Let the Right One In
Forget the recent remake. The 2008 Swedish original (based on a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist) is chilling, strange, and actually kind of romantic. Or, as romantic as a film about 12-year-olds covered in blood can be. This is one of the more subtle entries on this list, but don’t let that stop you — this movie will dig out space for itself in your bones and fall asleep there. Not restfully.
No, not the upcoming adaptation of that Stephenie Meyer book. We’re talking about the feverish 2006 South Korean New Wave monster movie, directed by Bong Joon-ho, which manages to be both a satisfying horror film and a incisive piece of political commentary. Plus, it’s one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies.
Well, you really can’t go wrong with Hitchcock for highbrow horror. As in most truly scary films (at least for us), the audience cares about the characters enough to actually be frightened for them, and we’re lulled into a false sense of security before everything goes to pieces. If you haven’t seen this classic, and you’re heading to a 3D slasher flick instead, well, shame on you. And keep an eye on the sky.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
We admit that in a different time we might not have counted this as a straight horror film, but recent events have convinced us otherwise. Directed by the formidable Lynne Ramsay, the movie is a portrait of a deterioration, infused with the kind of terror that only evil in children can produce.
We think we speak for almost everyone when we say that there are parts of this controversial film that just can’t be watched. That said, it’s the closest thing to art-horror we’ve ever seen, which is not all that surprising given that it was directed by Lars von Trier and stars an increasingly terrifying Charlotte Gainsbourg. Sex has never been quite so horrible.
Ah, the meta-horror film. Four actors go into the woods to make a horror movie — and then, the horror movie becomes real. This quiet, low-budget triumph by the Duplass brothers will make you smirk — but it also might make you scream.
Eyes Without a Face
French director Georges Franju’s 1960 film Les Yeux Sans Visage is as poetic a horror movie as we’ve seen, the story of a deranged father set on bringing back his daughter’s mangled beauty — at the expense of a score of other girls’. A little film buff trivia: the movie was the inspiration for Pedro Almodóvar’s 2011 The Skin I Live In.
What else would you expect from David Lynch’s first feature-length film than surrealist, disturbing horror? This movie is weird as hell — but that’s only to be expected. After all, Lynch has cited Kafka and Gogol as inspirations for the script. Add that to his own inherent strangeness, and you’ve got something seriously out there on your hands.
The Virgin Spring
Though technically classified as drama, this 1960 Ingmar Bergman classic is one of the most psychologically terrifying films we’ve ever seen, and we’re counting it. We could tell you it’s about rape, murder, the occult, revenge and redemption — but that wouldn’t really get you there. Plus, you really can’t get any higher-brow than Bergman.
It’s the gold standard for a reason. And if you’ve watched it recently, you know that it doesn’t age. This is horror for the ages.