Image Credit: IMDB

We expect horror films to be scary, but what about the beauty that some of the best fright films seem to radiate? What about the movie that is made in the modern day but seems to capture the essence of the period they were made? Of course, many such films exist, and we can't list them all here. Here's just a taste of some spooky movies with a great aesthetic.

  • Mandy (2018)

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    Panos Cosmatos' Mandy has two different styles that mesh well together to create a phantasmagorical aesthetic. First, there is the brightly colored gel lighting, with brilliant primary colors, and then a hyper-real natural style that is totally eighties and differentiates one part of the narrative from the other. Neither one of these styles conflicts with the other; in fact, one adds to the other to make the film even better.

  • It Follows (2014)

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    It Follows is a frightening and haunting film, but the imagery in the movie has such a velvet-like softness that belies the monster's violence. Everything around the story about the mysterious monster seems so cozy and of a familiar time and place, but it is of a period you can't name. With the inclusion of such things as the clamshell reader, which many fans have wished they had, it has an aura of timelessness. The warmth and loveliness reflect the leading actress Maika Monroe and the warm friendships between her and her friends, juxtaposed against the monster's cold unearthly horror.

  • The Ring (2002)

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    One of the most well-received American J-Horror remakes was Gore Verbinski's The Ring; the imagery in the film is a big part of the film's success. Like any great horror film, the imagery and look of the film contribute to the horror in the movie. It's not just about the deaths; it is about the atmosphere. A spooky atmosphere goes a long way in convincing the audience to be scared. The Ring took the greys, blues, and greens of the Pacific Northwest and used them to unsettle everyone who saw the movie.

  • Suspiria (1977)

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    Dario Argento's Suspiria is a film you can't forget if you are talking about horror films with a great aesthetic. The real world versus the world of the witches is divided by the use of colored gels and naturalistic indoor and outdoor photography. There's such a classic beauty to the film that also offsets the brutality in the movie. The beauty doesn't clash with the horror. One enhances the other. Even now, Suspiria is highly influential.

  • A Wounded Fawn (2022)

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    Travis Stevens' A Wounded Fawn uses lush and seductive 16mm film photography by cinematographer Ksusha Genenfeld and surreal imagery to craft a believable world of spirits and revenge. The cinematography and look of the film take inspiration from the classics of Giallo but adds the aesthetic of theater to the mix. In this particular sense, masking and curtains make a brilliant artistic statement and contribute to the film's ultimately dreamy/nightmarish atmosphere.

  • The House of the Devil (2009)

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    Ti West's film The House of the Devil is another film with a comforting yet retro vibe that makes you feel good until it lowers the boom. The cinematography is lush, with shadows an essential part of the aesthetic. In a film where an innocent young babysitter is being set up by a cabal of Satanists, the shadows lurking around the central character Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue), are of great importance. The realistic 70s-80s vibe gives the film that touch of fantasy that appeals to the senses.

  • Infinity Pool (2023)

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    Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool is an array of elegant and sensual imagery. Shot by ace cinematographer Karim Hussain, the film has many different styles. The serene yet sinister roll of the camera during the film's opening, the luscious shots of the resort, and the deadly hijinks of the group James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) is enveloped within—the weirdly warm scenes of executions and the psychedelic cloning sequences. The film's imagery is wound up inexorably with the narrative.

  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

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    I'll say it again; The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an art film. Not only did the film pull off the Hitchcock ploy of making the audience think that they saw more violence than they did, but the film is also a dazzling and eye-catching spectacle from the opening shots, framed as photographs that expand into a ghoulish tableau to the red, white and blue imagery of Teri McMinn walking towards the home of the cannibals. There is no American flag flapping in the breeze of that shot, but your mind puts it there because of how beautifully the image is composed to make your mind see the all-American terror.

  • The Guest (2014)

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    The Guest has many advantages regarding its aesthetic, the throwback John Carpenter's / James Cameron's 80s and 90s vibe, and the crisp and clean photography. Still, no one has shot a film that takes advantage of the blinding blue eyes of its lead quite as well as Adam Wingard's film. How the camera approaches Dan Stevens, giving him an ethereal aura of male handsomeness that is rarely used by cinema. The film has an impeccable aesthetic, but it all starts with those blue eyes.

  • Alien (1979)

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    Ridley Scott's Alien is set entirely in space, so Scott has to create a world that doesn't exist. Humanity hasn't gone to deep space, and no such creatures exist. With the help of H.R. Giger, who created the Aliens, Scott forged the look of a spacecraft, and everything was familiar and well-lived in but different from anything we had seen before. It was a light-year jump for horror films set in space. So cold, so alien, yet so human.

  • The Love Witch (2016)

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    Anna Biller's modern-day horror comedy, The Love Witch, stills lives in its time period regardless of when it was set. The exquisite and ravishing costumes, sets, hair, and make-up make the film what it is. A candy-coated yet dangerous delight for the senses with cinematography by M. David Mullen, an expert on period photography, and the bright colors and richness of a 60s Technicolor film.

  • Cube (1997)

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    There have been movies and television shows about people trapped in a maze, but none was done so convincingly as in Vincenzo Natali's Cube. While the cubes are all the same, he manages to insert a feeling of panic and menace in each new cube. It is hard to construct a new world where every new area looks identical and keeps the world interesting without the advantage of intricate costuming or makeup. The only difference is the color, but it never gets dull.

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