Horror movies, as a genre, are uniquely preoccupied with aesthetics. They’ve birthed or popularized phantasmagoric double exposures, the use 50+ different camera angles (Psycho used 78), even the first big leap of Steadicam faith. The classics often redefined what a set could be: warped Expressionist landscapes, saturated color stories that elevated the film’s surreality (Suspiria, The Shining), ancestral castles cast in unnatural modern lighting.
And then there’s the fashion. The genre’s obsessive reliance on appearance to sharpen the world of a film naturally extends to costume. That horror films often veer into camp and back only makes its fits more unforgettable. The freedom that comes with disregarding reality lends itself well to the characters who inhabit this canon. As the greatest jump scare of them all — Halloween is this weekend and you definitely don’t have a costume — it felt appropriate to send up the most stylish scary movies.
1987 — Hellraiser
Unlike a lot of the films on this list, Hellraiser is known not for its lighting, or its sets, or its intrinsic cinematic value, but for Pinhead, shown above. The iconic Cenobite’s looks reflect his sadomasochism, penchant for body modification, and flair for the dramatic. Even without seeing the film you’d recognize his head (it’s covered in pins), but look closer and you’ll clock his floor-length leather dress (Neo wishes), bleached eyebrows, and a pale blue smoky eye.
Blood and Black Lace (1964), The Birds (1963), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Hunger (1983), Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), It Follows (2014), Possession (1981), not purely horror but — Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970), we LOVE a habit: Ms. 45 (1981), Nosferatu (1922).