Anti_cgi: 10 Films for Halloween

The internet is the mouth of madness. Social media is a portal to hell—jarring sounds, smooth identical faces that transfigure to suit the mores of the day, demonic dancing, and salad recipes that make you want to end it. The very word “content” elicits a shudder, the idea of a “content creator” akin to a contemporary snake oil salesman. Artist and curator Aramis Gutierrez creates a levee in this proverbial flood, a stake driven into the heart of something evil and vampiric. His Instagram page @anti_cgi, is a haven for images on the web, a museum of thoughtfully selected scenes from mostly 70s & 80s horror movies. With a special focus on practical effects, Gutierrez showcases the magical worlds made possible by prosthetics, animatronics, and set design. Films made before the invention of CGI show how far human creativity can go with limited means; practical, hands-on solutions that succeed in suspending our disbelief.  Miami-based Gutierrez is generous in sharing his cinematic knowledge, a body of research that also informs his hyperrealistic painting practice. In celebration of Halloween, we are lucky to present Gutierrez’s top 10 horror movies. – Claire Milbrath

#1.  Tie: Alien, 1979 / The Thing, 1982  

If Alien is the Michelangelo of body horror movies, then The Thing is the Raphael. Both films tell a tale of the alternate family unit otherwise known as our co-workers, the people we spend most of our waking hours with, who we love in our shared co-misery, being excruciatingly preyed upon by the other. Both films have held up over the years and remain at the pinnacle of fear on film.  

The Thing, 1982  

#2. The Killing Fields, 1984

This biographical drama about the falling of Cambodia to the brutal Khmer Rouge is in hindsight to actual events a truly chilling spectacle. Listening to Mike Oldfield’s electronic gamelan score, synching to the evacuation helicopters rotors, announces one of the most nerve-rackingly scary build-ups, perhaps in cinema history. 

#3. The Exorcist, 1973 

The key to making the horrifically supernatural suspend disbelief is to ground it in the truly familiar. In this case, the familiar is the breakdown of the atomic family and to this day no other film has done it more successfully than William Friedkin’s film. I’ve always felt the scariest parts of The Exorcist are the subliminal flashes of the ghoulish yet human face of Pazuzu.

Threads, 1984

Testament, 1983

#4. Tie: Threads, 1984 / Testament, 1983

There is just something about 80s nuclear war films that scare the crap out of me. Both of these films, though entirely different in their approach, portray some of the most realistic daily details of what to expect post-bomb: from rivers of blood, dirt and charred flesh on the floor at an overrun hospital to the deadly effects of radioactive fallout on children. The fear these films provide is far more insidious and lingering than mere jump scares.

#5. The Vanishing, 1988

This film offers a uniquely existential perspective on serial killers, one that deals with loss, uncertainty, motive and cautionary obsession. Told from the point of view of a tourist whose girlfriend goes missing at a highway plaza who, years later, is approached by the man who claims to have abducted her. The film is a chilling window into the banality of everyday evil.    

#6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974

A visionary film of terror, violence, gore, fear and screaming. A friend of mine wanted to introduce this film to his wife who had never seen it. He nodded off during the screening, as he was a horror movie veteran and had seen it a million times, only to wake up as the credits rolled to find his wife sobbing at the edge of the couch. I will leave it at that. 

#7. The Entity, 1982

If you had asked me when I was a kid what the scariest ghost movie is, I probably would have said Poltergeist. Nope. This film portrays a single mother and her kids living in suburbia. One night she is raped by an unseen assailant. As the film evolves, her family, friends, and help network are drawn into the whirlwind of inexplicable assaults. True nightmare fuel.

#8. Eyes of Fire, 1983

In the dark of night, sitting around a campfire, a father explains to his daughter that some view evil as a part of nature, as natural as a tree or a rabbit. He then explains that the feather covered tree they encountered on their way into the valley the Shawnee chased them into is a warning, marking where innocent blood gathers into a living breathing entity—a devil. Like cold eyes in a hot fire. If you believe that sort of thing.  

#9. 1984, 1984

Coming across this dystopian vision of the totalitarian super state as a child marked the end of youth without depressions as I knew it. At the center of the hopeless dreariness of Oceania’s factories and slum cubicles is the specter of Room 101: a basement torture chamber where any dissident is sent to face the thing they fear most, for reductional purposes of course.

#10. The Baby, 1973

What if you never grew up. You just remained an infant as your body developed into maturity and you lived cared for, coddled and smothered by your mother and sisters. As you age you feel things that adults feel, like sexual desire, but are prohibited from experiencing things because, after all, you’re just a baby. This film is supposed to be a comedy when it’s not tapping into your subconscious fears of passivity.