Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby.
I’m not much of a yuletide girl, and Easter is just okay, but Halloween speaks to me. It’s my high holiday. To be perfectly frank, October is a very indulgent month for me. The weather is moody and evocative, I feel compelled to maybe read Edgar Allen Poe and revive my teenage witch fantasies, and there’s of course the night of Halloween itself, the evening to culminate this month of macabre anticipation. I’ve never given anything but my absolute soul (and checking account) when committing to a costume for Halloween or otherwise. It’s a big night for me. So, in the spirit of my seasonal indulgence, I’ve concocted a list of my favorite Halloween/horror movies that will not only get you in the spirit of things but might also inspire a costume or two for those who are straggling along this year. But, at the very least, even if you don’t pull a costume from this list it is, by and large, a repository of inspired fashion on film. Because it’s the clothes that make the movie and we all know it.
The Craft (1996)
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time on Tumblr or Pinterest you will know that this is the one the girls love. The 90s are alive and well on the internet but this obsession I can get behind. Plaid skirts, chokers, kohl eyeliner, clunky boots scream goth Catholic school girl. The Craft is your typical 90s high school fanfare taking a walk on the dark side. Clueless at an occult shop and Cher and Dionne are members of a sadistic coven.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
This one is more Halloween than horror but for a children’s movie it has some pretty sinister elements. The Sanderson sisters of colonial Salem, Massachusetts are tried and hanged for witchcraft and brought back to life in 90s present-day New England. Bette Midler plays Winnie, the ultra-macabre ringleader of the sisters, though I’m partial to Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Sarah. The youngest and prettiest witch, ditzy and child-like, luring children in with her siren song. Its a rare occasion to see SJP with platinum blonde hair but I personally think she should have never looked back. The Rapunzel style hair goes with the witchy apparel of fitted bodices, long cobweb-y sleeves and full skirts all in various shades of blood red. Very Renaissance Fair if you can get into that.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
This beautiful piece by Werner Herzog is worth watching for the cinematography alone, but even more so for Isabelle Adjani. In Herzog’s imagining of the classic Dracula tale, Isabelle Adjani plays the bereaved yet cunning Lucy Harker, the object of Dracula’s desire. Dark rimmed eyes, translucent white skin and dark hair that hangs well beyond her shoulders, she’s a picture of Victorian beauty (that picture being of a woman suffering of consumption). She floats around the 19th century German town primarily in white, ethereal ensembles and long, black cloaks.
Dressed to Kill (1980)
The title kind of gives this one away, at least for the purpose of this list. Brian de Palma’s Hitchcock homage, Dress to Kill is a psycho-sexual thriller about a chic Manhattan psychiatrist (played by Michael Kane) who’s found himself in the middle of a murder mystery after one of his patients (Angie Dickinson) was stalked and attacked by a woman with his stolen razor blade. Liz, a high class hooker played by Nancy Allen, witnesses the murder and becomes implicated as the the killer’s next potential victim. The plot moves in a kind of weird, predictable direction but what I love about Dressed to Kill is the way the costuming marks that odd moment of transition from 70s disco era styling which you see in the character of Liz into that sleek, Donna Karen-eqsue businesswoman minimalism of the 80s which you get with Angie Dickinson’s character. Its by no means my favorite on the list but its a classic and worth seeing for the overall stylistic elements.
Eyes Without a Face (1959)
Set in the outskirts of Paris, this black and white French horror film is a perfectly eerie tale of a young girl named Christiane, once beautiful, whose face became horribly disfigured in an accident. Her father, a doctor, seeking to rectify his daughter’s disfigurement, takes to kidnapping young Parisian girls, transplanting their faces onto Christiane in hopes of restoring her beauty. Christiane traipses around her father’s mansion in a mask, a shell of her lost identity, occupying this surreal world of disturbing beauty. Not allowed to leave her home, she spends her time floating about the grandiose mansion in sweeping, floor length house coats with dramatic, crisp collars framing the mask’s pristine visage. Eyes Without a Face makes for a visually resplendent yet unsettling watch.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
This movie belongs on all of my top movie lists for its costuming alone, aside from being one of my favorite films horror or otherwise. If you’ve read the original book by Ira Levin, you’ll notice that his vision of the costumes and set were recreated almost exactly in the movie. Rosemary Woodhouse is an atypical horror film heroine in the agency she possesses but, unfortunately, she becomes impregnated with the spawn of the devil through her husband’s involvement with a satanic cult. The clothes, however, are the epitome of swinging 60s mod before it became too hippy dippy. She’s a vision of Mary Quant simplicity—clean cut, short hemlines, baby doll shapes and colors, Mary Jane flats, a few well chosen accessories and the quintessential blonde pixie cut. This movie is both chilling and a delight in equal measure, plus Ruth Gordon as Rosemary’s obnoxious neighbor takes the cake for horror film villains.