To the collective sadness of cinema lovers everywhere (including myself), yesterday Filmstruck announced that it will be shut down as of November 29th, 2018. What will become of the ability to stream many of its properties or Criterion films is yet to be seen. Hopefully some saving grace will come along to continue the streaming service, whose collection of world cinema, indie film, and classic offerings has been beyond impressive since its 2016 founding. In the meantime, we need to celebrate it as long as we have it.
For this Halloween, here are your top 10 Filmstruck must-sees.
1) Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (dir: Benjamin Christensen)
This documentary-style silent horror film explores superstition and its role in the witch hunts. A mixture of documentary footage and dramatized sequences, you’ve got to see it while you can–and Filmstruck’s got the goods.
2) Vampyr (dir: Carl Dreyer, 1932)
Based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly, Vampyr was Dreyer’s first sound film. Focused around an occult student haunted by supernatural forces, check out its poignant and atmospheric imagery!
3) The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (dir: Fritz Lang, 1933)
Fritz Lang is a cinematic master, and Doctor Mabuse is an iconic criminal mastermind whose manifesto/last will and testament starts to come eerily true in Berlin. Notably, Lang uses his antagonist to deliver lines reminiscent of Nazi ideas in their horrific totality. You won’t be sorry.
4) The Picture of Dorian Gray (dir: Albert Lewin, 1945)
Based on Oscar Wilde’s novel, this adaptation follows a young 19th-century aristocrat who somehow hides his increasingly hideous personage behind a beautiful exterior.
5) Hammer Horror Classics (at least three films, I’m cheating)
If you don’t turn to Filmstruck for anything else, these are an absolute must. Terence Fisher’s resurrection of classic horror characters was pivotal in reestablishing the horror genre. Watch The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, and The Mummy at the very least.
6) Carnival of Souls (dir: Herk Harvey, 1962)
A woman narrowly survives a racing accident, then finds herself face-to-face with a strange apparition that beckons her to a lakeside pavilion. A must-watch film that transcends its B-movie origins through its striking atmosphere.
7) Kwaidan (dir. Masaki Kobayashi, 1965)
This stylized collection of ghost stories has a haunting atmosphere, surreal sets, and excellent direction. A must see for fans of Japanese horror.
8) The Devils (dir: Ken Russell, 1971)
This controversial film, partly based on Huxley’s 1952 Devils of Loudun, dramatizes the rise and fall of Urbain Grandier, a 17th-century priest executed for witchcraft. Erotic, frightening, and strange, the sacrilegious, violent, and sexual content provoked an X rating in the UK and US and its banning in several countries. Watch it while it is streaming! (Though it has yet to stream in its original and uncut form in many countries).
9) Cronos (dir: Guillermo del Toro, 1993)
del Toro’s feature debut follows an antique dealer who finds an ancient device that grants him immortality–with a steep price. A haunting outing that showcases del Toro’s inimitable talent and a number of themes and elements that continue into many of his later outings.
10) Funny Games (dir: Michael Haneke, 1997)
Michael Haneke’s Funny Games is difficult to watch–focusing on two clean-cut but sadistic young men torturing an isolated family. Nonetheless, it is an engaging film that at times strongly interrogates the audience and their willingness to be spectators of on-screen cruelty. (The American remake, also directed by Haneke, is great as well, but I’d suggest starting with the original).
There are, of course, other excellent horror films than this on Filmstruck (and so, so many more fantastic films in other genres), but these are must-watch entries before Halloween, and while Filmstruck lasts.