1. Thirst (Park Chan-Wook, 2009)
Known as 박쥐 (pronounced Bakjwi) in Korea, Thirst is a classic horror theme with an intriguing twist to it. It tells the story of SangHyun, a Catholic priest, who ends up contracting a deadly disease. But after a blood transfusion, he wakes up to discover he is miraculously cured of his illness. He soon discovers this is because he has unknowingly turned into a vampire. Throw in a love affair with his best friend’s wife, and you’ve got a recipe for a great film.
I love this movie because of how it treats the main character’s vampirism. Since he’s a priest, he has devoted himself to the Lord, but once he becomes a vampire, he’s faced with such a deep and dark moral dilemma: How will he feed? Humanizing the vampire as an anti-hero, rather than a typical villain, really helps set this movie apart from other vampire flicks. Combine this with Park ChanWook’s dark atmosphere and his (as always) impeccable framing, it’s incredibly obvious how this won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
If you’re a fan of horror, thrillers, and romances, pick this up (and anything else Park ChanWook has done) for Halloween.
2. Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
In the western world, Japan has gained a reputation for being quite eclectic and the film industry is no exception. Throw in the psychedelic vibes of the 70’s and you know you’re in for a trip. Which is precisely why I chose Hausu over more famous Japanese films like The Ring or Pulse.
A ghost story in a way, Hausu is about six female friends traveling to an aunt’s house in the countryside for the summer. Soon after arriving, they begin to get picked off by various possessed household appliances. Set to a soundtrack by what can only be described as a Japanese version of The Monkees, Hausu is what I imagine an acid trip on October 31st seems like.
While it’s definitely hard to call this movie scary, you will definitely be left wondering what you just watched. I discovered it at three in the morning one summer night and this movie gave me everything I didn’t even know I was looking for in my film fantasies. It has quickly become one of my favorites to show friends.
3. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)
Probably the most well known and definitely the most current film on this list, Babadook is another great supernatural thriller. The movie follows a widow and her six year old son as they’re stalked by an almost never seen supernatural entity. The ambiguity of the assailant and complete lack of violence leaves you wondering if the Babadook is even real.
As an avid horror fan, I absolutely ate this film up. It was the first film in a long time that absolutely filled me with a sense of dread. I couldn’t possibly wait to see what would happen next, while contemplating covering my eyes at the same time. It’s also sparked tons of great conversation among friends about the symbolism of the Babadook. And when you consider the cinematography and lighting? My god, I nearly start foaming at the mouth. With this only being Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, I am definitely going to be keeping my eye on her in the future.
If you want a real, psychological scare, find this and watch it immediately. And try not to shit yourself during the millions of nuancedly gigantic (literally the only phrase I could create to describe them) scares.
4. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
An absolute classic and staple for horror fans, Suspiria is about a young American girl who attends a ballet school in Germany. After some mysterious disappearances, she soon discovers that the school is actually the home to a coven of witches.
Now, I know this is a semi-controversial pick for this list, given the blog takes a very female forward stance and Argento is infamous for his violence against women in his films. I will address that in the end, but let me start with why I like the film.
I’ve seen Suspiria so many times, I don’t even pay attention to the acting or dialogue anymore. The filming, soundtrack, set designs, etc… are absolutely mesmerizing and stunning. The over saturation of colors (specifically red) results in a nightmarish wonderland. The framing of the opening scene? Absolute art. And when it’s paired with an original score by an Italian rock band (appropriately named Goblin), you don’t even notice the murder and mayhem.
Which is exactly the problem. The only people who ever seem to get killed in an Argento film are women. Not because they made a bad choice, but simply because they are women. Men do get killed, yes, but only if they stand in the way of more women getting killed. Consider his film Phenomena (also known as Creepers). It takes place at a GIRL’S boarding school in Switzerland. The male lead does die, but that’s because he poses a big risk to the killer. So, it goes without saying that the female headcount far outnumbers the male.
Argento has been quoted as saying, “someone must die, so why not a beautiful woman?”. Which isn’t exactly a reason at all. And, as I said earlier, when you combine the deaths with how visually stunning and distracting the rest of the film is, viewers (especially men) tend not to notice the violence against women. While this might escape male viewers, I imagine it’s a very uncomfortable thing for a female to watch again and again. It breaks my heart that such a beautifully done film only serves to further perpetuate the gender inequality in the film industry.
I guess the best way to sum up my feelings about this movie is that I like the way it was done, but not what it did. I recommend it on the basis that all of the technical details are absolutely on point, but I do warn against the anti-female tones present.
By Tyler Dziubinski
Canonically, 23 year old Tyler hails from Fairbanks, AK. But as that is a pretty boring origin story, he prefers to tell people he’s a fabulous creature of the ocean, banished from the aquatic depths because all the other merfolk were hella jealous. Currently residing in South Korea, he one day hopes to work in fashion and entertainment. His guilty pleasures include overpriced cosmetics, trashy reality TV and B-List horror flicks and his top 3 films of all time are Showgirls, Mean Girls and Heathers. He can be found regularly avoiding responsibility at his Tumblr (cryface-larddick) or stalking drag queens on Twitter (TDziubinski)