My countdown concluded #25-1...
25) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987) Part 3 of the "Nightmare" series remains one of the most popular fan favorites. This is was a transition point in the series, where Freddy started becoming somewhat of a jokester. Case in point: “Welcome to primetime, bitch!” A young Patricia Arquette leads a young cast of teenagers who are committed to a mental hospital because of suicide attempts that are actually the work of one Freddy Krueger. Original "Nightmare" heroine Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) returns as an intern who helps the teens fight off Freddy for good. There are some inventive effects and dream sequences here, most notably the puppet dream in which a teenage boy’s veins are ripped out and Freddy uses him as a marionette.
24) JAWS 2 (1978) This sequel to Jaws works mostly because it’s essentially a teen slasher movie (and to think this actually was released before “Halloween”). A new great white shark appears off the coast of Amity Island and no one believes Chief Brody. But then his teenage son and a bunch of his friends go out sailing and the shark begins to pick them off one by one. Spielberg had nothing to do with this entry, or any of the others, which is obvious, but I feel this probably the best this film could have been. They did something quite different and it works. They even attempt to blow up the shark before the halfway mark giving him turning him into scarface shark!
23) THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) The last horror film to be nominated for Best Picture (unless you count Black Swan, which is debatable) The Sixth Sense still remains M. Night Shyamalan’s best work. I remember the days when the name Shyamalan was a promise of quality, twisty thrills and now it’s just become a joke, unfortunately. But this film about a boy who sees ghosts and the psychologist who attempts to help him remains not only a tense thriller but a powerful human drama as well. There are some good frights here and it features some truly wonderful performances from Oscar nominees Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. This really a beautifully crafted film.
22) THE MIST (2007) Oh that ending! And this was a studio film? Based on a Stephen King novella, this is one of my favorite King film adaptations. A strange mist overtakes a small town the morning after a strong storm trapping a lot of the townsfolk in a small supermarket. At first no one really knows what’s in this mist, but soon they find strange otherworldly creatures are in there and they’re not friendly. Quickly a local religious nutjob begins rallying people saying the end of days is upon them. This is a truly frightening film from Frank Darabont with some truly grotesque effects. I’ve yet to watch the pharmacy sequence all the way through without looking away. A definite horror must see.
21) INSIDIOUS (2010) Another modern instant horror classic, this ghost story is truly frightening. It really gets under your skin. A young boy falls into a deep coma with no real medical explanation and his mother begins noticing strange things around the house. This low budget film, which you’d never even know, is extremely intense and introduced audiences to the “lipstick-face demon” as he’s known in the film’s end credits. It sort of works as a modern version of “Poltergeist” from the guys who brought us the original “Saw” film and it’s truly their masterpiece.
20) SCREAM 2 (1998) This fast tracked sequel is the follow up to the surprise hit “Scream.” This sequel, while not as good or scary as the first film, takes a rather original look at horror sequels and continues to skewer the conventions found in them. Heroine Sidney Prescott is now in college, with a new boyfriend, and guy friend Randy in tow, where a series of copycat murders spring up. Who could possibly be after Sidney this time? The film features another witty script from Kevin Williamson with a wonderful art imitating life plot detail about the events of the first film being turned into a successful horror film called ‘Stab.’ Definitely one of the best slasher sequels out there, but they absolutely shouldn’t have killed Randy.
19) FINAL DESTINATION (2000) The slasher film without the slasher. This film series introduced “death” as the killer who begins picking off people one by one after they exit an airplane before it gets a chance to explode after takeoff. Devon Sawa has a vision that his Paris bound plane is going to explode, causes a panic and several students and teachers exit the plane, but death doesn’t like it when people have visions of the future and they begin to die in horrible “accidents.” A truly inventive post-Scream horror flick that began an entire franchise of its own features some of the most creative death sequences in horror history. This first film remains the most intense and disturbing and will certainly make you question whether you need to take that trip abroad.
18) SCREAM 4 (2011) Fifteen years after the original film rejuvenated the horror genre came this sequel that was set to relaunch the popular slasher franchise that restarted it all. Unfortunately, the film’s box office performance was rather disappointing as it seems as though audiences seem to be weary of movies with a number like 4 in the title. Fortunately, this remains the best Scream sequel as it is everything a Scream film should be: wonderful death scenes with some great black humor. Ghostface returns after a decade to finish the job on Sidney Prescott where she returns to her hometown and a new generation of witty teenagers meet their maker. The meta factor is dialed up to an eleven here and all your favorite [living] Scream characters return. Who will survive and what will be left of them?
17) HALLOWEEN II (1981) This remains the best Halloween sequel because it most closely resembles the original film. A rarity in the horror genre, this film picks up exactly where the previous film left off and follows poor Laurie Strode as she’s taken to the hospital. Unfortunately Michael Myers survives being shot multiple times by Dr. Loomis and begins to stalk her again. He follows her to the hospital where he begins picking off the staff. This is seriously the most pathetically understaffed hospital in cinematic history. And where the heck are the other patients? This time around things are much more gory, but when compared to the disappointing many sequels that would follow one realizes that Halloween II certainly isn’t all that bad.
16) JAWS THE REVENGE (1987) One of the most embarrassing films on this list, this atrocious attempt at filmmaking is not only one of the worst horror movies ever made, but one of the worst films in general ever to be committed to celluloid. So what is it doing on this list? Well it’s technically a horror movie and it’s a movie that was one of my favorites as a kid. So there you go. But it remains a simply divine guilty pleasure. And I find it kid of fascinating how a film series could turn so sour so quickly. To think Jaws is one of the best films ever made and this fourth entry is one of the worst. They complement each other indeed.
15) ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990) This is a truly terrifying film. Why? Because I’m freaking scared of spiders. This is a fun little movie that is actually pretty hard for me to watch, but I like it so much that do it anyway. The story of a small town doctor dealing with an infestation of poisonous spiders bred from a Venezuelan tarantula is simply chilling at times because those pesky spiders are everywhere! The shower, the basement, hiding underneath the lampshade, in a bowl of popcorn, and even in an old guy’s slipper. But the film is humorous as well as John Goodman plays a cocky exterminator who isn’t afraid of anything. I’m sure if spiders are no big deal to you this thing probably plays like a more intense episode of Growing Pains but still it scares the crap out of me.
14) THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) Another horror film that changed the genre. This super hyped film about a three person college documentary crew who get lost in the woods, many of whom believed was actually real, is told in a “found footage” style in which the audience is watching the footage of the three characters. No one had really seen anything like it at the time and many wondered, myself included how multiplexes could basically be showing a snuff film in their theaters. Alas it was an elaborate hoax by the filmmakers to scare audiences into believing it was all a true story. But regardless “The Blair Witch Project” remains one of the more intense, creepy, and disturbing modern horror films. There’s very little on screen violence (actually none in fact, this thing got an R rating just for profanity) and it’s a perfect example of what we don’t see that scares the hell out of us.
13) POLTERGEIST (1982) Now here’s a movie that shows a lot and it still scares you. Well not as much anymore, but this early 80s chiller from producer Steven Spielberg and director Tobe Hooper was sort of the evil cousin to E.T. This is the story of a suburban family’s plight with a haunting that goes awry when their youngest daughter, Carol Ann get taken into another dimension. Cue rotund psychic Tangina who can talk to Carol Ann on “the other side.” There are some fun spooky effects, but the frights here are mostly of the type that would scare small children… although that clown doll is scary enough to give anyone the willies.
12) THE BIRDS (1963) Alfred Hitchcock’s second best movie, in my opinion, revolves around a small seaside town getting mysteriously attacked by birds. Now, birds are pretty much some of the least scary animals on the planet, but the scenes Hitch has crafted are pretty chilling for the time. Seeing that guy’s gouged out eyes was enough to give me the spooks when I was younger. Tippi Hedren, at her ditzy best, as Melanie Daniels is largely thought responsible for bringing the birds down upon poor Bodega Bay but the film wisely chooses not to reveal why the birds have decided to launch a mass attack, which makes the entire proceeding a sense of overwhelming dread.
11) ALIEN (1979) In space no one can hear you scream, indeed. Unless of course your on the same ship as a constantly changing form alien. There’s lots of screaming in this movie, and I’m pretty sure the other characters can hear it, but I digress. This early sci-fi fright flick from Ridley Scott is a wonderful take on the haunted house horror movie. A space mining crew is awakened from hyper sleep from a mysterious planet. They touchdown on it and discover lots of eggs. And something jumps out, attaches itself to one of the crew members and it’s all downhill from there. The “facehugger” as it became known as, is one of the creepiest creations in all of cinema. Swedish artist H.R. Giger is responsible for creating the many forms of the alien and it’s certainly something out of a nightmare. Amazingly all of the sequels in this successful franchise has sort of taking a different route in terms of story and genre. The original remains the best however, because of its simplicity and its power to scare.
10) THE STRANGERS (2008) Oh dear, how scary is this movie. I saw it twice in the same weekend and I was petrified both times. One of my biggest fears (besides spiders) is of home invasion. This creepy movie about a couple who get a visit from three masked strangers, who begin to torment them in increasingly disturbing ways, is a suspenseful terror filled ride for its entire runtime. There are some quite disturbing scenes here and yet its such a simple premise and story. Director Bryan Bertino is very aware of his frame and uses the widescreen to his full advantage. A scene in which Liv Tyler stands alone, already spooked, while a masked figure enters the frame in the background is enough to run a tingle up your spine. Those who like this film and foreign films should also check out Ils (“Them”) a similar story from France.
9) MISERY (1990) You’d have to be a dirty birdie to not get a kick out of this tense shocker from Rob Reiner based on Stephen King’s novel. James Caan plays a novelist who gets into an accident during a snowstorm. He’s rescued by a nurse named Annie (Kathy Bates in an Oscar-winning performance) who says she’s his number one fan. Soon this guy begins to realize that Annie is manic depressive crazy person who’s actually obsessed with him and refuses to let him go. The “hobbling” scene is worth the price of admission alone and it has a lot to say about the relationship between artists and their fans. A truly great scare flick.
8) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1992) What can be said about The Silence of the Lambs that hasn’t already been said a million times. First off, it’s the only horror movie to win Best Picture (and a total of five Oscars) although many refer to it as a crime thriller. But this is a story about one maniac to kills and eats people and another character kills and skins people. If that isn’t horror I don’t know what is. Anthony Hopkins is chilling as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Jodie Foster gives a brilliant performance of a woman struggling to find herself in a man’s world, and Ted Levine is simply creepy as an Ed Gein-influenced serial killer who kills woman so he can wear their skin. One of the most well directed and acted thrillers ever made.
7) WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994) Taking place ten years after the release of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” this seventh entry in the Nightmare series was conceived by its original creator Wes Craven as a thriller that takes place in the “real world” in which actors and crew members from this horror series actually play themselves and are tormented by a darker version of Freddy Krueger. It was a wild idea that didn’t quite please fans of the series as they were probably expecting something more traditional. But this wildly imaginative and original take on this series is a fascinating drama about how horror films can affect children – Heather Langenkamp plays herself and her young son Dylan begins having psychotic episodes. Is she crazy or is Freddy trying to get her and her son? This was a great prelude to themes Wes Craven would later explore in the Scream series.
6) SCREAM (1996) Speaking of which, here is the grandson of the slasher flick. Psycho is the grandfather, Halloween is the father, and here is the third generation thriller Scream, a wonderful ode to the horror genre that every fan should love and appreciate. It’s witty script from Kevin Williamson is about teenagers who are stalked by a masked killer who torments his victims by asking them movie trivia. It’s wildly bizarre but amazingly creepy. The opening sequence starring a frightened Drew Barrymore is one of the best openings to not only a horror film but to any type of film ever. It sort of works as a short film and then the film opens up and explores an interesting story about a girl named Sidney who the killer may just have a personal vendetta against. This was a surprise hit and deservedly so.
5) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) Wes Craven is simply dominating my top ten and for good reason: he has made some truly excellent films in the horror genre. This little hit that not only spawned an entire franchise but helped build New Line Cinema into a full-fledged Oscar-winning movie studio. A bunch of suburban teenagers keep having similar dreams about a dirty burnt man with a razor clawed glove. It seems he wants to kill them and when the teens start dying off one by one, it’s soon revealed that the teens’ parents just might be responsibly somehow. This film introduced the world to Freddy Krueger who quickly became one of the most beloved horror icons ever created. And he was a child molester and murderer. It’s funny that this film was actually released as the slasher craze was just sort of hitting a rut and it became a phenomenon. Sometimes it’s all about timing. Tina getting dragged across the ceiling is one of the entire series’ most disturbing and frightening images.
4) THE EXORCIST (1973) Seeing a young girl stick a bloody crucifix in her crotch is not something most people would classify as fun entertainment, but somehow this creepy supernatural thriller became a wild success. Based on William Peter Blatty’s novel, director William Friedkin tells a disturbing story about a young girl who is possessed by the devil. A young priest who has begun to question his faith and an elder priest join forces to drive the demon from the girl. The film is shot in a very realist documentary-like style which is why the shocking images seem pretty shocking. All the effects used to convince us that this little girl has been possessed are brilliantly conceived and it remains one of the most disturbing yet entertaining films ever made. It’s not only a much watch horror film, but it’s a must watch film in general and a prime example of the brilliant filmmaking that came out of its time period.
3) JAWS (1975) Steven Spielberg made a name for himself with this megahit about a small New England town being terrorized by a Great White Shark. Part monster movie, part human drama, this thrilling film some brilliant directing and acting and the most recognizable movie scores ever. Spielberg ever the young talent decided to not show the shark for more than half the film because the mechanical beast refused to work the way he wanted. It ended up working to his advantage and he ended up crafting a wonderfully frightening tale of man vs. animal and in so doing created the summer blockbuster and nearly changed the way people go to the movies. The fact that the film remains scary til this day is a testament to the power of this film and the talent of everyone involved. The opening sequence still scares people till this day and Jaws makes people scared of the water decades and decades after its release.
2) PSYCHO (1960) The oldest film on this list (let’s be honest what old movies are even still scary anymore?) this Alfred Hitchcock thriller is a brilliant exercise in horror. Hitch singlehandedly invented the slasher will this surprisingly violent (for its time) story about a boy next door who runs a motel… and kills women in the shower. Screenwriter Joseph Stefano brilliant adapted Robert Bloch’s novel by making Marion Crane (a minor character in the book) into a main character and killing her off halfway through the movie. It was a sly trick that shocked audiences and therefore Hitch refused to have theaters let patrons in after the film had started. Hitchcock wasn’t just a filmmaker, he was an entertainer and he delighted in scaring the pants off his audience. The shower scene remains one of the most well known and scary sequences in film history. I was obsessed with this film at such a young age it remains one of my favorite movies of all time.
The full list:
The full list:
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
The Silence of the Lambs
The Blair Witch Project
Jaws the Revenge
Halloween II (1981)
The Sixth Sense
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors
The House of the Devil
Halloween H20 20 Years Later
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Final Destination 5
Child’s Play 2
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Freddy’s Revenge
Drag Me to Hell
The Fly (1986)
The Blob (1988)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 Dream Master
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Friday the 13th (1980)
An American Werewolf in London
The Lost Boys
Deep Blue Sea
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
Friday the 13th The Final Chapter
House of Wax (2005)
28 Days Later
Hostel Part II
John Carpenter’s The Thing
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Final Destination 3
Howling V: The Rebirth
The People Under the Stairs
The Human Centipede: First Sequence
Final Destination 2
The Omen (1976)
Interview with the Vampire
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
The Last House on the Left (1972)
Dressed to Kill
Child’s Play 3
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
What Lies Beneath
Let Me In
My Bloody Valentine 3D
Black Christmas (2006)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III
Fright Night (1985)
28 Weeks Later