I love it.
Horror is my favorite genre of film, it is my favorite genre of book… I grew up with R.L. Stein’s Goosebump series, moved through his teenage books, and graduated to Stephen King, my favorite author of all time. Video games that include horror usually rank higher than others… Bioshock and the original Half-Life are two of my favorite games of all time.
There usually aren’t many medium level horror fans. Either you stray away, or you embrace it with open arms.
The feeling of fear is such a complex emotion, and the horror or terror that accompany it, if done correctly, leave long lasting impressions.
I’m frequently disappointed with modern horror. Too much of it relies on shock value and gore, rather than even attempting to induce the psychological terror that makes some horror movies so great. That’s the problem- people think blood, guts, and brains will make people afraid. Not anymore, with each generation becoming less and less sensitive to violence, this doesn’t work as much. And the people that do enjoy gore-fests, these are people that either enjoy them simply as a spectacle and not something to fear, or they are just easily entertained and freaked out.
But for the people with my kind of taste, it takes some work to freak me out. I mean… really, freak me out. Sure, you can get me startled with a jump scare, but that isn’t fear.
You want fear? I have got fear. In honor of October, every post until the end of the month will be horror related. And today, I am going to give you my top five favorite horror movies… because of the fear factor, the writing, the camera work… these are legitimately good movies.
Also, just to help us out, I won’t be covering dark comedies, or funny horror… you won’t find any Shaun of the Dead here.
And this list IS definite. This isn’t subjective, no, these are the best horror movies to grace the big screen.
(Sarcasm doesn’t come out quite right through writing. That was sarcasm, if you couldn’t gather.)
Misery – 1990
I already said that I love Stephen King. Forget the fact that a lot of his books have the same similar plot, all take place in a small town in Maine and involve an author who likes to get drunk, Stephen King is my biggest inspiration and my favorite author. Frequently, though, as it usually is the movie adaptions of his books aren’t always on par. I enjoyed The Shining. The Green Mile, all the obvious ones. I didn’t like Carrie, or IT, or Cujo… but one of my favorite books got one of my favorite movie adaptions of ANYTHING, and subsequently became one of my favorite horror movies.
For me, a good bit of the horror didn’t directly come from what Annie actually did, but simply from the possibilities of what she COULD do. The moments when Paul was roaming around the house when she was gone, or hiding the blister-pack of pills? This was probably the hardest my heart has ever pumped with fear.
I’m also a fan of Kathy Bates. I don’t seek out everything she does, but when she’s in something I watch it is always a nice surprise. Her character is very creepy. Not terrifying per-say, but the unpredictability of her personality and how she can burst at the drop of a dime is pretty freaky.
Misery is a movie that any Stephen King fan needs to see… and a pretty good horror film for anyone that can handle the slow pace, and the HUMANITY of it all. There are no aliens, or monsters, or demons. Just an insane woman. And for some people, if there is no supernatural aspect they just can’t be bothered.
But for everyone else… it’s a real good time.
The Stepford Wives – 1975
Ooooh. Just thinking about this movie freaks me out. This is a strange case, actually… I saw this movie once. When I was maybe eight years old. I need to watch it again, actually.
But what ranks this on my list is a few reasons;
Firstly, it has stuck with me. I’ve remembered this movie for a long time, it’s been lodged in my head, and it’s always been so freaky to me. The scene close to the end, with Joanna’s double and her black eyes… the entire mansion scene entirely, actually, was so terrifying to me. And it’s funny, because the terror doesn’t really apply to me. It’s about men trading their human wives for perfect robots. I wouldn’t be affected in the first place.
But just the thought… the buildup to the end, the suspense and the mystery throughout the entire movie… it was freaky. And good. And ever so poignant. This was made nearly forty years ago, but it still makes sense today. With misogyny still a prevailing factor in today’s society, it’s not just a scary movie. It’s a brilliant statement.
Poltergeist – 1982
What can I say about this movie that hasn’t been said? Poltergeist is a classic example of a good horror movie. It’s frightening, chilling, and once that suspense explodes into that wonderfully chaotic climax you won’t want to go to bed. This is another movie I saw at a young age, but I’ve seen it multiple times since. I’m just lucky I never had a tree by my window – although to this day, white noise is still unsettling.
And of course, what makes it even freakier is the supposed ‘curse’ that came with the films. Nearly the entire cast of the movie ended up dying a few years later. As the sequels came, the original actors dwindled. Of course, it could just be a coincidence, but I guess we’ll never know for sure…
A Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984
This movie managed to blur a slasher film with a psychological horror film, and it is perfect. It did so many things never done before, and introduced so many new concepts. Take Freddy Krueger himself, the main antagonist of the series. Never before had we had a villain like him, one with a personality and a wit and a face. Someone that knew what he was doing and relished in it.
Before, all of our mainstream monsters were silent and somewhat tragic. Take Jason Voorhees, the hockey masked killer of the Friday the 13th series. He didn’t kill from spite. He didn’t kill from hate.
He was killed because of teenage negligence. Now the whole ‘have premarital sex, do drugs and get slaughtered’ theme has become a trope used in many subpar movies. But here, there was a reason. He was a mentally challenged kid who drowned in a lake because teens were busy screwing in a cabin.
Then another teen comes and murders his mother, albeit for a good reason, but from his point of view, what does it matter?
He kills for his mother. He thinks that he is doing GOOD. It is somewhat like the old Boris Karloff ‘Frankenstein’ movie. That scene with him and the girl by the lake is one of the most memorable scenes in horror history.
Freddy, while he might have had some mental issues of his own, he was smart and aware.
And it helped.
Two scenes from this movie stick out in my mind. The long arms in the street, (ugh), and the bloody body-bag in the hallway.
This was terrifying! I saw it at around ten years old, in the bright day, with my Dad by my side. It still frightened me to death, but as I grew up I learned to embrace it.
This first movie in the Elm Street series was fresh, scary, and well made. I love dreams, and I love the concept of a dream killer. It was so surreal… and made me think twice before I laid down to sleep.
This movie was pretty much perfect. It caused nightmares for years, and then inspired my own work and turned me into a fan of the series in my teenage years.
What movie could do better than that? Have the full circle effect?
Well, it used to be nothing. A Nightmare on Elm Street was the epitome of everything I loved in a horror movie. Utterly terrifying and yet so much fun.
‘Utterly terrifying and yet so much fun.’
Then I saw number one.
And if the above statement doesn’t fit with this movie, I have no clue what the hell does.
The Evil Dead – 1981
Never before had I been so scared and loved it so much. This movie is like the film equivalent of a roller coaster ride.
Excellent buildup. Great acting. This film was a b-movie back than before it got so popular, but for a b-movie everything really works.
The makeup. Oh god, the makeup. Brilliant, sloppy, and creepy.
The camera angles are famous. Sam Raimi really did some interesting work on the angles, spinning around and running from a demon’s point of view, twisting and going all over the place… it helps with the whole ‘roller coaster’ thing I mentioned before.
The plot of the movie is really simple, and is now a common thing. A group of friends go out to a cabin, find the Book of the Dead, and reawaken demons who terrorize the friends.
One by one, they drop, until the only one left was the nerdiest one of them all – Ash Williams. Over the course of the trilogy, he becomes the epitome of bad-assery, but going into this movie with no knowledge, you’d never expect he’d be the one to survive the onslaught.
Things are insane. The effects are just so… great. They might have been done cheaply, but they work much better then a lot of other b-movie effects. Especially the blood. Anyone who has seen the movie knows exactly what I mean.
The movie is insane, and scary, and so violent… it makes the adrenaline run and your blood pump, it puts you on the edge of your seat, makes your eyes wide… even if you wanted too, you could never turn your eyes away.
It’s too crazy. Too fun. Too morbid and wild and amazing.
I have a hard time discussing this film technically without simply gushing.
Simply, this film is a masterpiece… if you are into this kind of thing. The thing is, it masters a combination between camp and horror. No doubt that this movie is scary as all get out, but the amount of camp they have in there simply works without dumbing down everything else. They add it without making it stupid, when these crazy things happen it gets really unsettling, it puts a pit in your stomach. You are watching insanity, you are watching a man go insane, you are watching possession of people and objects. It can get very startling.
As I said before, the makeup really works. It probably wasn’t anything all that special, but it looks great. The blank eyes, and the rotting flesh, and the spewing blood… It gives it that sort of unnatural feeling, and it makes the whole b-movie thing really work to its advantage, instead of against it.
Plus, after you’re done with this, you have a pretty freaky sequel that increases the camp a few more notches while retaining most of the fear factor, and then the third and final movie which doesn’t even earn the horror title. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great film, one of my favorites. But the third film, entitled ‘Army of Darkness’, doesn’t even contain the Evil Dead name. If you look it up, it’s classified as a dark comedy. But that shouldn’t stop you from rounding out your experience with Ash Williams and his adventure.
These are my top five favorite horror films of all time. I will watch any of these, any time, in a heartbeat.
This IS a subjective list, based on my own personal preferences and experiences. If you don’t agree with something, don’t take it personally. If you want to let me know your top five, let me know, I’d be glad to read it.
But that is it for now. Next time, we’ll return to form and talk about the difference in horror and terror in writing, and I’ll give you a little insight into my upcoming horror novel.
That’s all I have to say about that.
– Brandon, 3:41 PM