The horror genre. A world of gruesome murders, of otherworldly creatures and beasts, a world in which there are few happy endings. A world in which sins, or more often than not, innocence, are paid for in blood. These tales have fascinated me since I was a young boy. Whether it was R.L Stine channeling the ghost of Magic in The Night of the Living Dummy, or the image of an obsessive ’58 Plymouth Fury hunting down her owners loved ones in Stephen King’s Christine, I have always been drawn to tales of the macabre. In order to celebrate my love of all things grisly here is my list of 31 films which i consider to be the best that the horror genre has produced.
31: The Last house on the Left.
There are many readers who will question my decision to place this horror “classic” at the very bottom of my list. The reason for this is that The Last House on the Left is, objectively speaking, not a particularly good film, and not one that i have any real fondness for. The film is regarded as a classic by many, but i would argue that it is a much more important film than it is technically efficient. The film suffers from bad direction, sloppy editing, and most importantly contains tonal shifts so extreme that they border on offensive. What separates The Last House on the Left from similar films of the period is that Wes Craven understands the inherent barbarity in all acts of violence, and there is no justification, or attempts to soften the bloodshed caused by either side. This is not a tale of a heinous crime which is absolved by equally vicious retribution, but is instead one in which ordinary folks are driven to commit extreme acts of violence. At the heart of Craven’s directorial debut is a simple truth: that violence will often lead to violence, but it can never truly be morally justified. It is for this reason alone that this film takes the number thirty-one spot on my list.
30: The Sixth Sense
It has become increasingly easy, not to mention completely justified, to laugh at M. Night Shaymalan. Few directors have reached their creative peak so early in their careers, and even fewer have fallen so out of favour with audiences after a run of terrible films; but Shymalan deserves a special mention, not because his films are any worse than these directors, but because of the bitter and shallow tone his films have taken on. This is a real shame because The Sixth Sense is a truly great piece of work. It has been largely overshadowed by its famous twist ending, but I would argue that this is the least interesting section of the film. Instead Shymalan should be commended for capturing the anxiety of being a child who is afraid, of sitting alone in your house and feeling that cold shiver run across your neck, and of seeing something just outside your vision which promptly disappears. What really helps to build the tension in this film is that Shymalan understands how to build an atmosphere based on the threat of what we don’t see, and never cheapens the film by bombarding us with ghostly figures, or with jump scares. The film is not perfect: the sub-plot involving child actor Tommy Tammisimo is bizarre and highlights Shaymalan’s petty attitude towards actors and critics, but The Sixth Sense rises above these shortcomings because of its fantastic script and equally strong performances by Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment and Toni Collette.
29. Play Misty for me
Play Misty for Me was released in the Autumn of 1971, and was the directorial debut for actor Clint Eastwood. The film gave Eastwood an opportunity to work behind the camera, but also allowed the actor to extend his range in front of it: at this point in his career Eastwood had stuck mostly to Western and Action movies, and was worried about being typecast as an action hero. The result is a superbly directed suspense thriller which works because of Eastwood’s assured direction and a magnificent performance by Jessica Walter as deranged fan Evelyn Draper. Evelyn is a truly terrifying character because of how unthreatening she appears to be, until the shell cracks and the repressed anger begins to manifest, an anger that is showcased in a brutal attack sequence featuring a sharp knife. This sequence is clearly influenced by Psycho in the way in which it captures the strikes of the weapon, but its frantic and violent tone sets it apart from being a simple homage. Play Misty for Me is the first of the bunny-boiler movies, and deserves to be remembered as one of the truly innovative horror thrillers.
28: Shallow Grave
If the famous Ealing comedies took one step further into the darkness, if the comedic element of those works receded into the background, and the real brutality at their heart was allowed to step into the light, then the result would be Shallow Grave. The film is not so much a comedy of manners, as the Ealing comedies were, but instead a perfect example of the comedic possibilities of a detached view of criminal events. Shallow Grave follows a group of friends, played by Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox and Christopher Ecclestone, who discover their new flatmate dead in his room along with a suitcase filled with money. The friends quickly decide to keep the money after dismembering and burying the corpse, but find their friendship being tested by paranoia and greed. As the friends begin to turn on each other when faced with escalating violence, the film begins to ask a terrifying question to its audience, what is the true cost of an immoral action, and most importantly of all, is it worth it.
27: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Fire Walk With Me, the theatrical prequel to cancelled tv show Twin Peaks, is one of the great misunderstood films of recent years. The film was met with extremely negative reviews upon release, most of which were focused on the self-indulgent nature of the film as well its reluctance to answer any of the mysteries left over from the tv show; however the film is not interested in concluding the show, and should instead be viewed as a tragic insight into one girls struggle with systematic abuse. At the center of the drama is doomed homecoming queen Laura Palmer. Through no fault of her own Palmer is ultimately defined by her sexuality: she is in no way a prudish girl who struggles with the advances of her male companions, but at the same time she is not uncontrolled in her sexual experiences. Instead, Laura is a figure who is unable to separate her sexuality from her femininity in the eyes of the men around her. It is her futile attempts to escape this danger which provides the real horror in Fire Walk With Me; especially when Laura is attacked by those closest to her.
26: Jacob’s Ladder
Jacob’s Ladder is a deeply flawed movie. Bruce Joel Rubin’s script moves from supernatural horror, into a conspiracy thriller about government experiments in Vietnam, and even manages to step into the legal drama genre in a sub-plot which is quickly abandoned. Defenders of the film will argue that these sub-plots are crucial to mapping the collapse of Jacob’s conscience. However, the films final twist does not adequately explain the inclusion of these plots, and so they only ever come across as filler scenes. The reason why Jacob’s Ladder is such a great horror film is that the surrealist imagery is superbly handled by director Adrian Lynne. In one brilliant sequence, Jacob is taken on a journey through his own personal hell, including dismembered limbs, bloodied floors, and a collection of asylum inmates including his ex-wife.
David Cronenberg has always been interested in the metaphorical becoming the physical, and in some ways Videodrome can be seen as his answer to the public anxiety over the power of videotape. In the film, James Woods portrays Max Renn, a seedy television operator who is always scanning the airwaves for something which will push the boundaries for his salacious clientele. Max soon discovers a show entitled Videodrome, a show that contains no plots, actors or expensive locations, but is simply an hour of torture and murder. The waves carrying the image have a disturbing effect on Renn, and he quickly finds his body changing as he exposes himself to more of Videodrome. Director Cronenberg unleashed some of his most iconic images in Videodrome, and viewers will find it difficult to forget some of the more disturbing depictions on offer. These include the image of Max Renn involved in a sexual act with a television set, and a corpse decomposing to reveal the mass of pulsating tumours which exist below. Cronenberg may have made better, or more interesting films, but he has never topped the visceral power of Videodrome.
In some ways Deliverance has become tainted by its own success. The prominent male rape sequence, that was always the least interesting event in the film, has shifted attention away from the film as a statement on mankind’s inherent ability to commit violent acts. Deliverance tells the story of four city workers (Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox) who decide to take a canoe trip down a river before it is closed permanently by a new dam. The group soon find themselves under attack from the locals, but also discover a piece of savagery within themselves. Deliverance is interesting in that it separates itself from the usual battle of civilian vs wilderness through the character of Lewis. Lewis is not the traditional city-dweller who discovers his own capacity for violence, but is instead someone who appears much more at home when battling the wilderness. If you come to Deliverance expecting a explicitly violent or gory film then you may be disappointed, but the film remains a landmark horror film and one which deserves to be seen by more people.
23. Near Dark
This ethereal, haunting, but none-the-less brutal tale is arguably the best of the modern vampire movies. When Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) falls in love with alluring beauty Meg (Jenny Wright) he finds himself being held hostage by a group of travelling vampires played by Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Joshua John Miller. I admit the plot does sound ludicrous, but director Kathryn Bigelow fills the frame with such alluring imagery that you cannot help but take the film seriously. As the title suggests, Near Dark works best when Bigelow delicately balances light and dark as the sun begins to set on our characters. These sequences are shrouded in a light fog which gives the film a surreal, dream-like quality. The elegant imagery is accompanied perfectly by the score, which was performed by legendary band Tangerine Dream, as it never threatens to disrupt your attention from the images on-screen. Near Dark is a truly great piece of film-making.
22. 28 Days Later
Although credited as reviving interest in the zombie genre, 28 Days Later is in no way a traditional zombie movie. A closer comparison would to Romero’s The Crazies, or to Wyndham’s classic sci-fi thriller The Day of the Triffids. Screenwriter Alex Garland has admitted the influence of the Triffids on the opening of his script, and a decorative bloody hand print appears to directly reference the help-us sign from The Crazies. In some ways the rage infected population of London are a far more terrifying threat than the shuffling hordes of Romero’s classic zombie texts. Their ability to run as well as their unpredictable nature makes them more difficult to defend against, but this is not the only update that director Danny Boyle brings to this film. Rather than focusing on the racial undertone of The Night of the Living Dead, or the anti-consumerist message of Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later instead chooses to shed light on the dangers of military intervention, and the threat of global disasters being used as weapons to promote political ideals.
21. Pet cemetary
There is an unwritten, but none-the-less sacred rule in mainstream horror cinema, and that is no matter how gruesome or violent your movie is, you never kill the animals or the children. In his novel, which Stephen King maintains is the scariest of his works and i am inclined to agree with this, King breaks both elements of this rule: that is to say he kills the animals and the child. The film adaptation, released in 1989, is a relatively schlock affair, but it has enough positives to warrant a mention to list. The first is the supporting performance by Fred Gwynne as elderly neighbour Jud Crandell. Gwynne is terrific as the wise old-man who understands the danger of the power of the cemetary, but appreciates the lengths a person will go to in order to save a loved one. The second is the central thesis behind the film, the idea that you could resurrect a loved one, that you could bring a child back from the dead, and what you would be willing to risk for the opportunity. In some ways the warning which Louis ignores, the warning that “Sometimes dead is better” is the most terrifying idea ever committed to screen. It is certainly the most heartbreaking.
20. The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead is arguably the most influential independent movie of all time. The plot of the film is extremely simple: a group of friends travel to a cabin in the woods and quickly find themselves being possessed by the titular Evil Dead. From there the movie is an almost-perfect exercise in unrestrained violence and gore. The level of violence in the film is insane, there is gallons of fake-blood, stabbings, decapitation, dismemberment, and all manner of demonic possessions. However for a generation of young film-makers, The Evil Dead is important for much more than the violent images that appear on-screen. Director Sam Raimi showed that anybody with a camera and a good idea can make a successful film with enough determination. The only flaw in the film is the infamous tree-rape sequence. The scene was replaced in the superior sequel Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn.
19. The Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
If the original Evil Dead is a starter, then the sequel is a glorious main course, with the meat served bloody. Dead by Dawn opens with a recap of the first film in which Ash (played by Bruce Campbell) is taking a trip to a cabin in the woods with his girlfriend Linda. Linda is soon possessed by evil spirits, and Ash is forced to decapitate her with a shovel. Ash is soon battling against the forces of evil who threaten to eat his soul. Along the way we have a reconstituted corpse dance-number, a mans battle with his severed hand, an ecstatic stuffed deer head, and the now iconic “groovy” as delivered by Bruce Campbell. Dead by Dawn has a far more comedic tone than the original film, replaces the troublesome rape scene with a sequence that is much less problematic, and basically improves upon the first film in every way.
Ignore Hostel, ignore Saw, ignore the numerous films that have been presented to us as examples of the torture-porn genre. These films include the depictions of people in excruciating pain, this is certainly true, but what they lack is the understanding of how cinema can convey this pain to the audience. For this we must look to the horror directors who have emerged from Asia over the last twenty years. The most memorable of these films, for me at least, is Takashi Miike’s masterpiece Audition. Audition follows a man as he attempts to find love again, following the death of his wife, through the set-up of a false audition for a film. From there the film twists through various genres, it moves from romantic comedy, into a complex mystery thriller, but in the final thirty minutes it reveals itself to be true, brutal horror. I will not spoil the surprise of the ending here, but as the trailer for classic chiller Black Christmas once proclaimed “If this movie does not make your skin crawl, it is on too tight”.
The power of the original Scream, of which a large amount is derived from the brutal slaughter of Drew Barrymore in the opening minutes, has been somewhat diminished in the years since it was released in 1996. The film suffers from being the first in a franchise that dropped in quality with each subsequent release. Scream 4, the latest entry in the series, was a lackluster affair that failed to add anything new. Still, it is rather unfair to discredit the original completely as it does contain some legitimate scares, and the satire of the clichés of horror films is still refreshing ( even if the characters in the film end up repeating most of these common mistakes).
16. The Babadook
The Babadook is one of the best horror films of recent years. At first glance a tale of a mother and son under attack from a malevolent creature in their home, the film is instead about a single mum driven to the brink of emotional collapse by grief and the pressures of bringing up a young son, and is as emotionally draining as it is terrifying. The Babadook builds tension through the threat of the appearance of the eponymous creature, but it is the collapse of the relationship between mother and son that will stay with you long after the credits have finished.
Seven is a near-perfect horror film. Whilst the majority of horror has focused on offering a view of a world we don’t inhabit, at least we hope we don’t, Seven forces us to come to terms with the brutality that surrounds us everyday. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play police-officers investigating a series of grisly murders, each of which appears to have been influenced by one of the Seven Deadly Sins, an investigation that will force the detectives to journey into the nightmarish world we choose to ignore. As we watch the narrative play out, we are constantly forced to imagine the crimes that appear in the news everyday, and why we choose to ignore these events.
14. The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man is such a brilliant film, but it is also a nightmare to talk about in detail without entering spoiler territory. I will just say that the film contains creepy children in masks, crude folk music, Britt Ekland’s, or a body double in the more revealing shots, famous primal seduction attempt, and Christopher Lee in drag. I can not say any more without spoiling the iconic ending to this masterpiece, but you must track down a copy. The Wicker Man is a really great horror film.
13. The Night of the Hunter
The Night of the Hunter was the only film ever directed by Charles Laughton. It was famously dismissed by critics and audiences upon its release, but went on to become one of the most respected and admired horror films of the 20th century. The film blends two distinctive styles: its narrative is rooted in the southern gothic genre while the direction of Laughton is clearly based on the cinematic movement of German Expressionism. This style made extensive use of shadow, a memorable image from The Night of the Hunter is a shot of Reverend Harry Powell appearing as a silhouette against the moonlit sky. This striking image presents Reverend Powell as the classic monster in the dark, the figure that stalks us, unseen, as we travel in the night. Powell is one of the great savages in horror, his right and left knuckles emblazoned with the words love and hate, his hand constantly fiddling with the pocket-knife he uses to despatch women whom he sees as immoral. Robert Mitchum played two great psychopaths in his career, and as great as Cape Fear is, The Night of the Hunter remains his finest work.
As a student of English Literature at the University of Essex I had the opportunity to study both of the classic monster texts: those texts being the classic tale of science gone wrong, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and equally iconic vampire novel Dracula, written by Bram Stoker. These novels have two main things in common, they are both epistolary novels, but more importantly they have been equally mistreated on-screen. The version i have chosen for my list is the original 1931 film directed by Tod Browning. This version has all the classic moments, the inexplicable appearance of the armadillos in Castle Dracula, the first appearance of Bela Lugosi as Dracula, and the now iconic “listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make”. There have been other versions of Dracula, some of which are closer to the novel, but few of them have come close to the brilliant original. Also, if you are a horror fan, then it is essential that you watch Tod Browning’s Freaks. There are few sounds in cinema history as the titular freaks declaring their plan for evil gold-digger Cleopatra, “Gooble-Gobble, we accept her, one of us”.
The opening scene of Carrie is a stunning piece of filmmaking. The camera slowly moves the girls changing room, the steam from the showers floating around the room like fog while the nude bodies of the girls dance and play in front of the camera. It is not sexually obscene or exploitative in the way it captures the female form, but instead adopts a realistic tone which contrasts beautifully with the dream-like style of the changing room. The camera then focuses on Carrie as she washes under the stream of the shower before moving down to her legs to capture the moment the white stream of the water is corrupted by the bright red blood that trickles down her thigh. A subtle reference to the image of the crucified Jesus in a film that is filled with biblical imagery. The sequence is also an important one in the development of body horror as it not only shows one of our bodies natural processes, but also our inherent abhorrence to them. Aside from the stunning imagery special mention must also go to Sissy Spacek for her performance as Carrie. Spacek is terrific as the titular character, capturing the vulnerability, the desire to fit in, but also the subtle beauty that shines through when she emerges as the swan on prom night. Carrie is one of the few adaptations of Stephen King that truly manages to nail the book.
10. Don’t Look Now
Don’t Look Now is a haunting tale of the power of grief, our desire for answers to life’s mysteries, and the dangers that face us when we allow ourselves to be ruled by emotion. The film stars Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as an English couple who are devastated by the death of their young daughter Christine. The couple soon relocate to Venice so that the husband can begin work on restoring a church. Whilst travelling the complex canal system of Venice, John (Donald Sutherland) is plagued by images of a figure wearing the distinctive red coat his daughter was wearing when she died. John is soon dragged into an underworld of psychics, ghostly figures and the mystery of a series of grisly murders. To say any more would ruin the twists in the narrative, but if you have not seen Don’t Look Now then you should watch it as soon as possible.
Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal horror film is a masterclass in how to build suspense effectively. Psycho opens with opportunist thief Janet Leigh escaping across the country after stealing a lump of cash from her employer. The sequences involving Janet Leigh’s attempts to leave Phoenix are the moments that have always stuck with me, the moment her boss encounters her driving out of the city, the interaction between Leigh and the suspicious patrolman, and the scene of Marion Crane desperately trying to trade in her car without raising suspicion. Hitchcock captures the paranoia of central character Marion Crane beautifully in these sequences because he understands how to create a relationship between the spectator and the characters. In each of these scenes we are not simply watching the action unfold, but become unwilling co-conspirators in the robbery. Psycho is now, of course, remembered mostly for the brilliant shower sequence. Once again this sequence is all about our role as the spectator, Hitchcock only ever shows the knife moving towards its target, it is never shown entering the flesh of Marion Crane, but as an audience we create the images of violence in our heads. It is difficult for Psycho to retain all of it’s power because of the iconic sequences, but it remains one of the greatest horror films of all time.
8. Rosemary’s Baby
A haunting tale of devil worship, the conception of the child of Satan, and the unbreakable bond between mother and child. Mia Farrow puts in a scene-stealing performance as Rosemary, a young housewife who is desperate to start a family with her husband Guy ( John Cassavettes). After they move into a decrepid apartment building in New York, Rosemary is soon overwhelmed by the interference of the over-bearing couple who also live in the building. Rosemary suffers a terrifying hallucination involving being forced into a sexual act by a demonic entity, and soon discovers she is pregnant. The film undoubtedly contains elements of the supernatural, but the scariest sections of Rosemary’s Baby are those that involve the coven that has insidious designs for Rosemary’s Child. Polanski also does a brilliant job of capturing our weaknesses when faced with a situation that is beyond our knowledge. The treatments that are forced onto Rosemary by the coven acts as a metaphor for the battles people get into when science begins to battle superstition. A final point on Rosemary’s Baby is that it contains one hell of a twist (pun intended).
7. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Tobe Hooper is a director who never managed to overcome the success of this horror classic, I am not suggesting that Hooper only made one good film: Salem’s Lot has some truly chilling moments, and Poltergeist is a fun ghost story, but Hooper will always be remembered as the man who brought us one of the most surreal and misunderstood horror films in cinema history. The film was caught up in the video nasty scandal during the 1980s, but as with a small number of films that were demonized during this period, it is actually a masterpiece of suspense cinema that contains very little blood or gore. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre follows a rather traditional horror format, a group of teenagers are stalked through an abandoned house by a chainsaw wielding maniac and his cannibalistic family. In some ways the film is a dark comedy as well as a horror fantasy, it opens with the group travelling down an abandoned road in rural Texas. The image of the group in their van can be compared to that of Marlow as he travels into the eponymous Heart of Darkness in Conrad’s novel, The Texas Chain saw Massacre is essentially the same journey: it is about the discovery of the evil that exists in the wilderness.
A twist on the slasher genre, a sci-fi b+movie with a budget and a great director, or a psychological tale of mans inherent fear of rape and penetration; Alien is all of the above and more. It does contain a classic b+ plot, the occupants of a spacecraft respond to a distress signal, and are soon fighting for their lives against a vicious creature. Alien rises above the rather generic plot through both its visuals as well as the terrific use of sound. The slow, rhythmic beeping of the motion sensor is one of the classic sounds of horror cinema, especially in the scene involving Dallas and his encounter with the creature in the ventilation shaft. Alien also introduced the character of Ripley, who would reach iconic status due to the brilliant performance by Sigourney Weaver. If you are a fan of horror then both Alien and Aliens are must see films.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The magnum opus of horror director Wes Craven’s career, A Nightmare on Elm Street is loosely based on the true story of a group of teenagers who inexplicably died after complaining of horrific nightmares. Craven transforms this into the story of Nancy Thompson, a teenage girl who is stalked through her dreams by the grisly figure of Freddy Krueger and his razor-fixed glove. In A Nightmare on Elm Street Craven created some of the most visceral images in his career, Johnny Depp disappearing into his bed before being ejected in a fountain of blood, Tina being dragged around her room before being slaughtered, and the image of Freddy stretching out his arms in a position that is reminiscent of classic figures from folk-lore or fairy tales. Like most of Craven’s work A Nightmare on Elm Street has much more depth than blood and gore, underneath the gruesome murders is a biblical tale of the sins of the father, or of the previous generation, being forced upon the children.
There are always going to be arguments about whether Jaws is a suspense film or a horror film, the answer is actually a simple one: it is a horror film and a brilliant one as well. The plot does not require much of an explanation, loosely based on the novel by Peter Benchley, a book that took its inspiration from the Jersey Shore shark attacks that cost the lives of four people. Among the victims of the attacks was 12-year-old Lester Stillwell. The cinematic adaptation of Jaws takes place on the small island of Amity, an island that is rocked by a series of brutal shark attacks. Spielberg’s direction of the attacks is brilliant as each of them is filmed in a different style: the opening attack on Chrissie remains one of the creepiest sequences I have seen, the moonlight that stretches over the impenetrable darkness of the surface of the water. Chrissie struggling against the unseen creature as it drags her beneath the ocean reinforcing the danger we face each time we step into the ocean. Soon a group of intrepid hunters decide to travel into the ocean in order to track and kill the shark. Jaws deserves to be seen for a number of reasons, but i have to mention two things that have always stood out to me. The first is the chilling monologue by Robert Shaw as Quint recounts the story of his experience aboard the U.S.S Indianapolis. The second is the legendary score by John Williams. A score that will forever be used by dads to frighten their children as they enjoy an afternoon swim.
3. The Shining
The Shining was famously discredited by author Stephen King upon its release in 1980. King maintained that his novel was about the mental collapse of a decent, but flawed man whereas the performance by Jack Nicholson showed a man who was clearly unstable before entering the Overlook hotel. It would be lying to say that King’s misgivings about the film are not justified, after all the film is only a loose adaptation of the book, but as a piece of cinematic production The Shining remains a masterpiece. Kubrick’s direction places the characters at the center of the vast open spaces in the interior as well as the exterior, always allowing the structure of the Overlook hotel to dominate the frame. This positioning both reinforces the central theme of isolation, but also allows the hotel to become a character in its own right. The Shining was a notoriously difficult production and any fan of the history of horror should see this film as well as the documentaries on the making of the film. Kubrick shows his famously pedantic directing style in these documentaries, but it is hard to deny that this extreme style is responsible for one of the greatest horror films of all time.
The film that reinvigorated the slasher genre during the late Seventies, Halloween was responsible for a number of imitation films that were released consistently throughout the Eighties, but even with an increase in sexual scenes and brutal violence, none of these films could match the brilliance of the original. Jamie Lee Curtis ( daughter of Psycho shower victim Janet Leigh) plays the original final girl Laurie Strode. The final girl refers to the virginal, morally clean girl who is forced to face the monster, in this case Michael Myers, in the final showdown. Halloween would not escape the curse of the 1980s as it was itself a platform for a number of boring, increasingly silly sequels, the fourth film in the series introduced a bizarre supernatural element that continued through Halloween 5 and Halloween 6. Most of these sequels deserve to be ignored, although I must admit to having a soft spot for Halloween H20, but the original is still a horror classic.
1. The Exorcist
The greatest, and certainly the most iconic, horror film of all time can also stake a claim to be regarded as the greatest piece of cinema ever released. It has all the classic moments, the crucifix masturbation scene, the image of Regan’s head twisting completely around, a possessed Regan levitating off her bed. These are all iconic images, but the scariest parts of The Exorcist are moments people seem to forget: the brilliant interaction between Father Karras and Pazuzu when the demon states that to remove the straps holding Regan down would be “a vulgar display of power”, or my personal favourite moment when the camera lingers on Regan’s stomach as the words “help me” appear on her skin. This moment is so terrifying because it reminds us that the victim of this possession is an innocent twelve-year-old girl, a girl who is powerless to understand either the demon attacking her or the actions it forces her to perform on herself. Away from Regan the film is about a priest attempting to re-discover his faith in order to combat the ancient evil. Whether you read the film as a battle of science vs superstition or the tale of a prepubescent girls sexual awakening is a matter of personal opinion, but The Exorcist has lost none of its ability to shock, and so it takes the number 1 spot on my list of horror films.
Happy Halloween everyone. Thank you for taking the time to read this list. Whether you read my small analysis for each film, or just skipped through all of the entries, I really appreciate you taking the time to read any of this. Now, the moment that must come after every countdown involving a subjective topic, please keep in mind that this is my personal list. If your favorite film did not make the list then i apologise, but in the interest of fairness the following is a list of films that i do consider important, and were strongly considered for the main list:
10. The Night of the Living Dead
9. Cape Fear ( sorry Bennis)
8. The Brood
7. The Omen
6. The Vanishing
4. Friday the 13th
2. The Silence of the Lambs
1. Peeping Tom.
So there you have it. My official list and my honorable mentions. All that is left to say is sweet dreams, oh and did you check the cupboard, and under the bed?