Hey kids it’s Halloween you know what that means?! Mindless slaughter, mass terror and all the virgin’s blood you can drink! I love horror movies. Sometimes they can be filled with suspense, thrillers that play on our fears and overactive imaginations. Others are just straight out bloodbaths. Both can be done well and both fit into the horror movie genre. So prepare yourselves for my top ten favourite horror movies. MWHUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! *Ominous thunderclap*
(Please note that these are my own personal choice and note set in stone. These are all subjective….wow what a mood killer…)
10) The Shining (1980)
Stanley Mutherfu*^ing Kubrick. Perhaps one of the greatest directors in history. He really knew what he was doing when he made The Shining. The film centres on a family, Jack Torrance (played by magnificent bast&rd Jack Nicholson), his wife Wendy (Played by Shelley Duvall) and their young, psychic son Danny (played by Danny Lloyd), who move to a reclusive hotel in the snowy mountains when Jack takes a job as the winter caretaker. The main point is Jack’s decay into insanity; I really don’t do it justice. The acting is excellent. The three main characters are played by great actors, especially Jack Nicholson who turns in a landmark performance as well as giving us those immortal lines “Here’s Johnny”. As well as all this we have the exquisite direction of Stanley Kubrick. I happen to have an artist’s poster of the Shining in my room and looking at it now reminds me of the way Kubrick creates a feeling of isolation with his long corridor shots and use of colours. Red and white fill the corridors, making them seem longer and more isolated. Furthermore the editing in this film is excellent. Kubrick cuts from the young Danny to his visions of blood gushing from the elevators and filling the lobby repeatedly and swiftly, the music accompanying it provides a perfect atmosphere. Furthermore it’s a very surreal movie. There’s a scene where Jack walks in on a man in a bunny suit giving another guy a trouser friendly kiss…Didn’t see that coming (no pun intended) I love the way Jack Nicholson portrays insanity in the character. It is pretty much a perfect film….which makes it strange why it’s at number ten….Just remember that these are my own personal choices!!
9) Scream (1996)
Now I’ve already reviewed this film and you probably remember it well… Nevertheless I will proceed. The film is basically director Wes Craven’s (Nightmare on Elm Street) satirical take on horror films. The killer phones his victims and gives them a horror film related question, although this happens once which happens to be my only complaint. I don’t think any other horror film has done this so successfully and it would take such a brilliant director as Wes Craven to do it. This is a director who watched as Nightmare on Elm Street, his masterpiece became one of the most successful and famous horror films in all time only to look on as network executives raped it, dragging it out into a franchise that never seemed to die. This is a film that is funny as well as scary and employs one of my favourite techniques that has become known as the Golden Duck. This is a technique we will be seeing later on in the list and involves a highly successful and well-known actor being killed off in the first few moments of the film. In this film its poor Drew Barrymore is killed off first thing, need I recall the story of one boy, his dog and a lighter that Craven told Barrymore in order to get the right reaction. Ironically, this film which was supposed to be a semi-exposé on the whole Horror movie genre actually turned into a franchise, the total body count is up to 4.
8) Final Destination (2000)
As far as premises go this has to be one of the most ingenious. A group of teenagers board a plane to Paris when one has a vision of the plane crashing. Said group flee said plane only to see aforementioned plane crashing. Death, being a magnificent son of a b!tch that enjoys an audience, hunts them down and kills them one by one in ridiculous yet brilliant ways. I love this film for several reasons. Firstly the acting isn’t half bad; felt I ought to get that out-of-the-way first. I love the fact that they actually make death a character. Death becomes the villain. This is an imaginative take on fate and for that I commend it. The deaths are, as previously mentioned, gory. They usually involve household objects, death is never seen as a solid person, being manipulated and yet arguably not being manipulated. This effect is lost later on in the series when it becomes obvious that the objects are being manipulated. Now, because I’m sure you’re all wondering, some examples of deaths which vary from someone being hit by a bus to someone being decapitated by a shard of metal being pulled along by a train (it makes sense in context). I’m sure you’re wondering what I thought of the sequels and perhaps I’ll review them someday. In all honesty I don’t mind the violence and general repetition of the plot, it seems pretty obvious that this would happen if you went along the sequel route, as to whether the sequels were actually necessary is another point altogether.
7) Halloween (1978)
This is undoubtably one of the three core Halloween films released around the 70’s/80’s, only two of which feature on the list. Halloween is a story about a teenage girl (played by Jamie Lee Curtis, hell it launched her career) under threat by a serial killer who has recently escaped from the local psychiatric hospital. Curtis is aided by Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) in fighting Micheal Myers, the lunatic. I’m gonna admit, I only saw this film recently and I must admit I was very impressed. It is the perfect example of a film which balances blood and tension. It had fake outs around every corner and murder around every other. Most importantly though I think this film has potentially one of the finest theme tunes of any other horror film. It. Is. Spine tingling. And it is notoriously catchy. The best thing though, without a shadow of a doubt, is the creation of the character of Micheal Myers. Perhaps one of the greatest icons of horror, Micheal Myers is actually described as evil by his own psychiatrist Dr Loomis. What follows is a quote from the film from Loomis regarding Myers “I met him, fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding; even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.” When the killer’s own Psychiatrist is calling him pure evil, you know sh!ts gotten serious.
6) Friday the 13th (1980)
Well I said before that there were three main films that pretty much define the horror genre during the 70’s/80’s and this is the second, some of you may know what the third is in which case well done, have a chocolate. Friday the 13th is a film that took previous clichés, set up by films such as Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, the main one being that if you don’t have sex, drink or get higher than a kite on the fourth of July, then you cannot die in a horror film. Friday the 13th took that cliché and turned it on its head. These teenagers were just normal, nice teenagers all of whom killed off in violent ways; I especially like the girl who is dispatched with the axe in typical body horror way. Another excellent thing about this film is the setting. Camp Crystal lake set in the middle of a forest by a lake. Almost completely in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention the entire camp looks great in the dark with the moon reflecting on the lake. The character of Jason is a different type of killer. We can sympathize with him. Jason was disfigured and bullied at camp for it. The kids, being cruel little f*ckers, push him in the lake where he drowns because the camp councillors were too busy getting their mac on (thank you Alice Haley for this phrase referring to sex, I have been using it all week.) It is also interesting to note that Jason is not the actual killer in this film, it’s his mother. The ending is perhaps one of the biggest surprises in horror movie history. I won’t spoil it for you but it is certainly quite something and helps to make this film a classic, in some ways a precursor to Scream, if only because it turned clichés on their heads.
5) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This is a landmark film. Night of the Living Dead marks the birth of a genre; every single zombie movie owes everything to this film. George A Romero is the father of this genre and this was his first film. Interestingly it’s not really supposed to be taken as a straight up horror movie per-say. Romero wanted to convey racism and the ‘zomifying’ nature of media. These themes come across in the final part of the film, I won’t ruin it for you but it comes across very, very clearly. The film itself starts simply. A brother and sister are visiting their mother’s grave when all of a sudden they are attacked by a zombie. Boom, no explanation given just straight into the action. This is a great beginning and it’s a shame that more films don’t follow suit. The majority of the film takes place in a small home with a limited cast. This helps to increase feelings of isolation and therefore horror. I like the way the different characters clash, which comes across very well and very naturally (well wouldn’t you be prone to arguments id you were trapped in a confined environment surrounded by legions of the living dead? C’mon we’ve all been there.) The acting, sadly, isn’t that good although it matters little because the film has to be herald as one of the definitive horror movies that brought the zombie to the big screen, it also could be considered to be the last of the great black and white horror movies. Nevertheless it has to be praised as the film that first truly raised the dead for us, George A Romero is truly the Father of the zombie genre.
4) The Ring (1998)
Japan isn’t really the first place you’d look for excellent horror movies, but this film proves me wrong. It also has a premise to rival Scream and Final Destination combined. Look at your TV. Nice isn’t it. Now imagine a freaking woman crawling out of it, coming towards you and causing you to die of fright. This is such an original premise it restores my faith in the film industry. It preys on something so simple, technology, something that has been done before but not to such an extent. In other films you may find killers or supernatural beings working through technology but never before has the story revolved around it in such a way. The image of the girl coming through the TV should be featured on the front of Time magazine (if it were owned by Charles Manson), not to mention the final image of most of the victims, the girls bulging eye. The video tape itself is just terrifying. The well, the woman in the chair, the window, the locket everything just makes me want to cry a little. The backstory of the girl is also a little creepy and…actually I’m scaring myself let’s finish. The film reminds us that once in a while an exquisite film comes from somewhere that generally we disregard when it comes to horror…despite their horrific habit of violently torturing POW’s in WW2….and their rigorous code of honour which often led to suicide in feudal times….oh and the whole Kamikaze thing…Um…
3) The Exorcist (1973)
In the early 70’s a film came out which sent people fleeing on mass from theatres. Teenagers everywhere regretted sneaking into cinemas as they spent their nights curled up in fear. This film was
Cabaret the Exorcist. This film was described in Channel four’s 100 greatest scary moments (it came second) by Alice Cooper, famed Captain Hook of Rock and Roll, as genuinely evil and by John Carpenter, director of Halloween, as and I quote “man is that film disturbing”. Yes the exorcist, sometimes considered one of the scariest movies of all time, yet only ranks at 3 in this countdown. Why? Well let’s start with its good point. Firstly the poster is perhaps the ideal movies poster. The fog, the priest and the window. Perfect, look it up for yourself. Secondly, the sets. Most of the action takes place in one girls bedroom, poor little Reagan (we’ll get onto her later). The room was freezing in order to have the characters breathe show, the bed moves; in fact we may as well include the fact that only 4 characters play any major part. This use of such a generally small cast heightens the feelings of seclusion from the outside world and therefore the feelings of fear. Thirdly the music is just fuc^ing creepy. It has become ironically connected with the entire genre of horror and instantly reminds me of fog and that bloody girl. Speak of the devil…pun not intended merely delightful coincidence; Reagan is played by Linda Blair who performs excellently, especially considering she was twelve at the time. That voice combined with that performance gives us a character that instantly strikes terror into audience’s hearts. Furthermore some of the dialogue for Reagan is just inspired, “Your mother sucks co*ks in Hell”. So why is it only at number 3? Well it’s just too disturbing for me. I’m sorry and you do not have to agree with me but it is. I can’t help but admire it and fear it at the same time. I’m not saying that it puts me off watching it or that it makes the film anything less than a classic…In fact I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say. I think it scares me too much. There are scenes with Reagan masturbating with a crucifix, vomiting violently, asking a priest to f!ck her, etc. etc. This doesn’t put me off but it certainly sets the film in a league of its own. It is probably the scariest film of all time (second to my number one anyway) but it’s a different breed of film than any other horror film I’ve ever seen. I can’t think of a way to respond to it other than, in the immortal words of Mr Slave, “Jesus Christ”.
2) Psycho (1960)
Have you ever gone up to a friend and motioned like you were going to stab them whilst making screeching noises? Well this is the film that gave you that. Alfred Hitchcock is probably the greatest director in History and Psycho contains some of his best filming techniques. The film starts by centring on Janet Lee (mother of Jamie Lee Curtis) who, whilst escaping with stolen money, decides to stay at the Bates Motel. Lee is then murdered and leaves the audience in no man’s land, once again with the Golden Duck. Audiences went to see Janet Lee but she’s famously killed off within the first 30 minutes. Hitchcock then does something so subtly ingenious that I didn’t realise it until very recently. He switches the main character from Janet Lee to Anthony Perkins. The audience is forced into relating with the serial killer Norman Bates, whose relationship with his mother is a little…strange, (and the less you know about that, the better) and the worst part is we may not realise it until the film is over (something Hitchcock came up with called Fridge Horror which refers to the moment when, after an audience member has left the theatre and is pulling a leg of chicken out of the fridge and suddenly a sharp, sudden realisation hits them). Furthermore the camera angles are perfect. The scene in the shower shows no blood and no penetration, everything is in the audience’s mind. The scene where the private investigator is stabbed and falls down the stairs is played so well. The high angles showing the appearance of the killer are perfect not to mention the shot of the investigator falling down the stairs is original and brilliant. Perkins’s acting is divine; he really has the whole insane look down. His acting makes it so the audience doesn’t know whether to fear, hate or pity the character something only a really great actor can do. The score, as mentioned before, is chilling. The music is so that it sounds like a knife stabbing, a brilliant touch. Finally I love the ending. Pretty much any movie with a twist now days owe something to this film. Psycho is a masterpiece and I recommend it to everyone. Oh and if you’re thinking of seeing the shot by shot remake, five words, Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates…FAIL.
1) The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Like Night of the Living Dead this film created a genre. The amateur video camera genre. Blair witch centres around a group of students who go into the forest to find the elusive Blair Witch. One by one they die until one is left and blamed for the killings. This film is terrifying. The whole video camera technique not only makes you feel that you are there but also connects you to the characters in a different way; it makes them feel more real than if they were being filmed in a more conventional way. The setting is perfect. I think most of us have a local place that scares us sh^tless and the film plays on this. Forests are usually associated with fear; there isolated places and when you shoot them at night with a home camera you have a major case for fear and terror. Funny fact, the crew deliberately tried to scare the shit out of the cast to make it appear more genuine and my God does it show. There’s a scene where one character is talking into the camera, in tears, bordering on hysterics and you can actually see snot coming out of her nose because she’s so scared. The acting makes the film seem so much more realistic. Honourable mention needs to go to the marketing campaign. The film had a budget of around $20,000 – $750,000 and therefore they couldn’t afford billboards or adverts. Coincidently the late 90’s also marked the peak of the internet…see where I’m going with this? Well the filmmakers certainly did. They used the internet to advertise their film, all the time maintaining that it was genuine. You never see the witch, casting doubt on the audience as well as fear. Hitchcock once said there was never anything scarier than a closed-door, e.g. nothing scarier than the unknown. Blair witch has this down to a T as well as a filming style which has led to Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity and Diary of the Dead. That is why the Blair Witch Project is my favourite Horror Film.