Are you as excited by Halloween as we are? It’s that lovely time of year when the cool breeze comes in, the leaves change colour, and we allow ourselves the fun of watching films that scare us. I’ve never been much of a horror film fan but nothing keeps me away from good production design. Visually stunning horror films are there own thing unto themselves I love to be excited by their boldness.
The one great thing about the best horror films is that they tend to be visually interesting, keeping the audience slightly on edge- nothing is ever as it seems. This lends itself to the use of extremes with bold colours, accentuated shapes, altered geography, or plays on balance and symmetry. I find this further helps the audience suspend their disbelief into the story as they experience a continuous state of shock and awe.
I tried very hard to cull what I feel to be the very best, most visually stunning horror films that left a solid impression on me while helping to move the story along. Hopefully you agree.
If you enjoy this post, be sure to check out our last Production Design Porn post in our series which showcases the work of Baz Luhrmann and his production designer, Catherine Martin.
Top 10 Visually Stunning Horror Films
10) High-Rise (2016)
Logline: Life for the residents of a tower block begins to run out of control.
Production Designer: Mark Tildesley
Art Director: Frank Walsh | Set Decorator: Paki Smith
9) The Neon Demon (2016)
Logline: When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
Production Designer: Elliott Hostetter
Art Director: Austin Gorg | Set Decorator: Adam Willis
8) Crimson Peak (2015)
Logline: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
Production Designer: Thomas E. Sanders
Art Director: Brandt Gordon | Set Decorator: Shane Vieau & Jeffrey A. Melvin
7) The Cell (2000)
Logline: An FBI agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.
Production Designer: Tom Foden
Art Director: Geoff Hubbard | Set Decorator: Tessa Posnansky
6) Se7en (1995)
Logline: Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives.
Production Designer: Arthur Max
Art Director: Gary Wissner | Set Decorator: Clay A. Griffith
5) Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Logline: The centuries old vampire Count Dracula comes to England to seduce his barrister Jonathan Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray and inflict havoc in the foreign land.
Production Designer: Thomas E. Sanders
Art Director: Andrew Precht | Set Decorator: Garrett Lewis
4) The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (1920)
Logline: Hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist, Cesare, to commit murders.
Production Designer: Walter Reimann, Walter Röhrig, and Hermann Warm
3) Suspiria (1977)
Logline: A newcomer to a prestigious ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amidst a series of grisly murders.
Production Designer: Giuseppe Bassan
2) Alien (1979)
Logline: After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.
Production Designer: Michael Seymour
Art Director: Les Dilley and Roger Christian | Set Decorator: Ian Whittaker
1) The Shining (1980)
Logline: A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil and spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future.
Production Designer: Roy Walker
Art Director: Les Tomkins
Stunning Horror Film Honourable Mentions: AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000), THE INNOCENTS (1961), PSYCHO(1960), HAUSU (1977), A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (2003), THE HUNGER (1983), and THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984)
Which visually stunning horror films are your favourite? Have I missed any that you would have included? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Fantastic, great choices. Thanks much.
My favorite was Crimson Peak! I had the honor of working on this masterpiece.
Did anyone see the recent production of Jigsaw?I was the key scenic artist.
Horror films often have the most interesting production design.
To be honest, I am not much into horror films. However, I think all of these films look aesthetically pleasing. My favorite film out of these in terms of the art and design is Crimson Peak. Very elegant structures and costumes. 🙂
I know of the cell and the neon demon. You’re so right. The cinematography in both are fantastic.
The only ones I’ve seen are Se7en and The Shining! Adding these to my watch list!
Never heard of some of these before but they look beautiful! I loved Seven so much.
There are a lot of these that I haven’t seen! I’ll have to try to pick them up on DVD or rent them! Great list 🙂
I love production design, because it is such a huge part of the language of cinema. I am disappointed that you aren’t including the names of the cinematographers of these films as they played a huge role in the look of the film with their lighting and framing.