Fact: Horror movies are better than reality shows.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 1:41 am 2 comments

Since Halloween is nearing, my sister and I have begun our yearly ritual of watching “spooky shows” and horror movies. I am a huge fan of horror movies and have been for years. The first horror movie I was allowed to watch was Jaws, which I rented for my 10th birthday party. About a week later I went to the beach for the first time. Needless to say, I did not go into the water.

I’ve seen a ton of B movies and foreign horror movies, but unfortunately have so far not seen a bunch that are supposed to be good (Les Yeux Sans Visage, The Brood, The Fly, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve made a list of 30 of my favorite horror movies. It’s basically in order, but it was hard to rank, and I know I’ve missed or had to omit several. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll make a list of my top 50.

Let me know what some of your favorite horror movies are, because I definitely want to watch more!

(Note: I wrote this list over about a week, and I wrote a lot in the middle of the night, so please excuse my grammar, spelling, and lack of synonyms for the word “scary.” I’ll edit this once I get a full night’s sleep. So, uh, maybe never?)

30. Scream
I know some people will disagree with me on this one, but I think Scream is a pretty good movie. For one, it really restarted the horror movie craze in the mid-nineties. Two, it’s inventive and unique — not just a slasher flick, but also a movie that makes fun of itself and its genre.

29. The Vanishing/Spoorloos (1988)
A man’s girlfriend disappears from a gas station, and he spends the next three years obsessed with trying to find out what happened to her. I’ve not seen this movie in years, but the ending seriously disturbed me.

28. The Thing
I first saw The Thing about four years ago (which was the year I made a point to watch as many movies on Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments as possible), and I was very surprised that I liked it. The things that really make the movie creepy are the combination of the setting — incredibly remote, bleak Antarctica — and the idea of not knowing if the people you trust are really, well, people. The Thing is a remake of The Thing From Another World, which the movie Alien was loosely based on.

27. The Orphanage
A woman returns to the now-closed orphanage she lived at as a child with her husband and child, Simón, intending to reopen the building as a home for children with disabilities. Simón begins talking about his imaginary friends, including one named Tomás. And then Simón disappears. I saw The Orphanage in the theatres, and I spent a good part of the movie with my hands over my eyes. Coming from someone who is rarely really scared by horror movies, that’s saying a lot. The plot kind of goes all over the place, and there is one part that’s straight out of Poltergeist, but the movie is all sorts of creepy. I’ll have to see it again, but it will probably be higher on my list.

26. Black Sunday
A witch and her lover are executed in the 1600’s. Two hundred years later, she returns. Don’t discount the movie just because it’s nearing 50 years old — it’s creepy as hell.

25. The Omen (1976)
Everyone knows the plot of The Omen by now, but it’s still a pretty gruesome and suspenseful movie. The deaths are all delightfully horrific.

24. Nosferatu
It’s my personal belief that Count Orlok is the scariest vampire that has ever been on film. That’s basically all I have to say about this movie because looking at screen shots from it is giving me the heebie jeebies.

23. Eraserhead
My parents went to a double feature of Freaks and Eraserhead man years ago, before I was born, and both of them still remember the experience vividly. As my dad explained Eraserhead to me, it’s about a man who has bizarre, nonsensical things happen to him, and eventually the viewer realizes that the man must be going crazy. I don’t know how to better explain it. I didn’t sleep well after I first saw it, mainly due to the last bit with the baby.

22. Poltergeist
A family experiences supernatural forces in their house, and then the youngest daughter is kidnapped by souls trapped between life and the afterlife. I wasn’t a huge fan of Poltergeist the first time I saw it, so I didn’t watch it again for years. When it came on TV again (and Iknew who Tobe Hooper was this time), I watched. Okay, so, I admit that some of the movie is pretty lame, but when the parts with the stairs and the clown are pretty damn scary. The “curse” and the fact that supposedly real skeletons were used definitely add to the creepiness.

21. Ju-on
Ju-on tells the story of several people, all involved in different ways with a house where a terrible crime was committed. (It was remade as The Grudge by the same director, so the plot and dialog is virtually the same, but I prefer the Japanese version.) Takashi Shimizu — the director and writer — doesn’t use suggestions of spirits or tons of special effects to scare the viewer. The ghosts are completely terrifying.

20. The Others
Like in Ju-on, The Others also uses less suggestion and more visuals to scare. (As an example of what I mean, see the scene where the daughter is argueing with a little boy about opening the curtains.)

19. Suspiria
The first of two Dario Argento films on my list. (Huge Argento fan.) Suspiria is the story of an American ballet dancer who travels to Germany to attend a dance academy. Once there, she realizes bizarre things are happening to students and within the school — even to herself. If you prefer sheer scares to unique plot, you may want to skip this one. Argento is stylistic, and his bright red blood is so classic. A piece of trivia about Suspiria — it’s somewhat based on something that happened to Daria Nicolodi’s (Argento’s former girlfriend) grandmother. (Suspiria is set to be remade. Why do all the great classics get remade?)

18. The Ring
I was initially disappointed by The Ring. I had heard from so many people that it was the scariest movie ever, and I wasn’t at all scared the first time I saw it. Seriously. I watched it again after a few months, and then I recognized its creepiness. And it’s very, very creepy.

17. The Fury
Firstly, Brian de Palma is awesome! Carrie barely missed my list, and Dressed To Kill is one of my all-time favorites. The Fury is about a teenage girl who seeks help for developing and learning to control her psychic powers. Meanwhile, a man is trying to find his psychic son, who has been kidnapped. The Fury may not be terrifying or scare you out of your chair, but it’s still pretty damn awesome.

16. The Blair Witch Project
About ten years after seeing this movie for the first time, the end still gives me chills. Be sure to watch the mockumentary, Curse of the Blair Witch, if you haven’t seen it already.

15. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
After zombies have taken over, a couple and two men take refuge in a mall. (Fun fact — Goblin, who did the music for several Argento films, as well as Dario Argento did the music for this. Claudio Argento, Dario’s brother, produced the movie. The more you know!) By the way, the 2004 remake is one of the only horror movie “redos” I approve of.

14. Audition
A widower seeks the help of a film producer friend to stage auditions for a fake movie in order for the widower to find a new wife. He meets a quiet, gentle woman and begins to court her. That’s all I’m going to tell you. But I will tell you that this movie made me swear off blind dates.

13. Jaws
You’ve probably seen Jaws, you probably know the plot by heart, so I’ll spare you a synopsis. But it’s still a classic, and I still don’t go in the water.

12. 28 Days Later
28 days after an animal activist is attacked by a monkey and infected with the “rage virus,” Cillian Murphy wakes from a coma to find London desolate and brimming with “The Infected.” Though they aren’t zombies, per se, The Infected are similar — except they run.

11. The Sixth Sense
Unfortunately for M. Night Shyamalan, he became famous for this amazing movie and has steadily gone downhill. The Sixth Sense, however, is probably one of the scariest movies of all time.

10. Dark Water/Honogurai mizu no soko kara (2002)
Dark Water is about a woman who, in the midst of divorcing her husband, moves into an older apartment building with her young daughter. The ceiling begins leaking, and the mother discovers that a girl her daughter’s age disappeared from the apartment above. The American version with Jennifer Connelly is pretty good, but it doesn’t even compare with the original. The original — based on a story by Koji Suzuki, who also wrote Ringu — is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. If I were ranking this list on scariness alone, this very well may be at or near the top.

9. The Shining
One of the great things about this movie is that Kubrick hardly ever makes the scene dark or tries to scare the viewer with a loud noise when something jumps out. Other movies use those tricks and didn’t scare me, but The Shining scared me to death when I first saw it at 11 or 12, and I still will probably never stay in the mountains.

8. Deep Red
My second and favorite film by Dario Argento. A musician witnesses the death of a psychic and tries to find the killer with the help of a journalist (Daria Nicolodi!). More murders occur, and each — in typical Argento fashion — is gruesome and original. The song is one of the creepiest things about the movie.

7. The Exorcist
Personally, I find movies having to do with evil and the devil incredibly frightening. Like in The Omen, a child — someone who is supposed to be good and innocent and “off limits” — is possessed by evil.

6. Halloween (1978)
Six-year-old Michael Myers kills his sister and is sent away to a mental institution. Years later, he returns to his old house and finds victims in a teenage girl and her friends on Halloween night. Halloween is now a classic and spurned a ton of sequels (including Halloween III, which has absolutely nothing to do with Michael Myers and should be totally avoided), but was created on a very modest budget — Michael Myers’s infamous mask was actual a Captain Kirk mask spray painted white. Proof once again that you don’t need a huge amount of money to scare the crap out of audiences.

5. Night of the Hunter
A father is hanged for his a part in a robbery. Before being caught, he hides the money. His former cellmate — a preacher with “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed across his knuckles — then seduces the man’s widow in an attempt to find the money. When he doesn’t get the information from the woman, he kills her and tries to extract the information from his new step-children. Robert Mitchum is incredibly scary, and while Night of the Hunter may not be a horror movie in the truest sense of the word, it’s still very frightening.

4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
A graveyard has been desecrated in a rural Texas town, and a girl, her brother who is in a wheelchair, and friends make a trip to check on the grave of the girl’s grandfather. Afterward, they visit the grandparents’ old farmhouse. On the way, they pick up a hitchhiker who scares them. They kick him out of the car and continue to the house. What they don’t know is that the hitchhiker is a member of a bizarre family living near the old house. I’ve not seen the remake of this movie, and don’t really need to — the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is horrifying enough.

3. The Devil’s Backbone
This is movie that made me fall in love with Guillermo del Toro. A boy is dropped off at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Almost immediately he is aware that the ghost is filled with ghosts — not just an actual specter, but also the ghosts of a defused bomb resting in the middle of a courtyard, of a man’s past as a resident of the orphanage, and of the former lives of the administrators. There are some incredibly frightening moments of the movie, but it’s not a traditional horror movie. There is much more to it than that.

2. Alien
A crew on a ship bound for Earth sets down on an unknown planet when they receive what they believe is a distress signal. While on the planet, one of the crew members is attacked by a life form that attaches to his face. When he is returned on board, he brings with him a creature that threatens to destroy everyone. Like The Thing, Alien was somewhat based on The Thing from Another World. The sequel — while more of an action or suspense film — is equally as good. And Alien is really damn good (and really a tie with my number one choice).

1. Night of the Living Dead
First of all, zombies are my favorite movie monsters. Secondly, Night of the Living Dead is horrifying and haunting. The combination of black and white film and “real” noises at times opposed to a score (when the zombies are wandering around and crickets are chirping — that scares me more than any music or loud bang in a movie) are scarier than one would expect. It’s just an amazing, amazing movie.


Entry filed under: Lists. Tags: , , , , .

Friday Finds – week 41, 2008. More reasons to be overwhelmed.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anna  |  Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    i know you’ve never even seen me before, but i have your layout lj added on mine. i was just snooping around my livejournal, for lack of anything else to do, and i came across your blog.
    ok, now commenting on the post:
    i completely disagree as alien being even near top 10. it is a good movie, but not near scary(at leat not to me). the thought being in another planet surrounded by aliens killing people is scary, but the movie itself… i didnt think it was. cant comment on your number one choice, because i’ve never watched it. actually i cant say i have watched most of these.
    and as for The Blair Witch Project, it goes among the top 5 in my list. one of the scariest, if not the scariest, movies i’ve ever seen. it creeped me out.

  • 2. Emily  |  Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Well, I agree in part with you. Alien isn’t scary to me (at least not after seeing it about 20 times), but I think that it’s well-done, intelligent, and inventive, which is why it’s number 2 on my list. If I had ranked this list on scares alone, most of the movies listed would not be there. (Although after I made this list, several people told me that movies I didn’t think were scary at all were horrifying. So I guess fear is subjective.)

    One common element of horror movies that I find scary is isolation — being out in the middle of nowhere and unable to get help. The thing that really gets me about Alien is that they are in space — they can’t leave and help can’t come. That’s like my worse nightmare.


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