Six Visually Experimental Horror Films

Though horror films seem to often prefer a ‘point A to point B’ method of storytelling to keep things cohesive for the audience, there are some directors that laugh at the idea of that. Some directors have relied as much on strange filmmaking techniques to express their story as the story itself. In some cases, the end result is a truly disturbing, jarring vision, that stays with you long after you see it. A film experience unlike any other. Here are six examples of “horror” films that used bold and original methods to tell their story, and succeeded in their vision as a result of it.


There is a shot in this movie that I cannot watch. I don’t know why, but there is just something about it that gets under my skin and spreads like a virus. It gives me chills and after I see it, everytime I close my eyes, I just keep seeing it. The Exorcist is the last film that did that to me.

But do not come at this film with any sort of expectation, because I have watched the film a few times over with a few different groups of people, and people are either totally freaked out by it and think it is arthouse brilliance, or people find it to be the dullest two hours ever.

The best way I can describe it is that it is just like the cursed movie that appears in The Ring. Black and white, full of creepy, seemingly disconnected imagery.

Here, watch for yourself.

This is the movie in its entirety, because I am sweet, and spit in the face of rules.


Fair warning: This shit gets weird as hell.

So the story is, well, rather than put it in my own words, I am going to put what it says on the movies IMDB page:

God disembowels himself with a straight razor. The spirit-like Mother Earth emerges, venturing into a bleak, barren landscape. Twitching and cowering, the Son Of Earth is set upon by faceless cannibals.

Yup, that is the movie.

No dialogue, no credited actors, just madness. Pure black and white madness. There will be multiple times in this film where you will say, out loud: What the hell are we looking at? Your own perception deceives you at multiple points in this film, and the whole ride is about five steps beyond surreal.

Like I said, I find the experience very unsettling. Other people I have watched it with have found it stupid. There is no right or wrong. Watch it for yourself up there and tell me what you think.

Strange side note about this movie is the fact that, a few years later, the movie’s creator, E Elias Marhige, would go on to direct Willem Dafoe in Shadow Of The Vampire. A cool little flick about the making of Nosferatu.

Begotten really is crammed  full of “can not unsee” moments.

But honestly, the movie is like a bad trip that you are stuck in for hours. And the scene where God disembowels himself is something I find truly disturbing and almost unwatchable. Wow, put that line in the ” Things I never thought I would type” category.

Clean, Shaven

This is a film that is very much led to greatness due to an equal balance of directorial finesse from Lodge Kerrigan and a staggering performance from Peter Greene. Incase you don’t know who Peter Greene is, he is this guy:

” Yup, I been in everything and you finally know my name.”

The film itself focuses on the story of a schizophrenic man and his attempt to get his daughter back from her adoptive family. While more of a thriller and a drama than a horror film, it is a harrowing ride none the less.

A journey made only more daunting by the fact that the movie has us, the viewer, experience the audible and visual breaks from reality that the character does. And those moments are handled so delicately (unlike most films where “crazy” people see talking dogs and walking mailboxes), that as you are watching this film, you almost begin to feel like you are going a little bit crazy yourself.

Try a taste to see what I am talking about:


Turn your volume up to truly understand how this movie can make you feel crazy.

It is not an easy viewing experience, and the way the film plays out could be best described as nihilist, but it was an incredibly brave story to try to tell, and again, worth seeing just for the stellar Peter Greene performance.

I spent a good deal of time in my life providing help for people who were in this mental state, so maybe that is half the reason the film had such a huge impact on me, and still does when I watch it now. But not enough people saw this film, so if you can handle the slight descent into madness the movie provides, then you may want to take this ride.

Jacobs Ladder

If you watch this now, it may look like all the other horror films that have come out, but the films you think that look like this film, came out AFTER this film. Another film that captures a dark descent of the lead character, and in doing so, shows us what he is seeing and feeling.

Stuff like this, for example:


That exact scene, and this entire film, is what inspired the Silent Hill series. Fact.

And while those effects may seem common place now, they had barely ever been seen before this film. And not executed as perfectly as they are here. The head gyrating in fast motion while the body was in place. The sepia toned world where everything feels dream-like and dead. Madness had been conveyed in film before, but never quite like this. And on top of that, Tim Robbins just kills it. When he is scared (Icecube bathtub), you can see it in his eyes.

My eyes are not that good of actors.

Jacobs Ladder really set the tone for films and games of this ilk. And though it may all seem done to death now,in 1990, these effects were unheard of. Also, major points for a spectacular twist ending. Makes the whole preceding experience even more disheartening.

Side note: I think Silent Hill 2 is one of the greatest games of all time (story wise) and am infinitely grateful to this movie for inspiring that series.

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  1. Agree on all but Begotten… From the insipid self-promotion in the trailer (“A Rorschach test for the eyes”… is that like “a writing test for your hands”? The film is more like “a taste test for my anus”…) to your “your own perceptions play tricks on you” (why, yes… I had been convinced this was 5 stoners making a bad movie on zero budget witha shitty camera) and “no credited actors” (roll credits…) grandizing, this thing just shoots itself in the foot from jump.

    You really tried too hard with that one.

  2. I wrote a long post on the Inland Empire forum over at IMDb arguing that Inland Empire is one of the best horror films ever made. I think the best comparison of the horror in Inland Empire is the Shining – the ‘monster’ is an unseen force that becomes manifest around the character experiencing the horror, and they can’t escape it because it isn’t tangible. There are other links IE has with the Shining too but I can’t get into it now.

    Good call on Begotten too, by the way.

    Disappointed by the lack of Tetsuo, though. All black and white, the scrap metal special effects and the weird stop motion (particularly the chase sequence near the end) and the techno soundtrack. If it’s absent from your list because you haven’t seen it, you must.

  3. I actually liked this list. Though I think Jacob’s Liar kinda of almost ONLY has it’s style going for it (it’s hard to defend film’s whose plots are shaggy dog jokes).

    I was expecting to see Vampyr on this list. Not my favorite movie in the world, but visually it’s pretty awesome.

  4. Great list!

    I actually and off the top of my head I really couldn’t think of anything that should be removed. Clean Shaven, Man Bites Dog, and Peeping Tom are all great films.

    I actually think this is the first list on the internet that I can agree through and through….well, almost El Superbeasto is garbage but I’ll look past that since it’s at the end.

  5. @Steve, I can respect that. I ALMOST didn’t like the film, and do agree thew trailer treads on Tommy Wiseau levels of idiocracy, but that straight edge razor scene with the guts falling on the floor just gets to me.
    @Me, Yeah, Lynch has a gift for truly getting under the skin better than any other director. I loved Tetsuo and that is a great call, I let is slip past me when I made this.
    @Jake Fortner, I begrudgingly admit I was stuck between Vampyr and Nosferatu….
    and lastly,
    I am nodding my head in satisfaction that I pleased @CriticalBill. He is not an easy person to please.
    Pardon me while I sit back and sip some cognac, smiling contently.

  6. Videodrome! My high school chemistry teacher told me to “check it out, I think you’ll like it,” and I practically punched him in the face the next day. Also, you totally made the right call on Inland Empire. I’m a big Lynch fan and he always leaves me unsettled, but IE actually upset me to the core. I still have nightmares from it. And I’m not even sure why or what makes it all that different from his other stuff. God I miss Twin Peaks.

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