My Favorite Horror Flicks
As a special Halloween treat, we’re going to chat about horror flicks. Horror movies are like comfort food for me, they poke something in my soul that feels instinctual rather than intellectual. Instead of poking at the mind, they go straight for the heart, preferring to raise your blood pressure than to stimulate your cerebral cortex. With a few exceptions, they aren’t the smartest films you’ll ever watch. Their purpose is to entertain viscerally, not provide eye-opening insight into life and/or love. Considering the volume of mind-bending, cerebral films I’ve been watching the last few years, the month of October provides a welcome break.
Horror preferences tend to depend on your era or age: my dad’s generation loves the Universal monsters (Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon), my generation prefers the slasher franchises (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers), and the new generation loves the torture porn, Asian imports, and/or general remakes (Saw, Hostel, The Ring, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)). I think the horror heyday resides somewhere in between my dad’s and my group, those 70′s horror flicks that really terrified and tested waters most cinemagoers weren’t prepared for (The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Jaws, Suspiria, Don’t Look Now, The Omen, Carrie).
Here’s my list of favorites:
#1 The Exorcist
The king of all. First and foremost, it’s an amazingly scary horror film. But aside from the scares and creepy make-up, it has an incredible script and perfectly casted actors in each part. As a whole, a film doesn’t get much better than this. Having an antagonist completely restrained for the duration of the film and still managing to scare the living hell out of the audience is sheer genius.
#2 Halloween (1978)
The first film that scared the daylights out of me, and I enjoyed it. I saw the movie, bought the mask, and hung it in my closet facing my bed. Any night I slept with that closet door open I could wake up and see that damn thing staring at me in the darkness. No idea why I did that to myself.
#3 The Thing (1982)
The paranoia and suspense are unparalleled, and the creature images are the stuff of nightmares. Carpenter did more with basic animatronics and old school effects than any computer could ever do.
#4 Evil Dead 1 & 2
Over-the-top, in-your-face, gory, bloody, craziness. Once these films get going they refuse to let up. I have no idea how Raimi came up with some of this stuff, and to be honest I’m a little concerned about his sanity every time I watch these.
#5 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Ultimately, Mr. Krueger scared me more than any other flick on this list. It’s unfair, Krueger was a villain who didn’t have to play by our rules, we were forced to play by his rules in his games. For years I refused to re-watch it. The way Craven bent reality in the dream sequences left me completely unsettled and unprepared for what he was capable of.
#6 An American Werewolf in London
Aside from the scattered scenes of werewolf mutilation and transformation, the playful nature of this film makes it so different to watch. Most horror films are soaked with dread, but Landis keeps you grinning most of the time. Just before he unleashes the beast. Love the soundtrack too.
Pure joy for the eyes. The colors are practically a character in the film, forming the tone and mood in so many scenes. Italian horror is quite a beautiful sight. The soundtrack on this one is one of the best horror soundtracks as well, thanks to Goblin.
#8 Black Christmas (1974)
A rare horror film set at Christmas time, a tough gig to pull off without appearing as exploitation. Instead this is one of those slow building, tense thrillers with a rarely seen but frequently heard villain. The phone calls are pretty freaky.
#9 Dawn of the Dead (1978)
As zombie movies go, this one is tough to top. Romero’s black and white original is almost on the same plane, but this flick is a little more of an adventure and it’s a pretty fun ride. Another film that holds back on the dread and despair until just the right moments.
#10 The Shining
The ultimate slow-build, pot-boil, epic horror film. The film is so masterfully shot and acted, it’s almost an artsy horror film. Having Kubrick behind the camera is a step up for any movie, but have him direct a Stephen King story and put Jack Nicholson in the lead role and you have the ingredients for a horror masterpiece.
#11 Peeping Tom
The original first-person POV killer in cinema. This film made me appreciate Michael Powell even more, which is saying something considering his body of work. The film was well ahead of its time, and to be honest, I’m utterly surprised we haven’t seen a remake of it yet. I pray it never happens, but in the YouTube/Skype world we live in, the theme of this film would fit right in.
I had to push it to 11 films, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving any of these off the list.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!!