No two genres are as interlinked as the ones mentioned above because the principles that guide the individual elements of both domains are fundamental parts of each other. These undercurrents play a vital part in shaping the cinematic experiences of both erotic flicks as well as horror masterpieces that seem to be just that on the surface.
While literary pioneers have explored the connections between the two areas in seminal works of prose and poetry, the visual force of cinema ensures that the experience is radically different and much more powerful due to the immediate nature of the striking images presented on the screen by cinematic magicians.
If you want to delve deeper into the genre, this list is the perfect place to start. Containing popular masterpieces like David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, modern gems such as Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin as well as cult classics from all over the world, this is essential viewing for all fans of horror cinema.
Check out the list below.
The 10 greatest erotic horror films of all time:
10. Daughters of Darkness (Harry Kümel, 1971)
A bizarre erotic horror entry from Belgium, Daughters of Darkness is one of the most iconic lesbian vampire films that were extremely popular during the 1970s. Incorporating gothic elements into its frameworks, this 1971 classic is a must-watch in all regards.
The director later reflected: “By some miracle or other, Daughters of Darkness has stuck around, but it was nothing more than a trifle. Or a parody even. People insist that an artwork should be about something, but that is nonsense. What is Porgy and Bess about? Nothing.”
9. Nekromantik (Jörg Buttgereit, 1987)
The definitive cinematic representation of necrophilia, there isn’t a better crossover between the erotic realm and horror. Analysing the machinations of cinematic voyeurism, Nekromantik nonchalantly provides the audience with a vision of unfettered human depravity.
According to the filmmaker, the most disturbing part of the film was the fact that the sex scenes with dead bodies were presented just like normal romantic scenes: “I think maybe where we were ahead of ourselves was in the fact that the movie pretends that everything you see is normal.”
8. Multiple Maniacs (John Waters, 1970)
One of the most important works within the truly strange filmography of John Waters, Multiple Maniacs isn’t as popular as Pink Flamingos but it is just as notorious (if not more). A landmark in the traditions of independent cinema, it established Waters as a serious artistic force.
When it was first released, many were too shocked by the graphic depictions of sexual violence and perversions on display but it has gone on to become a true cult classic revolving around the degeneracy of a group of travelling freaks.
7. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
A sci-fi gem from the last decade, Under the Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as an extraterrestrial entity who embarks on a predatory journey while targeting the men in Scotland. Dealing with multiple philosophical themes and perspectives, this is Glazer’s magnum opus.
Glazer explained: “I think the female sexuality in the film is something which is objectified. The creature that Scarlett plays in the film exists to be objectified. She’s there to be objectified. And what she does in the course of the film, in her own discovery, is she reclaims that — she de-eroticises her own image, actually.”
6. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Lucio Fulci, 1971)
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a staple of the giallo genre by one of its undisputed masters – Lucio Fulci. Presenting a disturbing story through a visually attractive spectacle, the film is a singular cinematic experience that contains the best of both worlds.
Set in London, it explores the surreal nightmares of the daughter of a famous politician who dreams of murdering her neighbour along with other visions of hedonistic pleasure. She wakes up only to find out that her nightmares have bled into reality.
5. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
David Lynch’s 1986 masterpiece contains elements from various genres ranging from neo-noir to horror. It unveils the hypocrisy of American suburbia, focusing on the duality of the superficial image of peace and the sexual depravity and violence that lurks underneath.
When it first came out, many – including Roger Ebert – wrote it off as a film that glorified sexual violence without serving any higher artistic purpose. As time has passed, it has only become clearer how incisive Lynch’s portrait of America truly is.
4. Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)
Andrzej Żuławski’s most famous work, Possession is among the most enigmatic entries on this list. Although it is deceptively structured as a thriller about an international spy’s insecurities triggered by his wife’s sexual betrayals, the film asks much more powerful questions.
It transcends human concerns by presenting the sexual union of a woman with a tentacled monster – a creature that is representative of all the anger, resentments, fears and frustrations triggered by the unhappiness of a marriage without love.
3. Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973)
Although animated horror films are often seen as less scary than their live-action counterparts, the medium becomes a subversive tool in the hands of Eiichi Yamamoto who constructs a surreal depiction of the trials and tribulations of a peasant woman.
It provides a strange aesthetic framework for sexual violence, subjugation and oppression which later transforms into the perfect tapestry upon which a saga of female liberation is played out. Exploring themes of revenge and witchcraft, Belladonna of Sadness is one of the greatest animated films ever made.
2. In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Ōshima, 1976)
A pioneering work from the Japanese New Wave, In the Realm of the Senses is a dramatised account of Sada Abe’s life. It tells the story of a former sex worker who works at a hotel and slowly descends into a dark world after being molested by a guest.
“I found, several years after directing my first films, that I was very attracted to these two topics, sex and crime,” Ōshima revealed. “Subsequently, my films have addressed them in a very analytic way. Today, I’m at a stage where I simply like to project the naked reality of sex and crime before the spectator’s eyes.”
1. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
The sexiest film David Cronenberg ever made, Crash is an unsettling film about a group of people who become addicted to the idea and the thrill of car crashes after narrowly escaping death the first time. They continue to seek a greater high, indulging in reckless behaviour.
Cronenberg imagines the automobile as the logical extension of the human body and conducts a psychological analysis of the depraved individuals whose sexual tendencies are characterised by an affinity for self-mutilation and destruction.