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Written by Curt Johnson
Yes we missed a year doing our best horror movies ever for Halloween, and you all let us know so this year, we’ve done a very large one for you. This time we’ve done a big 50 best scariest horror movies ever you must see by Halloween or beyond. Some of these aren’t technically total horror, but we liked them enough to put them in this big mix. This is a great list for people who haven’t been exposed to that much horror and keep running into the same lists that put the same horror movies that we all know about. Some are very well known horror films and some are those smaller ones that only hardcore horror fans will ever know about. Now you can have some extra films to scare the heck out of your friends or just yourself. We’ve added a lengthy breakdown description of each one too in case you’ve never heard of it. Be warned, not all of the movies we chose are in the above best horror movies ever image collage either…there’s a few cool surprises we added in at the last minute that just couldn’t be left out. These are not in any order of importance as it’s hard to do that with so many of these great horror classics that can’t really be categorized that way ever so they’re in alphabetical order (kinda). I’m sure some of you will have something to disagree on so put those in the comments below and list what you think are the best horror movies ever.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) Take a burnt alive, badly scarred child molester and put razors on his hands and you have a movie that has lasted through the decades despite a digression in every sequel since. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a must see for any horror buff. The casual observer will be more than mildly terrified. Many years ago, in a small town, Freddy Krueger was burnt alive for molesting children. Now he has come back in the dreams of the offspring of his murderers. Once Freddy is inside your head the insanity mounts and in a rage of disarray these teenagers are committing suicide. “A Nightmare On Elm Street” has plenty of gore within it but never goes so far so that it seems the movie may be out for a cheap trick. Couple that with the terrifyingly vivid and warped scenes, that play on the border between reality and dream, the effect of the movie causes true heart racing jumps and squeals. Robert Englund’s role as Freddy has become an American household image with his striped sweater and severely burnt skin looking out from under a worn fedora while his razored hand teases his face or grasps outward. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” made 1980′s American horror relevant amidst other failures.
A Tale Of Two Sisters (2005) “A Tale of Two Sisters” is based on a Korean folktale. The movie has been referred to as a creepily effective, confusing, horror movie. Kim-Jee Woon directed this film and the premise, acting, and “horror factor” do deliver. Su-Mi and Su-Yeon are just returning home after a period of hospitalization brought on the by the recent and sudden death of their mother. During their time away their father has married Eun-Joo. Immediately the girls despise her for moving in to take their loving mother’s place. Their father is blind to his daughter’s feelings and is old-fashioned Korean, so wouldn’t care even if he did sense their hatred. Su-mi soon begins to have strange and violent visions that somehow revolved around her new step-mother and she becomes increasingly convinced that Eun-Joo is hiding something sinister and horrific from the rest of the family. Now she must convince her sister and figure a way to protect their stubborn father. The American rights to the Korean film were sold to Dreamworks in 2003 and horror fans that follow the pulse of the genre are eagerly awaiting the film’s release. In the meantime, however, the frights that the foreign film delivers are enough to warp the mind and cause the heart to skip a beat.
Alien (1979) Some horror movies become known for their special effects. Others find a following because of its odd and shocking scenes of blood and gore. Alien could have done it all in one simple line. “In space, no one can hear you scream.” This space horror was able to combine the terror of Jaws with the frontier of Star Trek. If you’re looking for frightening, blood-thirsty supernatural beasts wreaking havoc upon a space ship then you need look no further. After receiving a distress call from a nearby planet, the crew of a spaceship lands to investigate. One of the members is attacked by a creature which latches itself to him. The member is allowed back on board despite the objections of heroine Ripley. Once the creature detaches and the crewmember seems healthy all hell breaks loose. The spawn of the creature erupts from the belly of the infected crewmember. Mayhem erupts as the alien begins to stalk the other crewmembers and they are forced to battle what is the most terrifying killing machine they ever could have imagined. Alien spawned a series of sequels and crossovers with the Predator creature.
The intense pain seen on the face of the crewmember as the alien erupts from his stomach makes you grab your belly and shiver.
American Psycho (2000) There aren’t that many horror films that have laid the inspiration for a true killing spree. Canadian serial killer Paul Bernardo, however, stated that the character in “American Psycho’s” book by Bret Easton Ellis did. For that reason, the community of Toronto tried to block the filming but in the end the movie was made there. That character, Patrick Bateman, is the son of a successful Wall Street financier and he is following in daddy’s footprints. Bateman is everything that you would expect in a yuppie: obsessed with succeeding, style and fashion. The dark secret is that he also has an addiction to murder, rape and mutilation. When questioned about a murder that he committed several days earlier he arouses the suspicions of a local detective who begins to tale him. Under the pressure and constant eye of the police, Bateman’s cool boy image starts to evaporate and he becomes increasingly murderous and desperate. The movie is a macabre satire of 1980′s America and the lure of Wall Street money. Rumors were c irculated that Leo Dicaprio would play Bateman stirring fears that he would draw teenagers to this dark, bloody, R rated movie. The terrifying coolness of Bateman as he stalks, ponders and murders is disturbing because of the commonality he holds with any businessman on the street.
An American Werewolf In London (1981) Werewolves have been a piece of the soul of darkness since the early days of horror, even playing a part in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, what sets apart the “American Werewolf in London” lycanthrope is the amazing special effects of S.E. expert Rick Baker. While vacationing in England, two Americans—David and Jack– happen upon a pub whose patrons warn them to stay on the road at night. Unfortunately, they don’t listen. David wakes up in the hospital with a bite wound and is treated to a warning by the apparition of now dead Jack. Jack warns David that he must commit suicide or he will surely turn into a werewolf. David dismisses Jack as result of hallucination from shock or medication. Soon, though, David is barking, howling at the moon and craving blood. The transformation from man to beast is particularly frightening and well done. The refreshingly, if not surprising, lack of gore make the movie even more tantalizing. The hospital scene of ghost and man conferring is greatly disturbing as Jack is seen with the wounds of his death and decomposition in a digressing nature. Baker won an Academy Award for his effects and gave legitimacy to a movie that was initially scoffed at by American critics.
Audition (1999) Directed by controversial movie guru Takashe Miike, this movie is both grisly and shocking. It has elements of great beauty within it but the aim here is to contrast the two factors so that no matter how mild one is, the other will have that much more impact. The psychological horror/drama plays itself out like a fine dance with a bad fall at the end. A recently widowed TV producer is auditioning prospects that could end up being his next wife. In the midst of auditions he finds what he considers the jewel of a lifetime. A beautiful, ex-ballerina dressed in pristine white walks into his life and wants the job. He considers himself to be very luck. That is, however, until he begins to look deeper into the woman’s past. The future matrimonial vows are put on hold when the woman’s past doesn’t quite check out and some peculiarities arise. She has particularly unpleasant scars on her legs and the widow finds a man in her apartment with his tongue cut out and feet chopped off. People in this woman’s life have a bad habit of disappearing and the man wants no part of it. He decides that she is not the woman cut out to be his future wife. Now, how does he tell her?
The Blair Witch Project (1999) Few movies cause as much a stir as the “The Blair Witch Project” did after its 1999 opening. Billed and shot as a legitimate documentary the movie combined voodoo legend, small town suspicion, and hysteria and filmed it from shaky hand-held recorders to give it a measure of reality that takes the viewer by surprise because they forget that it is a movie they’re watching. For a school film project a group of three students hike into the Maryland woods to do a report on the local town’s evil legend. Purportedly, the Blair Witch incident was about a group of witches that tormented and murdered several children and then take up denizen in the surrounding forest. Everyone in town knows the legend but there are few details. After losing their map the students are forced to wander in search of civilization. They nights are dark, it is getting cold and the food is low. Panic soon starts to set in especially after they start hearing shrieking and howls from their tent amongst the pitch black woods. The film starts off with an information card about the group of students who entered the woods for a school project and who were never seen again. The movie that you are watching is from the equipment recovered.
Carrie (1976) Stephen King’s novel Carrie had a little bit of a hard time selling at first but once the American public got a hold of it they recognized it for the true horror tale that it was. It then went quickly from hardcover to paperback and into production for this movie in under three years. This is not to be confused with Kimberly Pierce’s recent remake of this horror classic. This is the one to stick with! The premise behind Carrie is of an odd high school female that is the brunt of typical teenage cruelty. Carrie White is shy and definitely not part of the in crowd. She has no friends but what Carrie does have is an abundance of telekinetic powers. The situation comes to a head when at the arrival of her first menstrual cycle the taunts and jabs become terrifyingly mean and uncalled for. Coupled with the fear of the period due to the fanatical teachings of an overbearing mother, Carrie loses it. What results are the destruction of a school and the beating of the cruelest to her. While bullies had been featured in movies before, “Carrie” was the first to pinpoint the particular brutality that teenage girls can dish out. The film resonates with a number of people as they look back at their high school days and realize the pain they may have endured or inflicted. Truly horrifying work by the Master of the Macabre!
Creepshow (1999) “Creepshow” brought the greatest of horror minds together , Stephen King and George A. Romero, for a frightening anthology based on the EC horror comics of the 1950′s and 1960′s. For those who were born in the early to mid-1970s this film was the first modern horror they would have seen that was presented in its fashion. The genius and simplicity in the movie is the anthology style it is presented in. There are no thick plot lines to follow–just rapid fire chills and fear. The movie consists of 5 separate frightening episodes and has a run time of just about two hours. “The Crate” episode is a monster-in-a-box vignette in which the suspension prior to the opening of the crate is almost as heart-pounding as the creature within. “Something to Tide You Over” is of a cuckolded husband’s plan for revenge gone horribly wrong at a beach. Perhaps the best episode is the last. “They’re Creeping Up On You” is the story of a billionaire pitted against an army of cockroaches. “Creepshow” combines he classic ghoul with the normal human indecency as well as creepy-crawly chills that will make your skin crawl, question human morality, and jump in your seat. However, the best ingredient maybe the skeletal narrator of the tales.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978) The sequel to “Night of the Living Dead” was made 10 years after the original but still had master horror director George A. Romero at its helm. It would seem that was all that was needed to make this second film as impactful as the first. Despite the decade in between films, “Dawn of the Dead” picks up just months after “Night…” left off. Every major city has been completely taken over and the US military has set martial-law. They send National Guard Special Forces units into action to find and destroy the zombie hordes. During a particularly gory scene at a Pittsburgh apartment complex one of the units is near annihilated with the commanding officer having to be killed by his men. Eventually a gaggle of survivors escape and make their way to a less populated part of the country and a mall. Once clearing the mall of the brain dead zombies they are content to live the rest of their lives there. That is, until a rogue biker group shows up with bad intentions. The group finds themselves in a battle with both the living and the dead. The horror movie goes so far as to draw a light comparison between American mall goers, with their empty gazes, and the zombies. Truly horrifying!
Dracula (1931) In 1931 the horror genre was starkly different. The state of technical knowledge at the time did not allow for such hi-tech words or features as special effects, computer animation and even screen “blood” had trouble standing on its own two feet. What you needed then was a superb performer and strong story. The immortal Bela Lugosi, who would be forever type-cast after his role, put on the performance of a lifetime. His announcement of “I am….Drac-u-la. I bid you velcome’” succinctly established the presence of greatness. The maniacal giggle of Renfield, played by Dwight Frye, is creepy even with the crackly audio and perhaps more so because of it. As far as good story goes, the original Bram Stoker classic was used for the storyline which is an immediate winner no matter the type of presentation: illustrated book, stage, or cinema. The presence of the courageous Professor Van Helsing is played well by Edward Van Sloan. The mood and atmosphere of the film catch the “feel” of the Stoker tale with amazing accuracy and Lugosi’s Dracula is as suave and smooth as you would imagine the famous Count being even after years of inaccurate depiction by the score. This truly classic, pre-Wolrd War II dark film is, perhaps, the father of modern American horror.
Evil Dead 2 (1987) As horror movies go the “Evil Dead 2″ is one of the most comedic of them all. However, for all true horror aficionados it is a must see if only for the wildly entertaining camera angles and acrobatic lens shots coupled with the over-the-top gore effects within the movie. Sam Raimi only partially made the second movie as a sequel to the first. The first ten minutes do stay true to the original when a couple discovers the Sumerian book of the dead, a ritual dagger and a tape which consists of the total translation of hieroglyphic text in the book by a professor. Unfortunately, an evil presence is released and possesses the girl’s soul forcing the man to decapitate her and bury her in the forest. When day comes the man attempts to escape but is met by the evil himself and his girlfriend’s rotting corpse. After being bitten in the hand by the decapitated head of his girlfriend the man’s hand takes on a life of its own and begins to beat him senseless. Meanwhile, another couple arrives with the missing pieces of the Sumerian text just as the man is about to cut his possessed hand off. “Slapstick” terror and a humorous cast and story make this a must see for horror fans.
Frailty (2001) A mysterious man tells a terrible tale of his raising and family to an FBI agent who is investigating the “God’s Hand” killings. Played by Matthew McConaughey the man recounts his life growing up as a boy with his brother and widowed father. His father awakens the boys one night and tells them that he has received a mission from God to expel and terminate demons that walk the earth in human form. Soon after the father is coming home with a list of the names of “demons” and warns that the boys must never tell. As the father brings these people home and lays hands on them, subsequently determining them to be demons, one of the boys is distraught while the other looks on with pride and bloodlust. He sees their family as a group of superheroes working for God and follows in the footsteps of his father, becoming the “God’s Hand” killer.
“Frailty” is another movie that leaves the gore to a minimum. However, the deftly written script dramatizes the turbulence and mayhem with great emotion and leaves viewers in doubt about some character’s true motives until the final minutes. Particularly disturbing is the summer garden scene that McConaughey brings the FBI to and where his father and brother have buried their victim’s bodies.
Friday the 13th (1980) In May of 1980 the American cinema was introduced to the one of the longest-running, sadistic horror movie series in history. The creepy, super strong, Jason makes the lives of young camp goers tightly wound in their bunks at night–then and for years to come. Jason’s goalie face mask and large machete is a visual that will never leave the horror under-belly of Americana. For years Camp Crystal has been closed, mostly due to a series of murders and poor luck. Once the camp is reopened things don’t change for the better. The young, attractive camp counselors all start meeting horrible deaths during a particularly rainy night. Death by axe, arrow and cleaver present a gory foundation for killings. The source of the murders is the cook’s son, young Jason, who drowned in the early years of the camp due to negligent, puppy-love induced camp counselors. Jason is back to avenge his untimely death against any counselor that is unlucky enough to decide to work this summer! While the script is not the tightest ever the dark direction makes up for its lack. The silent but swift Jason is the menace that no person wants to meet in the dark of night or light of the wooded day. Summer camp ghost stories changed forever.
Fright Night (1985) “Fright Night” is another comedic/horror that accomplishes both aspects with surprising success. The theme of “vampires living next door” is once again chosen as the premise but this movie adds a few different twists that make it original and frightening. Charley is a teenage, horror film junkie and is startled to learn that his next door neighbor, Jerry, is a vampire. Charley is scared out of his wits. To make matters worse his mother has a romantic interest in Jerry and his friends don’t believe a word of what he is saying. To top it all off, Jerry has learned of Charley’s suspicions and is planning on a late night visit to shut the boy up. With nowhere else to turn, Charley is forced to turn to the only man who has fought vampires before. Except the man he turns to has only fought vampires in movies and has just been fired from his most recent job. The out of work actor doesn’t believe a word of what Charley is saying either but after being offered some money to help he has a greedy change of heart. In the mean time, Jerry has seduced Charley’s girlfriend and she is now under his control. Broke actor and young man must now battle the blood sucker to save the damsel in distress.
Grindhouse (2007) “Grindhouse” is actually the combining of two feature films directed by two separate masterminds, Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino and Sin City director Robert Rodriguez. It is a highly violent, blood saturated, tribute
to the horror genre of yesteryear. An all-star cast only accentuates the pitch black feeling of this horrifying coupling. The first feature, titled “Planet Terror”, shows of the brutal struggle between zombie like humanoids who have taken over the world and the survivors of the pandemic. The survivors will not go down without taking as many of the creatures out as possible, though. This is Rodriguez at his best. His depictions of a town, city, or world under dark siege is the best in the business. Tarantino’s contribution is titled “Death Proof” and it takes viewers on a hyped-up road killing spree as Kurt Russel’s character prefers a 200 mph vehicle as his death deliverance method. “Death Proof” is sexy, starkly maddening and shocking. Besides Russell the films also tout the high-powered talents of Freddy Rodriguez, Naveen Andrews, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, Tom Savini, Jordan Ladd, Rosario Dawson, and Vanessa Ferlito. “Grindhouse” is a treat for any American horror aficionado. Two tight story lines, a couple of great director/producers, and the best acting talent that the screen has to offer.
Halloween (1978) When one thinks of purely American horror creatures or villains there a few names come to mind; Jason, Freddy and Leatherface-to name a few. Add Michael Myers to that list and you have yourself a horrific fright team that the devil himself would think twice about messing with.
After inexplicably slaughtering his sister at the age of 6 on Halloween night in 1963 little Michael Myers is institutionalized. After years of intense therapy his doctors are unable to make a dent in the young man or able to understand his inner workings. However, what they do know is that, when he escapes before the night of Halloween 1978, the citizenry of Haddonfield, Illinois are in for the hell on earth. While the doctors are trying to warn police, Myers spots young, sexy and completely innocent Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and follows her. The dark and sinister way that Myers appears and disappears amongst the shadows builds the tension. While Laurie is covering two babysitting jobs at once while her two friends are across the street frolicking with boys she tries to call her two promiscuous friends but they aren’t answering the phone. Are they busy or has something terrible happened? Laurie decides to find out.
Hellraiser (1988) The multi-talented writer/director Clive Barker crossed lines in this movie that had only been waved at before this time. Barker combined sexual perversion, denizens of hell, and infidelity to produce this complex story and movie. What he ended up doing was creating a pulp hit whose followers have become obsessive and launched a series of follow-ups with characters that have lasted the test of time. In an unspecified country, from an unseen vendor, Frank purchases a strange puzzle box. Upon solving the puzzle he opens up a world of hellish dimensions and is cut to shreds by hooks and chains. His body parts are collected by the Cenobites who are leather and spike clad residents of the demon world.
Years later, Frank’s brother, sister-in-law and niece move into his old place. By accident, some of the brother’s blood hits the attic floor which somehow causes the reincarnation of Frank’s body—only badly decomposed. With the help of his sister-in-law, who is charged with seducing and leading men back to the house, Frank is able to start collecting their life-soul and putting himself back together. Their efforts are thwarted by the niece however who has no love for her stepmother. The Cenobite leader, affectionately called “Pinhead” in subsequent films, is the ultimate, cold and fearful bad guy.
Let the Right One In (2009) With America, and the world under the attack of a trend that had every screen vampire depicted as a sexy high school kid, “Let the Right One In” reinvigorated the vampire tale where Anne Rice left it. “Let…” combined the classic vampire story line with good story telling against a backdrop of darkness and purity in children. Oskar is a young boy who is having hometown problems with the bullies. In desperate need to find friendship, Oskar befriends the eccentric young girl who is his new neighbor. However, with the girl’s arrival to the area there has also come a rash of murders and killings. Despite Oskars initial fear upon learning the true identity of his new friend their bond survives. Oskar decides that to fear his friend would be the sort of refusal by society that he has been victim to. The innocence and understanding of children takes stage left though to truly fearsome vampire that the young girl is capable of being when she isn’t Oskar’s friend. John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote the book and screenplay for this hidden horror gem and director Tomas Alfredson took it and ran. What they produced was a refreshed look at the vampire horror movie that people needed at the time.
Martyrs (2008) Pascal Languier brings us this film that is a graphically brutal and gruesome depiction of a young girl who lived the life of a constant torture-porn. The film is not for everyone and even the strongest of horror fans could be disturbed. However, if psychological and physical carnage is what you are after, “The Martyrs” delivers…and then some. After experiencing years of the most horrifying types of abuse, a young woman is finally able to free herself from her aggressors. However, she is deeply disturbed and a broken part of society and only able to finally come out of her emotional paralysis by the befriending of another female abuse victim named Anna who nurtures her back to some sort of fragile stability. Fifteen years goes by and the girl is in constant reparation with herself when she violently guns down an entire family. Whether she has finally snapped from the psychological thread that was holding her together or if she is exacting her revenge for years of abuse and depravity are what comes to forefront. She calls on her old friend Anna and the stark truth about her early years slowly unravels like a blood soaked ball of string. The terror in this movie is real and graphic.
Night Of the Living Dead (1968) In the 1960′s an over abundance of gore was not the norm. George A. Romero changed all of that with “Night of the Living Dead”. Scenes of brain dead zombies chewing and tearing human limbs were the most graphic and disturbing in American cinema history up to that time. Radiation has begun to raise the dead and the zombies are walking the earth. A group of people who are holed up in a farmhouse are panicked and bickering even as the army of undead moves towards their position. A posse arrives that declares they have found a way to kill the monsters. “If you kill the brain, then you kill the ghoul.” After an entire, frightening night only one survivor is left in the house at the end of the ghoul killing spree. Shot in the grainy black and white of the time the movie delivers intense chills and terror for the tiny hundred thousand dollars that it was made for. The truly horrific part of the movie is the randomness with which a terrible death can come to people. The victims have done nothing wrong. They are just in the way of an army of blood hungry zombies intent on nothing but eating their flesh.
Pet Semetary (1989) Creep-master Stephen King’s book “Pet Semetary” was adapted to this cinema horror/thriller and released in April of 1989. With a mostly B cast, except Fred Gwynne who plays old man Jud Crandall, the movie surprised movie goers and King’s fans for the accuracy of horror portrayed. When young Gage is hit by a speeding 18-wheeler the grief that his parents feel is unbearable and the father learns from Crandall that nearby there is an old Indian burial ground where pets have been buried in the past. The burial ground has strange powers that have the power to reincarnate the pets but they are never the same. They take on some sort of evil. The father instantly thinks about burying his son in attempt to rescue his grieving wife from sure devastation and his own grief and guilt. Of course, Crandall knows this is a bad idea and warns the man against it. But, as most horror movies go, no one heeds warnings. The evil reincarnated Gage and the scenes of a sister-in-law with meningitis are particularly disturbing and heartbreaking. Also to note is the fragile line between sanity and insanity as the father copes with the decision to illegally recover his son’s body from a normal cemetery.
Poltergeist (1982) With that phrase, uttered from 5 year old Carol Ann Freeling, came a supernatural horror phenomenon that gripped families into its cold clutches and didn’t release them until the closing credits. Living rooms are the scene of flying popcorn and people hiding under blankets when this movie hits home televisions. The idea that a normal family could be forced to go through so much together is what makes “Poltergeist” one of those movies you don’t miss a minute of-even if watching it through both hands covering your face. Strange things happen in the house. The canary dies. Isolated storms occur over just their residence and Carol Ann is summoned to the TV by the “TV people” where a green light beam hits her and the house begins to shake. She eventually is sucked into the closet and disappears. The family can hear her faint cries for help through the white noise of the TV. Enlisting the help of a psychic and exorcist, played superbly—and creepily—by Zelda Rubinstein, the family learns that Carol Ann is stuck in a spectral plane held captive by beings who don’t want the family to stay in the home. The family fights together with Rubinstein to rescue Carol Ann…
Psycho (1960) At the time of the movie’s making, Alfred Hitchcock was already a world famous writer and director in the thriller genre. The making of Psycho would forever change the horror/thriller landscape in America and cement Hitchcock, its actors and the series a place in cinema history. The movie transported its viewers to boundaries that had never been travelled before, starting with the very first scene where the unmarried couple grapples between innocence and physical pleasure during a rendezvous at a cheap hotel. Disgruntled with her professional and private romantic life, a woman is given several thousand dollars to deposit into a bank but impulsively decides to take off with the cash. Before you know it she is stopped at the Bate’s Motel where the sketchy but friendly manager, Norman Bates, informs her that she is the first guest in weeks. He speckles her with pleasantry and stories of his mother. Very few people are unaware of the insanity that sets forth from that point. The famous Janet Leigh shower scene has become an object of horror pulp phenomena and still delivers the chills and suspense that it did more than 50 years ago. The icicle-like audio and Leigh’s screaming curdles the blood.
Rec (2009) In this acclaimed Spanish horror, a group of local, small time, television reporters are on the scene! Their aim is to follow the city’s finest firemen around on emergency calls to document how these brave civil servants work and risk their lives while the rest of population sleeps soundly. The reporter’s prime aim is to record [REC] everything live so that there is no editing or sugar coating of the grizzly images they are planning on witnessing. They have no idea that their night will become wildly haunting as their thrills are augmented by the supernatural. The very first emergency response that they set out to cover is the rescuing of elderly lady who is trapped in her bed. However, this seemingly simple operation begins to lean towards insanity and is soon saturated in evil. This is no routine call. Something grotesque and purely evil is roaming the building, trapping the rescuers and reporters within it. What ensues is a long campaign to stay alive, keep themselves away from the malevolent power and finding some sort of way to escape. The panicked group begins scurrying like ants to avoid death. Their intent is to record the happenings all the way through, until the very last moment. But…
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) You’d never think that the simple setting of a Manhattan apartment building could produce as much horror as takes place in the movie “Rosemary’s Baby”. The genius of the setting and total lack of gore in this Roman Polanski film is actually what defines the terror. Most of the particulars are left for the viewer themselves to add the detail. The brilliant camera angles, mood setting, and terrific acting set the canvas of emotion with a faint background and the spectator is allowed to apply the dark colors and define the subject. After Rosemary moves into an apartment with her husband she is greeted to the community by an elderly couple. Rosemary’s husband gets a good acting job and starts to spend additional time with the elderly couple. Soon the couple presents Rosemary with a chocolate mousse. The dessert induces a nightmare of Rosemary being raped by a beast. She becomes increasingly convinced that her baby is actually an evil demon child. Her beliefs are only solidified after the baby is taken from after birth. The taboo of using evil child spawn touched a nerve with the 1960′s audience who was already dealing with hot topics like rebellion and abortion. Real social settings and subjects saturated with a supernatural horror aspect brings true terror and make it familiar.
Scream (1996) It is not often that a true slasher film at its core can get away with also being a parody about the dimwitted teenagers of horror past. Yet “Scream” is able to accomplish all of this. As a tribute to the genre of the previous decades, Wes Craven was able to mix the two perfectly so that the movie was both frightful and allowed the modern teenager to relate with the characters themselves. Sydney Prescott is in the midst of a troubled time. She is still recovering from the rape and murder of her mother the previous year when one of her friends is then brutally murdered by a psycho in a Halloween costume. Soon Sydney begins to receive phone calls that quiz her on horror movies past. Her father is missing and anyone of her friends or acquaintances could be the murderer. It would seem that the only people that Sydney can fully trust are her best friend, Tatum, and Tatum’s dimwitted brother. “Scream” successfully filled the large culture gap between the horror genre of the 70s and 80s with a new audience. The fact that it was truly disturbing and horror filled was a plus that may have reinvigorated a dying horror theme in America.
Shaun Of the Dead (2004) It is not too often that a true satire filled with comedy and wit can achieve the amount of fright that is present in “Shaun of the Dead”. However, the movie accomplishes this with deft and precision, perfectly balancing the two so that the horror fan can truly enjoy the movie in its original form and with the primary intention. Shaun is an electronic store worker who doesn’t do much with his life except hang around with his roommate and drink pints of ale at the local tavern. His girlfriend breaks up with him and he has missed his mother’s birthday. Then something else happens. The dead begin to rise from their burial places and feast on the human flesh of England. In an effort to prove his worth to his girlfriend, mother and himself, Shaun must “man up” and fight the zombies while he attempts to rescue the two most important women in his life. The gore is not scarce in this horror/comedy and what it does have of it is a little bit over the top but the frights and jumps are as authentic as many pure horror films. This is the perfect horror movie to watch with a squeamish significant other.
The Birds (1963)
Leave it to psychic/horror guru Alfred Hitchcock to provide the cinema world with a new type of villain. Proving, as usual, that suspense is the true result of good build up and can produce some of the most intense fear, Hitchcock successfully turns birds into deadly harbingers of death. There is a love triangle going on amidst the three main characters in this movie, a handsome man, spoiled rich girl, and a school teacher. Once the three are at a house in Bodega Bay things start getting a little odd and frightening. There is something peculiar about the way the birds are acting. At first it’s not a big deal. A seagull swoops down and pecks at one of the girl’s head and hair. However, with the increasing amount of bird oddities the trio starts to feel more and more insecure. The culmination of the avian carnage is when hundreds of birds swoop down on a children’s party causing mass panic. Though there is never a reason given to why the birds are acting in this way or what is causing their attacks, Hitchcock doesn’t need there to be one. He is the master of creating the weird by laying out the emotions in suspense and then slamming his viewers with horrible peculiarity.
The Changeling (1980) Supernatural horror fiction is not the easiest thing to reproduce on the big screen. In fact, only a handful out of the many made in a decade will be able to accomplish it. “The Changeling” is one of the better ones to have ever done so. After his wife and daughter are killed in a car accident John Russell relocates from east to west coast to teach and try to find the passion to write music again. He is looking for a place to finish his mourning, rest and create music so he accepts an almost completely unfurnished estate in the countryside. And at first the remedy works as he begins to compose again. Soon, though, he is having terrifying nightmares of the accident that his wife and daughter were killed in. He also finds that he is able to communicate with the supernatural haunting of the estate. He follows a ceaseless banging sound in the upper part of the house and is confronted with a scene of a young boy drowning in a tub.
He is impassioned with the need to know more and together with a friend and the ghostly apparitions he is able to piece together the house’s horrifying past that runs in-line with his visions.
The Descent (2006) An all female cast stuck in a cave with an evil presence buries this horror film into the psyche of viewers from the outset. The cast puts on brilliant performances of desperation and the need to survive while the directing is sharp and the location produces vivid fear. The claustrophobia inducing thriller “The Descent” hit American theatres in 2005 as an import from a well received opening in the U.K. The movie is centered within a spelunking trip by a group of adventurous girlfriends. The cave expedition is supposed to take one of the character’s minds of a near fatal accident she had the year before. Ominous signs arise from the beginning when a minor cave in leaves the ladies trapped in the series of underground labyrinths. As they ration their food, and with no map, they try to find ways to escape without battling with each other. Not soon enough they realize that there is an evil that lurks within the cave and its sole need is for their blood. The nightmare of being “trapped within” also points to larger issues like morality, vengeance and the limits that a person might go to survive even amongst friends. High tension in the bowels of the earth cause chills and screams.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005) “The Devil’s Rejects” may be the most disturbing horror movie that was made between 2000 and 2010. It would seem that Rob Zombie always has something in the theatre and he didn’t disappoint with this one. It is a sort of sequel to the 2003 film “House of a 1000 Corpses”. After the authorities learn of the murderous doings of the family at the heart and soul of this film they send out a SWAT team to take them out. Everyone escapes except for the mother. As the rest of the family go on the run and a brand new murderous rampage the mother is forced to deal with a brutal sheriff. The family has become known as the “Devil’s Rejects” on the premise that they were once in hell but so troublesome and murderous that the Devil himself rejected and then ejected them from his dark and sinful dwelling. The scene in which the family members walk astride, shirtless, tattered and even sexy truly hits at the soul of American fear as we are apt to stare and study the truly horrible out of infatuation or curiosity. The movie is anchored by the acting and presence of Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Sheri Moon, Michael Berryman, and Ken Foree as well as other horror cult regulars.
The Exorcist (1973) The last known exorcism conducted in the United States and sanctioned by the Catholic Church was conducted on a little boy in 1949. The story for the movie “The Exorcist” was based on this actual event. The main character was changed from a little boy to a little girl and perhaps that added to the totally frightening scenes. “The Exorcist’s” little girl character becomes prone to fits and seizures and her mother becomes increasingly worried. She calls on a friend who is convinced that she is possessed by the devil. They call in a priest to care for her and he decides, as church authority, that the girl needs an exorcism. He quickly realizes that he may have more on his hands than the usual exorcism. The demon in the girl is no run of the mill evil lurker. Both the priest and the girl suffer at the whims of the evil that lurks within her. The scenes of the young girl clinging unnaturally to walls, projectile vomiting and head spinning completely around have become movie lore. The pure terror in this cinema experience is the premise that man and girl have to do spiritual battle with the dark one himself when both so are completely unaware of the true power the demon possesses.
The Haunting (1963) Based upon the book The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson-author of “The Lottery”-The Haunting is one of the most highly revered haunted house movies ever made. Produced by Robert Wise, the movie combines the life of a seemingly sane women and an evil house with a dark past. The tale is macabre as only 1950′s horror fiction could be. Even in the translation from page to screen the world seems more innocent which makes the occurrences that much more frightening. In an attempt to quell any fear and suspicion about the house, which is already rumored to be haunted, a group of friends join forces to spend a few nights within it. The level of supernatural occurrences and the evil that lurks within the dwelling, however, are much more than they could ever have imagined. They are quickly forced to realize that the “rumors” may be all too real. What started out as a way to prove that the supernatural didn’t exist turns into a desperate episode that has the occupants questioning whether any of them have any chance of escaping with their lives. With a tremendously strong supernatural force behind every corner the “The Haunting” never fails to frighten.
The Last House On the Left (1972) This movie was Wes Craven’s first exploit into the horror world and its success is heavily credited because, like “Night of the Living Dead”, it was willing to go a long ways to get the shock effect. Further, in fact, than most horror/thrillers were-or are-still apt to travel. When a group of teenage girls travel into the big city for a good time they mistakenly hook up with the wrong crowd. The drug-doing baddies brutally murder the girls in morbid fashion. When the murderers make their way to “The Last House on the Left” which is the home of one of the young girls the family takes uncontrolled revenge on them. The movie is a dark look into the world of contemporary horror of the time when ghouls and monsters were replaced by humans and bloodlust, much like the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Though the effects and emotions were often attempted to be copied in later films none could find the darkness and macabre that “The Last House on the Left” was able to deliver. Craven’s movie is sometimes compared to Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring”-a stark rape drama-though, whether it was true inspiration or just a coincidence has never been fully addressed.
Orphan (2009) A seemingly angelic little girl is at the center of this horror/thriller that has a very interesting premise. Starring Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga as the parents who adopt her, the movie has a frightening underbelly that has some semblance to “The Good Son” but much, much, darker. The parents, Kate (Farmiga) and John (Sarsgaard), have had a horrendous go of life recently and their marriage may be falling apart because of it. After a bitterly disappointing miscarriage, Kate is beginning to have resurfacings of her shady past in the form of nightmares. The relationship between the two quickly unravels. The couple decides that something must be done. The best alternative they can come up with is to adopt a child to put some normalcy and stability back into their lives. However, when they visit the orphanage and choose innocent looking Esther, normalcy and stability are far from what they get. Esther is treacherous, manipulative and pure evil. Kate can see through the guise that Esther is putting up for everyone but is hard pressed to convince her husband, family and friends of the truth. By the time she is able to do so it could be too late. The darkness and evil in the eyes of Esther during her evil lapses causes shudders.
The Orphanage (2008) The makers of this movie are not new to putting out the dramatic and the dark. Guillermo Del Torro of “Pan’s Labyrinth” produces and the direction is perfected by Juan Antonio Bayona. The film is a gothic horror about a long abandoned orphanage that has a dark secret. Laura is the product of caring upbringing by the staff of an orphanage that sits by the Spanish coast. Those were some good years for Laura and in an act of goodwill she moves there with her husband and son, Simon, to reopen the orphanage and turn it into a care house for children with disabilities. Not long after arriving though, Simon begins to exhibit some odd behavior to which husband and wife attribute the need for more attention. Soon, though, Laura begins to feel that there may be more to her son’s recent oddities than childish acting. Something is amiss in the regal estate, something that roams its hallways and rooms. Laura then begins to have flashbacks of repressed memories and discovers that her stay at the orphanage was not as peaceful as she remembered. She must set out on a conquest to defeat the evil within before it destroys here and her family.
The Others (2001) On the English Coast during World War II a mother takes her two sickly children to a new family home while waiting for her husband to return from the frontlines. The children have some sort of photosensitivity and are extremely allergic to sunlight forcing the mother to have “one door open at a time” in the house rule. Nicole Kidman plays the highly religious and devoted mother and wife in this horror film that speaks to a time when the world had its own horror going on in it. But the fright just multiplies when her little girl starts to mention that she is seeing ghosts around the house. Initially, Grace (Kidman) blames her newly hired help–a family of eccentrics–for putting foolish notions in the little girl’s head. Not long after though, Grace is forced to face the possibility that there is a supernatural evil roaming the family’s new mansion. With a husband who has been reported as MIA, two ailing children, and a new haunted estate the wounded Grace tries desperately to hang on to reality and protect her children from the ill meaning spirits. While one issue acts as a distraction to the other Grace soon begins to unravel.
The Return Of the Living Dead (1985) A canister of chemicals that is able to bring the dead back to life is at the heart of this zombie thriller that pits the undead against a teenager and family man at a medical supply warehouse gig. As young Freddy is being shown the ropes around the warehouse by his practical joking mentor, Frank, the older man decides that it would be a hoot to show the chemical canister to his easily frightened young friend. Evidently, the canister fell off the back of an Army truck during another outbreak of the dead rising. Freddy and Frank inexplicably release the chemical and inhale some. Surrounded by a horde of zombies things get even worse when somehow they start awakening the residents of a nearby cemetery just as Freddy’s friends arrive there to party. Enlisting the help of a local crematorium owner, Freddy and Frank, must do battle and survive the zombie attack. Meanwhile, the army colonel who is responsible for his lost chemical weapon is waiting for a report of its finding. “The Return of the Living Dead” is a frightening tale of how going to too far can get a lot of people in trouble. When you awaken the dead they don’t find it funny.
The Ring (2002) “The Ring” is another of those horror/thrillers that replace gore with mind bending scenes and heart stopping visual effects. The movie is based on a 1996 Japanese flick that became a phenomenon. When “The Ring” hit American theatres the reaction and following was not far behind. A strange video tape begins to make its rounds in the Pacific Northwest. After watching the tape the viewers receive a strange phone call that tells them they will die in seven days. As a group of teenagers are camping and enjoying time away they each watch the video an all die in a cabin. One of the teenagers has an aunt that travels to the cabin to investigate. Upon watching the video and receiving the phone call she realizes that she must solve the mystery of who-or what- is behind it. The aunt’s young son is becoming increasingly disturbed and drawing strange pictures. She employs the help of her ex to help solve the mystery before she and the others meet their demise as well.
The movie was a water-cooler hit in offices and schools around the country. People accepted the fear they felt by asking each other “how many days do you have left?” in reference to the frightening 7 day phone call in the movie.
The Shining (1980) This is a Stanley Kubrick adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name. As the master horror writer of our time and a highly controversial director, King and Kubrick respectively, were able to achieve the widely sought thrills and chills that are most often lost in the translation. “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” and Jack Torrance who takes a job as the caretaker of the Overlook Inn in Colorado is anything but dull! His son wheels up and down corridors in his big wheel and the wife settles into a nice routine. However, soon things go crazily sideways.
Jack knows the former inn taker went insane and slaughtered his family. Soon his son starts to experience psychic visions, his “shinings” of bloodied scenes and death and his alter ego, a boy by the name of “Tony” begins to ominously warn of “redrum”. Jack turns to the bar to settle himself but soon turns maniacal. The performance of Jack’s insanity by Jack Nicholson is so familiar that it will turn your mind. Soon after Jack attempts to ensure the bloody history of the Overlook hotel is revisited and his family becomes the prey of his and the hotel’s blood thirst.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” quickly took root in the American psyche as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Inspired by the Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein (as was “Psycho”) the movie delivers murder and mayhem to an innocent cast that is unaware of the truly horrific danger they are putting themselves in the vicinity of. After hearing that the Texas cemetery where her grandfather is buried has been vandalized, a young girl gathers her wheel-chair bound brother and a group of friends to investigate. Wanting to ensure that the grandfather’s remains are undisturbed the group decides to stay at his old farmhouse. Unbeknownst to the group, a posse of sadistic, psychopaths has taken over the house next door. The homicidal ne’er-do-wells are slaughterhouse workers who can’t leave the work at work. Anchored by “Leatherface” who wields a chainsaw and wears a mask made out of human skin he and his group chop and mutilate the innocents until it is only the girl left to do battle with them. The movie superbly accomplishes start to finish suspense and the script is smartly written. The gore doth runneth over but works to an exact measurement because it truly belongs in this film.
The Thing (1982) A shape shifting malevolent life form is at the center of this horror/sci-fi pulp hit. “The Thing” is a re-adaptation of two previous movies. One of the same title from the 1950s and another titled “Who Goes There?” This 1982 movie, along with Alien, helped strike a new phenomenon in the horror/sci-fi genre where gore, action and special effects are always at center stage. The movie opens with two Norwegians shooting at a Siberian Husky from a helicopter in Antarctic desolation. The two Norwegians are killed when the chopper lands at an American outpost where one blows himself up and the other is shot by the Americans. Tracking back to the Norwegian base the Americans find death and mutilation in the form of a frozen body with its throat slit and a pile of burnt carcasses. The Americans soon discover that the base recently uncovered an alien life-form that can take the shape of the last creature it has killed. Death and gore travel the throughout rest of the movie as the Americans try to kill or escape the creature’s wrath–never quite knowing if one among them is actually the monster. The special effects rock throughout the experience. A team of 40 technicians were brought together to provide startlingly terrifying scenes.
Zombieland (2009) The zombie apocalypse has befallen us and only the true zombie slayers will be able to protect us. A home-body, Columbus, who lacks courage is forced to team up with Tallahassee who is a seasoned zombie slayer for protection. Tallahassee is adequately equipped and skilled for his role and mission of killing all the zombies that he possibly can. However, his mental faculties are not what some would call “coherent”. Soon, Columbus is following Tallahassee on a search for the last Twinkie left on earth. Along the way the two meet up with two young girls, Wichita and Little Rock. You’re noticin g how all these characters are named after the cities they came from before the apocalypse? Wichita and Little Rock may appear harmless can hold their own when it comes to zombie slaying and taking care of themselves. The four odd teammates and new friends join forces to survive and battle the zombies but soon begin to wonder if going it alone will be better for them all. The zombies are frighteningly real and the world that the movie is set in makes a viewer fear for the true possibility of a desolate, renegade world. Add in a horror cameo by funny man Bill Murray and you have a frighteningly fun time with Zombieland!
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