Top Ten Sophisticated Movies to Watch on HalloweenWatching horror movies on Halloween is always a fun thing to do. Who doesn't like to get the chills?
But then, there are also some viewers that may want to be more than just entertained. They want to watch movies that are both frightening and unsettling, and artful in nature. Art movies and darkness have embraced each other since the early days of expressionism in silent films, and they still go very well together. Just note that some of these films aren't dark in a blissful way, but deeply bleak and very extreme.
The Top Ten
Werner Herzog turns the "Dracula" story into a poetic, meditative piece about the pain of eternal life, spiritual bonds between lovers and rationality against belief. Lines and dialogs have a very symbolic meaning rather than fulfilling a straightforward purpose, and the film has a slow, hypnotic pace capturing several truly aesthetic and beautiful images.
Known mostly as a horror flick, "Suspiria" is one of the most acclaimed movies by serious European movie lovers. Dario Argento makes excessive use of dream imagery, creating rooms, situations and even storytelling that feels unsettingly out of time and place and feels very fevery and surreal. What he creates is less a spooky whodunnit than a collage of Freudian elements.
Lars von Trier's most controversial movie is one of the most notorious and widely interpreted art movie of the last few years and made von Trier as despised by mainstream tastes as celebrated in serious movie lover circles. It's an allegory and more metaphoric than anything, mostly centering around the comflict of reason and emotion, emodied by "man" and "woman". The movie contains extremely graphic images that will shock mainstream audiences - but it's just one of the darkest European art movies.
Simply put: this is the most German film ever created. While it takes the "Dracula" premise, it uses it for creating a bleak and gothic necromantic story with expressionistic imagery, that dwells less on horror than on the idea of a being driven by animalistic instincts and the fascinatiom of folk tales. This is a typically German piece of art, several much older classics are similarly dark.
"Black Swan" is one of the most widely known and acclaimed movies of this list, and many enjoyed it for its suspense and shock value, but it offers much more, exploring on the idea of increasing pressure on a person, from their surroundings as well as their own desire to meet every expectation perfectly. You can feel the uncomfortable feeling get stronger and stronger and stronger in Nina until she breaks down.
Stanley Kubrick managed to gain a mainstream success no other art director ever had. While his films are highly intelligent and are still discussed in serious movie lover circles analyzing all their many aspects to find their essence, the large public knows them and loves them, probably more superficially. Much like Argento's "Suspiria", "The Shining" uses very surreal imagery, often with unusual camera angles and lightning, he almost paints this movie, making almost every stillshot highly iconic.
Even The Simpsons did a parody of that in their Treehouse of Horror specials. 🎃
"Onibaba" is a Japanese moral tale based on an old legend that will bewilder the taste of any mainstream audiences with its very Eastern aesthetics, pace and writing, but it is one of the greatest films I have ever watched in my life. It goes far beyond creating a tension, what it does is composing a horrifyingly amoral world where people do terrible things out of sheer selfishness, with only few characters and barely any setting other than meadows.
What sounds like a home invasion horror flick makes excessive use of tropes and successfully builds up tension to ultimately make you reflect on your role in the mass media and how you view violent movie material. At a certaim point, after perfectly building up suspense, "Funny Games" openly reveals to be a movie, talks to you as a viewer and hates you for wanting to see more violence.
"Martyrs" has repeatedly been called one of the most graphic films ever made, but it has also been called philosophical, exploring man's obsessive wish to know what life after death looks like, and if it even exists. Its violence is never used voyeuristically, it shows how far we go to find an answer.
The French film, not the American remake.
The lesser but still fine sequel to "Suspiria", still by Dario Argento, is a narrative mess that depicts a mosaic of occult and nightmarishly surreal images that probably captures a bad dream better than any other film. Its complete lack of story and build up actually makes it all the more impactful: anything can happen anytime, and it is far from regular jump scares, it goes completely unusual ways of showing horrifying darkness.