6 Non-Traditional Horror Films to watch this Halloween
October 29, 2015
It’s almost the 31st of October and many will be planning their late night movie marathons, slasher
flicks aplenty. However, some of you may be looking for other types of scares, be they psychological or metaphysical. I have made a list of 6 non-traditional horror films that manage to frighten, not based on their body count but rather their ability to employ inherent and instinctual human fears as a vehicle for shocking and often deeply disturbing horror.
1. COME AND SEE (Elem Klimov, 1985)
Infamously at one of the film’s after screening discussions an elderly German lady stood up and
declared “I was a soldier of the Wehrmacht; moreover, an officer of the Wehrmacht. I travelled through all of Poland and Belarus, finally reaching Ukraine. I will testify: everything that is told in this film is the truth. And the most frightening and shameful thing for me is that this film will be seen by my children and grandchildren.”
Come And See follows a young boy named Florya who lives in Byelorussia in a small village. After
Nazi soldiers invade, he retreats to a nearby forest to join Resistance fighters. It is here he meets Glasha a young girl, who accompanies him back to the village where he discovers everyone including his family, have been massacred. This begins a nightmarish fight for survival amidst the atrocities of war, a landscape in which only the dead are at peace. Klimov’s final feature film is notorious for its Brutal realism. It is not considered a horror film by most, but after viewing the endless scenes of debilitating tension coupled with its fairy-tale sensibility it’s hard not to describe it as such. Klimov’s aphorisms on war and human degeneracy are hard to turn away from. Come And See invites you to be swallowed up by its cacophony of despair and the irony of its ending will leave you emotionally drained and some of you terrified.
2. AUDITION (Miike Takashi, 1999)
Takashi’s feminist-revenge masterpiece is a hard one to stomach. His nihilistic tendencies are as
apparent here as ever and its misleading first hour only adds to the horror to come. Never will you want to hear “Kiri, kiri, kiri, kiri…” again. Audition begins as a slow moving drama about a newly widowed middle-aged man called Shigeharu, taking care of his only son. He decides that he would like to re-marry so his best friend sets up an audition for a fake film in the hope that Shigeharu can find the perfect match.
Rom-com? Mystery Thriller? Audition goes out of its way to convince you that its devices are of
anything other than a Horror film and it’s the reason why the film is so effective, in fact I will not go into any further details of the film’s plot, the less you know the better.
3. FUNNY GAMES (Michael Haneke, 1997)
Haneke’s Funny Games is an extreme film that takes a hostile and satirical approach to two different regional Genres. Firstly the film presents itself as a deconstructionism of Heimatfilm, a genre popular within Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These Heimatfilms are sticky with sentimentality and make use of simple moral conflict that is always resolved through the loving nature and good will of a traditional family unit. Haneke undermines these values and uses them against itself.
The second Genre with which Haneke takes a critical approach is the American Slasher film; he does this by directly targeting the audience and their desire to consume violence depicted on the screen without consequence. Once these two genres are established within the home invasion context, the ongoing criticism and transcendence happens concurrently and uncompromisingly masquerades in front of the audience as a truly enveloping horror, in the traditional sense of the word.
Haneke himself has openly described the film as a provocation and while little onscreen violence
occurs, the joyful sadism of the two young men and the spectator’s wilful voyeurism can become
overwhelming. Expect to be an integral part of these funny games and expect there to be consequences.
4. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (David Lynch, 2001)
It’s not surprising that Mulholland Drive was originally conceived as a television pilot; however,
Lynch’s decision to expand the film to feature length only aided its objective of disorientating, dream like madness.
What could I possibly say about Mulholland Drive and the reason it belongs on this list? I could
diverge into the hypnotic and often somnambulant performances, the themes of dreams being shattered at the hands capitalist monsters or I could even write an entire essay on the relevance of the man behind Winkies. Needles to say Mulholland Drive is a labyrinth of forever looming dread, a mystery of seduction, fear and obsession and perhaps most importantly, genuinely scary.
5. IRREVERSIBLE (Gaspar Noe, 2003)
The films premise alone ‘a rape and revenge story told in reverse’ may be enough to put-off even the most hardened of Horror film veterans, its centrepiece; a 13 minute, single take, graphic rape scene, is one of the several incredibly difficult scenes to watch.
Whether Irreversible is cinéma du corps or part of the new French extremity movement is the subject of debate, however it is clear that Noe’s singular opus is confrontational and excessively violent, so being attached to either film movement would seem appropriate. It may be worth noting that this was one of the most walked out of films in 2003.
Irreversible is an avant-garde, transgressive tale of moral and social despair, a dystopian fever dream that unflinchingly depicts the horrors of sexual violence, if this film does not disturb you; there are very few things that will.
6. BEGOTTEN (E. Elias Merhige, 1990)
God disembowels himself with a straight razor and mother-earth impregnates herself with the last of his semen as his convulsing corpse, lacerated and bleeding, evacuates its bowels; this is the opening scene of Merhige’s visionary art film “Begotten”. The film is shot in a stark, almost unintelligible black and white and is also silent.
While many are unable to finish the film, describing it as tedious and aimless, Begotten still shocks
audience to this day through its unique style and immersive cold atmosphere.
Certainly the most non-traditional horror film on this list and possibly one of the strangest films you will ever see, Begotten can remain permanent if the viewer is able to let the strange sickening images rich with allegories wash over them like a daydream or an old painting.