“Danny isn’t here, Mrs. Torrance.”
1. THE SHINING (1980)
PLOT: Daddy goes crazy and wields an axe while his family is trapped in a haunted hotel in Colorado.
THOUGHTS: They don’t make horror movies like THE SHINING anymore. Hell, they didn’t make horror movies like THE SHINING before. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, based on the equally frightening Stephen King novel, has a depth and intelligence that is lacking in most fright films. Of course it has its scary moments — some of the scariest in movie history — but it’s much more than a blood-and-guts thriller. At its heart, THE SHINING is about a middle-class family. And as it scares the hell out of you, it reveals that dark and dysfunctional side of the American family. Then there’s Jack Nicholson. His performance as the axe-wielding maniac Jack Torrance is over-the-top yet riveting. Watching ol’ Jack chew up the scenery is most of the fun of watching the movie.
“She might have fooled me, but she didn’t fool my mother.”
2. PSYCHO (1960)
PLOT: Mild-mannered hotel clerk with an Oedipal complex slashes young lady in the shower.
THOUGHTS: Once Norman Bates flickered onto the silver screen, the horror movie was never the same. This new “screen excitement,” from director Alfred Hitchcock, plucked the fright film from those dark, drafty castles of the Boris Karloff age and flung it down in the middle of America. PSYCHO gave birth to the modern horror movie and the psychological thriller, which was driven, not by monsters, but by the boy next door, albeit a boy with something dark and evil inside. The film’s haunting score and that shower scene are unforgettable.
“It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
3. HALLOWEEN (1978)
PLOT: On Halloween, an escaped mental patient pursued by his shrink sports a mask, stalking and killing the teenagers in his old neighborhood.
THOUGHTS: This John Carpenter horror flick is what started the late 70s/early 80s slasher movie craze and gave us one of the most recognizable serial killers in the genre — the Captain Kirk-masked Michael Myers. HALLOWEEN also gave Jamie Lee Curtis her big break, earning her her scream queen status and setting the standard for the strong, brave, heroic leading lady who not only survives in the end, but defeats the killer (albeit temporarily). While Myers stalks his victims in what would typically be viewed as a “safe” setting — a beautiful autumn day in a suburban town — it’s the film’s eerie main theme that foreshadows what’s to come.
“What an excellent day for an exorcism.”
4. THE EXORCIST (1973)
PLOT: A pre-teen possessed by a demon projectile-vomits and masturbates with a crucifix.
THOUGHTS: Regan’s possessed face, green and scarred, is enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone, not to mention those demonic voices coming out of the young girl’s mouth. THE EXORCIST was the closest thing to your worst nightmare than anything you’ve ever seen before. It was also one of the most profane movies of all time, full of blasphemous language and activities (most of which we can’t speak about in a family-oriented website), and even with all that, it was still nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture — a feat not commonly accomplished in the horror genre.
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
5. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
PLOT: The recently deceased arise and terrorize a group of survivors trapped in a farmhouse.
THOUGHTS: Its gritty realism and gore intensified the horror movie. Its depiction of the undead set the standard for years to come. And over night, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD gave new life to what has become one of the strongest and beloved sub-genres of the field — the zombie movie. Directed by George A. Romero, on a $100,000 budget, the flick also introduced the world to the splatter film and set the stage for bloodfests like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It’s one of the most imitated films in history, but there’s only one original.
“In space no one can hear you scream.”
6. ALIEN (1979)
PLOT: After ripping through a crew member’s chest, a sick-looking extraterrestrial hunts down those aboard the spaceship Nostromo.
THOUGHTS: Why is this movie so terrifying? Answer: The Alien. A ruthless, heartless, indefatigable, life-destroying, six-foot-tall, insect-like killer. The only goal of this beast is the perpetuation of the breed by the utter annihilation of everything else. The brilliant flow of the film, a cunning and suspenseful mix of gore and shock, is the stuff of legend. From the outset, you are struck by the visual completeness of this movie and how it revolves around the shear terror of the Alien, which was created and built by the nightmare genius of H.R. Giger. Yet, the Alien itself is actually on screen for only something like six minutes!
“No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.”
7. HELLRAISER (1987)
PLOT: A young girl discovers a gateway to hell…and its guardians.
THOUGHTS: The concept of hell is scary all on its own, but add to it a group of sadomasochistic avatars decked out in black leather and gaping wounds, headed by the mother of all pincushions, and you’ve got yourself a real screamer. The Clive Barker-penned HELLRAISER introduced a new dimension to the horror genre by presenting pain as a means of pleasure — pleasure attained through unending pain and suffering, administered courtesy of the instantly classic ‘Pinhead’ and his brood of Cenobite masochists. Unlike mindless slasher films that flooded the box office prior to its release, HELLRAISER changed the way we view hell in the same way that Nightmare on Elm Street changed the way we view dreams.
“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.”
8. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)
PLOT: Freddy Krueger terrorizes and kills the teenagers of Elm Street through their dreams.
THOUGHTS: The residents of Elm Street thought they’d be safe once they killed local child murderer Freddy Krueger. Little did they know that the red and green sweater-clad madman would enact revenge by haunting their children’s nightmares, turning them into reality. To his sleep-deprived victims, who fear to fall asleep even for a brief moment, the burnt-faced, boiler-room-dwelling Krueger is an inescapable demon; to the movie-going audience, the clawed-gloved, wise-cracking tormentor is terrifying, yet charismatic as well. While other popular movie killers like Michael Myers and Jason Voorhies are portrayed as cold, mechanical characters, Krueger has personality, which is what makes A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a cut — or should I say slash? — above the rest.
“My family has always been in meat.”
9. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)
PLOT: Psycho and his cannibal family slaughter five teens.
THOUGHTS: This is the granddaddy of the slasher film. Blood, meat hooks, brutality, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE had it all. Not many movies — even in today’s gore-obsessed cinema — have matched its intensity. Presented in a grainy, realistic style, the movie was able to bring home the unreal terrors occurring in the Sawyer house. But more than that, it brought us Leatherface, one of the scariest dudes in horror. And don’t forget the chainsaw, a weapon that would appear in many fright films to come.
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
10. JAWS (1975)
PLOT: A tenacious great white shark terrorizes a summer resort town.
THOUGHTS: If horror movies are all about scaring the piss out of you, then JAWS reigns supreme. Not many movies had the affect on its audience as the first blockbuster did. As lines grew around theater houses, attendance at beaches worldwide dwindled. The great white, which barely appeared in the film, has terrified the populace for 30 years. John Williams’ score was so effective that to this day you can’t go near the beach without hearing that driving melody in your head. But beyond all that, director Steven Spielberg artfully crafted one of the most thrilling stories ever to appear on a movie screen.
“Live or die, make your choice.”
11. SAW (2004)
PLOT: The Jigsaw Killer wants to teach his victims the value of life by forcing them to complete unthinkable tasks in order to escape an ironic death.
THOUGHTS: For the last decade or so, the horror movie genre has been overflowing with remakes and Americanized versions of popular Japanese flicks. With SAW, audiences finally got an original script-driven vehicle with a twist ending that surprised even the wittiest of moviegoers. Unlike other films whose villains are out for revenge, SAW’s masterminded killer Jigsaw has nothing personal against his victims. All he wants to do is show them just how precious life really is. Too bad for them, it’s the hardest lesson they’ll ever learn.
“Look at me, Damien! It’s all for you.”
12. THE OMEN (1976)
PLOT: A U.S. ambassador raises the son of the Devil and an unnamed jackal.
THOUGHTS: The Devil is always a good place to start in a horror movie; throw in a jackal for good measure, and get the demon-spawn Damien as the result of this unholy union. And thus is born the antichrist, not to mention one of the earliest — and greatest — evil children in horror. The movie was such a hit that the name “Damien” to this day is synonymous with evil, and the scene in which Damien’s nanny’s joyfully hangs herself at the young boy’s birthday party is one of the most memorable moments in the horror genre. The movie spawned three sequels and a recent remake.
“They will rise to suck the blood of the living!”
13. ZOMBIE (1979)
PLOT: A young woman sets out to a tropical island to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance and encounters the undead.
THOUGHTS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD may have been the spark that kicked off the zombie party, but as far as creepy, gory, nightmare-inducing cinema goes, Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE is the film that finishes off the tequila, screws the dog, and vomits in your grandmother’s urn. Ask anyone who’s seen it and without fail they’ll relay two things: A fat zombie fights a shark underwater; and one of the female leads gets her eye impaled on a huge splinter…very slowly — a scene which caused the movie to be banned in several European countries, including England (Wankers!). The movie was so wildly popular that it is considered the film which ignited the hyper-realistic gore genre in Europe, spawning dozens of celluloid expositions of the undead.
Written by Empress Eve and Dave3 of G.o.D. as well as Jimzarro and Jenn-X of Blogzarro.