It's Shocktober! And now that it's finally relatively cold on the East Coast, spooky season can officially commence. Boo, boos.
While there are enough excellent Halloween vines on YouTube to fuel an entire movie night, we occasionally prefer to go in a slightly more analog direction. It's the time for horror films, the time for guts and gore and things that go bump in the night. And for those of us who get freaked out when alone in the house, there's another key element of horror movies, especially the pre-Y2K ones, that we feel goes under-appreciated: style.
Given the upcoming release of Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria remake, which looks like one of the chicest films ever made, we started thinking about clothing in horror movies. There are a significant number of creepy flicks with better style than so-called fashion films — films that manage to be keenly influential style-wise while still scaring the shit out you. So here is a list!
Guadagnino's take on Suspiria looks incredible. But there's a reason the famously artistic director wanted to give it a shot: Italian master Dario Argento's (father of Asia) original film is eye-poppingly beautiful, even as it descends into a horrific sort of madness. Set in a German ballet school, the clothes are as light and airy as you might expect for a dancer. There are delicate ruffles, sheer capelets, wide, flowing palazzo pants, fluffy '70s curls. It's all very Maryam Nassir Zadeh.
'Rosemary’s Baby' (1968)
Yes, director Roman Polanski is a horrible, jail-evading man, and also Rosemary's Baby is an incredible film whose aesthetic influence is still everywhere today. Rosemary (Mia Farrow) wears the sorts of babydoll dresses, swing coats, and Peter Pan collars that essentially formed a foundational aesthetic for Miu Miu (and which popped up on this season's Prada runway). As per AnOther Magazine, Polanski told costume designer Anthea Sylbert to use pretty, easy clothing as opposed to anything witchy, saying "Let's make 'em think we're doing a Doris Day movie."
Scary Polanski movies generally all feature characters with excellent wardrobes. Consider Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion, or Faye Dunaway in Chinatown (not a horror movie, but it has some jumps).
'Rampo Noir' (2005)
This insane Japanese four-part anthology film, directed by Akio Jissoji, Atsushi Kaneko, Hisayasu Satō, and Suguru Takeuchi, features trippy visuals that boggle the mind. It was all made to live on a moodboard, though I'm especially partial to a scene featuring an extra-large sequined spiderweb.
'The Hunger' (1983)
Rotten Tomatoes may describe The Hunger as "amazingly bad," but clearly whoever wrote that does not have eyes. The film, a vampire movie, stars fashion icons Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon. And the clothing is very New Wave — tiny sunglasses, black leather, big shoulders. In one scene, Deneuve wears a small black mesh veil embroidered with pearls that haunts me to this day — it must be mine.
The prom dress! The pig's blood! A film that spawned a million Halloween costumes.
Director Nobuo Nakagawa is responsible for some of the most stylish horror films ever made. Jigoku, called The Sinners of Hell in English, was initially advertised as "adult entertainment," and features a storyline about suicide, rotten fish, and loads of murder. It's a fun time! And the imagery and cinematography are uniquely stunning, taking the viewer into a realm of hell with a kind of beauty Dante could have never predicted.
'Mulholland Drive' (2001)
David Lynch films are difficult to classify. Does Mulholland Drive fit the traditional definition of horror? I'm not sure. Is it very, very scary? Yes!
It is scary and the outfits are chic. As Rita, Naomi Watts models the pared-back look of the late '90s and early 2000s, now cool again (everyone has a flared pant, a square-toed boot). There's even something to the clothing in the film's haggard-looking denouement.
'The Company of Wolves' (1984)
This otherworldly, gorgeous film (starring Angela Lansbury!) is a gothic fantasy come to life, grotesque and seductively beautiful all at once. And its most iconic scene features Louis XVI-style courtiers — with wolf heads.
'Nosferatu the Vampyre' (1979)
Werner Herzog's vampyre is partial to black. But his victims love a puff sleeve!
Literally anything by Alfred Hitchcock
Icy blondes in skirt suits, a winning combination.