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The Most Masterful Gothic Movies

The Most Masterful Gothic Movies

Gothic horror was created in the 18th century when Horace Walpole penned the genre’s first novel, the Castle of Otranto, and we have loved it ever since. The most masterful gothic movies ever made deliver familiar themes of darkness and death wrapped up in stunning visuals and campy high drama.

The following films are not to be missed. They are perfect for watching in October, the month of horror, but they also offer a splendid romp in the shadows in the other 11 months of the year.

The Innocents (1961)

Based on the Henry James novel Turn of the Screw, the Innocents uses suggestion rather than in-your-face action to unleash a taught, terrifyingly atmospheric horror on viewers. Directed by Jack Clayton, it features Deborah Kerr as the governess Miss Giddens, and Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as the siblings she looks after in a huge mansion. The children’s behaviour leads the governess to make chilling conclusions about the ghostly spirits of deviant former staff.

Night of the Hunter (1955)

Directed by Charles Laughton, the 1955 gothic horror Night of the Hunter stars Robert Mitchum as self-ordained preacher and serial killer, the Rev. Harry Powell. The preacher’s modus operandi is to marry women and then to murder them for their money, all in the name of God. After being arrested for driving a stolen vehicle, Powell shares a cell with a bank robber who told him that he had hidden the money he had stolen, and that his children know its location. After his release, the preacher decides to hunt for the robber’s children. What happens next is as thrilling as the most rewarding games.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Robert Aldrich’s 1962 film starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? takes camp goth to Hollywood. The story is set in a Tinsel Town mansion, where bitterly jealous former child star Jane unleashes nothing less than psychological warfare her now-wheelchair-bound sister, Blanche. Even though it has laugh-out-loud moments, the movie ultimately is chilling and unnerving.

Suspiria (1977)

Although Dario Argento’s Suspiria was remade in 2018, the original 1977 movie is the surprisingly colourful gothic masterpiece you do not want to miss. The plot centres on American ballerina Suzy Bannion, who is accepted into a prestigious dance academy. She soon discovers that the school is a front for something far more sinister; something not entirely of this world. The film regularly makes lists of best horror movies, and has inspired not only other films, but alternative music as well.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Despite the most wooden performance of Keanu Reeves’ acting career, Bram Stoker’s Dracula still manages to be one of the best gothic movies ever made. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 gothic spectacular is redeemed by Gary Oldman’s erotically charged portrayal of the old vampire, Tom Waits as an insane Renfield, and Anthony Hopkins, who brings dark humour to his role as Abraham van Helsing. Other highlights of the film are the exquisite costumes designed by Eiko Ishioka, and the use of in-camera and on-set special effects instead of CGI.