Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Top 10 Horror Movies

Horror movies are one of my favorite genres, so a lot of debate went into my list; it also explains why my Honorable Mentions are extensive. While I wanted to throw Alien on there I didn't want to repeat titles my other lists either. Again, these are my personal choices.

10. 28 Days Later - Prior to this movie, I considered zombies slow, shambling monsters that could only do harm when they gathered in large groups. While the infected aren't the undead, 28 Days Later changed the formula, and other filmmakers borrowed it (Dawn of the Dead remake, World War Z due out this summer), making zombies creepier. The film is complimented by a great soundtrack, good performances by Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy.

9. The Mothman Prophecies - Being rooted in actual events while also being based on a nonfiction book (it's debatable) by John A. Keel, a paranormal/UFO investigator, gave this film an eerie sense of realism. Until I saw the movie, I wasn't aware of the book. Both creep me out and amp my paranoia to insane levels. Whenever my phone rang while reading, even after watching the movie, I somehow expected a Mothman on the other end. Plus, the film toys with the viewer; there are red eyes and shadows in the background and lines like, "John died twelve hours ago. When did he call you?...About an hour ago," play tricks on the mind.

8. The Mist - Based on a novella by Stephen King, Frank Darabont's adaptation is one of the closet and truest that I have ever seen up until his shocking and depressing ending, which he altered. Like a zombie movie, The Mist is more about people than the monsters outside. Part of what I love about this movie are the monsters; I can't help think the dimension they spilled from is Mid-World, home of the Gunslinger. I thought that in reading, and I was giddy to see Thomas Jayne's character, David Drayton, painting Roland in the intro. While I've seen and heard people take beef with the acting or the ending (it can be a bit B movie-ish, including the monsters, but I've always felt that was intended), I enjoyed both. There's something about Marcia Gay Harden and Andre Braugher's characters that entertain me every time I throw this DVD in my Xbox.

7. The Woman in Black - I've seen a lot of horror movies in my life, a ridiculous amount, and I can't recall a single one that made me jump as many times as the remake of The Woman in Black. The lack of dialogue lends to the decrepit Victorian atmosphere, but I'll never understand why people think jump-scares are cheap or annoying; isn't the point of a horror movie to scare, and doesn't a jump-scare do exactly that? Still, I thought the toys were the most disturbing aspect of the movie. I actually just found out recently this was a remake, so I will have to find the original, see how they compare.

6. Evil Dead - I have yet to see the remake, which looks serious and creepy, but the original Evil Dead has a special place in my horror movie history, from a night spent in college watching the entire trilogy with my roommates. One of my honorable mentions, Cabin in the Woods, is a nice homage to this iconic, comedic, and campy indie movie that solidified my joy in watching Bruce Campbell. It's a fun movie; if you go into it expecting a masterpiece, you'll be disappointed.

5. The Thing - The remake/prequel of John Carpenter's classic is awful, but the suspense and paranoia of the original are amazing. For its time, maybe even today, the animatronics are great, and I especially love the reveal of the Thing in the kennel. One of the most tense moments of the movie came with the blood tests, everyone strapped in a chair, but what truly drives this film, which the prequel failed at in every capacity, was the characters and actors: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart, and others--the cast was amazing.

4. The Shining - Despite the many changes from Stephen King's novel, which avid readers seem to abhor (I've heard King wasn't a fan either), Stanley Kubrick's vision is both haunting and disturbing on a psychological level. The twins in the hallway stalking Danny terrified me when I was a kid; I think they still might, and my mother can't watch a Jack Nicholson film because of his eyes--she also admits to having to leave the room during the maze-chase scene. Along with the soundtrack, the imagery is outstanding, and it causes the Overlook Hotel to take on a life of its own.

3. Night of the Living Dead - "They're coming to get you, Barbara." Without a doubt, George A. Romero is the godfather of zombie movies, and the most interesting aspect of his films is the notion that humanity is just as bad, if not worse, than the zombies. It's a theme that persists in modern shows like The Walking Dead. While I would admit the quality of this franchise diminished after Dawn of the Dead, they keep me entertained. Even their remakes, which I normally loathe, are fun to watch (I could go on and on about how great the opening scenes of Dawn of the Dead's remake were), and I liked Tony Todd as Ben in the 1990 version. I think the Night of the Living Dead is my favorite remake of all time and a vastly underrated zombie film.

2. Jaws - I don't know which came first: my fear of oceans and sharks or Jaws, but I wouldn't be surprised if this movie played a part in my terror. To this day I have nightmares involving sharks, and I don't think it's coincidence they usually have that initial tug on the leg as seen in the opening of the movie, where the swimmer is briefly pulled underwater (writing that just gave me chills). Steven Spielberg's decision to add camera shots of people's legs underwater, as if a shark perusing a buffet, was brilliant. Then there's the soundtrack, a script with many quotable lines, and the cast; would the film have been as good without Robert Shaw as Quint?

1. The Exorcist - The idea of possession scares me to no end, and this is the unchallenged king of possession stories. Beginning to end, this film unnerves me on a psychological and spiritual level. One thing I've always enjoyed in movies is the build-up of tension, the slow progression of both characters and their enemy, and The Exorcist's is flawless. Even the small mysteries along the way are freaky: disappearing crucifixes, shadows moving in the room, and clocks stopping. Stellar performances such as Max von Sydow as Father Merrin and the soundtrack compliment the dark tone of the film. Many possession movies have come and gone, unable to reach the same level as The Exorcist, unable to scare me, yet I could watch this movie tonight and be tempted, even at my age as an agnostic/borderline atheist, to say a prayer and sleep with the lights on; that's why it's my number one.

Honorable Mentions

Shaun of the Dead, Interview with a Vampire, Silent Hill, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, Scream, Hellraiser, The Ring, Carrie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Final Destination, Cube, Let Me In/Let the Right One In, Psycho, Wrong Turn, Poltergeist, Pet Semetary, The Grudge, Audition, The Sixth Sense, Jeepers Creepers, The Fly, Session 9, Jacob's Ladder, Bubba Ho-Tep, It, House on Haunted Hill, The People Under the Stairs, Creepshow, House, The Monster Squad, The Howling, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Gate, The Blob, Night of the Creeps, Graveyard Shift, Salem's Lot, The Cabin in the Woods, 1408, Tremors, Gremlins

Feel free to agree, disagree, or mention a movie I might have missed.


  1. I HATED The Shining. Jack looks crazy in that very first scene, getting the job. I thought the hotel made him crazy.

  2. Ah Horror films. Hate being scared. Jaws: whichever installment had the shark entering the local pool kept me away from grates and those round lights under diving boards in my friends pools for years. Shaun of the Dead and Monster Squad: fantastic. An evening of trying to hang with the big kids and watch the 80's version of the Blob and House caused me to have Christmas music played at bedtime in the summer, the whole summer. Bubba Ho-Tep is a weird little one. It was also on TV this weekend. Finally, Scream - still haven't seen the opening disembowelment scene but was proud when I finally made it the rest of the way through until a friend said that my house and yard being in the country would make it a good Scream house. Thaaaanks. As I don't watch horror I can't really add but for one on the lighthearted side - The Burbs.

    1. I had thought about The Burbs, but that's more of a comedy. It will be on my comedy list...when I get around to writing it.

  3. I agree with almost all your movies, except 28 days later and the exorcist, I didn't find either scary and I just couldn't get into them.

  4. If you compare their voices in the collinson twins when they are talking to each other to the earlier film Come Back Peter the voices are similar- maybe they had voice lessons- but there is still the trace of a very attractive accent.By the way has anyone seen another film they were in called I Am A Groupie?

    1. I have not watched either of those movies, but I'll have to check them out.