Barbara Steele and maverick Italian fantasy filmmaker Mario Bava's signature opus, the film that kickstarted the wave of Italian Gothic filmmaking that thrived in the 1960s (and often spotlighted Steele). Influenced by Hammer's Gothics but pushing them into darker psychological areas, this chiller still packs a potent punch.
Hammer Horror legend Christopher Lee stars in this masterful 1960 creeper, with a strong Lovecraftian thrust (and more than a dash of Psycho in the narrative mix) that may be the most atmospheric horror picture of the decade. Fog, black robes and supernatural terror rule in this one, a film that bears a resemblance to Black Sunday and is also known as Horror Hotel.
Director/producer Roger Corman's second Poe film penned by Richard Matheson and starring Vincent Price (after 1960's House of Usher), this one has it all. Danny Haller's amazing sets, Price wigging out, a delirious script, violence, betrayal, atmosphere and...Barbara Steele! Scary, wild and nightmarish masterpiece.
Hammer's 1970 lesbian vampire thriller The Vampire Lovers was a typically lush Hammer affair and boasted some choice female nudity. This oft-maligned sequel pushes the Gothic horror into overdrive and melds it with sex, strange love and leering silliness. It's a stunner and far better than its relatively stuffy predecessor and bland followup (1972's Twins of Evil).
We raved about this elegant and operatic 1973 telefilm here and we'll do it again. Taking a more literary approach to Mary Shelley's groundbreaking novel, Jack Smight's evocative, emotional and shocking adaptation is a marvel of Gothic beauty, dread and terror with a great performance by Michael Sarrazin as The Monster and Jane Seymour as his bride.
German New Wave pioneer Werner Herzog takes on one of the most important German expressionist films (F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu) and turns it into a mediation on doom, death and Gothic dread. Shot on real, crumbling locations and meandering canals, this is one of the most haunting horror movies ever, with stars Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani the epitome of the beauty and the beast.
The king of Gothic, Tim Burton outdid himself with this comic-book styled riff on the classic tale, with Johnny Depp fumbling his way across the severed head-littered New England landscape. The movie is spotty, but Burton saturates every inch of the film with bleak, storybook splendor, something he would continue to explore with Depp in films like Sweeney Todd and Dark Shadows.
This may be a controversial statement, but Insidious Chapter 2 may be James Wan's best movie. The first film nodded to Bava but the sequel - liberated from exposition and plot contrivance - is simply a head-spinning reel for Wan's Gothic horror obsessions, with set piece after set piece of lurid, surreal and richly designed shock and swoon. A movie that needs a serious re-appraisal and a superior film to the original.
Some horror fans were let down by Guillermo Del Toro's gauzy and erotic mystery, but fans of Gothic horror and period dramas ate every inch of it up. With its bursting colors, skin-crawling ghosts, heated performances and intimidating production design, Crimson Peak is a Gothic masterpiece, a loveletter from its creator to Hammer, Bava, Corman et al.