A Chilling Chosen Few was originally written for and posted at After Dark In the Playing Fields on Halloween in 2010, as a companion piece for 12 Terrifying Tales, a list of spooky stories which I also shared again here at Unquiet Things earlier this month.
I know, I know… it’s still only August, but if you’re in the mood to draw the shades and crank the air down to an acceptably chilly clime, the following movies–some of my personal favorites for creepy viewing–should tide you over until our sacred haunted holiday.
Also note that, although this list is now six years old, these remain my go-to freaky films: the kind which leave bruised and haunting imprints on the memory, the shadowy images I watch on the movie screen of my inner eyelids when I can’t sleep at night and have worked myself up into a fever pitch of paranoia and panic.
What are some of your favorites for eerie, eldritch viewing? Whether mildly gruesome or pants-shittingly terrifying, tell me about all about them in the comments! (I live in permanent FOMO, you know, so I can’t stand the thought that there is something amazing out there that I don’t know about and have not yet seen.)
Suspiria (Dario Argento), 1977
A moody, atmospheric assault of the senses. A young American woman arrives at a European ballet school where nothing is as it seems. Hallucinatory mayhem ensues.
The Resurrected (Dan O’Bannon) 1992
An intelligent, brooding adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward”. Chris Sarandon at his creepily aristocratic best.
Cube (Vincenzo Natali) 1997
Kafkaesque sci-horror reminiscent of a visceral Twilight Zone episode. A handful of strangers wake up inside a monstrous maze of interlocking cubicles which are armed with lethal traps. Why were these individuals chosen? What is this place they are in? Is there even anything outside the Cube?
Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (John D. Hancock) 1971
An eerie, dreamlike film in which a woman’s already fragile psyche undergoes further trauma at the isolated farmhouse where she initially sought solace. Is there really something sinister going on between the mysterious drifter and the baleful townfolk – or is Jessica spiraling further into delusion and madness?
Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder) 2004
Romero’s 1978 original was “sacred ground” for horror buffs, but even though I saw this remake 6 years ago, there are some nights I still can’t sleep thinking upon certain scenes; to this day I am convinced I will awake to find my neighbor’s child gazing upon me hungrily, ready to mindlessly, viciously eat my face off.
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (Bob Clarke) 1972
A strangely awkward film, a bit of nostalgic whimsy on my part. A flamboyant theatre director brings his acting troupe to a remote island cemetery to raise the dead,as a practical joke. This turns out badly for all involved; as we all know, these practices are no laughing matter.
Lemora: A Child’s Tale of The Supernatural (Richard Blackburn) 1975
An orphaned young innocent is lured to a remote mansion on the outskirts of the strange southern gothic shanty town populated by bizarre mutants, and soon finds herself in the clutches of the wicked (and undead) Lemora. A long, unsettling nightmare of a film.
Imprint (Takashi Miike, Masters of Horror) 2005
A tale of lost love that grows stranger and more horrifying as the story unfolds. Contains one of the grisliest torture scenes that I have ever seen.
The Mist (Frank Darabont) 2007
Excellent Stephen King Adaptation (at least I thought so, but I don’t want to argue with you about it); local folks are trapped in a supermarket when a mysterious mist envelops the town – among the incredibly frightening monsters here, the worst and most brutish might actually be the human people. Also, I think this may have the bleakest ending of any movie I have ever seen.
Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey) 1962
After a traumatic accident a woman seems to be losing all contact with the world of the living. Worthwhile viewing for the gorgeously oppressive atmosphere alone.
The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona) 2008
A woman returns to her childhood home – a seaside orphanage – to reopen the establishment and raise her adopted son. The child’s mysterious disappearance, and frightening, otherworldly goings-on contribute to what is a quietly chilling, heartbreaking film.
A Tale of Two Sisters (Ji-woon Kim) 2003
A tale of tragedy and madness, based on an old Korean legend/folktale.
Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot) 1955
*And a bonus pick from my dear friend The Kindred Spirit, who shares that since having seen Les Diaboliques, “I have been wary of face-like bathtub faucets ever since!”