What are the best horror films to come out of Wales? Wales Arts Review is nominating ten chilling, thrilling movies, not just those set in the creepy hinterlands, or the wilds of the Welsh gothic, but those that carry with them something of the Welsh sensibility that made them. Here is a far from definitive list of films to check out, if you don’t already know them, this Halloween.
This 1960 movie was voted in 1994 19th in the 100 greatest Mexican movies of all time in Somos Magazine, and takes its grim storyline from the deranged pen of none other than Arthur Machen, Victorian Caerleon’s master of horror. There are few corners of the horror genre that Machen hasn’t influenced, but this is perhaps his most successful adaptation for screen.
The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)
Hollywood legend Ray Milland, born and bred in Neath, moved into the world of Roger Corman b-movies in the 1960s when his career took a dip. The result was a series of crass, cruel, and enormously fun chillers, the best of which saw Milland give a full-throttle mad scientist performance. Read more about the career of Milland here in Phil Morris’s article for Wales Arts Review.
The movie role that woke many people up to the talents of Anthony Hopkins and, more importantly, his dark side. It’s an incredible central performance, adding credibility to the character of Corky Withers who becomes psychotically attached to his ventriloquist dummy, Fats. Watching Hopkins spiral into a mental hell hole is one of the great, largely unsung, horror performances of that decade of classic horror cinema.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
A horror movie that never loses its power, and at the centre of the horror is the great Richard Burton, the agent of the most terrifying aspects of Room 101. For an in-depth long read on Burton’s work on the movie, read Martin Johnes’s piece here in Wales Arts Review.
The Witches (1990)
There may be plenty of debate about just how Welsh Roald Dahl was or considered himself to be, but there’s no denying the influence his Welsh schooling in Llandaff had on his creations in the utterly brilliant and horrifying children’s book, The Witches. And it’s well carried forward into Nicholas Roeg’s blockbuster. Once you’ve seen Angelica Houston’s witch, you cannot unsee her. You can read more about monsters in Roald Dahl’s work in this piece for Wales Arts Review by Samantha Velez.
The Cormorant (1993)
The film adaptation of Stephen Gregory’s endlessly unnerving horror novel may have its flaws, but it remains a deeply unsettling watch. A young Ralph Fiennes gives a solid performance as John Talbot who slowly becomes obsessed with the domineering, violent, bird of the title, and director Peter Markham is a master of atmosphere. You can read here a piece by Stephen Gregory, which marked the reissue of the novel earlier this year.
A Dark Song (2017)
Liam Galvin’s supernatural thriller does everything a horror should; it’s intense, claustrophobic, bloodthirsty, and has at its core a real emotional heart. You can read a full review here from Gary Raymond, who wrote “A Dark Song is a taught and sometimes truly gripping horror thriller with excellent central performances from Walker and Oram, put together by a director fully confident in the convictions of his project.”
Saint Maud (2020)
Morfydd Clark gives a masterful central performance as the titular would-be saint, driven to a psychological breakdown by her marginal existence in an eerie seaside town, not helped by growing obsession with the charismatic woman she is charged with caring for in her day job. A brilliant horror with an explosive ending, you can read the full Wales Arts Review take on it here from Rosie Couch.
A great horror movie, but also a movie about horror movies. Prano Bailey-Bond gets an eerily measured performance from Niamh Algar as the movie censor from whom the movie takes its title. Soon we are left wondering what is real, what is cinema, and what is happening in the mind of our protagonist. You can read Gary Raymond’s full review from earlier this year on Wales Arts Review here.
The Feast (2021)
Right up to date with this Snowdonia-based Welsh language horror that is just enjoying praise from showing at the London Film Festival; Wales Arts Review’s Nicola Ryan wrote in her review that Gweledd (The Feast) “is a slow burner not for the faint-hearted”, and what more could anyone ask for this Halloween? You can read Nicola’s full review here.