The Witch (2016)
Director: Robert Eggers
Robert Egger’s debut feature film set in New England during the 17th Century is a masterclass in slow-burning tension. Mixing superstition and community fear with the dread of family secrets and exclusion. Its horror coming from ignorance, fear of the unknown and the menacing atmosphere of religion. As a result, creating a film that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go, submerging you into a world of accusations and suggestion. With revelations taking time to form as the intensity and claustrophobia ramps up, within folk horror at its spine-tingling best.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Director: Robert Eggers
The Lighthouse clearly pays homage to the early German horror of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Calligari. While equally layering this aesthetic with the slow-building psychological tension of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. But its true genius lays in the ability to dovetail the creeping madness of Kubrick’s The Shining with Shakespearean tragedy. With Patterson and Defoe providing exhilarating and enthralling performances as they embrace the pure theatre of Robert and Max Eggers luscious screenplay. Bouncing off one another with a mesmeric intensity, as Ephram and Thomas find support, love, hatred and fear in each other’s arms. The weather-beaten lighthouse slowly becoming a mental and social prison for both men.
Robert Eggers has once again created a truly unforgettable and unique theatrical experience. One that buries itself into your memory long after leaving the cinema. While ensuring the viewer can almost taste the sea spray and smell the tobacco that pervades each frame. Ultimately creating something rare in modern film, as The Lighthouse steps from the screen and into your soul. Its direction, performances and design combining to create a truly unforgettable cinematic experience.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Beautiful, dark and gloriously realised. Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece weaves fantasy and the horror of war together in way few films before or after have managed. While also acting as a companion piece to The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro’s film is set in early Francoist Spain 1944. The ghosts of the Spanish Civil War and horror of World War II combining into the ultimate darkness. While our young heroine discovers that the monsters of the underworld are no match for the real horrors of humans action.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Director: Robin Hardy
The Wicker Man was initially shunned by the studio who gave birth it, taking second billing in the UK to the equally beautiful ‘Don’t Look Now.’ However, in the USA The Wicker Man found a dedicated and loving audience, becoming a template for the cult horror. The mystery surrounding its production and multiple different cuts ensuring audiences never knew whether they were watching the original vision of the film.
More importantly, this has ensured The Wicker Man remains a glorious folk horror enigma to this day. Shrouded in the bright sunlight of horror, while its roots give birth to a host of new horror tales, including Midsommar. The Wicker Man’s handprints are all over modern filmmaking, remaining the best slice of folk horror ever created, but also spawning the cult genre.
The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Roman Polanski’s ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘ kickstarted a whole stream of early 70s horror aimed squarely at the occult, religion and supernatural. However, it is The Exorcist that remains the greatest example of this rebirth. Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, which is likewise loosely based on ‘real events’. The Exorcist is one of the most skin-crawling horror films ever made, its intricate use of sound and visual terror burning into your memory like no other film. While no matter of any personal religious belief you may hold, William Friedkin’s film plays with our deep-rooted subconscious need for faith. Therefore, commanding its audience to suspend their personal reality, as pure evil meets pure innocence. With a demon subverting the innocence of a child, while those around her struggle with their own faith.
The Exorcist earned its legendary status through visceral horror and effects that went far beyond its time and place. The set itself a pit of pain, creativity and experimentation that left an indelible mark on all involved. While the accidents and deaths linked to the film have created folklore similar to the of The Omen.
Once seen never forgotten, The Exorcist is still one of the wildest and scariest rides in cinematic horror, its bleakness and exploration of inner faith sending a chill down the strongest spine.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Director: Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski’s Rosemary Baby is, in essence, a film of masks and subverted trust. Wrapping you in pure psychological horror from the first scene to last. It’s themes of the occult leading to ‘The Omen‘ and ‘The Exorcist‘ to name but a few. While dutifully translating Ira Levin’s novel, with an atmosphere of pure terror, one often copied but never matched in its audacious impact. Its story cleverly subverting everyday life, romance, and family into a sublime horror that still has the power to enthral.
Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)
Director: Thomas Clay
Thomas Clay’s third highly anticipated film ‘Fanny Lye Deliver’d’ had a long and challenging journey to the screen. Languishing in post-production for almost three years due to funding pressures. However, after many delays, it premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2019. With Vertigo Releasing bringing the film to a wider audience via streaming services in 2020. But was it worth the extended wait? The simple answer is yes! as Thomas Clay brings us a delicious and complex take on 1970s folk horror. Subsequently layering his vision with themes of ideology, puritanism and freedom. As a result delivering a dissection of the social boundaries created by patriarchy, state control and evangelical belief.
Actor and Directors appearing in this list can also be found in the following Cinerama articles…
Peter Cushing also appears in Star Wars – A New Hope
Black Christmas also appears in A Deliciously Dark Christmas – The Essential Collection
Anthony Perkins also appears in The Black Hole
A Nightmare on Elm Street is also explored in A Nightmare on Elm Street – 2
Michael Pitt also appears in LGBTQ – The Essential Collection
Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis also appears in Knives Out
Christopher Lee also appears in Star Wars Episode II & III