If You Don’t Like These 5 Horror Films, You’re A Ridiculous Human Being
LISA MARIE BASILE
1. Darling (2015, directed by Mickey Keating) murdered me. This psychotically claustrophobic film is mostly shot within the interiors of a perhaps demonically-possessed Manhattan brownstone. Done in black and white (with its title done in girlish pink script!), with a single female protagonist on the cusp of a mental breakdown due to trauma– it’s got all the trademarks of my worst fears: hallucinations, a constant, audible ticking clock, staircases that lead to silent, long hallways containing just one locked door, a chest of drawers empty save for an upside-cross, and the jilted movement of dead bodies catapulted from the most evil darkness imaginable. Sure, the hallmarks of “this is a horror movie” are numerous, but Darling uses these basics and makes them new, fresh, and intensely uncomfortable. This film goes from “alright, this is a haunted house” to something wildly–and vastly–other. By the second half of the film, I (a seasoned horror cinema lover) ran out of my bedroom and out of my own Manhattan apartment, down out into the street. I bought a cup of sweetish coffee from Starbucks so I could be in public, be normal, be clean from evil, away from whatever stinking, rotting hell was happening up there in my bedroom. I couldn’t cut the images from my mind, I couldn’t sleep that night, and I can’t stop thinking about it now. Basically, it makes Blue Velvet feel like The Rugrats.
2. Speaking of the devil, Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch) is one of my favorite films of all-time. I think it informed my whole being when I first saw it around 19. From watching it, I understood that we are constantly straddling a world which may appear good and kind but holds in itself a well of secrecy. Between its scenes of Los Angeles’ hushed, rotten interior and dreamscapes of Hollywood’s intoxicating glamour, there’s something that tugs at you: the knowledge that we must swim through ourselves and the ideas of ourselves, while moving through the world’s masquerade. This knowledge is uncomfortable, almost worse than the paranormal, really. The darkness is inside of us already, bleeding out, coating everything good with a slick layer of waxy grime. We are the devil. Money is the devil. Beauty is the devil. Want is the devil. These things–our subconscious wounds–are always at play. Our nightmares are always at the ready. Our love, our fancy houses, our cars, our banks, everything. What’s even scarier is that Mulholland Drive’s focus on Hollywood bigwigs pulling their evil strings in Lynchian back-rooms isn’t so Lynchian at all. It’s what really happens when the Harvey Weinsteins run the world.
3. Giallo perfezione! Dario Argento’s 1989 Opera is the exquisite treatment of gore gone right. An Italian film from 1987, it encounters a murderer within an opera house (I know). With scenes of opulence and beauty, balconies and gowns, there is enough aesthetic milk to slurp before getting to the good stuff: Haunted by memories of the dead, our protagonist moves through the film constantly on the precipice of madness. Eyes are kept open, lined with small needles, lest they blink and let loose the blood. It’s a study in witnessing terror–the terror that comes for us. There’s a scene in this film where music is playing so loudly your mind can’t even wrap around the horror at hand. It is a brilliant, unexpected way to fuck with the viewer, who, in that moment, must literally give in to the paralysis of powerlessness.
4. Let The Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson)
While most may call this a horror film, I call it a love story between two young people who see each other for who they truly are. Of course, we’re talking the slow-moving, icily-silent Swedish version here–not the American Let Me In, which is still, like, fiiiiiiine (if 100% unnecessary) but feels a tad less intimate. The vampirism bought me in, but I stayed for more than the blood. This will always be a brilliant example of risk-taking in film; its exploration of age, gender, love, devotion, the curse of time, and the loneliness of the ‘other’ makes it one of the best “vampire films” of all time. Even that feels a bit reductive, though.
5. Santa Sangre (1989, Alejandro Jodorowsky) is one of the best horror films of all time. Some critics find his work to be overwhelmingly avant-garde but I agree with his fans; he is a master of the poetry of cinema. Defying expectation and rules, this film is about a circus in Mexico–except this is a bloody, bloody circus filled with pain, loss, revenge, and gore. While it may seem profusely fucked up to some, I think it is uncharacteristic of horror films in that it’s mostly redemptive and focused on finding peace for its characters. This is one of the wildest movies you will watch, and one which will live inside you forever.
Lisa Marie Basile is an editor, writer and poet living in NYC. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and the author of APOCRYPHAL (Noctuary Press, 2014), as well as a few chapbooks: Andalucia (Poetry Society of New York), War/Lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her book NYMPHOLEPSY (co-authored with poet Alyssa Morhardt-Goldstein), was a finalist in the 2017 Tarpaulin Sky Book Awards. She is working on her first poetic fiction novella, to be released by Clash Books/Clash Media.