Openly gay horror director Clive Barker is best known for films like his 1987 fright flick Hellraiser, the racially tinged 1992 horror movie Candyman and his Academy Award winning 1998 film about openly gay Frankenstein director James Whale, Gods and Monsters. While Clive Barker horror films are iconic in their own right, Barker shared his 10 favorite horror films of all time and it’s an amazing list filled with films you may have never seen or heard of.
Interestingly, some of the films he chose are documentaries and one of them was made by Walt Disney. The films span from 1943 to 2010 and many of his favorites are international, coming from Germany, Italy, Britain, France, Serbia and Uruguay. Each one also sounds horrifying for their own unique set of reasons: cannibalism, forced coprophagia, animal slaughter, demonic possession and alien invasion to name a few.
1. “Education for Death” (Clyde Geronimi, 1943)
Amazingly, this is actually a 10-minute World War II propaganda film produced by Walt Disney in 1943. It shows the indoctrination of a young German boy named Hans into Nazi ideology. Nothing violent happens in the film, but it’s creepy to watch him salute Hitler and learn that a soldier must have no weakness or pity.
2. “Le Sang des Bêtes” (Georges Franju, 1949)
Blood of the Beasts is a 20-minute short, post-war, French documentary that contrasts images of a serene Parisian suburb with scenes from a slaughterhouse where cows, sheep and horses die to make food for the suburbanites. The director created the film in black-and-white to get an emotional reaction from audiences rather than a visceral one based on gore.
Although you can see the complete film here, it’s pretty graphic and involve lots of animal screams, so instead we have embedded a clip of the director talking about his film above.
3. Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1959)
This French horror film (Les Yeux Sans Visage) follows a disturbed doctor who seeks to complete a face-transplant surgery for his daughter who has been disfigured in a horrific car accident. She wears a creepy, expressionless mask while awaiting a donor and is slowly going mad with the idea that another woman must lose her face in order for her to have one.
4. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
The Exorcist has been included in several lists of all-time top horror films, and it’s easy to understand why. It involves a young girl named Reagan who gets possessed by a demon (or perhaps the devil himself). Everyone knows about the scene where Reagan vomits pea soup omto a priest, but fewer know about the gory scene where she repeatedly stabs herself in the vagina with a crucifix while saying, “Let Jesus fuck you!” Whoa. No wonder audiences reportedly walked out during its theatrical release.
5. Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)
Canadian actor Donald Sutherland appears in this British-Italian indie film about a married couple that goes to Italy to restore an old church after the accidental death of their daughter. One of two elderly sisters warns the couple that their recently deceased daughter is trying to warn them of impending danger, but the real beauty of this film is its stylistic editing which heightens the parents’ psychological despair.
It was also based on a short story by female horror writer Daphne du Maurier, the author of the novel that Alfred Hitchcock would later turn into his lesbian-tinged 1940 psychodrama Rebecca.
6. Saló (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
Also known as 120 Days of Sodom (based on a work by 18th century sexual libertine, the Marquis de Sade), in this film four wealthy, corrupt Italians kidnap 18 teenagers — nine boys and nine girls — and subject them to four months of “extreme violence, sadism, and sexual and mental torture” including cross-dressing, same-sex marriage (the horror!), rape, eating food with nails hidden in it, being force fed feces and having their eyes and tongues cut out.
It’s supposed to be a commentary on the disregard corrupt plutocrats have for human life, but yeesh.
7. Cannibal Holocaust (Ruggero Deodato, 1979)
One of the first-ever “found footage” films (think The Blair Witch Project), it follows an anthropologist investigating the footage of a missing documentary crew that went into the Amazon jungle to record life amongst a cannibal tribe. The anthropologist discovers a disturbing twist (which we won’t reveal).
This film was banned in several countries over animal cruelty and beliefs that the director murdered his actors to achieve gory realism, but all of its actors were found alive after its filming concluded. The animals might not have been so lucky.
8. High Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003)
High Tension is a graphic French horror movie about a romantically obsessed serial murderer who kills an entire family. The film’s NC-17 version removed several lingering shots of bodily gore and blood spurting from throats in order to get an R-rating. True to its title, the relentless slayer and female anti-hero keep the tension high, but some critics were unimpressed by its simple plot and alleged over-reliance on gore.
9. “Ataque de Panico” (Fede Alvarez, 2009)
“Panic Attack” is a nearly five-minute Uruguayan science-fiction short about a robotic alien invasion on Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. The film has a free-hand camera shooting style — presumably from the point of view of someone witnessing the attack — and when the carnage really begins, its hard not to feel terror, despite the obviously CGI robots, UFOs and explosions.
10. A Serbian Film (Srdjan Spasojevic, 2010)
Currently banned in eight countries, A Serbian Film represents a new high (or low) in so-called “torture porn” horror film. In it, a financially destitute porn star agrees to be in an “art film” that turns out to be a snuff film involving necrophilia and infant rape. The film’s real-life director said that he wanted to make a film that “denounces the fascism of political correctness” and goes against the expectation that all foreign-funded Serbian films be artistic and about war.