I like movie lists. They can offer a window into a person’s cinematic personality. They may seem definitive but they really aren’t. Lists are meant to be changed. You can change your opinion of anything really. A movie you liked a few years ago, maybe isn’t quite as good today. I also like horror movies. So why not make a list of my favorite horror movies? I like them so much I couldn’t just make a list of my top 10 or 25 or even 50. I present for your approval, my top 101 favorite horror movies. Now this isn’t quite a list of what is really the BEST horror movies or even the SCARIEST; as you’ll quickly gather I’ve got some rather questionable crap on here (Howling V: The Rebirth, for example) but this is really what I find the most enjoyable horror films to watch. Some are movies I’ve watched since I was young (Halloween), some are little seen gems I’ve seen within the past couple years (The House of the Devil), some are fairly new and have achieved instant classic status (The Conjuring), lots of sequels and remakes I’m not ashamed to love (Poltergeist III and Dawn of the Dead) and some are ones you probably never even knew existed (The Burning). Now with so many types of horror films, I had to actually leave some out that I felt didn’t quite fit the genre. A great definition comes from FilmSite.org: “Horror films are unsettling films designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm, and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience.” While there are some very funny films on here (such as Scream) I’ve decided to include only true horror films. Movies like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” are just as much comedies (and they’re both great, so go see them if you haven’t). With Halloween right around the corner, what better time to reveal my all-time favorite scary movies? Update: 2013 was a pretty darn good year for the horror genre. I published this list last year and I have already had to add a bunch of horror films to it. I’ve also severely reworked the order and removed certain films. I took off some of my guilty pleasures like Troll 2 and Jaws the Revenge. They’re horrible, horrible movies and even though I enjoy them, they just didn’t belong. Don’t worry; there are plenty of other questionable films on here.
101) THE BURNING (1981) This one gets points for its sheer (see what I did there?) inventive use of wonderful makeup effects by the great Tom Savini. An early 80s slasher flick from the Weinsteins, back when they were actually creative forces behind their films, tales the story of Cropsy a summer came caretaker who gets his revenge on some campers years after a prank goes horribly wrong. And yes that’s a young Jason Alexander if you were wondering.
100) CUJO (1983) Ah the good ol’ killer dog movie; it’s always a nice horror staple. This is the best of the breed so to speak. Starring the same lady from “that werewolf movie with E.T.’s mom in it” (Dee Wallace) and that kid from “Who’s the Boss,” it revolves around a rabid St. Bernard who traps a mother and son in their car. And it gets really hot. One of several Stephen King adaptations revolving around killer pets (another one which almost made this list being “Pet Semetary”), this one includes some pretty inventive camerawork from cinematographer Jan “Twister” de Bont.
99) THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) – No one really ENJOYS watching Wes Craven’s first foray into horror filmmaking because it’s so disturbingly violent and shocking. But it’s still miles ahead of other similar exploitation films like “I Spit on Your Grave.” A very, very early example of the type of horror genre dubbed “torture porn” this low budget shocker concerns a group of disturbed individuals who rape, torture, and murder a pair of young teen girls, only to be tortured and murdered themselves by one of the girls’ parents. This is sick stuff, but oh so appropriate for a list like this. The remake loses the grittiness but it's still worth checking out.
98) SAW (2004) Yes the movie that started it all. “Torture porn” wasn’t even part of the cinematic vernacular back then, but this gross out slasher flick about a guy (dubbed ‘Jigsaw’) who tortures his victims by forcing them to make questionable moral choices actually feels rather tame by today’s standards. It works because of its originality but falls apart once you begin having seizures from the quick editing and the horrible performances, but a nice twist definitely saves this one. Can you believe there were six sequels?
97) RE-ANIMATOR (1985) This is a fun and gory flick. There isn’t much to be said about it that hasn’t already been said about this horror movie. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “Herbert West – Reanimator” the film adaption is an 80s horror cult classic. It features some truly great makeup effects and a lot of intentional comedy. A must for gore hounds.
96) THE RUINS (2008) Killer plants. Yes it’s about killer plants. And they don’t sing this time- for the most part. A bunch of American tourists come across some old Mayan ruins and it ruins their vacation indeed. It’s pretty silly yeah, but there are some truly disgusting moments and there’s a real sense of dread to the proceedings. This is an overlooked little gem in my opinion. Definitely worth checking out if you feel like you’ve seen everything else.
95) MANIAC (2013) Elijah Wood has never been creepier in this stylish remake of the 1980s cult horror flick about a serial killer who scalps women. Shot completely – save for a shot here and there – from the point of view of the main character, this strange film (from the guys who made High Tension) is definitely not for all tastes. It’s meditative yet disturbing – and pretty graphic – and has some deliriously fascinating cinematography. More daring horror fans will want to check out this unrated indie flick if they’re sick and tired of the same old stuff. But with such a banner year for horror you don’t have to look very far for something truly great.
94) BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006) I’m not too familiar with the original 70s version of “Black Christmas” which many say actually started the genre while Halloween gets most of the credit – but it was Canadian so it didn’t count. This bizarre remake, from the team who made the equally strange remake “Willard,” tell the Christmas Eve set tale of a psychotic mental patient who escapes from a mental hospital and goes on a murderous rampage at a sorority house. It’s almost too weird to actually be scary and features a somewhat confusing narrative structure (for a slasher flick) but it features enough clever kills to keep horror fans satiated.
93) 1408 (2007) This is a great old fashioned ghost story. John Cusack plays a writer (this is based on a Stephen King short story of course) who visits haunted places and writes books about them. He doesn’t actually believe in any of this stuff, until he checks into room #1408 in an infamous haunted hotel. Some pretty decent scares, even for a PG-13 haunted house thriller.
92) LET ME IN (2010) This is the rare horror remake that is almost better than the original. A lot of people unjustly cried foul when it was announced that an American version of the popular Swedish vampire film was being made for US audiences. But if those detractors actually watched the film – about a lonely boy who befriends a young female vampire – they’d realize just how awesome it is. It’s just different enough to set itself apart and has some truly jaw dropping sequences and fine performances all around. I’d watch this over the Swedish version any day of the week.
91) THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) This is the remake that started it all. Classic horror remakes were relegated to things like The Fly and Bram Stoker’s Dracula before this guy came around in 2003 and made oodles of money. And who can blame it? It had one of the most well-edited, invoking, and outright scary trailers ever put together. As a horror fan it’s extremely watchable as long as you don’t compare it too much to the original. R. Lee Ermy is fantastic; I actually prefer the even more graphic prequel.
90) CANDYMAN (1992) The general state of horror in the early 90s was pretty pathetic. Until “Scream” came along in 1996, there was no real shot at creating a memorable horror movie icon. “Candyman” was a decent shot – it made a decent amount of money – but the genre was in serious need of repair. This flick, based on a Clive Barker story, revolves around a grad student investigating a local urban legend about a murderous Black guy with a hook for a hand. It’s creepy and stylish and gory. Not too particularly memorable, but decent fun to be had here considering when the film was made.
89) HOWLING V: THE REBIRTH (1989) I’m not quite sure this movie should be on this list because it was never released theatrically in the US, but it’s one of those horror movies I watched on TV all the time when I was younger. This bizarre horror take on Agatha Cristie’s “Ten Little Indians” revolves around a group of people who are unknowingly purposely selected to tour a Hungarian castle, where they begin being picked off one by one by an unseen hairy assailant – aka a werewolf. This movie stars no one you or I have ever heard of and it has nothing to do with parts 1-4, none of which you have to have seen to enjoy this. It’s actually pretty stupid and probably the most embarrassing entry on this list.
88) BAIT 3D (2012) The first of many killer shark movies on this list. This silly little number from Australia is the best “shark in a grocery store” movie ever made. If you can get over some rather fishy special effects, you can actually settle in for a rather entertaining horror flick. A freak tsunami traps a bunch of people in a grocery store, in the middle of an attempted armed robbery no less, but they’re not alone. A hungry Great White Shark is trapped in there with them. Yes, it’s “Jaws” meets “The Mist” and it’s freaking awesome.
87) CARRIE (1976) I never found Brian De Palma’s movie adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel “Carrie” to be all that frightening. It is however a supremely well-made horror-drama that is no doubt a product of its time and a staple of 1970s American cinema. De Palma has never denied the influence Alfred Hitchcock had on him and that is in full force here. Sissy Spacek gives an outstanding performance as an outcast teenage girl with telekinetic powers who seeks revenge from her truly despicable classmates. The prom sequence, isn’t remotely the goriest horror movie sequence you’ll see, but it’s certainly one of the most iconic.
86) V/H/S/2 (2013) A rare example of a sequel that’s not only better than the original, it’s leaps and bound a better-made, scarier, tighter effort. Each of the film’s segments are good in their own way. The highlights are definitely the clever zombie flick shot from the zombie’s point-of-view from one of the guys who gave us “The Blair Witch Project” and a the scary tale of a film crew who sets out to uncover a creepy Asian cult with some rather bloody results. I urge anyone who hasn’t seen either “V/H/S” film to skip the first one. This is everything the first one should have been.
85) POLTERGEIGST III (1988) Poor little Heather O’Rourke died before the filming of this movie even finished. It’s probably for the best because how embarrassing is this piece of crap? I just loved this when I was little and it’s place on this is strictly for nostalgia purposes. Little Carol Anne from the previous films is now a pre-teen sent to live with her aunt and uncle in their ritzy high rise building. The ghosts follow her and appear in the mirrors that line the building’s hallways. There are some interesting effects involving the mirrors and a pretty gross scene in which Lara Flynn Boyle emerges from the dead body of the tiny Tangina character. This is silly stuff, but good for a nice trip back to the world of silly 80s effects.
84) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) I still believe that the remake of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is the best of all the recent slasher remakes. I don’t even have the remakes of Friday the 13th or Halloween on this list, so that’s really saying something. The biggest mistake these films have done is try to give a backstory to a character who we already know so well from its countless sequels – but here I think it works the best. The film’s dream sequences are very well done – this is the type of polished modern production that always seems just wrong when compared to the low budgeted original, but if you try to separate the two, horror fans will find something to like. Particularly Jackie Earle Haley’s enjoyable, albeit completely different, take on the truly iconic Freddy Krueger.
83) WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000) This is the film that Robert Zemeckis made during the time it took Tom Hanks to lose all that weight for “Cast Away.” More of a thrilling ghost movie than an outright horror movie, the film nonetheless has a few decent scares. It’s also a knowing tribute to the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock – with a supernatural twist. It concerns a woman who believes a dead woman is haunting her house and a mystery begins to unravel. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford are great.
82) SHOCKER (1989) I have to admire Wes Craven’s attempt to create another original slasher villain (Let’s just forget that he attempted that again in the truly forgettable “My Soul to Take”). Here he presents us with Horace Pinker, who murders families at night while they sleep. After being convicted and sentenced to death by the electric chair, he somehow survives his capital punishment, and begins infecting various electrical outlets and jumping from various bodies. It’s up to psychic high school jock Peter Berg to save the day. The film’s TV adventure finale is totally bizarre, hilarious, and fun. A lesser known, but truly inventive Wes Craven effort.
81) THE PURGE (2013) One of the most inventive horror film premises in quite some time. This surprise hit is a clever take on the home invasion thriller. Taking place in the not too distant future, The Purge takes place in an “America reborn” in which violence doesn’t really exist – except for one night a year in which all crimes –including the likes of murder, rape, and theft – are all legal. A rich white family headed by Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey from TV’s Game of Thrones lock their family in tight ready to await the night of violence when they become the unsuspecting targets of a group of scary masked young people ready to “purge” the night away. It’s unsettling and fun though not too many people who saw it loved it.
80) INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994) I don’t think anyone is actually frightened of opulent horror films like this (unless the sight of a long haired, blonde Tom Cruise scares you), but there is something strangely fascinating about them. Based on Anne Rice’s novel, this atmospheric film is about a man who is no longer living: he was turned into a vampire in the olden days. It’s sort of an “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Vampires, But Were Afraid to Ask” for the gothic horror set. Great costumes, set design, acting (especially little Kirsten Dunst), and gore effects are the highlight here.
79) SLITHER (2006) “Slither” is a supremely entertaining B-movie. It’s horrific and comedic and does a wonderful job balancing these two extreme tones. A meteoroid falls near a small southern town unleashing a disgusting alien creature upon the unsuspecting citizens. It’s essentially to squishy monster movies and it features fine work from Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, and Nathan Fillion. The gory effects are extremely well done. This movie has everything: zombies, slugs, and squid creatures. It’s hilarious squishy fun. Only strong stomachs need apply.
78) CHILD’S PLAY 3 (1991) – I’m sort of a sucker for the original three Child’s Play movies. Even if they’re about a killer doll, they have such an inventive quality to them that it’s hard to ignore. The third film is arguably pretty week – after all it did get released in the horror drought of the early 90s, but it works well enough. This time Chucky – mysteriously reincarnated for no real reason – sets off to military school where he meets up with a now teenaged Andy whose soul he still wants to take possession of. Except this time his has his sights on a little Black boy; because he’s an equal opportunity type of killer doll. The last standard Chucky movie before things went a little too campy with Bride of Chucky…
77) FINAL DESTINATION 3 (2006) A little bit of trivia for you, this remains the only Final Destination movie that I never saw in the theater. It just escaped me for some reason, but I righted that wrong by outright purchasing the DVD without even seeing it. And as a fan of the first two films, my purchase was completely justified. The makers of the original film returned one more time to present us with another tale of “death” claiming the lives of teenagers who survived a gruesome accident (this time a roller coaster crash). On her way to becoming a Scream Queen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a great ‘final girl’ with enough wit to outsmart death this time. That tanning bed/casket graphic match is a hug from the horror film school god.
76) PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009) I was 26 years old when this film was released and for the first time in decades I actually had trouble sleeping after watching a scary movie. This movie was extremely frightening, and remains decently tense even on repeat viewings. The sequels (the third one being a standout) are pretty intense too (part 3 remains the stand out sequel thus far), but this found footage thriller, is a type of film that you either find terrifying or extremely monotonous. I fall into the former category. To think that such frights could be had with hardly any blood or onscreen violence is pretty impressive.
75) THE OTHERS (2001) Another truly fun, old fashioned ghost story with a great twist that came off the success of another twisty ghost story, “The Sixth Sense.” Nicole Kidman gives a great performance as a woman living with her two “photosensitive” children in post-World War II Britain. She hires new housekeepers and soon things begin to go bump in the night. A truly fun haunted house thriller that hopefully hasn’t been forgotten about since its release.
74) THE OMEN (1976) – Here we have the original “Final Destination” movie. The devil’s child is born and given to a mother after she unknowingly miscarries. And this woman is the wife of the American Ambassador to England. As the child grows up strange things begin to happen, like his nanny committing suicide at his fifth birthday party. The film features some rather startling death scenes for its time, including one of the best decapitations in horror history. It’s a movie that holds up today, even if it’s not the scariest film ever made, it’s not only a great piece of horror filmmaking, but of 1970s American cinema in general.
73) WRONG TURN (2003) Ahh, inbred mutant cannibalistic mountain men always make the best horror movie villains. Effects and make-up genius Stan Winston created these guys who live out in the woods of West Virginia waiting to murder unsuspecting tourists who wander down the wrong road. The movie owes a lot to another horror films like “The Hills Have Eyes” but the make-up effects are truly something. So what if the characters are so annoying you can’t wait to see them die?
72) JEEPERS CREEPERS (2001) A strange hybrid of Steven Spielberg’s Duel and an old fashioned monster movie, Jeepers Creepers involves a mutant creature who appears every few years to feed on humans. A brother and sister (a refreshing change of pace) team up to fight the “Creeper.” The film’s first act is pretty thrilling, but things soon become slightly routine but it’s still a well done modern monster movie.
71) SORORITY ROW (2009) I’m not trying to advocate for Rumer Willis to continue to act in movies because she most definitely sucks a lot, but Sorority Row is a wonderful inclusion in the “revenge slasher movie.” It’s sort of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” meets “Black Christmas.” This campy ode to 80s slasher flicks involves a sorority prank gone horribly wrong and the fun is had at watching the coeds being knocked off one by one in gloriously gruesome fashion. This one has a truly wonderfully tongue in cheek vibe that’s not too over the top and it features a superbly game Carrie Fisher in an extended cameo.
70) THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE: FIRST SEQUENCE (2009) This truly bizarre piece of horror cinema is truly a sight to behold. It’s a prime example of a film’s grotesque reputation far out doing the actual film itself (the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre also comes to mind). The movie isn’t nearly as gross as one would expect (you have to stay for the utterly disgusting and almost unwatchable sequel for that) but it’s a truly strange exercise in modern horror and the epitome of what has been coined “torture porn.” A mad German scientist wants to make a “human centipede” by sewing three humans together mouth to anus. Those horror fans brave enough to give “First Sequence” a shot around Halloween will be pleasantly surprised, all others should probably skip it and watch Hocus Pocus instead.
69) THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991) Fans of the genre, know that horror was in a strange place in the early 90s. There wasn’t much great stuff and the stuff that did existed was truly odd. Case in point this little seen gem from Wes Craven about a pair of rich loons who own a maze centric, booby trapped house with hordes of teenage boys locked in the basement. The film’s hero is a young black boy and the film is actually a decent social commentary about the current state of socioeconomic race relations. I’m not sure it’s really all that scary, but it’s certainly an obvious example of something truly different in the genre and true product of its time.
68) DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) – I must say that I actually prefer this remake to George A. Romero’s original. The 70s version had plenty of great gore scenes and appropriate social commentary, but the whole thing, like a zombie itself is just slow. This faster paced remake offers some great performances, gore, and a swift pace that works well for today’s audience – and what a great opening sequence. It’s as fun as it is scary.
67) PSYCHO II (1983) How does one follow up Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic masterpiece “Psycho?” By waiting until he’s dead of course! This long awaited (or hardly wanted?) sequel was released three years after Hitch’s death and it actually remains a decent follow up (and another great Anthony Perkins performance). Released at the height of the slasher craze, the film never dumbs things down and actually takes a rather tasteful (or as tasteful as a knife down the throat or a shovel to the head could be) approach by following Norman Bates after he’s been declared sane by the state. He’s released back to his home and motel, but it seems that someone is trying to drive him mad again. It obviously doesn’t match the cinematic quality of the original, but it’s probably the best sequel that could have been produced considering the original’s classic status.
66) THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) The original Wes Craven film is obviously considered a 70s cult classic, but I preferred the gritty remake over the crudity of the original. It’s a truly disturbing and horrifying movie that certainly was birthed from the “torture porn” subgenre of the mid-2000s. There are way more overt political undertones (the father-in-law is conservative and the son-in-law is liberal) which were handled way more subtly in the original, but director Alexandre Aja, who made the disturbing and scary French thriller High Tension works his gory magic here in his American horror debut.
65) HOUSE OF WAX (2005) I remember seeing this at the drive-in as a double feature with “Crash.” Yes, “Crash” the Oscar-winning movie about tense race relations in Los Angeles. They showed that movie with the movie that features Paris Hilton getting a metal pole through her head. An in-name only remake of the old 3D Vincent Price chiller, it features a small town wax museum with figures made from real people! It’s not particularly scary but I like it because it takes the basic idea from the original film and basically turns it into a CW worthy slasher flick. Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra gives the whole thing a weird 70s European feel. And any film that uses the tagline “On May 6th…See Paris Die!” is worth the price of admission.
64) HOSTEL PART II (2007) I prefer Eli Roth’s sequel in every shape and form. The first film was an obnoxious torture porn flick that played like Frat Boy’s European Vacation. I couldn’t wait for the main characters to die, and they certainly took way too long to do so. Here with females in the lead, I found them much more sympathetic and actually feared for them. There are some truly disturbingly graphic sequences here and is certainly not for everyone. But getting an inside look at the infamous company that lets rich guys pay money to torture and slaughter young American tourists was as fascinating as it was disturbing. While I do enjoy this film, I remain of the opinion that Eli Roth has yet to make a horror film that is truly good, save for his Grindhouse short “Thanksgiving.”
63) DEEP BLUE SEA (1999) This is more of a sci-fi action version of Jaws, but since it features so many gory deaths it counts as horror to me. It works basically as a monster movie version of “The Poseidon Adventure” where scientists must survive the flooding of their underwater research facility after the genetically altered sharks they’re studying begin picking them off one by one. The computer effects are a little shoddy and there aren’t many characters to root for, but this is basically a B-horror monster movie with the mad scientist whose creations turn on him (in this case it’s the sexy Saffron Burrows who doesn’t look like any brilliant scientist that seems to exist in real life).
62) THE THING (1980) John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror remake classic The Thing features some of the most grotesque effects I’ve ever seen in a horror film. He took a way more subtle approach with Halloween: it was what we didn’t see that was scary. Here he takes the complete opposite road showing us countless disgusting things as some kind of shape-shifting alien parasite begins infecting an Antarctic science crew. Invoking themes of paranoia and fear of the unknown, The Thing remains a classic in the genre in which sometimes it’s what we DO see that scares us. The 2011 prequel isn't half bad either.
61) TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING (2006) This by all accounts is a pretty bad movie. But as it was influenced by the other torture porn films of the day it’s pretty decent and I actually like it more than the Jessica Biel remake. This prequel takes a look at Leatherface’s early days… he was born in the slaughterhouse! This is gruesome and disgusting and it features R. Lee Ermey yet again as the sadist “Sheriff Hoyt” who we learn is most definitely not a real sheriff. And look! Is that White Collar’s Matt Bomer?
60) 28 DAYS LATER… (2002) Future Oscar winner Danny Boyle directed this intense British horror flick that single-handedly revived the zombie movie. Cillian Murphy wakes up from a coma in the hospital (ala Rick in The Walking Dead) to find that a “rage virus” has turned people into mindless raging killing monsters. He meets up with a few survivors while avoiding the “zombies.” It’s a truly great genre film that changed the game and was rather influential. Its low budget, shot on video quality adds to the terror factor.
59) TREMORS (1990) Oh man, this is a great cult classic. In the style of a great monster movie fashion, Tremors takes the Jaws approach by not showing much and using great point-of-view shots instead. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are working guys in small town Texas with plans on living the place behind when strange murderers begin happening. But it turns out the culprit is actually under the ground. It’s not quite as silly as it sounds; there are some truly great moments here and some wonderful humorous character bits. Even Reba McEntire is pretty good, scary indeed.
58) SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) I had reservations about calling this horror film, but by definition it fits the bill. With so many onscreen decapitations, it’s really just a gothic horror creation from the master of the bizarre Tim Burton. It’s not all that particularly scary, but this stylish thriller features Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane who instead of a timid schoolteacher like in the original story is now a timid forensic scientist who believes that a killer of flesh and blood is behind a rash of recent gory beheadings in a small Northeast hamlet. The townsfolk believe it to be a ghostly spirit known as the Headless Horseman. This is a great flick, perfect for Halloween viewing with outstanding Oscar-winning production design.
57) SINISTER (2012) The most recent film on this list is an instant horror classic. This truly frightening flick stars Ethan Hawke as a true crime novelist who is investigating the mysterious death of a family. He finds disturbing home movie footage in the attic of his new home and soon uncovers a rather disturbing mystery all while realizing his house just may be haunted. A wonderful mix of “found footage” thriller and haunted house flick, this is a great entry in the genre and it features one of Ethan Hawke’s best performances. It reminds me most of “Insidious” which will appear on this list as well.
56) IDENTITY (2003) This is the second horror movie on this list inspired by “Ten Little Indians.” This time it’s about a bunch of people stranded at a secluded motel on a dark rainy night. Someone is killing these people off one by one. This one is rather taut and it features a pretty interesting twist and was a surprise sleeper hit in the summer of 2003. John Cusack is a limo driver who gets caught up in the mystery after he accidentally hits a pedestrian with his limo. This is a good one.
55) OPEN WATER (2004) This disturbing thriller, shot in a Blair Witch style, (though it’s not technically a “found footage” movie) is actually based on a real story about a couple who was left behind in shark infested waters while scuba diving in the Caribbean, where they most likely succumbed to the harsh elements they were left in. Real sharks were used and the two actors did all their own stunt work. This is a tense and frightening film that is a strange hybrid of Blair Witch and Jaws, two types of films that I never thought could ever be brought together. This is truly fascinating, visceral filmmaking.
54) FRAILTY (2001) A lot of times in horror films, religion plays a very positive role. Most notably in The Omen and The Exorcist. However, in Frailty, the story focuses on a man who gets a message from God that he must rid the world of demons. And these demons are just people who he ends up brutally murdering with an axe. This man is played by Bill Paxton (who also directed the film) and this leads his two young sons to question what is really going on. His elder son refuses to believe such nonsense, but his younger brother is taken in by his father’s new found religious mission. This is a great little seen psychological horror film that has some pretty tense scenes and a pretty interesting message.
53) GRINDHOUSE (2007) A grand opus ode to cheesy exploitation cinema by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino this double feature includes a zombie flick called “Planet Terror” and a car chase thriller called “Death Proof” and don’t forget about the worth the price of admission horror trailers that appear in-between the two main features. This three hours plus flick was unfortunately split up when released on DVD but the blu-ray thankfully corrected that, as each film complements each other greatly. None of this is particularly scary, but is a great homage to not only the genre but of the grindhouse experience as well. A must-see for fans of this genre.
52) THE LOST BOYS (1987) This campy 80s romp, yes I said romp, is a fun vampire flick in which a boy and his family come across a teenage gang of vampires in their new West Coast California town. I think vampire movies in general aren’t that frightening but this one, like Fright Night offers some pretty cool vampire effects and some cool gory sequences. Director Joel Schumacher adds to the campy proceedings, but it’s mostly because this thing was made in the height of the overly cheesy 80s. And of course you can’t get more 80s than two Coreys in the same flick.
51) AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) One of the very few horror films to win an Academy Award (for Rick Baker’s Make-up which was a brand new category at the time) this tales of two American backpackers who get attacked by a werewolf on the English Moors. One of them dies and other is “cursed” and transforms during the full moon. Director John Landis (who also later directed Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video) keeps things equally funny and horrific. This sort of feels like the “Hostel” of its day going from raunchy Animal House type humor with graphic, gory death scenes. Arguably the best werewolf movie ever made.
50) THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) Speaking of visceral, the original “meat movie” The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a classic cult horror film about a group of young people who accidentally meet up with a family of cannibalistic rednecks. One of which is a chainsaw wielding maniac called “Leatherface” although I never quite remember him being referred to as such in the actual movie. Tobe Hooper directed the film in a gritty vérité style that makes the film feel more like a documentary. And it was even inspired by the real life cannibalistic crimes of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. This is a strange hybrid of slasher film and torture porn that actually shows very little onscreen gore – shot that way in hopes of actually getting a PG rating, which obviously didn’t happen.
49) FRIDAY THE 13th (1980) This is the film that not only started it all, but it copied them all. Taking a cue from John Carpenter’s Halloween, “Friday the 13th” helped usher in a new generation of graphic horror films. But unlike Halloween, there’s little artistic merit here, only truly gross death scenes featuring the work of the great Tom Savini. This was one of Kevin Bacon’s earliest films which follows him and a few other teenage camp counselors getting ready to open Camp Crystal Lake but a killer lurks in the woods seeking murderous revenge. The shocking revelation of the killer is notorious.
48) JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI (1986) By the time the sixth entry in the Friday the 13th franchise things had begun to got slightly monotonous. But director Tom McLoughlin, who also wrote the screenplay, sort of had free reign to inject the perfect dose of self-aware humor into the film. In a way it’s the most meta of the entire series. It’s essentially the “Scream” of the “Friday” films. So Jason comes back to life yet again after being revived by a bolt of lightning (ala Frankenstein) and wreaks havoc on unsuspecting victims. The film also returns the action back to the campground setting, which actually has children campers. This is sort of a love it or hate it entry in this series, but I find it to be one of the best – even better than the first one.
47) SCREAM 3 (2000) The Scream series is probably one of my all time favorite series of horror films. I love all four of the films and they all appear on this list, which is something that can’t be said about every other horror series with the exception of the Jaws series. While part 3 is the weakest of the three, it ended the series (until the fourth one of course) in probably the best way possible and features the great addition of the hilarious Parker Posey. Here the setting is now Hollywood where life imitates art while imitating art. Though it remains the least frightening of the series, there is enough here to satisfy fans of this immensely popular series.
46) FRIDAY THE 13TH THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984) Gore master Tom Savini returned to the Jason franchise with his wonderful bloody effects so that he could kill Jason off for good (cue about six more sequels). This fourth entry features everything one wants in a Friday the 13th movie: lots of horny teenagers getting killed off in increasingly gruesome ways. It’s really just a standard 80s slasher sequel in every shape or form, but the Friday the 13th films quickly became monotonous and dull, even if they were rather bloody. They’re really just unmemorable to be honest. This is one of the sequels actually worth watching. Yes that’s a pre-Back to the Future Crispin Glover getting cork-screwed and macheted to the face.
45) CHILD’S PLAY (1988) Chucky is a truly great slasher movie icon. And he’s a doll. One has to realize just how silly the idea of “Child’s Play” is but a horror fan can’t help but enjoy the crap out of these movies. A serial killer transfers his soul to a doll before dying after a police shootout, and it unknowingly ends up as a gift to a young boy from his single working mother. The doll begins talking and walking around on its own, which the boy completely thinks is because his doll his the epitome of awesome technology, but that isn’t the case. Soon ‘Chucky’ wants to transfer his soul to the boy before he gets trapped in that rubber body. It’s not as silly as it sounds but as the series went on it became ridiculously so, Seed of Chucky anyone?
44) PIRANHA 3D (2010) Oh Alexandre Aja what have thou wrought? This extremely silly yet magnificent remake of the 1970s cult flick “Piranha” (which was itself a horror-comedy parody of “Jaws”) is extremely gory and extremely tongue in cheek. No one in their right mind would actually be scared, but it such a campy and fun gorefest that one can’t help but appreciate those involved in its creation. I mean this thing has Elizabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd, and Richard Dreyfuss all in glorious 3D. Whatever you do, however, please avoid the terrible sequel “Piranha 3DD.”
43) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988) If you’re not really a fan of Freddy movies there’s no need to watch any of the sequels, but number four is pretty good and the one where Freddy Krueger truly becomes the jokester he became infamous for. Freddy is resurrected yet again, by dog urine no less, where he meets a new teenage threat named Alice who intends on getting revenge after Freddy murders her friends and brother. Renny Harlin, who’d go on to direct Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea, adds some colorful production value but many would be turned off by some goofy proceedings. However, the girl who gets turned into a cockroach remains a highpoint in the entire series for me.
42) JAWS III (1983) I refuse to call this movie “Jaws 3D” since I’ve yet to actually seen it in that form. This pretty atrocious second sequel to Steven Spielberg’s classic is set at Sea World in Florida where a grown up Michael Brady works with his girlfriend. Yet another great white shark begins to stalk him where it begins munching on the guests and employees. There’s nothing really good that can be said about this flick, but it’s cheesy 80s vibe and bad acting from the entire cast and crew including Lea Thompson, Dennis Quaid, and Louis Gossett Jr. is only redeemable for it’s purely nostalgic feeling of silliness.
41) THE FLY (1986) Another 80s remake of a 50s sci-fi film with an extreme horror bent. Canadian director David Cronenberg directs this truly sickening horror movie about a scientist who accidentally begins to transform into a fly when his DNA gets mixed with that of a housefly in his transportation invention. At first he gains superhuman powers but then his body begins to break down and his transformation is truly gross. Many have made comparisons of Cronenberg’s (who is known for his “body horror” films) film with the fear caused by the AIDS virus. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis give terrific performances in this Oscar-winning (best make-up) horror classic.
40) 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!
39) A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE (1985) This sequel was rushed into production as soon as the first film became a hit. Set five years later, the film concerns Freddy trying to possess a teenage boy whose family has just moved into Nancy’s old house on Elm Street. This film is the odd man out in the series for several reasons. The rules established in the first film were basically thrown out the window as Freddy is able to come out into the real world and kill teenagers while everyone’s awake. Also, the idea of Freddy possessing a teenage boy has led many to refer to the film as the “Gay Freddy Movie.” The protagonist, Jesse, is a rather effeminate young man and years later it’s finally be reveled by the original screenwriter that the references to homosexuality were done on purpose. The film features some creepy effects (Freddy claws through Jesse’s chest) and some truly lame effects (exploding parakeet anyone?) It’s definitely one of the least liked Nightmare films, but I find it enjoyable for some strange, campy value.
38) THE RING (2002) This is a wonderful horror-mystery, based on a Japanese film, starring Naomi Watts that helped boost her career here in the United States. She’s British! She plays a journalist who is trying to solve the murder of her niece somehow involving a mysterious videotape that supposedly kills anyone who views it. Audiences ate this movie up a decade ago where the image of a creepy black-haired girl emerging from a TV set became an allegory for the fear of television controlling our lives. While not quite as scary as its reputation might suggest, it’s still a rather entertaining horror flick that helped usher in the Japanese horror remake craze.
37) THE BLOB (1988) Although horror remakes are extremely popular today, they certainly existed back in the day. And here we have a truly disgusting horror/sci-fi take on the creepy crawly monster movie The Blob. The 50s version (which is actually pretty entertaining for an oldie) starred Steve McQueen and Kevin Dillon takes over as a rebellious teenage biker dude who unwittingly becomes involved in this gross mass of jelly that begins growing and killing the townsfolk in a small town. The film was co-written by Frank Darabont, who’d later go on to make The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist, and it features some outrageously gross effects. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a man being sucked down a sink drain.
36) DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) Sam Raimi returned to horror triumphantly with this little effort about a young female banker who gets cursed by an old gypsy woman. There are lots of wacky and strange effects and some rather gross things for a PG-13 rated film. Many fans have said this is Raimi back in his Evil Dead form. It’s a strange mix of looney toon comedic violence that I find way more entertaining than any of the Evil Dead films. This is a great movie that is highly recommended. It's a fun prelude to the Raimi-produced Evil Dead remake.
35) HIGH TENSION (2005) French horror director Alexandre Aja brought this French import Haute Tension to the US two years after its debut in France. The film involves two college girls who get attacked by a crazed killer in one of the girl’s family’s vacation home. The family is brutally murdered and one of the girls is kidnapped and other must save her. This thing is extremely gory and was actually influenced by the American exploitation films of the 1970s. Aja would later remake one of his influences, The Hills Have Eyes. This thing is fill with gobs of gore, but it also has some rather intense suspense as well. Definitely a must see for any fan of horror.
34) THE FACULTY (1998) A product of the post-Scream era, The Faculty, also written by Kevin Williamson, is a great B-movie with a strong sci-fi element. Every teenager has had teacher who they thought could be an alien. Well this movie explores that idea, in which an alien invasion begins at a rundown high school. Tradition teenager stock characters fill the bill here as a small group of kids must band together to figure out how to stop the aliens from taking over the town and eventually the world. Director Robert Rodriguez offers some creepy effects but it’s mostly the witty teen banter that keeps this thing afloat and some appealing performances from the likes of Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, and Clea DuVall. A rather eclectic cast also features Jon Stewart, Robert Patrick, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Salma Hayek, and Bebe Neuwirth as faculty members.
33) CHILD’S PLAY 2 (1990) Definitely my favorite Chucky movie features some better effects than the first film and some nice gory murders. The film is also notable as it features some truly bright and colorful camerawork which is definitely a product of its day. There’s no way a horror film would ever be shot like this today. Little Andy from the first film gets put in a foster home after his mother is committed. Chucky somehow is rejuvenated and begins to stalk him again trying to steal his body yet again. The film’s toy factory finale is great. A definitely highpoint for the series.
32) 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.
31) HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998) This is probably one of the most oddly titled horror sequels in the history of the genre. It also was inspired by the success of Scream and was actually an idea suggested by none other than Jamie Lee Curtis herself. The film follows Laurie Strode, 20 years after the events of the first two films, where we learn she’s living life in hiding as the headmistress of a private school in California as Keri Tate. But she’s still haunted from her traumatic bout with her Uncle Mike (a plot point they could have ignored, but chose not to, since they ignored films 3-6) and she’s a hopeless alcoholic. Her son John also attends the school, but Michael, who apparently has been “missing” since being blown up is after her and his nephew after these years. The film overall feels more like a Scream film than a Halloween film, but it remains one of the series’ best and offers lots of in jokes (like the wonderful casting of Jamie’s real life mother Janet Leigh as a secretary). This is also the very first R rated movie I saw in the theater.
30) 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.
29) YOU’RE NEXT (2013) This gruesomely awesome slasher flick about a group of masked strangers who terrorize a family during an anniversary celebration is similar in a lot of ways to “The Strangers.” They’re both excellent, though “You’re Next” features a strong sense of dark humor throughout. You’re never quite sure who’s going to bite it next or where exactly it’s going and it features a delicious little twist which adds to the fun. It’s not the most outright scary film on this list but it was one of many outstanding horror films to be released in 2013,though this one couldn’t quite find a large audience. Horror freaks will definitely want to seek this one out.
28) FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011) What a surprise the fifth Final Destination movie turned out to be! There’s no way in hell that the fifth entry of any series, let alone a horror series should be this good. The film brings the series full circle in such a clever and exciting way and truly has one of the best endings to a horror film in quite some time. This entry involves several employees of a paper company (not Dunder Mifflin) who escape a large bridge collapse and how death comes after them as they die in increasingly gruesome ways. The film is essentially like all the others but there’s a freshness involve here as the third act introduces the idea of possibly avoiding death’s design by causing someone else’s death instead. The climax is simply divine and everything a fan of this series could ask for. And some wonderful eye-popping 3D photography added to the absolutely fun proceedings.
27) URBAN LEGEND (1998) Another product of the post-Scream world, this slasher involves a serial killer who murders people based on popular urban legends. This movie is memorable for several reasons. First of all, it unfortunately introduced the word to Tara Reid, although she technically was introduced earlier in The Big Lebowski a few months earlier. But at least she gets axed to death. And secondly, it marked the welcomed return of two horror icons to the genre: Robert England (Freddy) plays a college professor and Brad Dourif (Chucky) plays a creepy gas station attendant in the opening sequence. There’s nothing really all that special here, but the film is witty and enjoyable enough to recommend it to fans of the post-modern slasher flick.
26) I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (1997) The film that gained the most success after Scream was released, was this fun little slasher flick about a group of teens who begin to be picked off one by one by an unknown assailant a year after covering up after a hit and run accident. Many joked about the film’s villain baring a resemblance to the Gordon Fisherman, because the film takes place in a North Carolina seaside town. The film was written by Scream’s Kevin Williamson and while it features a decent script for the genre, it features none of the real wit or spark that made Scream such a success. Nonetheless, I was a huge fan of the film during its release (and even read the book that it was very loosely based on) and still enjoy it today for nostalgic reasons.
25) THE DESCENT (2006) This wonderful little British import was a mild success in the summer of 2006, but fans of the horror genre who didn’t see it are definitely urged to check it out. It’s certainly a must see. A group of women go spelunking in the caves of the Appalachian Mountains and they come across a bunch of cave dwelling humanoid monsters who want to kill them. This gory and extremely claustrophobic film from director Neil Marshall is truly a frightening experience.
24) 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.
23) THE CONJURING (2013) The real life story of Connecticut paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren made an instant horror classic when released in the summer of 2013. It was a surprise hit and deservedly so. This chilling thriller from Insidious director James Wan tells the story of a Rhode Island family plagued with spooky beings in their creepy new house. Things go from bad to worse and seek the help of the country’s top ghost hunters. This is a delightfully old-fashioned haunted house scare show with plenty of good scares and wonderfully 70s cinema aesthetic. It also features two terrific female performances from Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor. Proof that the old adage “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” is dead wrong.
22) THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009) This is certainly a hidden gem (similar to and on par with “Rosemary’s Baby”) that is really fun for horror fans. I saw it based on a recommendation and fell instantly in love. Director Ti West’s deliberately slow, but with a great payoff, thriller is made in the style of an 80s flick complete with zooms and shot on 16mm film stock. It concerns a young college woman, strapped for cash, who hesitantly takes a babysitting job in a strange house in the middle of nowhere. To say anything else would spoil the fun, but it’s a suspenseful film and you never quite know where exactly it’s going. As part of the film’s promotion it was actually released on VHS as a nod to the era the film depicts. It’s truly rewarding experience for patient horror fans wanting to discover something new and fun.
21) 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.
20) 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.
19) 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.
18) 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.
17) 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 and solid dark 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?
16) 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.
15) 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.
14) ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) This early chiller from Roman Polanski is a great product of the American New Wave. A newlywed couple moves into a fancy New York City apartment and meet the strange new neighbors next door (one of whom is Oscar-winner Ruth Gordon) who take a liking to the attractive couple. Soon Rosemary (Mia Farrow) becomes pregnant but she slowly begins to think that her baby may be the son of the devil! This slow burning horror film is truly a product of its time and features some terrific performances. Gordon is certainly a hoot and it features such a great ending, it’s crazy to think this movie was release in the swinging 60s. Definitely a horror classic that needs to be seen.
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) 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.
11) MISERY (1990) You’d have to be a dirty birdie to not get a kick out of this tense comedic shocker from Rob Reiner based on Stephen King’s novel. James Caan plays a novelist who gets into a car 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 realizes that Annie is a 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.
10) 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 gives the entire proceeding a sense of overwhelming dread.
9) 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 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 it’s 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”) with a similar story from France.
8) THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) 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 who kills and eats people and another character show 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 the themes Wes Craven would later explore in the Scream series with greater financial success.
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. Its 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 ONELM 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 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 burned 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 responsible 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 becomes 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 realistic documentary-like style which is why the captured images feel very 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 features brilliant directing and acting and the most recognizable movie score 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 worked to his advantage and he ended up crafting a superbly frightening tale of man vs. animal. He also created the summer blockbuster and nearly changed the way people go to the movies. The fact that the film remains scary to this day is a testament to the power of this film and the talent of everyone involved. The opening sequence still scares people and the entire film 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.
1) HALLOWEEN (1978) This early slasher movie from director John Carpenter remains my all-time favorite horror movie. I watched this when I was younger and it scared me to death and yet I was strangely fascinated by it. The image of the white masked Michael Myers was something so frightening I never to this day could get it out of my head. That simple music score was terrifying. It’s such a simple story too. A young boy brutally murders his older sister (in the film’s brilliant tracking shot opening sequence) and then escapes from his mental hospital years later and begins stalking other teenage girls on Halloween night. This was Jamie Lee Curtis’ first film role and she quickly became a Scream Queen after staring in several back to back horror flicks. This low budget shocker is brilliantly conceived and features some truly wonderful cinematography by Dean Cundey. His tracking camera - the steadicam was something very new to the medium - glides from here to there and takes the place of the killer’s point of view. There are some truly frightening things here and the accent is on suspense and atmosphere not bloody gore. This is a truly scary and brilliant film that certainly holds up today. It’s a must-see for any movie fan and remains the alpha and omega of slasher films.
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