Flavorwire’s 50 Essential Horror Films, Part 4

As Halloween draws near, you’ll undoubtedly see dozens of lists analyzing the scariest, goriest, and even the funniest of horror films. Nostalgia surrounding the spooky holiday conjures a breathless excitement to seek and share the movies that toy with our deep-seated fears. If you’re new to the horror genre, we don’t want you to feel left out of the fun. We’ve created a list of 50 essential films that will educate and entertain you all month long. Each week, we’ll be counting down to number one and exploring a breadth of titles. Whether you’re looking for a creepy tale to watch on Halloween night, or you’re interested in honing your horror knowledge, check out the fourth installment in our must-see movies, below. Then, catch up with parts one, two, and three. Finish the countdown with the top ten.

20. Freaks

After he directed Dracula in 1931, Tod Browning developed a story for MGM that both studio and filmmaker hoped would top the horror of their fanged fiend. Browning did the unthinkable for the time. He cast real-life carnival and sideshow workers in his love triangle tale. Although it was based on Tod Robbins’ short story Spurs, Browning also drew from his own early experiences in a traveling circus. Instead of presenting the “freaks” as exotic oddities and exploiting their deformities, Browning revealed a deep sense of humanity and compassion, expressing each individual’s capacity for love and pain. The social commentary seems clear: the lines between what’s normal and abnormal are blurry, regardless of an attractive facade. Browning’s movie challenges the ways we define beauty and questions the aims of insular societies — including Hollywood. The film essentially ended his career and was banned in the UK for 30 years by the BBFC for its biting and “shocking” displays.