Horror fans rejoice, spooky season is upon us! For the next month, whenever anyone suggests watching a movie, it’s completely appropriate to request your favorite nightmare-inducing classics. If they’re gonna make you watch Miracle on 34th Street every Christmas, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to make them watch Nightmare on Elm Street every Halloween.
For those looking to venture beyond the classics, we’ve pulled together a list of some of our favorite psychedelic horror films—mind-bending movies that transcend rational thought, drench you in mesmerizing color and sound, and imagine realms beyond our own.
Let’s get spook-edelic!
1. Suspiria (1977)
Suspiria is director Dario Argento’s magnum opus and a defining example of “giallo” cinema—a genre of Italian-produced films that combine mystery, suspense, and eroticism in an atmospheric powder keg.
Argento’s masterful use of highly saturated colors to illuminate the various nightmarish scenes in the film gives the whole movie a very surreal, psychedelic feeling, and the experimental and unrelenting soundtrack by Italian prog-rock group Goblin ties the whole experience together.
2. Beetlejuice (1988)
There’s a reason Beetlejuice has such broad appeal—what it lacks in scares, it makes up for in atmosphere and all-around good times.
After an unfortunate incident involving a wooden bridge and a small dog, Barbara and Adam Maitland wake up in their countryside home to a shocking discovery—they’re dead! As the Maitland’s navigate the afterlife, they encounter strange people and places along the way that feel like something straight out of your last psychedelic trip.
3. Evil Dead II (1987)
Evil Dead II is an absolute delight. Director Sam Raimi builds on the formula he established in Evil Dead, but now there’s more! More blood, more guts, more trippy visuals and frenetic camerawork. And this time, it’s funny too! The movie knows just when to break the tension, and utilizes Looney Tunes-style slapstick comedy masterfully. Unfortunately for the characters of Evil Dead II, they don’t possess Bugs Bunny’s ability to walk away from every incident without a scratch.
4. Annihilation (2018)
The slow burn of this list, Annihilation skips shocking scares, instead going for an ever-present sense of dread. Visually stunning, the film is filled with ethereal shimmering light, brightly coloured flowers in diverse shapes and sizes, and trees that look as if they’re made of glass—visuals that feel drawn directly from the canon of psychedelic imagery.
Not only are the visuals pretty trippy, the entire plot of Annihilation can be viewed as a metaphor for the transformative nature of a psychedelic experience—at least that’s one way to look at it.
5. Climax (2018)
Be forewarned, this is the most disturbing movie on this list by a significant margin. If you’re at all squeamish, maybe give this one a pass.
Those familiar with the work of director Gasper Noé will know—he makes some weird stuff. Climax is no exception. Filmed as a single continuous take, Climax follows a group of dancers who are partying together after a long day of rehearsal. After someone spikes the punch, the group collectively experiences the mother of all bad trips. Remember, people! Set and setting!
Featuring fantastic dance performances and a throbbing electronic soundtrack, Noé immerses you into what the dancers are going through, using bizarre lighting and intricate camera work to document the increasingly horrific goings on of a party gone seriously wrong. Climax, while not for the faint of heart, is a memorable experience for those willing to give it a go.