Fashion and horror: it’s a combination that never gets as much love as it deserves. Because truly, what’s better than a beautifully chic film all covered in bright red gore? So for those of you who enjoy a little style with your scares, here are six movies that celebrate both chills and frills in all the best ways.
Black Swan (2010)
Let’s start with the most recent entry on the list: the elegantly terrifying Black Swan. Released in 2010, this ballet body horror film (a genre that needs to be more fully explored, by the way) is beyond freaky and fashionable. Those gorgeous and fearsome tutus complete with sumptuous black feathers nearly steal the show from Oscar winner Natalie Portman, and the intricate eye makeup is drama to the max.
Needless to say, the look of Black Swan is one-of-a-kind and instantly recognizable, so if you haven’t seen the film—or just haven’t seen it in a while—then pirouette your way to your nearest streaming service, and enjoy its gory grace.
While not strictly a horror film, this quintessential 1966 thriller features a central murder mystery, plenty of intrigue and existential dread, as well as some possible supernatural goings-on, which means it most certainly enters the outer realms of the horror genre, even if it isn’t strictly canonical.
As for its style, that’s frankly undeniable: David Hemmings plays a brooding fashion photographer who takes plenty of pictures of glamourous models—and possibly also photographs a murder. Featuring Swinging Sixties icons Veruschka, Peggy Moffitt, and Jane Birkin, this strange and unsettling film is one for the fashion ages with a groovy soundtrack to match.
Mulholland Drive (2001)
To be honest, you could literally select any movie from David Lynch’s filmography, and you’ll be sure to find fashions both wonderful and strange. In fact, it’s quite a shame that Lynch’s films aren’t praised more often for their fabulous costume design; his regular collaborators including Amy Stofsky and Patricia Norris certainly deserve more credit than they ever get.
For now, let’s focus on Lynch’s 2001 masterpiece about the poisonous perils of Hollywood and the pursuit of stardom. From Laura Elena Harring’s smoldering femme fatale look and Naomi Watts’s girl-next-door ingenue ensembles to Melissa George’s sparkling pink gown as a would-be starlet and Rebekah Del Rio’s glorious wine-colored dress on one very surreal stage, you’ve got a collection of fantastic fashion that belongs at once in a film museum and on a rack at your nearest boutique. Creepy classics without a doubt.
Blood and Black Lace (1965)
A maestro of giallo cinema, Mario Bava’s films are not for the squeamish, and Blood and Black Lace is no exception. The gore is gratuitous, the plot is outlandish, and it all comes together with plenty of blood splatter and strange hijinks as a killer stalks the models at a fashion house in Rome.
However, one of my personal favorite things about Blood and Black Lace is that it gives you a taste of the behind-the-scenes lives of working models: the chaos of backstage, the melodrama of the performance, and the rigamarole that plagues every career, even one as ostensibly glamourous as fashion. Before the film’s all over, the action—and the violence—have started to veer away from the focus on fashion, but the first half of the film is beyond stylish, and it remains one of horror’s finest fashion collaborations
Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
This is among the most famous cinematic examples of supernatural horror and fashion, and for good reason. After all, with a cast that includes Oscar winners Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones, you know you’re in for a horrifying treat.
Adapted from a John Carpenter script, the eponymous fashion photographer Laura Mars finds herself suddenly gifted with the ability to see through the eyes of a serial killer. Soon, both she and her models are doing their best to flee the sharp end of his blade. With tons of on-screen photos that feature completely over-the-top violence (Burning cars! Models pulling each other’s hair! General mayhem!), there’s horror both in front of the camera and behind it. An absolute top-notch exploration of the worlds of fashion and horror, and one that is most definitely recommended.
The Sentinel (1977)
This is probably the least well-known film on this list, and honestly, that’s a shame, because this is one that every horror fan should see. Based on the 1974 book by Jeffrey Konvitz, this star-studded cast, which includes Christopher Walken, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Chris Sarandon, and Eli Wallach, follows a young fashion model named Alison (played by Cristina Raines), as she moves into a brownstone apartment which just might be a portal to hell. Among some very creepy and depraved imagery, there’s also a birthday party for a devil cat named Jezebel, and yes, the cat wears a hat for the celebration.
But for all its ambitions, the film never skimps on the fashion. With lots of photos and commercials featuring Alison as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry, this is a movie that knows how to be spooky and sartorial all in one. Also, look for a cameo from a young Jeff Goldblum as one of Alison’s fashion photographers. Truly, The Sentinel features every cool thing about the 1970s, so sashay toward your streaming queue and find this gem as soon as you can.