Greetings! This is the month that television stations all over televise marathon after marathon of horror flicks! And theaters produce features such as Paranormal Activity 57 and Saw 1300 for thrillseekers to watch the same thing they’ve seen millions of times before! So, when it comes to horror movies…if you decide to brave watching one…which one should you watch? What should you look for?
Well, I am not a big horror movie fan, but a good friend of mine is and helps answer these questions! Please take a moment to check out the list below from my friend, Jaybird! (I’ve actually not seen any of the films listed below, except for #4 and #8) –TheScarletSp1der
Defining Horror Movies
I like horror movies! The suspense, the frights, the zombies, etc! Every October I attempt (and succeed) to watch 31 horror movies to commemorate my love for the genre in the month of Halloween. That being said, our one and only TheScarletSp1der asked me to write an article about TEN horror movies that DEFINE what the horror genre is. So…here we go!
Again, do not take this as a definitive top ten list of the greatest horror movies of all time. Take it more as a guide to most of the aspects of what the horror genre is and should be. The movies below offer not only frights but also perspective of the human condition. Watch with caution! 😀
#1. Halloween (1978)– I should start here. There are hundreds of slasher films, but none as complete as this true classic. It takes the concept of Psycho, and cuts it down into a simpler, more animalistic concept. Michael Myers is the Boogey Man, he is inexplicably evil. Michael Myers, or “The Shape”, as John Carpenter calls him in the script, is that unidentifiable evil in the world. One of the scariest things in the world is that cold, indiscriminate and unemotional evil, that is personified as The Shape.
We would never know of Freddy or Jason or the two idiots in Scream if this movie was never made. It has defined the Slasher Genre of horror and will never be unseated
See also- Friday the 13th, Alien, Psycho
#2. The Exorcist (1973)– The Exorcist is the opposite of Halloween. You know what evil is, and you are helpless. You are, as a viewer, in the mother’s position of seeing what is happening to her possessed daughter, yet unable to do a thing about it. At the time, this was one the most shocking things ever filmed, in fact my own mother, after seeing this as a teenager, had to sleep in her mother’s room, out of pure fear.
See Also- The Omen
#3. The Thing (1982)– This is one of the most taut, tense movies you will ever live through. The basic premise is a group of Antarctic scientist are trapped with a shape shifter in their midst. So who is “The Thing”. You cannot trust anyone in this environment. The special effects are some of the best filmed. (The newly released prequel is in theaters right now).
Outside of Halloween, this is John Carpenter’s best work. You can tell movies like the original Thing inspired him to become a great director of horror.
#4. Jaws (1975)– The original summer blockbuster…with rows and rows of teeth. If you have ever been to a beach and not thought of this movie, you are the crazy one. The key to the movie is not seeing the shark. The unseen evil is scariest. The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. The soundtrack recognizable and just as suspenseful. Plus the acting is superb, which is a rarity in so many would-be horror flicks. When you finally see the shark, you have fully bought into the fact that it is purest evil in animal form. Spielberg is a genius just on this movie alone. He could have called it a career afterwards!
#5. Suspiria (1977)– If you don’t know Dario Argento’s name, then you have not seen enough horror movies. Just as Sergio Leone redefined the western and his spanning vista shot followed by tight cropped shots, Argento created a colorful environment that is scarier than any deep, dark, dungeon. The use of contrasting colors and interesting locations makes this story of a Witch’s coven disguised as a ballet school just as pretty as it is tense.
This movie is part the “Mothers” trilogy, the first two are awesome, the last one, filmed within the last five years, does not live up to the previous installments.
See Also- Inferno, Tenebre
#6. Nosferatu (1922)– F.W. Murnau created a masterpiece in horror that still holds up nineties years after its release. Replace Count Dracula with Count Orlok and you have Nosferatu. With the lack of sound, the visuals have to create all of the fear of the movie and it does so in spades. Orlok is not the Victorian gentleman often portrayed, but rather a twisted and pestilential figure that brings tidings of doom to everything in his path. The movie, to me, is a painting, mixed with a nightmare.
The movie, Shadow of the Vampire (2000), is a fictionalization of the filming of Nosferatu, which raises the question, “What if Max Schreck (the actor who plays Orlok) was a vampire?” Ha! It’s worth a look.
#7. Dawn of the Dead (1972)– Night of the Living Dead is the more iconic of George Romero’s Dead series, but Dawn of the Dead is his most prophetic. Before zombie movies were just about gore, Romero used a world on the cusp of apocalypse to show us that consumerism is rendering us numb to the world. Set in a suburban mall, four survivors of the zombie epidemic take refuge and have to fight their will to find what’s left with humanity, with the comforts of modern living. The remake is an excellent zombie movie, but it is just that, a zombie movie, devoid of any philosophical or political context.
See Also- Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, 28 Days Later
#8. Frankenstein (1931)-This is pillar of Horror, the imagery is engrained in the American psyche. If you were to ask anyone 18-80 to draw Frankenstein’s Monster, it will turn out to look like Boris Karloff 99.99999 percent of the time. The beauty of Frankenstein is that the monster is not the scariest thing in the movie, the villager’s reaction is far worse. Mary Shelley’s tale of the Frankenstein monster is currently being reworked by more than just a few movie makers, but all remakes have this original film as a reference.
See Also- The Wolfman, Bride of Frankenstein
#9. The Wickerman (1973)– This is one of the weirdest horror movies I have ever seen. It has been called the “Citizen Kane of Horror”. The movie is set on a small island off the coast of Scotland. A Detective Sergeant is sent to investigate a missing persons case. When he arrives, he gets more than he bargains for. If you have ever lived in a small town, this movie will strike a chord. It seems the whole island is against the DS being there from the beginning.
A classic example of “Folk Horror.” Never assume people in rural areas are decent hard-working people. An interesting mix of paganism with the modern world. Christopher Lee gives an excellent performance.
#10. An American Werewolf in London (1981)– Comedy is often a huge part of horror, and this movie does an excellent job of not taking itself too seriously. Directed by John Landis (Animal House), An American college student and his friend are attacked while backpacking through the English countryside. One is killed and the other lives on with two curses: being a werewolf, and the guilt of his friend’s death.
So many horror films hit theaters and homes every year! I hope you enjoyed this look at TEN staple horror films that blend tale, storytelling, masterful cinematography, suspense, reality, and comedy in such an enjoyable manner! Have you seen any/all of these? What are your favorite horror movies?
Note from TheScarletSp1der: I’d like to note that the most recent film in this list is from the year 1982! They just don’t make them like they used to! 😀 Thank you to my friend, Jaybird, for elaborating upon his expertise in the area of the horror genre!
Thanks for reading! Scary Watching!
up next: “Trailer Time Thursday!”