6. Diabolique (1955)
We’re still keeping it in Europe for now, but don’t worry, there are more entries to come that will cross some oceans. It’s just that French horror would be a tough one to ignore. What film better to discuss than Diabolique, maybe Henri-Georges Clouzot’s greatest masterpiece if not for Wages of Fear.
Christina owns a boarding school, but her husband Michel feels like he’s the one supposed to be in charge. Michel’s behavior towards Christina is appalling as he beats her and openly cheated on her with Nicole, a teacher at the school. Together Christina and Nicole plan the perfect murder to get rid of the abusive Michel, but things turn around after the murder, as the corpse disappears.
The film is maybe as much a crime thriller as a horror, but its slow burning tension does enough to make you feel uncomfortable until a climax comes that leaves you wanting more. Of course Diabolique has a spot in Wright’s 1000 favourites as well, but there’s one more French horror film that’s on there that we’d like to give a little nod, not that the film needs it, but Georges Franju’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’ almost took this spot in the list!
7. Martin (1977)
Martin is a young man that believes himself to be a vampire. He sedates women with a narcotics-filled syringe and when they’re passed out, he slices their wrists, drinks their blood, and occasionally does the ‘sexy stuff.’ When he goes to live with his uncle and cousin he has to come to terms with his loneliness and with his urge to drink blood.
Edgar Wright is not only a huge fan, but a friend of the late George A. Romero as well. Wright even had a cameo in Romero’s ‘Land of the Dead’ together with Simon Pegg. The king of zombies obviously had a huge inspiration on Edgar Wright and specifically his film Shaun of the Dead. Romero’s zombie trilogy inspired not only Wright, but an era of horror films. Martin, however, is a film not about zombies, but one of the finest works in Romero’s filmography. With its subtlety it can be interpreted as both a fantasy horror film as well as a psychological one. It’s for the viewer to decide if Martin really is a vampire and either way the film won’t disappoint.
8. Dead of Night (1945)
It’s a miracle we haven’t mentioned this yet, but in the Empire podcast with Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino, Wright discusses how their little film club came to be thanks to a list of British film recommendations from Martin Scorsese. Scorsese talks about a number of great underseen British films, among them are some of the Ealing Studios films, including their one horror film Dead of Night. Of course Wright had already seen Dead of Night and held it in high regard, so with this entry you’ll again get a two-in-one; a film recommended by both Scorsese and Wright. A three-in-one even, since Tarantino recommended it as well, talking about it with Edgar Wright on an earlier occasion in the Hot Fuzz director’s commentary.
Dead of Night is a special one as it’s one of the early British horror anthologies and one that heavily inspired the Amicus anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood, etc. Dead of Night did it first and did it brilliantly. Four great directors make up for six strange, scary short stories that are weaved together through an equally strange story. In a house he’s never been before, with six people he’s never seen before, architect Walter Craig explains these six strangers how he has dreamed about them in this moment countless times. While his recurring dream is slowly becoming reality, the strangers take turns in telling their experiences with the supernatural. Each of the shorts stands on its own ground, but we’ve got to point out one of Alberto Cavalcanti’s shorts, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, which singlehandedly inspired many films with the same concept.
9. Wild Zero (1999)
Wild Zero is one of Wright’s favorite zombie films, although that doesn’t say much, since he has a lot of those. Besides zombies, Wild Zero has a bunch of wild elements including aliens and most importantly a great sound track, by the titular band.
When Ace saves his heroes the band Guitar Wolf from their manager who intends to kill them, he has the honor of becoming their blood brother. Whenever he needs help, he just has to say so and the super hero-like band will come to the rescue. After a meteor crash in the town of Asahi, aliens invade earth and turn humans into zombies. Ace gets caught up in the beginning of the outbreak and has to call up on his new-found blood brothers sooner than thought. Together with Guitar Wolf he now must survive the wrath of these aliens, the zombies, and the evil, tight shorts-wearing manager.
It’s hard not to think that Wild Zero has had some influence on Edgar Wright’s own work. The cornetto trilogy, but also Scott Pilgrim and Baby Driver have elements that are visible as well in this crazy Japanese party. For Edgar Wright fans this entry might be the most satisfying to watch because of these similarities. Even the rocking soundtrack alone makes the watch well worth your time.
10. Braindead (1992)
Of course Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is fantastic, but let’s hope he soon return to his roots and give another gem like Braindead. The comedy combined with over-the-top gore of Jackson’s earlier work is some of the most delightful horror coming out of the early nineties.
Braindead or Dead-Alive follows Lionel and his mother Vera whom he lives with. When Lionel has a date in the zoo, Vera follows him to keep him in check, but there she gets bitten by a Sumatran rat-monkey. On first glance she seems fine, but the next day she’s transformed into a zombie. From here she starts killing the entire town, while Lionel tries to avoid more mayhem.
Like Shaun of the Dead, Braindead combines zombies and comedy, but the film itself wasn’t specifically an inspiration for Wright’s zom-rom-com. Wright noted Peter Jackson as a director was an inspiration to him, so he was happy to hear the news when Jackson named Shaun of the Dead his favorite of the year. Of course, later we saw Peter Jackson and Edgar Wright team up, since Jackson had a small, but hilarious cameo in Hot Fuzz.