For lovers of Tim Burton and Romantic Goth and red wine.
I’m a strange person in the sense that although I do not enjoy horror movies, I’ve always been drawn to the macabre and the Gothic. Thus while I carefully avoid stuff like the Exorcist and Poe’s short stories, I can safely enjoy Tim Burton films and Poe’s hauntingly beautiful poetry like the “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee.” Perhaps the phrase I’m searching for is “dark fantasy”–
something that keeps the Gothic elements, fantastical creatures and period costumes intact, and yet is tempered by a sense of fairytale optimism and contains only a minimal amount of bloodshed and gore. Fantasy that isn’t too grisly or nihilistic, but still dark and brooding.
So here’s a list of my favourite dark fantasy movies which are perfect for a movie night with your Romantic Goth pals, in a candlelit room, and some red wine
1. Coraline (2009): Neil Gaiman is possibly one of the most talented writers alive today, and if you’ve ever read Coraline or an y of his acclaimed Sandman graphic novels, you’ll know why. The stop-motion animation film directed by Henry Selick which stays mostly true to the original story does introduce an additional character and is for the most part, a sumptuous visual delight. The narrative follows the adventures of the spunky eleven year old Coraline who discovers a secret doorway to the Other World which seems a replica of the real world, except its dysfunctional inhabitants have buttons for their eyes. A tale of ingenuity, wit and some creeps, Coraline is a great choice to commence your dark fantasy movie night.
Variation: You can also try Tim Burton’s gorgeous animated films such as Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie or The Nightmare Before Christmas (which is based on a Halloween-themed poem Burton wrote).
2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): A Spanish-Mexican dark fantasy film that’s one a host of awards, Pan’s Labyrinth is set post the Spanish Civil War and revolves around the events involving child/faery princess Ofelia, her deranged stepfather, her pregnant mother and a mysterious ancient labyrinth that connects the two worlds. Similar to the first Narnia film in terms of the mythic characters and settings, the Guillermo del Toro film is much more darker and depressing. Multilayered, and employing some ingenious special-effects and a superb sound design, Pan’s Labyrinth is guaranteed to leave you spellbound.
3. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013): Tom Hiddleston as a vampire, with his shirt off. Need another reason? If the previous film had you shedding a tear or two, think of this indie film by Jim Jarmusch as recovery medicine. Showcasing the love story between two ancient vampires, Adam and Eve, who have all eternity to themselves, the film is a delicately prepared work of art. Watch it and press replay.
Variation: You can also enjoy Interview With A Vampire which is Anne Rice’s Gothic 1976 masterpiece of the same name and has Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Banderas in leading roles or the Gary Oldman starring adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola, if you’re into more mainstream Hollywood stuff.
4. Edward Scissorhands (1990): Another love story, this time between a small town girl and a Frankenstein’s monster. A simple but an elegant tale of unrequited love, alienation and despair, this is perhaps one of Tim Burton’s finest films and the one where Johnny Depp’s acting prowess shines the brightest (he says only 169 words in the entire movie). The film isn’t perfect, but then again, most beautiful things never are.
5. The Labyrinth (1986): According to FanFiction.net, the David Bowie hit has over 8.9k stories dedicated to it. Although not well-received when it was first released, the film has acquired a cult following over the years, with even a manga devoted to it. The storyline is simple: It’s Sarah’s turn for babysitting, and in a moment of impulse and impetuosity, she wishes her baby brother to be taken away by the goblins. Sarah must now confront the smoking hot Goblin King, Jareth and navigate his labyrinth to save her brother. Filled with riddles, allusions, a variety of colourful characters and a brilliant masquerade scene, The Labyrinth, directed by Jim Henson is a richly layered fantasy tale of growing up and sexual maturity. Plus it doesn’t hurt that David Bowie does his own singing and dancing here.
So you want to get terrified and entertained at the same time? These movies promise a heady dose of thrills and chills!
(images used here do not belong to me)
Previously published on Quail Bell Magazine