I know there are lists everywhere about the top 10…20…25 horror films of all time. First of all, like any other list, everybody has their own list of what “The Best” is. After all, what creeps one person out doesn’t necessarily creep another person out. For example, vampires and zombies have only mildly scared me. But anything remotely close to ghosts or the supernatural? Now we’re talking. Of course, a film that affects the psyche of an entire generation or instills fear on the masses such as “Jaws”, can be considered a success and should receive a well deserved high status. But what about those other movies that don’t get too much attention that still made you open your eyes in the dark in the middle of the night? You know, that movie that while you were watching it you said, “that was the dumbest, weakest horror film I’ve ever seen.” Or, “that didn’t scare me at all.” Only to find yourself thinking about it later. Horror doesn’t necessarily need to have a monster in it. An “odd” little girl or a mute tall man can be all you need.
Here are my lists of films that may or may not have made it on other Best horror films of all time lists. They only made my overall list if they:
- Made me sleep with my parents as a kid
- Had a compelling enough story to make me care about the characters. A lot of movies today have characters in them that make me care less if they live or die. Sometimes I’m on the killer’s side.
- Had an outstanding musical score that makes me cringe just hearing it.
Let’s start with the classics:
–What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-Before there was Misery, there was Baby Jane. Rat on a silver platter anyone?
–Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte-this would not be considered shocking now but it was at the time. Still a great story.
–Burnt Offerings-See a pattern? Forget Dark Victory. Bette Davis could have made a career as the original scream queen.
–Invasion of the Body Snatchers-That scene where Kevin McCarthy looks at the camera and screams, “they’re coming!” is still classic.
Films that scared the Catholic kids (like me):
-Carnival of Souls-The 1962 version.
Great movies with great musical score or rhyme:
-Halloween-They just don’t write themes like that anymore.
–Nightmare on Elm Street-Remember the nursery rhyme?
–The Legend of Lizzie Borden-That rhyme is even worse.
–Psycho-Who knew string instruments could be so terrifying?
–Jaws-I never considered this to be a horror film but it did change how we felt about swimming in the ocean. Da dum…da dum..da dum…da dum……ahhh!
–The Shining-The music in that isn’t instantly recognizable but it’s big, scary, and terrifying when you hear it. I still hate hearing it.
Ju-on-Japan-The original The Grudge. Same as above. Right now the Japanese have the formula for great horror films in my opinion.
Them-France-This is the original, The Strangers.
Calvaire (The Ordeal)-France/Belgium-This movie from Belgium is a combination of Deliverance, and Misery. It’s borderline horror, more on creepy suspense but definitely worth checking out.
Great monsters, villains
-Silence of the Lambs- Hannibal Lechter. Certainly the most educated and classiest of villains.
-Alien-to date, this is the only movie that made me start crying from fear. I was nine! Nobody saw that little alien thing coming during the dinner scene!
–The Descent-The monsters in this are great! I don’t even like so-called monsters but these guys creeped me out.
–SAW – Yay Jigsaw! A great concept from a young writer/filmmaker that caught on.
–The Midnight Meat Train-The meat packing guy is an effective villain. Good old fashioned, void of emotion killing machine. Reminded me of Michael Myers. The only weird thing is that Bradley Cooper and Brooke Shields are in this film.
–The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-Leatherface. That’s all that needs to be said about him.
–Of course, Freddy, Michael, and Jason. That goes without saying.
And you think chicks can’t be scary? Check out this group:
-Carrie-and her mother for that matter. This is one of those movies that had it all. Scary music, creepy girl, even creepier mother, one of the scariest endings of all time. Brian de Palma was king for a while.
–The Exorcism of Emily Rose-Eeek. Just…eek.
–Paranormal Activity-I’m sorry. I found Katie Featherstone to be scary. I know this is sacrilege to somebody.
–The Exorcist-Of course, I have to end with the queen herself. Still going strong sister!
* I just have to make the point that there are a lot of remakes coming out. That’s fine and good but I encourage this generation to watch the originals. The stories may seem to be at a slower pace but the villains in the older movies were slower and scarier. Michael Myers was scary because while Jamie Lee Curtis was running, he still caught up to her just walking and taking his sweet time. That’s scary. Same thing with Night of the Living Dead. They practically crawled and still killed everybody. Today, the zombies are running? Give me a break!