I’ve started this post on multiple occasions now. When you’re a horror geek, sitting down to write a post like this where you’re ranking greatness is sort of like choosing which of your kids you like the best. I’ve gone on record multiple times saying that for me, even a bad horror film is still a great time. That’s not to say there aren’t bad flicks out there, cause let’s face it there are. But I have such an admiration for the genre that I have a REALLY hard time coming up with a list like this.
That being said, that was the task at hand so that’s what I’ve done. I’d done a similar post a while back when I created Hockey Masks, Razor Blades & Impalements… Oh My. At the time I wasn’t able / willing to actually rank those films and I also added 12 as opposed to 10. This time out I’m not giving myself those outs and I WILL be ranking them starting from #10. Keep in mind… this is my list. You’re welcome to your own opinion. If it differs from mine… well, you’re wrong 🙂
#10 Freddy Vs. Jason (2003) – I imagine that I’ll get a fair amount of slack for this pick but I’m ready to defend it. (I was surprised but happy to see this show up on Trapjaw’s Top 10 list as well). Even with its flaws I loved this movie. Pip and I rewatched this a few weeks back when I was in town for HorrorHound Weekend and it made me remember just how much I loved it. It’d been stuck in development hell for years and when it was finally released I was nervous for what it would bring. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised when two of horror’s icons got together.
I can’t think of many movies that have managed to cross over two franchises nearly as well as this one did. There was plenty of Freddy for the NOES fans, and plenty of Jason for the Friday The 13th fans. I was especially impressed with how they weaved the two characters together and how they brought Jason back from the dead (this time). The scene where Freddy and Jason finally do battle is simply amazing and there’s also a good amount of gore, tits and ass to keep me happy. I’m not sure if I’d consider this more of a Nightmare or a Friday movie as it doesn’t really “feature” one more than the other. I’m thrilled to see that they didn’t try to include Michael Myers, Pinhead or Ash as was rumored. These two icons give us more than enough to fill out this flick. – My review of Freddy Vs. Jason
#9 Scream (1996) – This was on my list back in 2009 when I last revisited this topic and it’s maintained its spot on the list. I just recently re-watched it (review coming soon… I promise) and it holds up REALLY well. This is a “smart” horror movie if I’ve ever seen one. It takes all of the cliches of the horror genre and plays right into them. If you’re a horror fan I’d be shocked if you’ve never seen this one but there’s a possibility that it was too “mainstream” for you when it came out and you stayed away. I’d strongly urge you to see it. The sequels were not nearly as good (with the possible exception of Scream 4) but the original is simply outstanding. One year after the death of Sidney Prescott’s mom two of her classmates turn up dead. The opening scene holds up as one of the best single scenes in horror history in my book. From the word go, we’re introduced to a murder mystery where no one is safe, everyone is a suspect and what you know about horror might just save your life.
#8 Evil Dead (2013) – Up until recently I’d never seen ANY films from the Evil Dead franchise. Being such a big fan of horror movies I’m not quite sure how this franchise had eluded me over the years but it just sort of happened. I went to see Texas Chainsaw 3D and I was treated to an absolutely bad ass trailer for the reboot / remake of Evil Dead and I was blown away. This movie was raw, gritty and full of gore. There was none of the camp from the original film which I actually really don’t care for. I know that the original (The Evil Dead (1981) – The Introduction of Ash) holds a special place in many people’s hearts but honestly I’m just not a fan. I think I’m really in the minority here, but this incarnation of Evil Dead is far superior as a horror flick in my opinion. Part of my decision process for this is if I’d recommend a movie to folks looking for a good horror flick. This is a strong recommend and doesn’t require you to be familiar with the original films to enjoy it as a stand alone horror experience. – My review of Evil Dead
#7 Hatchet (2006) – This is another pick that may get me some flack. The movie poster states: “It’s not a remake. It’s not a sequel. And it’s not based on a Japanese one. Old school American horror.” This is about the most truthful and accurate tagline I’ve ever heard. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen a “new” horror movie that I enjoyed as much as Hatchet. The plot is simple, the cast is more than adequate and there’s a leading man (Kane Hodder) who knows how to portray a old school horror villain.
Where Hatchet really stands out is with the kills. They’re gory, they’re unique and they don’t pull any punches. Over the last decade or so many horror flicks have gone the “torture porn” route. I’m not a fan of gore for the sake of gore which I believe these flicks do. Hatchet manages to balance the blood and guts with a great little story that’s fun from beginning to end. The ending of this one sort of falls apart a bit but up until that point it’s SO good that I can not only give this one a pass but put it at #7 on my all time list. – My review of Hatchet
#6 The Conjuring (2013) – Wow… wow… WOW! I was lucky enough to see a sneak peak of The Conjuring before it was released to the general public. You may be thinking that there may be some recency effect going on here with 2 flicks in my top 10 being from this year. I’m guessing that if I do this list 10 years from now both Evil Dead and The Conjuring will still be on the list.
Based on true events, The Conjuring follows Ed and Lorraine Warren as they attempt to help the Perron family with their new house that is haunted. The performances turned in here are amazing and while this isn’t the goriest film (by far) on the list the terror / horror is there in spades. The sense of anticipation you get early on in the film quite literally kept me on the edge of my seat in the theater and had me waiting for the scares. This is old school horror done right. The “clapping game” they play is chilling and there are just the right amount of jump scares to keep me happy. I said it in my original review and I’ll repeat it again here: PLEASE go see this movie. You’ll be glad you did. – My review of The Conjuring
#5 Jaws (1975) – Based on a novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws brings terror to the screen in the form of Bruce the Shark. I thought long and hard about this one as it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a “horror” movie. But the bottom line is this… Jaws is terrifying. An entire generation of fans were scared of the ocean for years because of this flick. It’s a horror movie for sure. Not only was this an incredible horror movie but it was the first of the “summer blockbusters” and it definitely didn’t disappoint. For me, horror movies are at their best when the killer strikes out of nowhere and when the sense of suspense has been built throughout the film. Jaws does an incredible job of both. The first kill is gruesome and simplistic. By the end of the film we’re treated to a killing machine that turns the resort town of Amity Island into a ghost town. There are some outstanding performances in here but Bruce steals the show. We’re definitely going to need a bigger boat.
#4 A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) – If you’re looking for an iconic killer you need to look no further than Freddy Krueger. The Springwood Slasher sliced and diced kids in their dreams through 8 films and a reboot. And while many will point to Dream Warriors as their “favorite” installment in the series, for me it comes back to the original.
A Nightmare On Elm Street tells the story of Freddy, a child molester that was burned alive by his victim’s parents and who now kills kids while they sleep through their dreams. The concept is so novel and creepy that to this day I can’t think of a slasher origin story that I enjoy more. The idea that you’re never out of Freddy’s reach, even when you’re “safe” in bed is simply terrifying. Freddy turned very campy toward the end of this franchise, but in this first installment he’s just plain evil. He’s got a couple of one liners here but they don’t come off campy… they come off as sadistic. Ironically, Brian also lists NOES as his #4 pick of all time. The final scene where Freddy faces off against Nancy is one of my all time favorites. I sincerely hope you weren’t introduced to the Nightmare franchise with the 2010 reboot. It would be a travesty for you to miss out on the version of the film that started it all and stands up to this very day.
#3 The Shining (1980) – Starring Jack Nicholson in what I consider his definitive role, Shelley Duvall and Scatman Crothers, The Shining was directed by Stanley Kubrick based on a novel by Stephen King. That right there should tell you all you need to know about its brilliance but I’ll continue. It was also the first ever film that I reviewed for ScareTissue! Check out that review here: Here’s Johnny! The Shining. The film tells the story of writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson), who takes a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which always gets snowed in during the winter months. Jack’s son Danny discovers that he’s got an ability to see ghosts and he begins to go crazy. Jack on the other hand suffers from a severe case of writers block and eventually goes completely nuts. Between “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” and “redrum” this is an incredibly quotable movie and as with every Kubrick flick you’re going to see some freaky shit in there. – My review of The Shining
#2 The Exorcist III (1990) – If you were to look at 100 top 10 horror lists, I’m guessing you’d see an Exorcist film in probably 90% of them. However, I’m guessing damn near all of them would have the original film in there as opposed to this sequel. And while the original film is high on my list too, if we’re talking horror THIS is the entry for me. This one takes place 15 years after the events of the original film and thankfully completely ignores the piece of crap that was Exorcist II: The Heretic. George C. Scott plays a detective investigating a slew of satanic murders that appear to be done by different people. The story evolves and it appears they’re being done by the Gemini Killer… who had been put to death 15 years ago. This flick is just awesome. It’s got enough religious overtones to be incredibly creepy and gives some amazing on and off screen kills that will make you jump even if you know they’re coming. The exorcism scene at the end of the film may not hold up against the original film but it’s still amazing. This is a film that I don’t think a lot of people have seen based on the fact that part 2 was so God awful (excuse the pun) but I’ve long had it on the top of any horror list I put together. It might be #1 if not for how awesome my last pick is…
#1 Halloween (1978) – This was on my list back in 2009 when I wasn’t ranking the films. As I sat down to write this list slotting this as #1 was actually a pretty easy decision (as it was for Brian on his list). This is the original “slasher” film which introduced us to “The Shape” that would become known as Michael Myers. Even if you’ve never seen this film if you’re a horror fan you’ve see homages to it. Originally titled The Babysitter Murders the film tells the story of a serial murderer who terrorizes the town of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween. Many of the “rules” that are joked about in Scream come from this film: sexually active teens, folks saying “I’ll be right back” and the concept of “Is he really dead” were all born here. Actually this is a pretty slow slasher film in comparison to the stuff we get today (for example we get like 10 deaths in the first few minutes of the 2009 reboot of Friday The 13th). That said there’s an incredible sense of suspense here heightened by not only the camera angles used but possibly the best horror movie score ever created.
So there you have it… my all time top 10 list. It was brutally difficult to first narrow it down to 10 films and then actually rank them. But I’m pretty confident in this list at this point. That’s certainly not to say that I don’t have other favorites or think there are other TREMENDOUS films in the horror genre, but if you asked me for 10 films that I’d recommend to anyone looking to get into the horror genre this would be it.
Bring on the discussion!