| Take the sex out of horror movies and the genre would cease to exist. Not just for the obvious reasons (seductive vampires, shower stabbings, Jaime Lee Curtis), but because a muscle tense with fear and a muscle tense with desire feel pretty much the same.
Unfortunately, the deader Alfred Hitchcock gets, the more sex is used as an ace in the sleeve something to get pulses racing when a film’s less than terrifying. The films below are exceptional: they’re sexy, they’re scary, and they’ve been lost in the shuffle of big-budget CGI schlockfests. You may have to comb a few video stores to find them (or go here), but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that Mr. Hitchcock is not turning over in his grave. Gwynne Watkins
May (USA, 2002)
Why you haven’t seen it: A small indie with little fanfare, May was dismissed by most critics — except Roger Ebert, who replied to Roeper’s thumbs-down by saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with you more.”
Why you should: It’s the best American horror movie
in years and a prime candidate for cult status. May is a twenty-something
veterinary assistant: strange, shy, and unconsciously sexy.
Like those around her — slinky coworker Polly (Anna Farris) and pretty-boy loner Adam (Jeremy Sisto) — we want to get to know her better. May’s dark side is a little too dark for her lovers, though, and their rejection shatters her fragile hold on the world. As madness turns to violence, breakout star Angela Bettis delivers a tightly controlled performance, chilling yet sympathetic. The film’s final shot will lurk behind your eyelids for weeks.
Ginger Snaps (Canada/USA, 2000)
Why you haven’t seen it: Actually, you probably have — if you’re Canadian. Post-Columbine shock contributed to the film’s limited U.S. release, though it’s been a sleeper hit on DVD.
Why you should: Being a werewolf involves secret animal
desires, sudden surges of violence, and a lot of blood once
a month. So does being a teenage girl. And so goes the ingenious
premise of Ginger Snaps (original tagline: They Don’t
Call it The Curse For Nothing). Younger sister B. (Emily
Perkins) watches in horror as Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) turns
into a lycanthropic teenager, the latter part being more terrifying
than the former. Isabelle is so undeniably hot her red hair
streaked white, blood dripping from her new fangs — she
may inspire you to become a little more feral, too.
Tesis, Spain, 1996)
Why you haven’t seen it: Director Alejandro Amenabar turned heads with The Others and Abre Los Ojos (remade as Vanilla Sky), but his debut feature — about a grad student who stumbles upon a snuff film ring remains largely unknown in the United States.
Why you should: This brainy nailbiter raises a question close to every horror fan’s heart: why do we get a thrill out of watching violence? Amenabar is a master tease, cutting away from gratuitous gore, luring us into a false sense of safety. Like heroine Ana Torrent, we don’t realize we’ve been seduced til the knife’s already at our throats.
Cemetary Man (a.k.a. Dellamorte Dellamore, Italy/France/Germany, 1994)
Why you haven’t seen it: Although the dialogue is in English, this absurdist zombie film couldn’t find an American distributor. Well, actually, the director had one offer — on the condition that Matt Dillon replace Rupert Everett in the lead. Sergio Stivaletti said no.
Why you should: Naked Rupert Everett battles an undead Boy Scout troupe — and if that doesn’t do it for you, the frequently bare torso of co-star Anna Falchi will. As lonely zombie-slayer/cemetery groundskeeper Francesco, Everett falls for the first woman to try the pick-up line “Nice ossuary.” Her undead octogenarian husband interferes, and from thereon in, Cemetary Man is like being sandwiched in a backseat between George Romero and David Lynch.
Audition (a.k.a. Odishon, Japan, 2000)
Why you haven’t seen it: A huge hit in Japan, this movie populated American art houses long enough to become controversial — and cause countless nauseated audiences to walk out. (One Boston theater posted signs above the box office: “There will be no refunds for Audition after the movie starts.”)
Why you should: Takashi Miike is a genius one week,
a hack the next — and since he puts out an average of five
films a year, you can do the math. Audition lands satisfyingly
the middle, dishing out equal notes of Hitchcockian uneasiness
and grand guignol. The plot could be a Lifetime movie-of-the-week:
a widowed TV producer (Ryo Ishibashi) stages a fake television
audition to find a wife, but gets more than he bargained for
in Eihi (model/actress Asami Yamazaki). Here’s your warning:
this is not a film for the faint-hearted, and you’ll turn away
from the horror before the camera does.
Trouble Every Day (France, 2001)
Why you haven’t seen it: Most theaters wouldn’t gamble on this decidedly freaky film. Though you might have heard the title song by Tindersticks and frankly, it’s the best part.
Why you should: "Should" is such a strong word. This low-budget film so pretentious that Vincent Gallo masturbates with French subtitles follows a gorgeous couple who have mysteriously begun to thirst for blood. Their rampage of cannibalistic vampirism is hell to watch; they lure their victims with sex, then sucking turns to biting and let’s just say you won’t be wanting cunnilingus anytime soon. Despite its faults, there’s a sort of sick beauty to director Catherine Denis’ violence. If you prefer gory scenes that sear your retinas to creepy plot twists (or any plot at all), this might be your film.
And if that’s not enough for you, here are the sexiest films you haven’t seen…
… About the Electra Complex: Phone (Korea, 2002). This deliciously twisty ghost story rises above its absurd plot device: a haunted cell phone number.
… About the Oedipus Complex: Spider (USA/Canada/UK, 2002). David Cronenberg’s subtle, underrated film about the nightmare in one man’s mind.
… Based on a TV Show: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (USA, 1992). You don’t have to know the show to appreciate this harbinger of later Lynch classics like Mulholland Drive.
… Based on a True Story: Heavenly Creatures (New Zealand, 1994). Peter Jackson’s first great film is touching, terrifying, and fiercely accurate.
… Based on a Video Game: Resident Evil (USA, 2002). Mindless zombie fun, as Milla Jovovich knocks the dead deader in her soaking red minidress.
… Made on a Shoestring: Cube (Canada, 1997). You’ve seen Blair Witch, so check out this one-set wonder about a group of people trapped in a deadly maze of cubes.
And the Least Sexy Scary Movie You Should Never See is Boxing Helena (USA, 1993). The worst elements of soft-core and horror collide in this goofy allegory about a doctor who cuts off his beloved’s limbs. Like watching a bored college student pull the legs from a Barbie doll and call it art.