Aug 27, 2013

13 of the Weirdest Horror Movie Outfits You'll Ever See

Article By: Ben Raphael Sher

New York fashion week starts in a few days, and with it brings a horde of completely bizarre outfits that you can't picture anyone wearing. But odd ensembles are not relegated to the fashion world alone. Horror movies have had their share of fashion disasters. Here are thirteen that are to-be-seen-to-be-believed.


1. Theater of Blood (1973)

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Perhaps no single actor has worn as many insane outfits in horror movies as Vincent Price.  He can rock anything from the Red Death’s crimson robes to a nun’s habit.  However, his gay hippy hairdresser costume in Theater of Blood is arguably his wackiest.  Price plays Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart, a Shakespeare-obsessed actor out for revenge against the London theater critics who denied him a prominent award.  Edward dons his coiffeur ensemble in order to give one critic a hair-do of death by frying her alive with heated hair rollers, in a touching homage to Joan of Arc in Henry VI, Part I!



2. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

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Vincent Price certainly wears his share of weird outfits as the abominable doctor, while he’s drinking wine through a hole in his neck and breaking into random dances. (Side note: Vincent Price appears a lot on this list. Whether that's probably due to the sheer number of horror movies he's made, or just lots of really bad costume designers is unclear). However, the most insane (and glamorous) dresser in this movie is Dr. Phibes’ assistant Vulnavia, who wears an assortment of bizarre costumes throughout the film.  She wins the best-dressed award for this red and gold number with matching headpiece.  It is unclear whether Vulnavia is dressed as the sun, as a beautiful golden spider with 100 antennae coming out of her head, or as a rejected extra from a She-Ra storyboard.  Either way, it works. Second place goes to her cossack look, obviously inspired by Anne Baxter as Olga in Batman (pictured here with recurring theme Vincent Price). 

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Anyway, here is a beautiful tribute to the one and only VULNAVIA (cue sound of horses neighing).


3. The Mephisto Waltz (1971)

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In the 1960s and 1970s, if you wanted to find people wearing outfits that combined glamour with the totally bizarre, there were two places where you could never go wrong: Satanist ceremonies and parties thrown by members of Los Angeles’ high society.  The line separating these two groups barely exists, as proven by The Mephisto Waltz.  In an effort to establish himself as a sex symbol (seriously), Alan Alda plays a struggling pianist who gets involved with a bunch of elite Los Angeles devil worshipers.  They hope to use his body to store the soul of a great, dying maestro with a thing for ascots.  The dying man’s daughter, and lover, shows up at his fancy costume party wearing a diamond covered S & M mask and walking a giant dog with a human head.  The pianist wearing a black cloak, an ape mask, and a Santa Claus hat makes an even bolder choice.  Isaac Mizrahi, here’s inspiration for your new line.   


4. Society (1989)

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More Los Angeles lunacy.  If an average woman wore the white nightie pictured above, it would only appear slightly tacky.  However, when the model has a gigantic red perm, huge man-arms where her legs should be, and another woman's head attached to and emerging from the area between said arms, the foofy yet provocative night wear becomes completely insane.  The woman pictured is the mother of Society's protagonist, a handsome young jock who realizes that his parents, his sister, and all of their creepy, rich Beverly Hills friends like to participate in decadent orgies where they fuse body parts and eat the poor.  All of the subtextual themes of Revenge are brought, grossly, to the surface.

Warning: The below is NSFW, mostly because it involves a (clothed) orgy with aliens and is also disgusting.


5. The Unseen (1980)

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While covering a news story in Solvang, CA, a feminist television reporter watches her friends get murdered while she contemplates having an abortion.  In the film’s truly unforgettable climax, she goes into the basement of her creepy hotel and comes face to face with the manifestation of all of her anxieties: a gigantic, insane man wearing a filthy diaper and carrying a teddy bear, who wants to make love to her, or kill her, or both.  If there’s still anybody out there who thinks that horror movies aren’t politically relevant, show them this…




6. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

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Speaking of people who have trouble dressing their age, Bette Davis shocked the world with her portrayal of Baby Jane Hudson.  A former child star in the midst of a nervous breakdown, Jane tries to revive her old act by wearing the dresses and ringlets that she donned as a five years old.  Meanwhile, she tortures her paralyzed sister (Joan Crawford) by, for example, serving her dead pet bird and a giant rat for lunch (and also by making her look at the sixty-something Jane in a baby doll dress, but that's left unsaid)..  After watching the premiere of the film, Davis’ daughter told her, “Mother, this time you’ve gone too far.”


7. The Devil's Rejects (2005)

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In one of the rudest costume changes in film history, the Firefly clan (no strangers to eccentric fashion choices themselves), make one of their victims wear her dead husband’s face.  It is rumored that Rob Zombie loosely based this sequence on the emotional journey taken by Keri Russell after her infamous Felicity haircut. 


8. Vamp (1985)

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Legendary contemporary artist Keith Haring designed Grace Jones' jaw dropping body paint for Vamp, in which she plays one of many vampire strippers at an underground nightclub in New York.  It seems highly unlikely that such a collaboration would happen in a mainstream horror movie today.  Vamp came up with the notion of a vampire strip joint a decade before the somewhat more high profile From Dusk Til Dawn (not to mention True Blood), and some would argue that Vamp is more fun.  It's certainly more stylish. 


9. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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The Bride of Frankenstein’s caftan-bandages and electrocuted helmet hair look has become so iconic that one can easily forget its glorious insanity.  If there were any justice in the world, The Monster’s Bride (played to perfection by Elsa Lanchester) would have inspired as many rock star and hipster ensembles as Louise Brooks’ page-boy haircut donning femme fatale in Pandora’s Box (1929).  It’s not too late. 


10. Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

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Everyone knows that you'll usually see scantily clad women in a slasher movie.  However, only in a slasher movie about 1970s New York fashion culture would you see women wearing underwear and full-length fur coats fighting in front of a burning car at Columbus Circle.  Most people remember Eyes for its stunningly '70s fashion photography sequences.  However, as Laura Mars, Faye Dunaway wears some eccentric outfits of her own.  She runs from the killer in a hugely impractical assortment of giant capes and hats.  In one trying moment, she wears what appears to be a gigantic, brown plaid blanket as a shawl, a la Mary Magdalene.  In the 1970s, her looks might have seemed the height of glamour.  Now they appear…insane.  


11. Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

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A group of struggling models and their photographer come to a big, old castle in the middle of nowhere to shoot lurid covers for trashy paperbacks.  They find themselves entrapped by a muscle man played by Mickey Hargitay (Mr. Universe 1955 and former husband of Jayne Mansfield), who believes himself to be the reincarnation of a 17th century executioner.  In his big scene, he tears off his bathrobe to reveal the tightest red tights imaginable and covers his bare chest in oil.  A red mask completes the look.  He subjects his muses to all sorts of cheesily executed (har har) torture set pieces:  One girl is trapped in a gigantic spider web made of ropes, with a huge hungry spider!  However, none of the tortures he devises are as shocking as his outfit.


12. Altered States (1980)

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A narcissistic professor seeks to find The Truth by spending hours in a deprivation tank, and taking hallucinogenic mushrooms that he borrowed from a native tribe while doing fieldwork in Mexico.  On one of his trips, he sees himself as a Christ-like figure wearing the head of a six-eyed goat.  Well, it’s an improvement on the standard academic uniform of tweed and corduroy.




13. The Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)

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In 1977, James Earl Jones became associated with a costume that would become one of the great icons of 20th century popular culture.  He also dressed up like a giant locust in Exorcist II: The Heretic, in order to ward off the demon Pazuzu.  It’s best not to ask too many questions. 

What did we miss? What did you think? Speak out on our Facebook page or on Twitter!

Ben Raphael Sher is a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, where he also teaches.  His work has appeared in Fangoria, Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, and Back Stage. You can read more of his work here.

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