Top 10 Horror Movie Fairytales!

Say, how many of you have already punched your ticket to GRETEL & HANSEL, opening in most theaters today? Oz Perkins is a fine director, but who knows how much terror he'll conjure from a well-worn fable made into a PG-13 horror outing. We shall see. In the meantime, why not redirect our attention to horror movies of a similar stripe. That's right y'all, we're talking about dark horror movie fairytales, of which there have been just as many poor examples as genuinely terrifying ones over the years. Of course, we're focused on the latter. From Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Red Riding Hood and more, here are our Top 10 Favorite Horror Movie Fairytales!


Sigourney Weaver and Sam Neill lend A-list gravitas to the darkly twisted take on the Grimm Brothers' SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR, directed by Michael Cohn. Set during the Crusades, the story follows Lillian (Monica Keena), a young woman who does not get along with her wicked step-mother, Claudia (Weaver). Drunk with power, Claudia obsesses over a magic mirror that grants her dominion over every living thing...until they die. When she fails to murder Lilli, the young gal is forced to traverse the ominous woods, where she stumbles upon a septet of gold miners. Eerily eldritch and unforgettably odd!


Speaking of unforgettable, anyone who's laid eyes on VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS isn't soon to erase such stark and arresting imagery from their spoiled retinas anytime soon. Sheesh! The 1970 Czech film from director Jaromil Jires fuses several classic fairytales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood to tell the story of Valerie, a 13-year-old in the 1800s who suffers a loss of innocence at every turn. Perverse violence, sexual awakening, and escalating surrealism punctuate a movie that grows weirder by the moment, culminating in a bizarre vampiric showdown between Valerie and her cohorts.


DEADTIME STORIES is the highly underrated 1986 horror-anthology that adapts three classic children's fables and fairytales to scare the ever-loving piss out of people. The wraparound narrative finds a macabre babysitting uncle intent on frightening his nagging nephew by dishing alternative takes on such fabled tales as Goldi Lox and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, and another called Peter and the Witches. Each tale is studded with scathing dark-humor and mortifying FX work sure to unnerve even the most hardened of horror fanatics. The cheeky winking and nodding and cheesy tableau make this more fun than you'd imagine.


The great genre-vet Karen Black headlines the strangely seductive and severely sinister 1990 fairytale adaptation MIRROR MIRROR, directed by Marina Sargenti. Using SNOW WHITE as an obvious jumping-off point, the flick bizarrely recalibrates the story of a teenage girl who begins to undergo a transformation when faced with a black-magic mirror. As the mirror drips blood that feeds Megan (Rainbow Harvest) a kind of malefic power, the girl's bullying enemies begin suffering horrific "accidents." Whether a metaphor for one's inner-demons or a literal representation of such, MIRROR MIRROR succeeds in subverting an age-old children's tale for a new audience.


Underrated as it remains, TALE OF TALES is one of the best movies I've had the fortune to review here at AITH. Part of the reason it remains both is how indescribable it is, and how it defies genre in ways we've never seen before. As transcendent a mash-up as we've seen, the movie uses a grand scale and scope to loosely adapt the Pentamerone, a collection of 17th-century fairytales written by Italian poet Giambattista Basile. Matteo Garrone directs an international cast that includes Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassell, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly and more. Wildly unique, visually stunning, and truly unlike anything we've witnessed heretofore.


Red Riding Hood seems to be the most fecund horror movie adaptation of all childhood fairytales. We can certainly give a shout out to HARD CANDY for tilling familiar territory, as we will Neil Jordan in the moments to come. But come on, where would our credibility be had we omitted the Italian splatter maestro Dario Argento and his seminal subversion of the fertile fairytale in SUSPIRIA? Nonexistent! And so, we happily defer to Argento's nightmarishly nasty and neon-dipped freakshow that combines the classic Grimm fable with a witchy subplot and unparalleled visual splendor. The hypnotic surrealism feels like a fairytale; a slightly altered reality where the laws of nature feel just a bit off.


Inspired by the famed Korean fairytale "Janghwa Heungryeonjeon," superb director Jee-woon Kim outdid his contemporaries with the hyper-violent and stylistically-striking A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. See this movie if you have not! The plot concerns two female siblings who, upon returning home from an insane asylum, begin to squabble with their abusive and insane stepmother. Along the way, a ghostly presence arrives and begins to mediate the unstable relationship from both sides. As caliginous family secrets come to light, a whirlwind of abject carnage and inexplicable mayhem ensues. One of the best films from one of the world's preeminent filmmakers!


Speaking of worldwide talent, we all knew Guillermo del Toro's global hit film PAN'S LABYRINTH was bound to make an appearance somewhere on this list. As it sits, it'll have to settle for the bronze medal. The thing is, almost all of del Toro's movies have a fairytale quality about them. They're all dreamy, offbeat, slightly defiant of physical gravity, and retain a sort of innocent childlike sensibility. For PAN'S LABYRINTH, del Toro fashioned his own branded fairytale by conjuring and cobbling together a series of inspirational launch-points and creating something altogether unique.


As alluded to above, Neil Jordan's THE COMPANY OF WOLVES is the dreariest, deadliest, and most definitive horrific adaptation of the Grimm's Red Riding Hood. The reason why? More than anything, Jordan's pitch-perfect portrayal of the piece is achieved by striking the accurate tone, tenor and tableau of a fairytale in ways that are still unrivaled. The movie transcends realism and becomes something else entirely, a somnolent and scary figment of one's sordid imagination. Amid the menacing marvels is a maddening metaphor for a young female's rite of passage into womanhood. But again, it's the enrapturing dazzle of the visual design that captures our hearts and minds!


Earning the gold-medal as our favorite horror film fairytale adaptation is BLACK SWAN, Darren Aronofsky's vertiginous and meta-morphosizing meditation on the internal struggle between inner and outer beauty. Notice the hyphen emphasizing the meta! Indeed, what separates BLACK SWAN from the pact is how, in addition to the surehanded direction and Oscar-winning central turn from Natalie Portman, is the meta-ness of the overall piece. Sure, Nina is vying to play the Swan Queen in the newest production of Swan Lake. However, as the movie progresses, it becomes clear we are witnessing the exact same story, on the literal level, as Nina slowly becomes the Black Swan in reality. With a crescendo-like build-up to the one final cathartic reveal, BLACK SWAN is both terrifying and triumphant at once!



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