Today’s launch of FEARnet original series Mari-Kari got us thinking about the best animated horror films. Here’s a countdown of ten of our favorites.
The first fully animated film was Fantasmagorie (1908), by French cartoonist / animator Émile Cohl. The title is a reference to traveling horror shows - "Phantasmagoria" presentations - that once criss-crossed Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. In these crude but popular horror shows, ghosts, skeletons, and other spooky imagery descended upon the audience by way of projection devices while swirling smoke and scary shadows added to the nightmare experience. Horror / fantasy was in the blood of animated movies, right from their conception.
We've come a long way since Cohl's Fantasmagorie, and horror fans still have a place in their evil hearts for animated terrors. So which animated flicks get horror fans' pulses pounding today? See below for a cross section of Ten Animated Horrors That Are Killer!
Vampire Hunter D
Set in the far future, this moody, blood-soaked anime is based on the series of novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi. After a leggy, whip-wielding girl named Doris is attacked and bitten by Count Magnus Lee, a 10,000 year old vampire, she hires a wandering hunter named D to protect her. Out of sheer boredom, Lee plots to capture Doris and force her to marry him. As Lee's minions attack, and are each, in turn, violently torn apart by D, matters are complicated by Lee's daughter Ramika, his mutant servant Rei Ginsei, and the town mayor's son Greco. In one bizarre moment, after D is felled by a wooden stake, his hand manages to revive him by eating dirt!
Yoshiaki Kawajiri (director of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and the episode “Program” from The Animatrix) has conjured a devilish tale with Wicked City, a mix of H.P. Lovecraft and uber-violent detective thrillers. Two members of an elite force that guards the Earth from intrusions from the other-dimensional Dark World must protect a man who will negotiate peace between the two realms. When evil agents from the Dark World threaten this fragile peace, the audience is treated to a violent buffet of intense action sequences, gruesome bloodshed, and perverse sexuality; a reminder of why Japanese animation kicks so much ass!
When a young pop star decides to leave her successful all-girl performing group to pursue her dream as an actress, she quickly falls down a slippery slope of murder, lost innocence, internet stalkers, and doppelgangers in this sophisticated adult horror thriller from Satoshi Kon (Paprika). Serving up a haunting score, a smartly written screenplay, and copious amounts of shocking gore, Perfect Blue is ideal viewing for horror enthusiasts looking for a gruesome animated mindfuck.
Fear(s) Of The Dark (Peur(s) du noir)
In this stunning visual feast from France, six graphic artists were enlisted to deliver tales of the grotesque and the macabre. Each story employs a different black-and-white animation technique, yet the film is a seamless demented tapestry of fear: both tangible and suggestive. A one-of-a-kind patchwork of sinister images, haunting soundscapes, and existential musings on terror in its many forms, Fear(s) Of The Dark is a beautiful work of art that’s definitely best viewed with the lights out!
Based on stories from Heavy Metal magazine, as well as original stories in the same vein, this collection of twisted tales features blood and boobs galore. Each story revolves around the Loc-Nar - a glowing green sphere that refers to itself as "the sum of all evils" - and its destructive influence on various individuals and civilizations. The Loc-Nar causes people to disintegrate, morph into ill-tempered mutants, and even rise from the dead. In one stand-out installment, set during World War II, the gunned down crew of a B-17 bomber turn into zombies and attack the pilot and co-pilot. As if fighting a war wasn't trouble enough!
City Of Rott
Frank Sudol takes his love of zombie flicks to a whole new level with City Of Rott. Conceived and produced entirely by Sudol himself, the film tells the classic story of Fred, an old man venturing out into a city overrun by the living dead on a quest for a new pair of shoes. Well, perhaps the story isn’t all that conventional and thankfully neither is the execution. Armed with his trusty walker, with whom he has frequent conversations with, Fred dishes out his bloody wrath against the seemingly endless zombie horde with enough crushed heads and decapitations to satiate any gore fan. Zombie enthusiasts will definitely rejoice in the relentless amount of bloodshed and gut-munching on display here.
One-man show Frank Sudol (City Of Rott) returns with another brutal slice of horror animation. This time he sets aside his zombie film influences to create a parody of such films as The Evil Dead and The Hills Have Eyes, with equally delightful and demented results. A group of hunters cross paths with a demonically-possessed hiker and soon no one is safe as members of the hunting party start becoming possessed themselves. Anyone who saw City Of Rott should know what to expect next as every type of weapon imaginable is employed to eviscerate the demonic threat. A go-for-the-throat, gruesome splatterfest from beginning to end, horror fans should definitely put this one on their viewing list!
Resident Evil: Degeneration
Watching this entertaining slice of animation is essentially like watching a feature length cinematic from one of the Resident Evil games. And it's awesome to see Leon and Claire back together again! The story is set after Resident Evil 4, so the Umbrella Corp has been disbanded and a new company, WilPharma, has the T-Virus. Standout sequences include a plane that has infected onboard that crashes into the airport. The visual style of Resident Evil: Degeneration is exactly the same as the games, so it is 100% CGI, most of it quite beautiful. Characters were primarily mined from the games, but a few new characters are introduced in this movie who provide a fresh shade of red to the familiar blood.
Dead Space: Downfall
The animation style of Dead Space: Downfall conjures memories of the Aeon Flux anime, or the old cartoon Exo-Squad. You know this cartoon ain't appropriate for the kiddies when the characters start dropping F-bombs left and right. The story is a prelude to the first Dead Space game, the movie ending pretty much right where the game starts off. The film features a nicely developed set of characters, and intriguing plotlines peppered with everything from intelligent social commentary to high-tension drama. If you prefer your animation splattered with gore, you've come to the right place. Brains explode, eyeballs go flying across the room, people are ripped apart, and guts spill out of torsos to the deviant pleasure of the viewer. There’s something about watching a cartoon character cuss like a sailor while dismembering someone with a laser saw that brings a smile to my face!
The Haunted World of El Superbeasto
Better known for his Halloween remakes and his two films of the Firefly family, Rob Zombie directs the delightfully raunchy and dizzyingly boisterous The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. It's the adventures of El Superbeasto (a Mexican wrestler) his naughty sister Suzi-X, their nemesis Dr. Satan, and his bride-to-be, potty-mouth stripper Velvet Von Black. This tour de force of super-trashy, high-energy cartoon virtuosity was released in 2009 after much delay (it was originally slated for a 2007 release) and some consider it Mr. Zombie's best cinematic work. Unrestrained, not-givin'-a-fuck, in-yer-face horror / comedy animation may be terrain Rob Zombie should revisit in the future.
Check out the new FEARnet original series Mari-Kari starring Shannen Doherty.