11 Great Art-Horror Films From History

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Both Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin are hypnotic, brooding art-horror masterstrokes by two great filmmakers at the top of their game. Both are suffused with sex, but only the former is sexy; the latter depicts an alien wearing a Scarlet Johansson suit who seduces Scottish men, lures them into her ominous white van, and leads them into a seemingly ubiquitous inky black pool, which envelopes, engulfs, and absorbs them.

Whereas recent horror films like The Babadook, Oculus, and Proxy are noble enough attempts to inject some artistic integrity into tried and tired horror subgenres (haunted houses, scary mirrors, sinister support groups), Only Lovers Left Alive and Under the Skin are genuine art films, more concerned with vivisecting the ennui and hubris of modern life, using horror as a scalpel, not an end-game. These two films are just the most recent in a very old tradition of synthesizing art-house ambition with genre-convention.

Here, we look back at some of the most stirring entries in the art-horror canon. (As always, this list is far from exhaustive.)

Nosferatu (1922)

F.W. Murnau’s seminal vampire film is still the epitome of the vampire film. It remains one of the scariest spectacles of visual storytelling ever committed to celluloid; the grainy, distorted look time has lent to the film actually intensifies the discomfort, with dropped frames and flickering imagery casting an impermeable shroud over Max Schrek’s nightmare man. Werner Herzog’s 1979 remake is also excellent.

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