Animations have come a long way since 1906’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces. Walt Disney became the authority in animations and, for a long time, the medium was mostly seen as exclusive to humorous, touching cartoons shown primarily to young children.
But since the latter half of the 20th century, filmmakers have realized the potential of animation to tell any type of story. Hence animated films have expanded into multiple genres, from horror to drama. Horror is among the best represented, but mainly in TV shows. When it comes to film, good horror animations are a dime a dozen.
So here are those precious few animations that use the art to tell scary and grotesque tales.
15. Demon City Shinjuku
Kyoya’s father was killed by Rebi Ra in their battle for the fate of the world. As a result, a portal to hell is made in Shinjuku, and the city becomes a literal Hell on Earth. It’s now up to Kyoya to fight Rebi Ra before he can turn the entire world into a gate to hell.
Though the characters aren’t the most convincing, the premise is. This is a film that exists for two reasons: to show well-choreographed battles and to throw buckets of gore at us. It delivers on both fronts.
14. Wicked City
The Black Guard is a secret police force that protects the boundary between the human world and the demon world, which is called the Black World. The truce between the two worlds is jeopardized when a new treaty attempt gets sabotaged.
Taki is a Black Guard agent sent to protect Dr. Joseppe Maiyart, who is vital to the treaty process. Maki, a skilled woman from the Black World, becomes his partner. Their mission goes from being simple protection to something much more complicated.
Wicked City has bucketloads of gore and erotica, but it also beautiful animations, amazing background art, memorable monsters and fast-paced action sequences. This is, basically, a damn good exploitation film.
13. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic
Dante returns home from the Crusade to find that his father is dead and his servants have been slain. His dying wife turns into a spirit. However, as she starts to ascend to Heaven, Lucifer comes and snatches her, taking her to Hell. Dante is forced to pursue her through the 9 circles of Hell. In each circle, he is forced to face the sins he committed during the Crusade along with a plethora of fallen rulers and monstrous beasts.
4 animation studios and 6 directors made Dante’s Inferno, which leads to some inconsistencies with the animation. However, it’s still a beautiful thing to watch, especially as the different circles of Hell all have their own look.
12. Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
There are almost infinite takes on the zombie apocalypse. But few do it like Gyo.
When going on vacation with her friends, Kaori looks forward to her marriage and her graduation. When they go back to their summer house, they encounter a horrid stench, like something died in there. They find the cause of the stench is a zombie fish; to be precise, a rotting fish on metal legs. In a matter of hours, thousands of these creatures swarm into the country, from small fish to large ones like sharks. The humans they kill end up the same way; on those freaky metal legs.
The plot is a little basic; it’s basically another zombie apocalypse. However, there are some truly grotesque scenes that more than make up for it. If you like your animations as putrid as possible, you could do worse than Gyo.
11. Lily C.A.T.
In the 23rd century, companies survey far-off planets for mining rights. A deep-space cruiser, the Saldes, is sent to a new world to search for potential minerals. On the journey, the ship detects a life form and takes it in.
When the passengers and crew awaken from 20 years of hypersleep, they notice a report that mentions one of the passengers used false credentials and might be a criminal. They start to suspect each other, and soon learn that an alien bacteria is on the ship: it infects people, kills them and absorbs their bodies.
Lily C.A.T. owes a lot to sci-fi/horror classics like The Thing and Alien. It’s not the most original film made; to be fair, not that many are. However, its saving grace is the monster. It’s horrific, vile-looking and kills in the most grotesque way imaginable; what it does to a certain point is truly sickening. For pure monster mayhem, few come close to this morbid classic.
10. Dead Space Downfall
Miners who are working at an outpost in deep space discover a strange alien artifact. Captain Matthius of the nearby USG Ishimura sends a team to bring the artifact to the ship so they can study it. However, members of the crew start dying in horrific and inexplicable ways. As the situation worsens, the head of security, Alissa Vincent, tries to find the cause of the cause of the violence.
Dead Space Downfall is a prequel to the successful Dead Space video games; in fact, the plot covers the events that take place just before the first video game starts. The characters are largely stereotypical: the bad-mouthed black guy, the tough heroine, the token minority character etc. However, the film is enjoyable.
The violence and gore are intense, and it has some of the most memorable kills of any horror film. At times, it feels like you’re watching an animated Event Horizon or even Aliens with a touch of anime art style.
9. Blood: The Last Vampire
Saya is the last remaining original vampire. She hunts chiropterans, massive bat-like creatures that feed on humans. Working with the government, she goes undercover to a high school to track down these creatures before they can go into hiding.
Unlike the awful 2009 live-action film, 2000’s The Last Vampire is brilliant. It has excellent action scenes, the art style is remarkable and the plot moves along nicely. Saya is a likable protagonist, even though she remains mysterious till the end. The voice acting is okay in the English dubbed version, but as with any anime, watch it in Japanese with English subtitles.