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50 Essential Horror Films: Crypt Special

65 mins read

Carrie (1976)

Director: Brian De Palma

Adapted from Stephen King’s book of the same name, Brian De Palma’s Carrie not only plays with the horror of coming of age but also offers us a complex and fascinating journey into isolation, religious extremism and hate.

Carrie is brilliant film making, following its literary roots with reverence, in providing a complex portrayal of teenage life. Its horror laced with bodily change, sex, bullying and parental control. While also incorporating themes of domestic violence, child abuse and religion. Never allowing for simplistic good versus evil cliches in its narrative. By ensuring the audience build empathy and love for a character who ultimately causes destruction; never solely to blame for the outcomes of her actions.

The Birds (1963)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Following his 1960 masterpiece Psycho, Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ is a terrifying and beautiful enigma of horror. Its story never attempting, or needing to explain the reason why birds attack the people of Bodega Bay. Instead, content to wrap the audience in frenetic winged chaos; a snapshot in time that starts with pet shop and ends in nature fighting back. Our feathered friends turning on us in a gathering storm of destruction that places humans in the birdcage.

Hitchcock’s stripped-back sound production replaces a standard musical score with moments of silence followed by screeching bird sound. A technique that still manages sends a shiver down the spine. Giving birth to a wave of sound experimentation in horror, where less was more in creating tension and alarm in audiences.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Salò was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film before being brutally murdered on 1st November 1975; while remaining one of the most controversial films ever made. The world premiere launching it into a public sphere of debate and controversy just weeks after the filmmaker’s murder. Its depictions of torture, brutality, control and sex continuing to haunt new viewers to this day. 

Adapting the Marquis de Sade’s 18th-century novel, Passolini moves the narrative to Italy in 1944. Within the corrupt interim government at Salo following Mussolini’s rescue by the Nazi’s from Italian partisans. The director’s vision playing with history in exploring the darkest reaches of human sexuality, control and fascism. As a result, creating a film that remains as stark and powerful today as it was in 1975.

The horror of Pasolini’s work comes from the power and control of those who feed their perversions and sadism without regard for humanity. While the innocent are used as an experiment in just how far humans can be pushed. Their individual young lives meaningless in a game of power, sex and control.

Many will find Salò too much to take, its horror enveloping you. But, if you believe in the power of film as art in reflecting the darkest corners of humanity. Then Pasolini’s masterpiece is a compelling and uncomfortable portrait of humanity’s darkest reaches.

Peeping Tom (1960)

Director: Michael Powell

Michael Powell’s 1960 film ‘Peeping Tom’ centres on a killer who films his victims as they die. A commentary on voyeurism that many filmmakers of the time avoided due to audience sensitivities. Peeping Tom, however, broke these unspoken rules and crossed a hidden line in early 60’s film. In turn, upsetting countless more people that Hitchcock’s Psycho of the same year, while making an enemy of critics. As a result, leading to Peeping Tom vanishing from cinema’s screens and public scrutiny; ending the career of one of the UK’s greatest directors. 

However, in a modern world of webcams, CCTV and reality filming, Peeping Tom found its voice with modern filmmakers bringing it back from the grave. Its stunning dissection of the human obsession with recording and documenting crime feeling even more revenant in our millennial world. Peeping Tom provides a chilling viewing experience to this day and one that delves into the deepest and darkest corners of the human mind.

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