20. Interview with a Vampire (1994)
Opulent visuals, exquisite period details, sweeping Gothic vistas, and the double threat of dreamy dude-on-dude duo Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt help make Neil Jordan’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire a surfeit sensual feast.
Lestat (Cruise) and Louis (Pitt) are vampires in 1790’s Louisiana who will eventually head over to Europe and run afoul other handsome lads like Antonio Banderas and those at the Théâtre des Vampires, and let’s not forget Kirsten Dunst as Claudia, a warped little vampire girl with lovely locks and a Lolita-like magnetism. All told, Jordan’s does a generous and reasonably satisfying re-imagining of Rice’s beloved and befanged characters.
The sexual emphasis on blood sucking is well handled and every Goth I knew in high school went ape shit for it, if that’s anything to gauge it by (it probably isn’t). There’s a gloomy veil-like elegance and titillation to Rice’s rogues, and Jordan nails that and the sensual ambient to an inviting tee.
19. Species (1995)
Newfoundland supermodel Natasha Henstridge turned a lot of heads and was hung in a lot of teenage boys’ lockers–– guilty as charged! –– as Sil, a sexy alien-human hybrid seductress in the sci-fi horror thriller from 1995, Species.
Sil, it must be said, was the product of Alien designer and notable cult icon artist H.R. Giger, at least when in monster mode, but thankfully for all the oversexed fanboys out there –– the target audience –– Sil spends more time in hot tubs and lewd nightclubs then she does in monster mode.
Species spawned a bit of a franchise with sequels falling susceptible to the diminishing returns infirmity, but let’s face it, Henstridge is the real draw here as the plotting and pacing is a predictable mishmash that, thankfully, can now be viewed as camp.
18. Maniac (2012)
Franck Khalfoun’s 2012 reworking of the Joe Lustig 1980 slasher staple of the same name, Maniac is a stylishly voyeuristic and unconventional slasher film with an arthouse predilection. Shot entirely from the killer’s POV––we only see Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) in photographs and reflections––this stratagem is surprisingly effective at engaging and indicting the viewer in all the perversity unspooling before us.
Frank is mentally unhinged, and runs his family’s mannequin business (and yes, the stylized mannequins are all creepy af, especially when adorned with his victim’s scalps), which works as a conduit for his damaging and murderous sexual impulses. H
is victims are all young women whom he either dates via online forums or stalks outrightly, and it’s intense watching his quarry being lured like lambs to the slaughter. But genre fans can rejoice, Maniac is a modern horror classic that will be appreciated and discussed––no doubt with disgust for some––for some time.
17. Spring (2014)
Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead deliver a surprisingly romantic and provocative wrinkle in Lovecraftian body-horror with Spring. Starring a herculean Lou Taylor Pucci as Evan, an American visiting Italy after the tragic death of his mother (yes, there’s some blatant Freudian psychology at play here) where he meets the very coquettish Louise (Nadia Hilker).
After pretty much throwing herself at Evan the two have a very steamy shag and we soon learn that Louise has a monster of a secret, wink wink.
A recent favorite of Mexican horror demigod Guillermo del Toro, who called Spring “one of the best horror films of this decade”, Spring also is refreshingly upfront about its carnal inclinations.
16. Antichrist (2009)
The first film in Danish firebrand Lars von Trier’s Depression Trilogy––followed by 2011’s Melancholia and 2013’s Nymphomaniac––Antichrist is an experimental arthouse horror film that unspools like an opera.
Starring an outstanding Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving mother coping with the recent death of her infant child (Gainsbourg won Best Actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival for her efforts), the film soon devolves into her harrowing descent into madness as her increasingly violent and savage sexual behaviour and sadomasochism overwhelms her and her despondent husband (Willem Dafoe).
Filmed with an immensely meticulous and almost Hieronymus Bosch-like eye for detail by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire), several of the film’s graphic sex scenes have an intimate intensity that frequently unravel with a Marquis de Sade-like temper.
Antichrist is a powerful, frightening, uncompromising and startlingly sensual (to the point of obscene) drama that you’ll most likely crawl away from, shaken, excited, and changed.
15. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s forgivably flawed take on Dracula is one of the most romantic and, wisely, operatic of all the silver screen iterations of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. While visually a lavish and palatial spectacle, Coppola also takes pains to make his Dracula (Gary Oldman) a very libidinous, and bewitching horndog––so look out Mina Harker (Winona Ryder)!
To wit: Dracula has no qualms about a little late night copulation with Lucy Westenra (Sadie Frost) while in wolf form, and Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) gets to get it on in a deviant threeway with Dracula’s brides (including Italian sex symbol Monica Bellucci!).
It’s all a Gothic orgy for the senses and the nethers, if you get my meaning. Oh yeah, and did I mention it has Keanu Reeves?
14. Shivers (1975)
This gleefully OTT body horror extravaganza from David Cronenberg involves awful abnormal experiments conducted by Dr. Emil Hobbes (Fred Doederlin). The good doctor is of the mad scientist ilk and is obsessed with parasites and his nasty practice involves alien parasites that cause uncontrollable sexual desires in its hosts, namely the unsuspecting tenants in his futuristically ultra-modern Montreal apartment complex.
Shivers was very controversial in Cronenberg’s native Canada, where it would be some years before his countrymen would validate his visionary gifts and genius as an auteur of considerable depth. But back in 1975 the taxpayer-funded Telefilm Canada was outraged that their money went towards what vocal Canadian journalist Rob Fulford crassly described as being “crammed with depraved sex [in the] most depraved film I’ve ever seen.”
Fulford’s venomous articles made it very difficult for Cronenberg to secure funding in his early days and could have and nearly did ruin him in his early inception. This does beg the question; where is Fulford today and, while we’re here, look at how appreciated and applauded Cronenberg has become since. Up yours, Fulford!
13. Daughters of Darkness (1971)
Something of a sensual cult classic, this Belgian fright flick from Harry Kümel stars a smouldering Delphine Seyrig as the infamous Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Báthory in what’s probably best described as the quintessential lesbian vampire film.
Film critic Geoffrey O’Brien summed it up best when he detailed Daughters of Darkness as “…a deeply unpleasant evocation of a war of nerves between Seyrig’s vampire and the bourgeois newlyweds into whose honeymoon she insinuates herself.
Jaded age preys cunningly on narcissistic youth, and seductiveness and cruelty become indistinguishable as Seyrig forces the innocents to become aware of their own capacity for monstrous behavior. If Fassbinder had made a vampire movie it might have looked something like this.”
12. Angel Heart (1987)
Neo-noir blends with horror and some sweltry eroticism in Alan Parker’s controversial, over-stimulated, yet gleefully macabre movie, Angel Heart. Hot on the heels of his 1986 erotic thriller 9½ Weeks, Mickey Rourke made another sensual character study, here playing Harry Angel, a New York City private investigator on a missing person case that will take him to New Orleans and a world of voodoo, and, uh, really kinky sex.
Part of the controversy that Parker courted with this film was connected to the casting of Lisa Bonet. At that point Bonet was known only for her squeaky clean persona on The Cosby Show, here, as Epiphany Proudfoot she became something of a sex symbol in a role where she was an empowered, and carnal force.
One particularly scene was so sexually intense that the film was originally given an X-rating until Parker reluctantly trimmed it down by a few seconds, giving Angel Heart an R-rating and insuring wider distribution and play in mainstream movie houses.
Angel Heart is an accomplished film, regularly cited as an influential thriller and one of Christopher Nolan’s favorites. I just like it for Robert DeNiro’s glorified cameo that comes complete with a memorable and sinister twist.
11. Possession (1981)
Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession is much more than a horror film about a married couple, Mark and Anna (Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani) in the throes of a sticky divorce. Tempered by eroticism, due primarily to Adjani’s dual role as Anna and Helen –– a mysterious and sensual doppelgänger –– her behaviour degenerates into wildly erratic compulsions, some kinky, some manic, all upsetting in varying degrees.
As Zulawski’s sordid tale unfurls the situations disturbingly escalate, occult elements appear, deepening and darkening the tale. A vivid, rich, and nerve-rattling affair, also an obvious influence on Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (see #16 on this list) and leading into one shocker of an ending that you may never recover from. Be warned, this film will fuck you up.