Once again, it is Halloween. It is a time for dressing up as ghosts and/or goblins; a time to eat boatloads of candy….unless you’re a diabetic, then that’s a really bad idea….just saying. It is a time for spooky pumpkins. It’s also a time for one of my favorite film genres of all time: HORROR! For this Halloween Edition of The Best, I will be going over my favorite horror movies of all time. Some of these films are going to be R-rated, some are going to be PG. Some are going to be sequels and others are going to be remakes. Some are going to be old and some are going to be brand new. I’m mixing it up a bit. So…let’s get right into it, shall we?
Clive Barker is one of the most prolific horror writers today, but his real first stab at directing a horror film is one for the ages. Hellraiser came out at time when horror movies were starting to lose their luster, so to speak. It re-energized an entire genre and gave us one of the most memorable on-screen villains of all time: Pinhead. It’s a very gruesome and gory film featuring some major standout performances, specifically Doug Bradley as Pinhead. Featuring a small puzzle box that when opened, demons from another dimension come through and take their victims back to Hell. From a visual standpoint, this film is one-of-a-kind. Sadly, the sequels starting with Hellraiser III would end up getting worse and worse. Stick with the first two movies.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
My last post was about my favorite decade in horror movies, and I said that it was the 1970s. There’s a reason for that. I loved the way horror films looked back then. They had a very gritty and almost documentary style about them that hasn’t been seen since. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is by far one of the most iconic horror movies, because it goes insane. It’s not the goriest film in the world, but it didn’t need to be in order to shock and terrify people. Having a main villain with a person’s face as a mask wielding a chainsaw coming after you is really all you need. Leatherface is one of the scariest villains ever put on screen.
This little indie film jump-started an entire new horror film franchise. It’s ironic, really, when you consider that the original film is more of a mystery thriller than it is a full-blown horror flick. Still, there are elements here that make it qualify as such. The performances are awesome, and I really love the fact that the majority of the film is shot in one small room. Granted is for budgetary reasons, but it was very effective. It is a bloody film, but the gore is mostly implied than shown. It’s not until the sequels that the gore becomes a mainstay in the series. The twist at the end of the film is one that most people never saw coming, and it was a huge “WTF?!” moment. I love the other movies, but haven’t seen the new one, yet, but the original is still the best.
Army of Darkness
While most Evil Dead fans will point to Evil Dead II as the best in the series, Army of Darkness is my personal favorite of the bunch. Don’t get wrong, Evil Dead 2 was a great film and IS the best in the series, but honestly, I had more fun with the third film than any of the others. Why? Because it truly embraces its silliness. There certainly are creepy and atmospheric moments throughout, but most of the movie is just played for laughs. Thanks to the incredible duo of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness is one of the most quotable and entertaining films of the early 90s. It was also one of the last films to really utilize stop-motion animation. It’s hilarious, exciting, and just an absolute joy to watch.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Is it really a surprise to anybody that this film made it on this list? While Wes Craven took the world by storm with his shocking films The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street would be his signature film. There’s a reason for that. This is one of the best slasher films of the 80s. Casting Robert Englund in the role of the demonic Freddy Krueger was a stroke of genius. Not only would the character become one of the most celebrated villains in cinema, Robert Englund would become a household name. While a good chunk of the sequels were inferior and some were really good, but none of them can top the original film. This was also the film debut of Johnny Depp. This was a career maker for a lot of people.
Now, this one was a huge surprise. A horror film set in the time of the Puritans? The entire film is such an extraordinary experience. It’s a slow-burner of a film that really gets under your skin. The environments and the setting really establish a sense of isolation and desolation. When the infant goes missing, the family begins to suspect one of the daughters of colluding with Satan. When you factor in the religious paranoia of the puritans with supernatural elements and isolation, you have a very interesting and powerful film that takes a huge jab at religious fundamentalism. This is not an effects-heavy film, so it has to rely on the actors and the environments to get the idea across that there is something seriously wrong. This is absolutely one of the best indie horror films that have ever been released.
Hey, what’s a science fiction film doing in a list about horror movies?! Hold your horses, let me explain. Yes, Alien on the surface is a science fiction film, but at its core is a tight, claustrophobic psychological thriller. It’s often been said that it’s not what you see that scares you, it’s what you don’t see. Alien is the best sci-fi/horror hybrid movie ever made. With the tight corridors of the Nostromo, the crew is locked in a battle of survival against one of the greatest movie monsters in cinema history: The Xenomorph. This is an absolutely nightmarish creature. H.R. Giger’s design is one of the finest I’ve ever seen, and Alien goes down in history as one of the most terrifying movies of all time.
The Last House on the Left(1972)
One of the reasons why Wes Craven’s first film appears on this list is the sheer raw power of the film. This was made at a time when people were dealing with the issues from Vietnam. The footage from the war really turned people away from that stuff. Wes Craven decided that the best way to deal with violence was to bring it out into the open. The Last House on the Left broke boundaries and pushed the envelope to the breaking point. Nobody had ever seen a film like this before. Especially not one with very grisly and realistic imagery. The film gave us the most memorable role of David Hess as Krug. These criminals were definitely vile and evil. Even today, The Last House on the Left is one of the most shocking and powerful horror movies that have ever been released.
Now, THIS is a really solid thriller. You have a group of good-for-nothings target an old blind man to rob, only to find out that he’s not entirely helpless. This is an extraordinary film. At first, you’re kind of rooting for the old man, only to find out that he has secrets of his own. Making the old man blind was brilliant. It adds a level of tension to the film that is almost unbearable. His blindness allows him to use his other senses to get around and to figure out what’s going on. The performances here are outstanding. Stephen Lang as the old man is a revelation. At first he comes across as sympathetic, but later you figure out that he is NOT a good guy. This one is definitely worth checking out. It’s not gory, but it is intense.
This one is a classic in every sense of the word. It is also one of the most perfect horror films ever. Jaws follows the residents of an island as they’re terrorized by a Great White shark. What makes this movie so damned good, is because for most of the film, you don’t see the shark. You hear the infamous score by John Williams and you know what’s going to happen. What makes this film so terrifying, is because it’s realistic. Shark attacks DO happen and most people never see it coming. Combine that with great characters and a pacing that’s almost breakneck speed, and you have one of the best movies out there. This was the film that really launched Steven Spielberg’s career as a director.
The Exorcist is considered by many to be the greatest horror film of all time, and I can definitely see where they are coming from. It’s intense, brutal, and has some of the most shocking imagery that was ever seen during the 70s. Truth be told, there’s really not much more that I can say that hasn’t been said about the film. The acting is phenomenal with standout performances from Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, and Max von Sydow. Along with some pretty graphic visual effects, The Exorcist has terrified audiences world-wide for over 40 years.
Let’s be honest, here. You can’t have a list about the best horror movies without mentioning the best horror movie ever made: Dracula. Released in 1931, Dracula starred Bela Lugosi in the title role and captivated audiences the world over. Adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula follows the main character as tries to find a place in England from which he can rule the night. This was the film that really kick-started the horror film craze. It is a beloved classic in every sense of the word and features a truly captivating performance by Bela Lugosi. I can’t find anything negative to say about this film. It’s that good. This is not just a must-see, it’s a must-own.
Well, there is my list for The Best Horror Movies. What do you guys think, is there something I left off, or is there something else that you would like to add. Please comment below and share this post. This has been so much fun to write I would love to hear from people and what they think about it.