Oneiric surrealist art house fantasy horror films
The Hourglass Sanatorium / Sanatorium pod Klepsydra (1973) is a mesmerising, hallucinatory Polish film directed by Wojciech Has, unfolding like a dream with a playful narrative and poetic contemplation on life, time, and feelings of déjà-vu. Once he enters the peculiar, decaying setting of the sanatorium to search for his father, the protagonist goes on a transformative journey through a chaotic mix of dreamscapes in a surreal world where dreams merge with memories and fantasies- a world that is inhabited by uncanny figures.
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders / Valerie a týden divu (1970) is a Czechoslovakian surrealist horror/ fantasy film directed by Jaromil Jireš. The sometimes ethereal and dreamlike, at other times uncanny and nightmarish whimsical fairy tale of death, religion, and lurid sexuality, subversively depicts the adventures of Valerie, a young girl passing through mesmerising, disorienting episodes featuring vampires, a particular frightening, demonic figure somewhat reminiscent of Nosferatu, priests, nuns, and perversions. The moments unfold like symbolic manifestations of the unconscious, the Freudian subtext being Valerie’s sexual awakening.
House / Hausu (1977), dir. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, is a Japanese lurid surreal comedy horror film characterised by a vivid colour palette, disorienting images, and supernatural events conveyed through peculiar editing and special effects. The atmosphere summoned up by a captivating mix of magical shots provides a wild cinematic experience, evoking dream states. Inspired by unconscious fears of a strange playful nature, featuring disembodied fingers playing a carnivorous piano, an antagonistic cat, and a mischievous flying, severed, biting head, the strange narrative follows a girl called Gorgeous and her classmates as they get caught up in chaotic phenomena inside the haunted house of the protagonist’s aunt. The line between fantasy and reality, as well as the one between the sinister and the playful become blurred.