Cartoons can be scary. Scooby Doo knew it. You can paint a nightmare in a way that no amount of CGI or practical effects can really execute. Animation frees a filmmaker from the constraints of the concrete world, allowing for more imaginative storytelling. Here are our favorite animated horror gems.
5. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
Feature length, R-rated anime is so often a simple excuse for fantasy fulfillment aimed at stunted adolescents of all ages. Director Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s 1987 film Wicked City certainly is that.
But in 2000, working from a story based on Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novel, Kawajiri executed the near-impossible. He made a sequel that was better than its much beloved predecessor (1985’s Vampire Hunter D).
Gothic and futuristic, beautifully drawn and nicely paced without losing the energy of the genre, Bloodlust delivers a gorgeous, bloody time.
4. Perfect Blue (1997)
This psychosexual thriller might feel garden variety if it had been made into a live action film. A young woman trades in her innocent image to take on more suggestive roles as an actress, only to find her fans turning on her in violent ways. Or is it an internal conflict over the way men and the media need to sexualize her that’s fragmenting her own mind?
In director Satoshi Kon’s anime vision, those familiar thriller tropes take on an unseemly dreamy quality. The animation style suggests more about the way mass media consumes a sexualized idea of innocence than any live action film could muster, and the hallucinatory quality achieved in the film would never have played this well in any other style.
3. Seoul Station (2016)
An animated side story to writer/director Sang-ho Yeon’s blistering zombie flick Train to Busan, Seoul Station gives us a chance to see what’s happening in other parts of Korea while Soo-an and her dad try to make it off the train alive.
A gripping story of people on the fringe, Seoul Station also boasts some incredibly imaginative animation. Scenes teem with slaughter, salvation, and social anxiety in a film that takes anime into reaches unsought before.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton penned and produced, directed by Henry Selick (Coraline), this tale of the Halloweentown/Christmastown mash up became an instant and unbreakable Goth favorite. Jack Skellington (“What’s happenin’, bone daddy?”) just doesn’t feel the same kind of love for Halloween that’s kept him motivated lo these many years. A little melancholy, he heads into the woods, only to take a wrong turn and find himself in the land of Christmas. Naturally, he and his fellow ghouls – meaning no real harm, you see – decide to kidnap Santa and run Christmas themselves… just this once.
The story, the music (by Danny Elfman, natch), the inspired stop-action style animation, and that sweetly macabre sensibility that Burton brings to every project spoke to the Nineties generation and continues to speak to outsiders, monsters, and lovers of animation everywhere.
1. Fear(s) of the Dark (2007)
A French import perfectly suited to a dark and stormy Halloween night, the film brings together some of the top graphic artists in Europe and America to present six animated vignettes that showcase some of the mind’s deepest fears.
The human mind is always more capable of true horror than any teenage slasher movie, and that is what this film is interested in exploring. shorts delve into social anxiety, sexual insecurity, sociopathic tendencies, needles, dismemberment and the good old fashioned fear of the dark to achieve an overall feel of impending doom. You’ll get goosebumps without really knowing why.