the movies genre of fantasy horror is an interesting mix. Fans of either can be either equally repulsed or attracted by it, as it can include the best or worst of either type of story. Not everyone likes fantasy with an edge and some prefer their horror without creative pretensions.
Fantasy crosses into horror when the fairies, elves, or friendly fuzzy animals become terrifying, and the stakes are higher than just clicking your heels together. Horror becomes part fantasy when the plot incorporates occult characters like ghosts or fantastic beasts like dragons. It’s not a combination that always works, but it’s stellar when it does. For those that have access to HBO Max, here are a few examples currently available on the streaming service.
7 Beetlejuice (1998)
In an interview with MTV in 2014, Michael Keaton revealed that he and director Tim Burton were talking about a sequel to this classic, and with the 25th anniversary coming up it might happen. It was made at the peak of Burton’s career when his dark designs were all over Hollywood, and the sets, costumes, and makeup are equally beautiful and horrific.
The movie plays with perspective and camera angles a lot to create a certain idea of space and time, along with immersing the viewer in this weird tale of hunting and death, and it looks great. Other movies in this genre might look too dark or monochrome, but this one draws this eye instead. Keaton is amazing as the lead, and it lead to his role of him in Batman a few years later.
6 Hellboy (2004)
One of the few examples of a comic book adaptation that was beloved by both fans and critics, it was the direction of Gullermo del Toro and the perfect casting of Ron Perlman as Hellboy that made this such a success. There’s a nice romantic twist
Del Toro’s style could be compared to directors like Tim Burton that also like their plasticine figures and busy sets filled with detailed miniatures. hell boy also overlaps all of this into the realms of science fiction, occult, and even historical drama, but overall it’s a horror fantasy. The end also has a nice twist in which the monster gets the girl in the end.
5 Constantin (2005)
Another comic book adaptation, and a DC one, and although critics didn’t like it the fans seemed to disagree. This one is ideal for horror fans that like some real-world mythology mixed with their horror, as Constantine is a superhero who fights demons and has to dodge angels, sorcerers, and even Satan himself.
Constantine is more like a horror movie than a fantasy, but there are a lot of old superstitions and Biblical monsters included in the plot. Examples include the opening scene that includes trapping a demon inside a mirror, and later on, when Constantine needs to make a quick trip to Hell, he puts his feet in a bucket of water and looks into the eyes of a cat. It doesn’t get more fantastic than that.
4 Gremlin’s (1984)
gremlins it was a smash hit when it was released because there was no other movie quite like it. It was horror, with plenty of gore and goo to disgust and horrify the audience, but it also had these cute little muppet-like critters, some weird story about an ancient curse, and even a few laughs.
Part of the appeal of gremlins is the seasonal angle, as this is both a nightmarish and hilarious version of the “holiday gift gone wrong” trope. The popularity spawned a sequel six years later, but without that 1980s camp, it just wasn’t the same.
3 Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
Little Shop Of Horrors starts by focusing on how ugly people can be before moving on to the actual monsters. It’s based on an off-Broadway musical, and the soundtrack was an even bigger hit than the movie. For those keen on this niche, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is also playing on HBO Max, but that’s pure horror without the fantasy element.
Seymour, played by 1980s icon Rick Moranis, is the soft-spoken nerd that everyone pushes around, and he just wants to live in peace and grow his plants. Everyone bullies him, including one special plant he names after his local neighborhood crush, Audrey. The alternative ending to this movie features the alien plants taking over the planet, and the terrifying scene was soundly rejected by test audiences and had to be changed.
two From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Given the nature of vampires, any movie that includes them is going to have some element of fantasy. Despite the visceral horror brought on by the very deadly armed robbers and the nest of vampires they stumble into, this still has director Quentin Tarantino’s crass humor along with all of the unapologetic gore that has also made him famous.
The opening scene tricks the viewer into thinking this is another action shoot ’em up à la Tarantino, complete with a bloody robbery and hostages, but things go awry on the way to Mexico. The bar they decide to take refuge in happens to be infested with the undead, and they have to survive for the night before making a break for it.
1 47 Ronin (2013)
This version of this story, which stars Keanu Reeves as one of the dishonored samurai, includes some of the mythological elements of ancient Japan. One of the antagonists is a witch that can take the form of a fox. Monsters that look like they could have walked out of a Studio Ghibli film and become real, and that’s a terrifying prospect.
47 ronin is based on a true story of medieval Japan, so obviously, the fantasy and horror elements are part of a modern interpretation of an old legend. For those interested in an account that relies more on historical facts, the two-part 1941 Japanese adaptation, The 47 Ronin, is also available on HBO Max.
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