labor of love made by a horror aficionado who knows his shit. Along the way, he references everything from John Carpenter’s Thing to the Troma cult favorite The Toxic Avenger (spot Lloyd Kaufman’s cameo) and so much more. But more importantly, Gunn probes the genre’s cliches without ever mocking them while skillfully blending horror, action, and comedy all at once. Slither doesn’t aspire to be anything complex or high-brow; instead, it is knowingly in touch with its audience.  All in all, a very fine genre film, and one that deserves higher praise. Regardless if Slither is your cup of tea or not, the film is so skillfully executed, you have to admire it. Besides, what another movie would gleefully exploit Air Supply’s 1980 hit “Every Woman in the World” for such darkly comic purposes?

Candyman

174. Candyman
Directed by Bernard Rose
Screenplay by Bernard Rose
1992, USA

Bernard Rose had already impressed horror audiences with his little-seen 1988 film Paperhouse, but in 1992, the writer/director took everyone by surprise with Candyman, a dark horse hit that had critics and audiences talking for months. Based on Clive Barker’s short story The Forbidden, Candyman is one of the few horror films released in the early 90’s that was not only original but truly terrifying. The pic examines the power of myth and the role of imagination in fear while using the Chicago projects as a backdrop for racial injustice. The titular legend involves the son of a slave who was tortured and murdered for impregnating a white woman. Out for revenge, the townspeople cut off Candyman’s hand and covered his entire body with honey before leaving him to the bees. He has since haunted the bedtime stories and nightmares of his Chicago burial ground, shedding innocent blood when his name is spoken five times into a mirror. Candyman works on so many levels. Not only is it a sophisticated, engaging story but it also gave the horror world a tragic new boogeyman to fear in Tony Todd’s ominous portrayal of Candyman. Tony Todd’s work as Candyman is one of the best of modern horror. Rose produces a number of startling shocks and scares, but what makes Candyman send shivers down your spine is the brooding atmosphere which drips through every frame. Candyman also features a haunting and depressing soundtrack by Phillip Glass, which perfectly mirrors the film’s boogeyman, and the top notch make-up and practical effects are considerably remarkable for the day.

Just Before Dawn

173. Just Before Dawn
Directed by Jeff Lieberman
Written by Mark Arywitz and Jeff Lieberman
1981, USA

Just Before Dawn doesn’t do anything new in terms of backwoods horror slashers, but fuck is it ever good. The film is beautifully shot, competently acted — and it features great locations, a brooding atmosphere, and early work from music composer Brad Fiedel, who wrote and performed the film’s eerie minimalist score. It’s also deeply unsettling, and the twist ending is surprisingly effective. Just Before Dawn carefully plays with gender roles and queer stereotypes and by the time the climax rolls along, the passive, quiet good-girl-next-door type (played by Deborah Benson) is kicking ass and taking names. Lieberman cites the 1972 filmDeliverance as the main influence and calls Just Before Dawn his personal favorite of his works.

rabid-1977

172. Rabid (1977)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Screenplay by David Cronenberg
Canada, 1977

After a strong debut with the paranoid thriller Shivers (1975), David Cronenberg crafted Raid starring former adult film star Marilyn Chambers as Rose, an attractive young woman who becomes horribly injured in a motorcycle accident and is rushed to a clinic where a pair of experimental plastic surgeons make Rose an unwitting guinea pig in an operation that grafts genetically modified tissue into her body. The tissue is grafted to fire-damaged areas in the hope that it will differentiate and replace the damaged skin and organs only there are unusual side effects: Rose unexpectedly develops an orifice under her armpit and a thirst for human blood. Vampire-like, she roams the city of Montreal, using her beauty to attract victims who fall prey to an incurable, highly contagious disease that turns them into rabid zombies. The disease spreads at an alarming rate and soon, the city is under martial law. David Cronenberg’s second film continues to develop his fascination with bodily horror and explores the relationships between sex and violence, and the slow corrosion of modern society. Rabid is an unconventional vampire film, but it showcased Cronenberg’s distinct aesthetic signature and is the movie that really launched his career. It’s dark, twisted, ugly and includes some disturbing visuals and a plethora of symbolic sexual imagery. There’s no glamour to be found here – even the beautiful Marilyn Chambers spends most of her screentime covered in blood.

The Orphanage

171. The Orphanage
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Written by Sergio G. Sánchez
Spain, 2007

Director Guillermo del Toro produces director Juan Antonio Bayona’s debut feature about a long-abandoned orphanage with a particularly troubling past. Much like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, this gothic frightener shares similar themes of parental guilt and of children adrift in a frightening world. A woman, Laura, returns to the orphanage where she was raised, hoping to transform bad memories into something positive by opening a home for disabled children there. But her own son, Simón goes missing, it’s unclear whether it’s from corporeal or earthly causes. As with most ghost stories, The Orphanage is an atmospheric, beautifully crafted haunted house horror film that earns scares with a minimum of blood. In fact, there is no gore to speak of. The scares come courtesy of the creepy sound design and the unsettling, genuinely frightening atmosphere. Deeply unnerving and surprisingly poignant, The Orphanage is great for those looking for a horror movie that relies on tension, mystery, and character development rather than blood, gore and mayhem.

NightoftheHunter

Special Mention: Night Of The Hunter
Directed by Charles Laughton
Written by James Agee
USA, 1955

This American Gothic, Biblical tale of greed, innocence, seduction, and murder is based on the popular, best-selling 1953 Depression-era novel of the same name by the first-time writer Davis Grubb – and adapted for the screen by famed writer-author James Agee. Actor-turned-director Charles Laughton unfortunately never made another film, even though he demonstrated such promise and skill for a filmmaker. With Night of the Hunter, Laughton took many risks – the film was shot in only 36 days – in black and white when color was the new craze – and in standard ratio when theaters were beginning to show Cinemascope. The film did poorly at the box office and critics were extremely harsh in their reviews. Nevertheless, the film has found a wider audience over the years, and Robert Mitchum’s performance, in particular, has been praised and cited as one of cinema’s greatest villains. Mitchum stars as Harry Powell, a pedophile, self-appointed preacher-turned-serial killer, who carries a switchblade and has “HATE” and “LOVE” tattooed on the knuckles of either fist. Mitchum’s portrayal of the obsessive sexually repressed misogynous maniac is often compared to Joseph Cotton’s performance in Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt. Both men are sleek monsters, but Mitchum’s Powell has a slight edge delivering one of the most chilling vocal performances ever put on film: his terrifying religious anthem “Leaning on the Everlasting Arm” will make the hairs on your neck stand up. The Night of the Hunter is truly a compelling and haunting masterpiece and one of the greatest American films of all time; Experimental, sophisticated, avant-garde, dream-like, expressive and truly, a one of a kind.

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170. The House with Laughing Windows (La casadalle finestre che ridon)
Directed by Pupi Avati
Written by Pupi Avati
1976, Italy

The House With Laughing Windows opens and ends as a meditation on suffering and art. The film begins with a series of highly disturbing images juxtaposed with the opening title cards. The first scene (which plays out in sepia tones) features a man chained, tortured and repeatedly stabbed by two hooded figures. We hear his tormented cries of pain amidst the blurry imagery, and a grating voiceover speaks: “colours, my colours, they run from my veins, colours, sweet colours.” Right from the start, it becomes clear that The House With Laughing Windows isn’t your typical Giallo. While it does feature a familiar meta-narrative with a mystery homicidal maniac stalking in the night and a half dozen or so suspects at large, the premise borrows from H.G. Lewis’s Bloodfeast and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, and follows a killer who is obsessed with capturing on canvas the reactions of people at the precise moment of their death. The House With Laughing Windows suffers from a middle section rooted too deeply in an unconvincing love interest, but it’s the bookends that make this picture great. The intricate plot will keep you guessing until the very end, and the shocking conclusion (and I do mean shocking), will burn in your memory for a very, very, long time

womaninalizardsskin

169. A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Una lucertola con la pelle di donna)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Written by Lucio Fulci
1971, Italy

After the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, the Italian film industry set out to produce a slate of thrillers with animal-related titles. One of the first was Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Despite its Giallo status, Fulci’s film is a different beast from those made by his colleagues, and earned a reputation as one of Fulci’s finest works, though its climax falls somewhat short. The strength of the movie (as with most Giallos) lies in the visuals. Fulci’s innovative camera work helps reinforce the sense of illusion throughout, and Ennio Morricone’s score complements the picture’s strange mood perfectly. The highlight of the film is an 11-minute nerve-wracking chase sequence through the catacombs of a church, ending with a bloody rooftop encounter. At times it’s a bit slow, butLizard in a Woman’s Skin is a unique and wild experience. Keep an eye out for the obvious ripoff/homage of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Saw-Ending

168. Saw 
Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell
2004, Australia

James Wan’s indie horror Saw was shot in less the three weeks for a minuscule budget, but became a huge box office success and introduced a new iconic villain, Jigsaw, to the world of horror. Many like to classify Saw as torture porn, but as writer Luke Y. Thompson of OC Weekly argued, unlike Hostel, Saw actually has less torture than most in the sense of sadism or masochism, as Jigsaw believes that those who survive his methods will be stronger people for it. He called him a kind of a (deranged) philanthropist. Saw is twisted, constantly surprising, unbelievably tense and features one of the best endings of any horror film to date.

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167. Berberian Sound Studio
Directed by Peter Strickland
Written by Peter Strickland
UK, 2012

British filmmaker Peter Strickland’s sophomore effort is many things: a sly deconstruction of 1970s hallucinatory Grand Guignol cinema, an audio geek’s wet dream celebrating the art of foley magic, a stylistic tour de force, and a blend of comedy and horror with a Lynchian twist. Strickland’s meta-horror film begins as a dream before spiraling into a nightmare of sorts. Set entirely in the offices of a sleazy Italian film company in the 1970s, a British sound technician, played to perfection by Toby Jones, travels to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome blood-soaked Giallo film called The Equestrian Vortex. His nightmarish task slowly takes over his psyche as Gilderoy is unable to distinguish between the perverse fantasies of the film he is working on and so-called reality. As things get increasingly, insanely bizarre, a pervasive mood of exploitation and corruption seeps through every frame. Berberian Sound Studio reminds us of the power of sound over the visual image, and can surely join the ranks of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Brian DePalma’s Blow Out as a fully absorbing appreciation of sound design. Although shot on a limited budget, the detail in this film is exquisite. Cinematographer Nic Knowland’s dreamlike imagery is mesmerizing and the Goblin-esque music from a fake band called Hypnotera is terrifying.

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166. Janghwa, Hongryeo (A Tale of Two Sisters)
Directed by Ji-woon Kim
Written by Ji-woon Kim
South Korea, 2003

Inspired by a Korean legend, A Tale of Two Sisters is about a pair of siblings who, after being committed to a mental institution, return home to their father and cruel stepmother. Things go bump in the night, shadows move mysteriously across the walls, ghosts spring out of dark corners and strange and creepy items mysteriously turn up. Kim weaves these clichés into effectively nerve-wracking set pieces thanks partially to his framing and sinister score. Although his third feature, A Tale of Two Sisters was a career-making film for Ji-woon Kim, and well worth seeking out for it’s precise direction, startling twists and overwhelming suspense. There are moments that recall Kubrick’s The Shining and scenes that are clearly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock ‘s work — but A Tale of Two Sisters finds it’s own identity with clever direction and an ambiguous script. In the end, it is left deliberately unclear if the unpleasant and inexplicable events that unfold in the family’s dark labyrinth of a house are real or imagined by the girls. Whatever the case, A Tale of Two Sisters is about grief and guilt, as much as it is about horror.

KillList

165. Kill List
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Screenplay by Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump
The United Kingdom, 2012

Ben Wheatley and his wife/scriptwriting partner Amy Jump created something truly unique in Kill List, a kitchen-sink Gothic horror film about a group of hit-men that cleverly blends black comedy, psychological horror and domestic drama into a seamless whole. The film’s off-kilter take on violence can be traced back to movies like The Parallax View, Race with the Devil, Rosemary’s Baby, Pulp Fiction and The Wicker Man, and it features terrific performances from Neil Maskell as an unemployed ex-soldier, MyAnna Buring, his Swedish wife, and Michael Smiley and Emma Fryer, a couple of houseguests who overstay their welcome. One of the film’s most squirm-inducing scenes occurs at the very beginning and involves nothing bloodier than a phenomenally uncomfortable dinner party. The things Jay does with his hammer will certainly make many viewers look away, but it’s during the final reel when this slow-burn crime thriller takes a turn into bizarre Wicker Man territory that Kill List truly comes together. Utterly gripping, deeply unsettling and genuinely terrifying, Kill List is brilliantly directed, superbly written British horror film that makes the most of its small budget. And love it or hate it, Kill List will be dissected and argued long after its theatrical run is over.

Girly164. Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny And Girly (aka Girly)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Written by Brian Comport
UK , 1970

Adapted from a play written by Maisie Mosco titled Happy Family, Girly is an offbeat, low-key horror melodrama about a family of psychos who lure strangers into their home and plays twisted mind games with their playmates before murdering them. One man who has been drawn in realizes his precarious situation and decides to beat them at their own game and turn the various members of the family against each other. Girly (also known as Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly) was directed by Freddie Francis, who first became famous for his work as the cinematographer on The Innocents, The Elephant Man, Dune and Cape Fear before directing such notable films as The Skull and Tales from the Crypt. Girly is one of the best and most bizarre films of the  early ’70s Brit psycho-horror entries, stuffed with clever dialogue (that often rhymes), great performances, and confident direction. But Vanessa Howard steals the show as the titular character, alternating between childlike simplicity, teasing sexuality and downright crazy. Sadly she would retire from acting a few after starring in Girly. Watch for the “axe through the door scene” which predates The Shining.

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163. Blade
Directed by Stephen Norrington
Screenplay by David S. Goyer
1998, USA

British director Norrington helmed this David S. Goyer adaptation of the Marvel Comics character created in 1973 by writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan. Though some may find the plot a bit lacking, Blade is a dark, edgy, thoroughly watchable action movie featuring jaw-dropping fight sequences, a hip techno soundtrack and perfect casting for its titular character. The production design and cinematography are worth special attention and I especially love the blood-drenched nightclub sequence. Blade is not only one of the most enjoyable vampire films but one of the best comic book movie adaptations yet.

DevilRidesOut

162. The Devil Rides Out
Directed by Terence Fisher
Written by Richard Matheson
1968, UK

Often cited as the best film that Terence Fisher and Hammer ever made together, The Devil Rides Out is my personal favorite from the legendary studio. Released in 1968, The Devil Rides Out was one of a number of British films during the 60’s that touched upon occult matters and is crammed with a half dozen or so memorable set pieces, and a series of great scenes, including a car chase that is interrupted by the use of black magic – and the rescue of a young couple who become victims to an outdoor Satanic orgy. There is also a superb scene in where Charles Gray’s Mocata comes to visit the house and uses hypnosis on Sarah Lawson’s Marie Eaton. With the tranquility of his voice, he puts her in a trance; meanwhile, his influence is felt upstairs as he urges two sleeping victims to commit murder. This long sequence, wherein he gradually puts his victim under his spell, is superbly, acted and directed – culminating with the best line of the film: “I won’t be returning – but something else will.” Fisher gets the most mileage from his small budget, creating some wonderful scenes involving the powers of black magic and the occult. The finest sequence is the suspenseful extended climax, set around a protective pentacle drawn on the floor. In order to protect themselves, the group of friends must stay within the diagram throughout the entire night. Meanwhile, Mocata tries to break in by preying on them psychologically. The scene is pure cinematic gold as we watch Christopher Lee’s brave duke do battle with a coven of Satanists out to disrupt the balance between good and evil. Truthfully, the manifestations of evil are a bit dated, but the storytelling does a fine job of setting the stakes high, and Fisher has a lot of fun with this slice of black magic. With a screenplay adapted by the great Richard Matheson — and with Fisher (arguably the best auteur of Hammer Studios) behind the camera — along with Christopher Lee in front of it — the film is indeed essential viewing for fans of Horror. In his long career, Lee has appeared in over 300 films, but this is one of the few roles where he plays the good guy. It is a masterful performance and one of his best.

the-greater-good

161. Hot Fuzz
Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
UK, 2007

The third theatrical feature by young English helmer Edgar Wright, teaming again with Shaun of the Dead actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, successfully takes a shot at the buddy cop genre. But as much as Hot Fuzz is a straight-faced British spoof of hard-hitting cop films, Hot Fuzz also contains enough nods to the horror genre to classify it as a slasher flick. The filmmakers pull out the stops and satirize every imaginable cliché of the genre, throwing in visual references to dozens of classic horror movies and psychological thrillers. Even Wright’s direction of the film showcases his horror influences, especially those involving the cult/conspiracy aspects. And Hot Fuzz does not shy away from gore. The murderer; a cloaked figure who resembles the Scream killer is quite violent in his methods with beheadings, explosions, and even a pair of scissors though the throat. Even the impaling of one character is shown in the most graphic manner possible. But perhaps a true testament to Wright’s horror know-how is that he knows how to establish a familiar atmosphere of impending doom… FOR THE GREATER GOOD.

beyondtheblackrainbow

Special Mention: Beyond The Black Rainbow
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Screenplay Panos Cosmatos
Canada, 2015

Director Panos Cosmatos pays homage to sci-fi films of the 70’s and 80’s with his first feature Beyond The Black Rainbow, a melting pot rich in bold images and thick in a retro atmosphere. While many claim Cosmatos exhibits a Kubrikian influence, Rainbow is best described as follows: a Richard Stanley piece on acid, with a dash of THX 1138, echoes of Solaris, the iconography of Luis Buñuel and Kenneth Anger – the music of John Carpenter, the provocative visions of Dario Argento and David Cronenberg, and a narrative structure reminiscent of David Lynch and Ken Russell. Yet despite its cinematic influences, Cosmatos produces something that has a distinct character all its own. Describing what the film is about is a tough task, but it can be said that Black Rainbow explores notions of inter-dimensional time travel
and control, both psychological and physical. Rainbow’stedious pacing contributes to the confusing nature of the movie, but Cosmatos isn’t interested in providing a clear narrative; instead he reduces the pic to its basic elements: sight and sound. Meditative and downbeat, but Black Rainbow is visually extraordinary, with Cosmatos playing on perspectives and dislocations throughout – nowhere more brilliantly than in a flashback sequence in pure black and white, where only the subject’s shadow lines are clearly visible. In this sequence, our protagonist emerges from a black hole, perhaps reborn, his body dripping in what appears to be black ink. The image alone is worth the price of admission, provided you are patient enough to sit through a slow burn.  Cinematographer Norm Li’s eye-popping visuals provide a dark and unsettling quality to the pic, set against the omnipresent creepy synth score which helps maintain a hypnotic rhythm. The abrasive and hyper-stylized direction, heightened colours, fetish costumes, and sterile set design makes for a surreal, mind-bending, fucked up but a totally awesome adventure. Cosmatos, whose background includes experimental films, music videos, and album covers, carefully crafts a terrifying vision of abuse and power, high-tended even more by the amazing central performance of Michael Rogers. Beyond The Black, Rainbow is austere, cerebral, and sometimes maddening. If you enjoy films that evoke and explore the atmosphere and don’t mind missing out on a straightforward narrative, than Rainbow is for you. Everyone else, be warned.

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Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and the NXpress Nintendo Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound On Sight, and host of several podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead podcasts, as well as the Sound On Sight and Sordid Cinema shows.
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