Sunday, October 7, 2012

What are the best horror movies of all time?

I take my horror seriously.

I like legitimate scares, tons of gore and great scores.

While I enjoy most movie genres – except for musicals, of course – horror has been and always will be my favorite.

The entire month of October at my house is dedicated to watching horror movies of all shapes and sizes.

I’ll watch good horror movies, bad horror movies and even ridiculous horror movies.

I’ll sit through putrid remakes – just so I can make fun of them.

Still, there are a handful of horror movies that not only stand the test of time but continue to scare even to this day.

What are they?

Here we go:

10. Watcher in the Woods: This is a little Disney gem that very few people have ever seen. I’m addicted to it, though. Not only is this one of Bette Davis’ last movies, it’s an effective “ghost” story that doesn’t rely on cheap gimmicks and poor special effects. This is the story of two sisters that move into a house that is “haunted” by a presence in the woods. Is that presence a ghost? Is it the daughter of the owner of the house? Is it something else? The movie has a simple premise – but it delivers genuine scares and a nice ending. For those that rent the movie, check out the alternate endings and then imagine how different the movie would have been (different in a bad way, mind you) if they had went with one of those.

9. Cabin in the Woods: This movie came out this year, so I admit it might be a little premature to put it on this list. Still, I absolutely love this film. Not only is it a horror movie, with the fun kills, gratuitous nudity and convenient archetypes we’ve become familiar with over the years – but it’s also a movie that has a higher social conscience. I don’t want to go into the whole background of the film – because that really will ruin it for viewers – but this is actually a recent horror movie that has a decent pedigree. People should take the time and check it out.

8. The Ring: In general, I’m not a fan of taking Japanese horror movies and updating them for an American audience. Most of the time, the Japanese movie is 10 times scarier than the American one – just look at ‘The Grudge.’ Still, this is one of the rare updates that actually works. The terrifying tale of a viral video that kills you seven days after you watch it is not only a showcase for Naomi Watts – but a genuinely terror inducing plot that is engaging and fleshed out. Plus, I don’t know anyone that didn’t look at their television a little differently after they watched this movie for the first time. Now, as good as the first movie is, the sequel is terrible. So, if you’re going to rent one, stick with the first movie and just pretend the second one doesn’t exist.

7. Poltergeist: The original angry ghost movie pulls out all the stops. We have pothead parents. An irresponsible teenage daughter. A tree that will literally eat you. A terrifying clown doll. Maggots. Oh, and a little person dispensing advice. Did I leave anything out? Actually, all jokes aside, ‘Poltergeist’ is really the story of the parental bond. It’s just surrounded by ghosts. And, while the movie is truly wonderful, this is another film that gets overpowered by the tragedy that followed it off-screen – with two of the three children featured in the movie dying at a young age. Without this movie, though, we never would have learned the perils of building a subdivision on a former graveyard. You can't just move the headstones people.

6. A Nightmare on Elm Street: The sequels are cheesy and poorly written (except for 'New Nightmare'), but the original still stands the test of time. I remember growing up, there was an urban legend that if you died in your dreams you died in real life. That’s essentially what ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ is a takeoff on. Sure, they include an impressive back story about a burned pedophile that is taking his revenge on the children of his enemies. To this day, Freddy scraping his finger knives along that metal pipe is still uncomfortable. And Johnny Depp getting eaten by his bed? Still priceless. Forget the sequels, the original still delivers a multitude of scares.

5. 28 Days Later: Danny Boyle essentially invented fast moving zombies – even though they’re not technically zombies. No, these are mindless flesh killers slowly stalking their prey. These are people, infected with rage, and boy can they run. I first saw ’28 Days Later’ right before that big blackout we had several years ago. It was still fresh in my mind while I drove from Royal Oak to Clinton Township in the middle of the night. That movie was all I could think about. What I like best about ’28 Days Later’ isn’t the mindless kills. No, the thing I like most is the lesson that tells us sometimes humans are the worst monsters of all. I love the sequel equally as much – even though some people complain it’s a slam at the American military. Still, the original remains the best.

4. Halloween: The original film is still the best slasher movie ever made. From the creepy score to Jamie Lee Curtis’ authentic debut as virginal Laurie Strode, 'Halloween' really did set the bar high for this type of film. This was the first “teenage” movie that served as a cautionary tale of what happens to bad girls vs. good girls. Curtis wows – and the two young kids (Kyle Richards and Brian Andrews) are both solid enough to make you believe in their terror. The interesting thing about Michael Myers (before Rob Zombie ruined him anyway), is that there was never any reason given for why Michael went nuts and killed his sister. That’s what made the story so terrifying. Giving Michael motivation is what ultimately ruined him. Still, this 1978 original continues to scare generation after generation, so it’s the only Michael Myers I allow to exist in my world. 

3. Night of the Living Dead: I’m talking the original here, not that bad 1980s remake (which I actually enjoy watching, mind you). This is one of the only black and white movies I can tolerate watching (yes, I know what that says about me to movie purists). George A. Romero used to be the king of the undead. His last five or six films in the genre have been really bad. Still, every time I find myself getting down on him I remember this film and how it was not only terrifying – but time defying.

2. The Exorcist: I think the scariest thing about this movie for most people is the religious aspects of it. I know a lot of people that really believe it could happen. Exorcisms are so common, that Poland actually puts out a monthly exorcism magazine. The scariest thing for me wasn’t the religious aspect for the film. I was always put off by all the stories of the crew members dying while filming. Some of the actors and crew actually believe that the filming was haunted. Either way, the acting in this gem is still spot on and the creepy dialogue holds up to this day.

1. The Shining: This is one of those movies my mom let me watch when I was way too young and I was traumatized for life (‘Jaws’ is the other one). Jack Nicholson is so freaky in this movie he actually radiates anger. There is a behind-the-scenes documentary on my Blu-Ray that was taken at the time the movie was filmed by Stanley Kubrick. It shows how Nicholson got himself worked up for the “murderous” scenes in the end. That documentary is just as terrifying as the movie. Still, it’s the scenes of young Danny riding through the hotel on his Hot Wheels (I used to have a Batman one as a kid) that always gets me. The scene goes on so long it lulls you into a false sense of safety before pulling out those creepy twins. The surreal aspects of the film still work, as well. It’s just an all-around great horror film.

Honorable mentions go to:

Orphan: This is one of the few movies in recent years that promised a twist and actually delivered. This is about a family that is mourning the loss of an infant when they adopt a troubled child from Russia. Turns out . . . well, the twist is too good to ruin for you. Still, it’s a great movie with a great cast.

Friday the 13th Part 2: I’m one of those people that thinks the even numbered ‘Friday the 13th’ movies are better than the odd ones (you know, the opposite of the ‘Star Trek’ films). Still, when it comes down to it, I think that ‘Friday the 13th Part VI’ is my favorite movie in the franchise. ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’ is the scariest, though. It’s also the one that introduces us to Jason. So, if you’re only going to watch one Friday – make it the second one.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The first movie is dark, brooding and scary. Plus, Kudos to the filmmakers for not being afraid to kill off the annoying guy in a wheelchair. I don’t hate the remake – but I do hate the prequel to the remake.

House of Wax: This will come off as blasphemy to horror movie purists, but I prefer the remake – only because Paris Hilton gets a rod jammed through her head.

Dawn of the Dead: I actually love both the remake and the original. The remake introduces those that didn't see '28 Days Later' to fast moving zombies. Also, I have to give credit where credit is due -- that baby zombie is all kinds of creepy.

What do you think? What are the best horror movies of all time?


Blogger Sadie Heldberg said...

What a great list Amanda. I have to give you props for knowing about The Watcher in the Woods, which is one of my all time favorite spooky movies. I first saw it when I was a girl and because it was made by Disney, I got the opportunity to watch it, he he. The Shining is simply a great opportunity to see two great minds combined. Stephen King wrote a fantastic story with all the psychological craziness one could ask for. Stanley Kubrick used his unique mind to bring the classic story to film, which makes it the perfect party pleaser. In fact, I’m hosting a Halloween party and inviting some coworkers of mine from DISH over for a horror flick bash, which should be amazing. I’ve considered buying these movies, which would be amazing, especially Watcher in the Woods, but that gets too expensive. So, instead I’ve decided to rent them among others from Blockbuster @Home saving me a lot of money that I need for snacks, drinks and other stuff. This is going to be an awesome Halloween, especially since we’ll definitely be watching some wicked horror flicks; thanks again.

October 22, 2012 at 9:13 PM 

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