images via Alamy

7 of the best erotic horror movies

Looking for a mix of sweat, skin and sheer terror? Add these throwback movies to your watchlist.

by Douglas Greenwood
15 October 2021, 7:45am

images via Alamy

The only thing more terrifying than the threat of death is the weird lure that lust has on you. Often, the two can caustically co-exist in cinema, with movies in this ilk known, most commonly, as erotic horrors.

Quite where the genre originated is hard to pinpoint, but you’ll find flecks of it throughout fiction’s history. Even as far back as the 1800s — when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and Bram Stoker wrote Dracula — you’ll find examples of relationships between murderous monsters and their homo sapien counterparts charged with a strangely affectionate energy, often tipping into the sexual. It seems to make sense that, just as sex can feel close to the heady heights of the human experience, it harbours the potential to sit parallel with our eventual demise.

The 20th century was crammed with stories that offset horror’s biggest fears with a carnal edge. From the high art, to the moody adaptations, to the kitsch slashers, these are the seven best vintage erotic horror movies you should seek out this Halloween.

1. The Hunger (1983)

Nothing screams bisexual energy more than David Bowie playing a vampire husband to a vampire wife, played by French gay icon Catherine Deneuve, in a movie that puts them in a throuple with Susan Sarandon. The Hunger is set in New York. Miriam (Deneuve) is a lethal and gorgeous vampire praying on unsuspecting club-goers for blood. But her lifestyle goes awry when she notices her vampire husband (played by Bowie) is ageing faster than he should, which he shouldn’t, because he’s a vampire. Cue Susan Sarandon arriving as a doctor who saves the day, falling in love with the duo in the process. When it first premiered, critics praised it for its visual world-building but took umbrage with its lack of real plot development. Years on, and the goths of the world have reclaimed it as a cult classic. They really are society’s greatest.

2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

After directing some of the greatest movies ever made in The Godfather and its sequels, Francis Ford Coppola decided to switch things up by adapting some more fantastical source material. His version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula — starring Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins — takes much of the sexual coding of the original 1897 horror novel and blows it up into an erotic tale of romantic redemption, full of neck-biting horror and tantalising love scenes. Come for the promise of a frightening vampire story, stay for a film about how lust can lead to the most volatile and deadly of situations.

3. Nekromantik (1987)

Is there any greater cosign for a fucked up horror film than being banned in several countries? This movie, which is unavailable in Iceland, Malaysia, Singapore and parts of Canada, takes the concepts of infidelity and mortality and places them in close proximity to each other. Shot in West Germany, it tells the story of Rob, a man who works for a crime scene clean-up company who also, alongside his partner Betty, has a necrophilia kink. After discovering the rotting body of a lonely gardener, Rob brings it home for Betty, but soon finds that she loves the corpse more than she does him.

4. A Night to Dismember (1983)

This movie is more of your old-fashioned 80s slasher than a straight up erotic horror, but earns a spot on this list due to the talent involved. Doris Wishman, the movie’s director, started out making films about nudism before veering into sexploitation flicks and ultimately making porn through the 70s and 80s. Following the slasher craze, she then made A Night to Dismember, about a woman who checks out of a mental facility, only to find that the curse bestowed upon her through her family bloodline is still very much present, thus leading her to start a violent rage across the town, dismembering folks. The film’s protagonist Vicki is played by the late Samantha Fox, then known best for her work as a porn star, and who used this as a jumping off point into making mainstream cinema.

5. Hellraiser (1987)

Widely considered the best British horror film ever made and based on a novella released the year prior, written by the film’s director Clive Barker, this movie about the summoning of a group of sadomasochistic beings from the underworld is a disturbing, horny classic. It goes like this: a sex-obsessed man toys with a puzzle box that promises to open a new plane of pleasure, leading to his demise and eventual reincarnation as a blob of diabolical goo. His former lover (who is also his sister-in-law and has been longing for his touch again) finds him and starts gathering men as sacrifices, so he can return to his original form and escape the demonic Cenobites who dragged him to hell in the first place. The sexual subtext here is obvious, and just look at the film’s iconic character Pinhead — basically a man zipped up in a BDSM leather mask.

6. Les Diaboliques (1955)

Nothing is more chic than two women coming together to triumph over trash men. It's a sentiment that seeps through cinema’s history, but one of the most notable examples of it is the erotically charged French masterwork Les Diaboliques. Set in Paris, a violent, unlikeable headmaster meets the reckoning of his overlooked wife and powerful mistress on the side, as they come together to plot a plan to kill him. But that kinship between the headmaster’s wife and mistress is the most interesting thing about this unsettling erotic horror, because it tips over into a subtly sapphic love story too.

7. Cat People (1982)

David Bowie can’t stay away from horny horror. Here, he lends his voice to a score composed by dance legend Giorgio Moroder for the 1982 movie Cat People. This Paul Schrader film (that’s the guy who made Taxi Driver) is an adaptation of a film from the 40s, following a similar plot only in a more intense and stylised manner. Nastassja Kinski plays Irena Gallier, a young woman who arrives in New Orleans to spend time with her brother. There, she finds herself drawn to a zoologist, who she falls for, unaware that she harbours a dark family secret that only rears its head when she’s aroused: her ability to become a violent and powerful panther.

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