The Criterion Collection is one of the biggest distributors of DVDS and Blue Rays.Realeasing copies of acclaimed films from all over the world and time, this companies fan base is ultra devoted and normally plan to collect every film in the Criterion library. While many genres are represented in the collection, for this list we will be focusing on ten of the best horror films in this awesome collection. This list is in no order, limited to one per director and focuses on more of the lesser known films in this collection.
While Blood Fest normally gets credited for being the first horror film to have explicit color gore, Jigoku, aka, Sinners of Hell beat that film by 3 years. In this Japanese masterpiece a group of sinners involved in interconnected tales of heavy sins all meet at the gates of hell. This surreal film is so ahead of it’s time in terms of violence, look and content that you will forget you are watching a film from the 1960s.
“Vampyr” is a French/German horror film directed by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer. A traveler who is obsessed with the occult goes to a town to later find out it is under the curse of a vampire. Being a mixture of silent films and early sound silents,the film has very little dialogue and uses cue cards to help tell the story. Atmosphere is where this gem shines and it’s one any fan of classic horror films should give a watch.
From Kaneto Shindo, director of Kuroneko, comes another feudal era horror film. Two women have a hobby that involves killing soldiers and stealing their belongings. The women then meet a mysterious man who wears a bizarre mask. Like Kuroneko the film’s setting and lack of color give it good atmosphere. The free-jazz and tribal score also help give the film a bit of a bizarre tone. If Akira Kurosawa made a horror film, it would be Onibaba.
Told by the sole survivor, this concerns a group of four friends who are attacked by a bunch of demons while on a picnic due to the possession of a mystical book. Sounds kinda like The Evil Dead doesn’t it? That is because this film was the biggest influence on Sam Raimi’s classic. If you want to see an even better version of this film check out the original 1967 cut of the film. Both these versions are included on the film’s Criterion release.
From Toho pictures comes a fever dream the form of a movie. A high school girl travels to her aunt’s house with six of her friends, each with their own nickname and over the top quirk. When they get there, supernatural insanity begins!! In this film anything can possibly happen ranging from pictures of cats vomiting pools of blood to a girl being swallowed by a piano only to have her severed fingers play it afterwards (not making this up). Any fan of surrealism should without a doubt not pass up on this one.
For couples into S&M who’ve already seen Fifty Shades of Grey twenty times straight this weekend is a bizarre Canadian sci-fi/horror film by acclaimed director David Cronenberg. James Woods plays the head of a small TV station who learns of a strange signal coming from an underground sadomasochist program. This signal causes people to commit acts of violence and torture. The film is very surreal and includes several scenes with bizarre hallucinations. The podcast Radiodrome is named after this film.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
A woman named Mary is riding around in a car with some friends. The car falls of a bridge and all of them die except Mary. She then gets a job as an organist for a church. She then starts seeing weird and disturbing images including zombies that seem to be coming for her. Layered with atmosphere; Carnival of Souls influenced many and is still shown at festivals to this day.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
One of the more tragic films on this list, this French goodie is a must see for fans of classic era horror. A doctor accidently disfigures his daughter’s face and does whatever he can to fix it, no matter how insane it might be. This flick is loaded with atmosphere and the mask the daughter wears inspired the mask of Michael Myers from Halloween. If you are one that finds her mask creepy wait till you see her without it!!
One of the most influential films on the list, Haxan is a fictionalized documentary about witchcraft. The film goes from the pagan roots of witchcraft all the way to european mass hysteria. You can see nods to this film in the works of Dario Argento, recent horror films like The VVitch and even in the work of musicians.
While Rosmary’s Baby is an amazing movie and well deserves it’s place in this collection, Polanski’s other horror film from that decade, Repulsion is one that deserves more love. In London a woman named Carlo lives with her sister Helen. Carol is very mentally sensitive and when her sister leaves to go on vacation with her lover, Carol is left all alone as her mental troubles start to manifest in the worst ways!. Polanski does an amazing job helping the viewer see into the eyes of the insane with his mix of surrealism and actress Catherine Denevue’s performance. This film will make you fear that crazy relative everyone seems to have.