In honor of Halloween, I thought that I would offer my favorite horror movies. I am a big fan of horror movies and I had a very hard time keeping it down to only 10 choices (as I did for video games). So here are 25 goodies in no particular order. Tell me what landed on your list in the comment section.
In The Mouth of Madness (John Carpenter 1995) I am a fan of H.P. Lovecraft stories and this film borrows from the heavily. Carpenter does a great job describing the nameless horrors that drive a person mad by simply seeing them. The ending is a throwback to nihilistic 80’s horror (dark and hopeless in a good way).
An American Werewolf in London (John Landis 19 that81) This movie is a classic horror comedy. The special effects were cutting edge for its time and even now hold up well. This is a classic monster movie on one hand but peppers in black comedic moments throughout (his zombie friend telling him how to kill himself). There is a sense that the director is messing with the audience. Every song in the film is moon related (from “Fly Me to the Moon” to “Bad Moon Rising”). Great fun.
Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper 1982) This film (directed by Hooper who also directed Texas Chainsaw Massacre) makes all my childhood fears real. From the evil looking gnarled tree to things hiding in the closet. The special effects are great (especially the scene where the man tears of his face). This movie gave me nightmares. I never looked at TV static the same way. Underneath the ghost story, there is a social commentary about the deadening horrors of life in suburbia.
Candyman (Bernard Rose 1992) This movie has great atmosphere and is one of the few horror films that tackle life in the urban ghetto. I like the fact that Candyman is more ambiguous character (not all evil and not all good).
Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright 2004) As you will see down the list, I love zombie flicks. I can sit down and watch this movie anytime. It is the perfect mix of comedic banter, zombie horror, and some true emotion.
The Omen (Richard Donner 1976) Before the first Superman, Donner directed this classic brooding film. It is hard to go wrong with Gregory Peck, who is slowly realizing his son is evil.
Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow 1987) Pre-Oscar Kathryn Bigelow directed this vicious vision of vampirism. This is my favorite vampire movie.
Dawn of the Dead (George Romero 1978) No list of horror movies is complete without the mention of Romero. The original ending (before it was changed to a slightly more hopeful end and released) had the protagonists killing themselves out of hopelessness. This says everything you need to know about the feeling of dread that seeps through this film. It is also a get mix of social commentary and horror.
Hellraiser (Clive Barker1987) This movie and Hellraiser 2 are relentlessly violent and disturbing. After I time I saw this film for the first time, I had to sleep with the lights on. The film is a meditation on torture and the corruption of evil.
Evil Dead 2 (Sam Raimi 1987) Basically just a remake of the original Evil Dead with humor (and thankfully minus the tree rape) The necronomicon and the nameless horror if unleashes is taken directly from H.P. Lovecraft. I love the scene when Ash has gone insane in the cabin; the deer and everything laughs maniacally.
Slither (James Gunn 2006) This movie is the blend of aliens, zombies, and mutants. All done with the right amount of gross outs, comedy, and cheese.
The Mist (Frank Darabont 2007) This movie is a throwback to the nihilistic 80’s horror I mentioned earlier. The political undertones are interesting and the ending is so black that I am still shocked they had the balls to shoot it.
Return of the Living Dead (Dan O’Bannon 1985) Zombies again but this time there is a hitch; the zombies can talk and are basically unstoppable. No head-shot take downs here. This was the origin of the zombie saying, “brains”. Black humor and gross outs abound.
The Gate (Tibor Takacs 1987) This was my favorite horror movie as a kid. . The plot is basically Evil Dead for a teenagers (complete with the nameless evil summoned from a book and a hand that goes evil and must be punished). The best scene is young Stephen Dorff (his first film) stabbing his friend in the eye with a Barbie leg.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman 1978) This was the first horror movie that I ever saw. My parents made the mistake of thinking that because this move had a PG rating it would be mild. They were so wrong. I had nightmare galore. There is a hopelessness at the end of this film that is hard for a kid to shake off (I think I was 6 or 7 when I saw this).
The Thing (John Carpenter 1982) John Carpenter again, this time directing a remake that is vastly superior to the original. The alien entity, able to mimic other shapes, is utterly frightening and the paranoia is developed very well. The special effects are ahead of their time as well.
Dead Alive (Peter Jackson 1992) This is Peter Jackson as his gross out, cheesy, pre-LOTR best. It contains great lines like, “I kick ass for the Lord” and the best use of a lawnmower in a zombie film ever.
May (Lucky McKee 2002) This is one of the few slasherish films on my list. McKee does a great job capturing the loneliness of May and the inevitability of her mad descent. This is also a twisted retelling of a Frankenstein story.
From Beyond (Stuart Gordon 1986) This a modern version of a H.P. Lovecraft short story. Gordon is best known for his Re-Animator films (also based on Lovecraft) but this lessor know gem does a better job of capturing the madness that is alway bubbling under the surface of Lovecraft stories. It is also fun to see Jeffery Combs (the mad doctor from the Re-Animator) be a good-ish guy for once.
Resident Evil (Paul W.S. Anderson 2002) In my book, this film and the 3rd one (but fuck the terrible 2nd and 5th) are the best video game adaptation yet made. Unexpected deaths and zombies abound. After reading this article from Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_18781_umbrella-most-wasteful-movie-corporation-ever.html I have new appreciation for AI computer that was trying to save humanity from a global holocaust.
The Exorcist 3 (William Peter Blatty 1990) It has become a cliche to talk about the original Exorcist as one of the greatest horror films ever made. This film is often overlooked. It is written and directed by the author of the book “The Exorcist”. The film is a meditation on death, faith, and evil. The original title was “Legion” and was only changed at the last minute to “The Exorcist 3” by film executives. The execs also added a 1 minute long exorcism that makes no sense in the context of the film. The bones of a great horror film are here and worth checking out.
Fright Night (Tom Holland 1985) This another one of my favorite films as a kid. I rented it ten times or more from the local Just In Video store. This is a throwback to the classic vampire movies of the 50’s but with a great modern twist.
The Descent (original cut) (Neil Marshall 2005) The character development and the sense of claustrophobia that build through this film are masterful. The original ending (deemed too dark for American audiences) is a great throwback (I feel like I am using that word every other sentence) to nihilistic 80’s horror.
The People Under the Stairs (Wes Craven 1991) I had to throw at least one Craven movie in here. This film is insane. The political satire is transparent but well done. The plot revolves around an African-American kid trying to steal a rumored treasure from a crazy, greedy white couple. Good stuff.
Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer 2009) At last we come to the last and most resent movie on my list. This is basically a road movie with zombies. I love the sense of humor this movie has about itself and the genre. The special guest midway through makes this film.