My Top-10 Horror Movies
While I don’t really consider myself a horror buff, I have to admit that in recent years I’ve become fascinated by the horror movie genre. I’ve also seen enough horror films that I feel comfortable about doing a top-10 list of them. Here we go…
Slasher films don’t hold a particular appeal for me, but if one was to pick a must-see example from this genre, I think both of the first two movies in the Friday the 13th series are the ones to go with.
The first movie is really worth seeing just because it’s so different from the sequels, but the second is a disturbing and yet, in a bizarre way, entertaining horror piece with improved acting and a far more hard-hitting approach. Friday Part 1 is a quaint little picture but one that still manages to creep you out sufficiently. Part 2 is the iconic slasher prototype for the rest of the franchise where Jason Voorhees is still incredibly frightening, even without his iconic hockey mask.
I really feel that it was from the third movie onward that the franchise became reduced to utter nonsense so you really don’t need to bother with the rest.
Now you might be thinking to yourself: How can a movie about a rabid Saint Bernard be scary? But Cujo is indeed a very powerful movie.
It doesn’t rely on any supernatural aspects, unlike most works of Stephen King, but instead on a very simple concept to deliver a relatable human story.
Cujo isn’t just a horror movie, it’s a well written drama with the added horror element making it stronger. It still plays well with its subtly creepy and panic-inducing atmosphere, but is not a massive gore-fest by any definition. (Neither are any of the other movies on this list, so you’ll want to look elsewhere for that.)
Those finding themselves paranoid about dogs after watching this film though should turn to Beethoven for its calming effect.
Well of course I had to include the most famous horror movie of all time. I’ve had a bit of an on-off relationship with the Exorcist and for the longest time I actually hated the movie immensely, despite the fact that I did love the main theme, composed by Mike Oldfield.
In the end though, I finally came around when I realised that the movie, despite using some pretty explicit supernatural elements, relies heavily on subtle suggestion to make the atmosphere truly desolate and hopeless. The character performances in particular are excellent and you really feel the terror creeping in the further you watch it.
I’ve not seen either one of the sequels, but I feel I need to comment on the prequel Exorcist: The Beginning by Renny Harlin. I feel it’s a movie that gets a lot more hate than it deserves. Certainly it’s not a masterpiece on the level of the original, but in my view a passable horror flick for the current generation.
The Hannibal films have always been very interesting to me and I maybe need to explain a bit why I put this one specifically on here. Now, my favourite Hannibal Lecter film is in fact the 1984 pre-Anthony Hopkins piece Manhunter, based on The Red Dragon. Of the Hopkins canon of films, The Silence of the Lambs is definitely my favourite and in my personal opinion the best written film. However, both Manhunter and Silence feel like thrillers where as Hannibal is straight up horror.
Hannibal is the only movie to tip the gross-out meter on this list, but between a man who looks like a zombie seeking vengeance on Lecter, a French cop getting hanged and gutted and Anthony Hopkins eating the brains of Ray Liotta, the film just leaves powerful images in your head which is why it works so well.
Story-wise, I think most of the other Lecter films are better, but Hannibalis by far the most scary.
Based on the famous horror game series by Konami, this extremely under-rated horror piece is like diving into a bad dream. The film may take more than a few liberties with the plotline and characters from the game series, but it delivers a truly disturbing and creepy story.
The monsters and horrors of the town of Silent
Hill look as effective and creepy here as they did in the video-game. The haunting visuals as well as the music, brought directly from the game, enhance the movie’s atmosphere. The story and powerful actor performances are what keeps the whole thing together till the end.
It pains me not to include the movie in the Top-5, but I decided to keep only one video-game film for each half of the list.
Another Stephen King film from the legendary director Stanley Kubrick, this one is also widely recognised as a classic. The film isn’t about the supernatural per se, but the insinuations and the delving into the disturbed mind of Jack Nicholson makes this a very effective piece. It builds up the horror in a very quaint and simple way and comes out strong.
Like all of Kubrick’s films, The Shining is strong on the visuals – perhaps more than on the story, but it definitely delivers in the main areas that a horror movie should.
At the same time, it avoids the clichés and doesn’t go for overt shock-value which is why I’ve always admired it, even though I’m definitely not Kubrick’s biggest fan.
It is simply put a must-see.
As I mentioned before, I am not a particular fan of the slasher genre, but John Carpenter’s Halloween stands out in the genre as a grade-A example of a well-made slasher film, which doesn’t reduce itself into a gory mess. Instead it relies on genuine suspense and atmosphere.
Here Michael Meyers is not just a faceless killer and a slapstick movie monster. He’s genuinely frightening and disturbing.
The whole movie can be taken as a fairly realistic look at a serial killer stalking his victims, but it leaves enough vagueness that there is still an element of mystery left in it.
I also love the soundtrack and I think the theme melody is one of the greatest pieces of movie music ever composed (by Carpenter himself, no less).
As far as the Zombie genre is concerned, I haven’t unfortunately seen that many films. Out of the few I have, my absolute favourite is probably Shaun of the Dead, but since it’s principally a comedy, I think Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil, loosely based on the game of the same name by Capcom, is the most suitable candidate and certainly a great, serious and suspenseful zombie flick.
The chilling atmosphere is enhanced greatly by Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami’s score, and the zombies themselves look gross and scary. To top it off, the film creates a bizarre atmosphere where the characters have no names and everyone is at a loss at what to do about the hordes of undead walking the corridors of the underground research facility.
With a solid and straight-faced cast, the intensity of this claustrophobic zombie thriller works extremely well. Even if it’s not necessarily the most original film of its kind, it’s certainly a well crafted celebration of the genre.
Out of the Universal horror classics, I honestly think that Frankenstein still holds up the best. Though barely resembling the Mary Shelley novel it’s based on, the movie comes out superior due to its well crafted stage-design, memorable and grandiose (though thankfully not over-the-top) performances and the iconic Boris Karloff in the Jack Pierce make-up which became the look of the monster for all eternity.
Excellent build-up and atmosphere, coupled with a well-written story about science gone awry is in my view the finest mad scientist film still to this day. Who can forget the graveyard scene, the monster’s creation, the little girl or the confrontation at the windmill? This movie is the very definition of iconic.
While many consider its sequel The Bride of Frankenstein to be a superior movie, I personally favour the more serious and dark original, whereas Bride has more of a camp and comedic value in my eyes.
Paul W.S. Anderson’s space horror movie is one of the most under-rated films in its genre. By paying homage to several great horror films of the past, it manages to tell its own intricate and disturbing tale of a ship that went to Hell and back.
Event Horizon walks a fine line between subtle and disgusting but never goes too far the deep end. It manages to maintain its suspense and never once starts to feel overdone. It does get a little gruesome, but I feel in acceptable increments.
Over-all the movie manages to create a great atmosphere as well as make you care about the characters, most of whom meet a very unfortunate fate. The film is also audio-visually magnificent and leaves everything vague enough for the audience to imagine what is actually happening.
It’s my personal favourite horror film and one I enjoy watching endlessly.