An Arthouse Halloween

Criterion Collection

Veer away from the normal.  Come to the wacky, weird, and downright disturbing side of horror and suspense for Halloween.

Instead of watching Halloween or Friday the 13th for the 15th time, try these independent and criminally overlooked films. Some are beautifully laid out, and some downright insane.

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

Some of my favorite French films were made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It was when America was still producing relatively tame movies in comparison with France, mostly because of the ridiculous Production Code enacted at the time. Watching a movie like Eyes Without a Face might be shocking to those who think this era of movies as just a bunch of happy-go-lucky tales about girls and cars.

It’s basically about a surgeon whose daughter has become disfigured, and he attempts to amend the heartbreaking situation by taking the faces from other girls and transplanting them onto his daughter’s. Just like Gidget, right?

There’s one scene in particular that might even still make some people (including my mother) squeamish. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the movie is its relevance to today’s society- because there really are people getting face transplants.

House (1977)

Where do I even start with this one…there’s people-eating pianos, floating heads, blood-spewing clocks, evil cats- everything you could want in a 1970s Japanese movie! There’s no doubt it was made with a tongue-in-cheek vibe. The animation is purposefully silly, and the acting is amateur and borderline annoying. However, it’s a lot of fun, and certainly memorable. Fans of David Cronenberg’s movies will love it.

There’s not really much to the plot: a girl and her friends go to a haunted, messed-up house, furniture attacks, and mayhem ensues, but the mayhem is unlike anything else.

Diabolique (1955)

Here we go with those French films again! It’s just so good I can’t help myself. One of my favorite French films ever, it blends suspense, eerie cinematography, and a twist ending into a mysterious and nail-biting ride. Simone Signoret stars and Henri-Georges Clouzot directs this mystery/suspense film, so that’s reason enough to see it.

If you’re looking for something immediately gratifying and fast-paced, this isn’t for you. The slow build to a shocking ending is the reason I love it in the first place.

The Shining (1980)

Maybe I’m kind of cheating by allowing this one on the list, but it’s Stanley Kubrick, so why not? This will forever be one of my favorite horror movies because it’s so unlike anything else. There’s more than just a case of misguided cabin fever going on here.

The most enjoyable experience is right after the film- when everyone can discuss what the heck just happened, and argue aimlessly about the true meaning and explanation for the last few minutes, or really, the whole movie. All I know is Jack Nicholson is great at acting like a maddening, psychotic killer. What a compliment!

Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below and let me know!