As you may tell from the numerous reviews I’ve written for Scaretissue, I’m excited to finally have an outlet for my obsession with horror movies. I’ve always loved them since I was a kid. It’s not the deaths. It’s not the gore. It’s the surprise. That’s the moment I crave while watching these movies. It’s that moment I can sit back with a smile and just enjoy.
While compiling my top 10 movies, I realize that I don’t like plain vanilla horror. I like a little comedy sprinkled in. I like non-traditional approaches to storytelling. And, I guess I like a little brains.
So, without further ado, my top 10 horror movies of all time:
(10) Night of the Demons 2 – I have to admit. I hadn’t watched this one since I was a teenager (as it was taken off its Saturday afternoon horror movie rotation and never “resurrected”). I loved it as a kid, and I had to re-watch it just to make sure it still fit.
As a kid, I thought it was a fun romp. As an adult, I found a ton of subtle sexual undertones I missed back then (not sure if that is because I mainly watched edited versions or I was just oblivious) and I could appreciate the religious symbolism as well. There’s a lot of humor (like a demon head in a toilet that is exasperated by “kids”, a kick ass nun, and, well…a girl’s breasts turning into a demon hand), but it doesn’t bring the movie completely into comedy territory. It kind of fits as it’s about demons messing with kids.
(9b) Dawn of the Dead (Original) – Night of the Living Dead scared me senseless. However, it seemed like such a “isolated incident” and society seemed like it was going to have the upper hand (as referenced by the good old boys enjoying the hunting). We were going to make it!
Then Dawn of the Dead came along.
The cities were falling. The media and army were on the run. The zombies were winning.
I never noticed the consumerism theme that runs through the movie as it is subtle (at least to me) when I was younger, but I loved how the story just fit perfectly without having to stretch our imaginations. Our characters were fleeing for their lives. They found suitable shelter. They fought for that shelter. Reality sets in. It tackled some very deep questions like “What is living really?” and “Can man survive if he doesn’t work together as one like the zombies?”. It expanded the myth of the first one. In fact, many of the themes of The Walking Dead today are pulled directly from this movie more than any other in the series.
(9a) Dawn of the Dead (Remake) – As much as I loved the original Dawn of the Dead, the remake blew my mind. I had seen the fast zombies in Resident Evil, but was not excited by them.
And then I saw the first 15 minutes of this film.
The zombies were scary. They were fast. They were fun to watch.
Whereas the group in the original movie met their fate because they didn’t trust the outside group, this group does for the opposite reason: They want to save somebody on the outside. I think their plan to escape was ill advised, but it was cool to see those tanks make their way through the hoards.
It is very rare that a remake can hold a candle to the original. This is one of those times.
(8) Feast – Feast prides itself on not sticking to a horror movie formula and surprising the audience with both its insensitivity and gore. It is not for the faint of heart (and I’m not even going to get into the sequels that wanted to be more shocking).
We are introduced to a character referred to onscreen as “Hero”. He runs into a bar, bars the doors, and warns the patrons of the oncoming danger of monsters. He is immediately killed during his soliloquy. The movie then leads us through one horrible death after another as we try to guess who (if any) will survive the night. Along the way, we are grossed out at every turn.
I loved it.
(7) Wes Craven’s New Nightmare – I have to admit. None of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies scared me in particular. I found the concept of Freddy to be terrifying, but by the time I saw any of the movies they were more fun than scary to watch (My first real Freddy memory is “Welcome to Primetime, bitch!”).
New Nightmare was amazing in concept. It took the iconic character that was Freddy and it reimagined him (and not in the bad way that remake did). It brought Freddy to the “real” world, and had me scared of him for the first time in ages.
(6) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Original) – I hate how horror movies today have to have some big build up to show you scary.
Leatherface in the original TCM is introduced when a man walks into a room he shouldn’t. A door is opened, and suddenly that man is dead. No music. No buildup. Amazing.
That is followed up shortly by an iconic scene where the characters are surprised in the woods by the chainsaw wielding maniac. It’s dark. Nobody knows it’s coming. And, suddenly, screams…
This movie tortured you at every turn, and it did so with less gore than you think there is.
(5) Halloween (Original) – dada dada da dada dada da
Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers share many similar qualities Both are strong silent types. Both hates teenagers. Both enjoy sharp pointy things and its always fun to spend the holidays with either.
However, Michael is the original unstoppable killer. He is the boogeyman. He is evil.
(4) Cloverfield – Taking my nephew to see Transformers in 2007, I was enthralled when I saw the trailer to “1/18/08”. The image of the Statue of Liberty’s head hurtling from the sky was amazing, and (I must admit) I got sucked in by the mystery of the movie.
While most people panned the movie, I loved it. It was a scary Godzilla, and it was told from the perspective of people that knew as much as I did about what was going on. I was used to the special effects from a third person perspective, but this put me right into the movie.
(3) Freddy vs Jason – This was the movie we all wanted to see in the early nineties. It’s a shame that it didn’t get made until 2002.
Two of the most iconic characters in horror movies were together in the same movie, and it was phenomenal. It made sense that Freddy could wake up Jason (He’s just sleeping.), and it makes even more sense that Freddy is frustrated by his inability to control him. They both had such opposite styles in their methodology. The script was weak in some areas, but much better than any other script I had read (that was eventually scrapped) to the movie. They unleashed Jason as both a killer and a hero (??!!). This was and is one fun watch.
(2) Hellraiser Series – I have loved almost every Hellraiser released (not named Deaders or Revelations). I’ve even loved the horrible Hellworld, and I will put Bloodlines up against Hellraiser II as the best movie in the series. But, it all comes back to the first movie with its hokey CGI, awesome makeup, and great storytelling.
These movies gave us depictions of a man (re)composing, skinless people walking around regenerating, and horrible cenobites with their chattering teeth, chains, and hooks. We were shown depictions of hell. We were horrified. All of this was done with just a hint of sadomasochism. It was unsettling, yet strangely erotic.
(1) Return of the Living Dead – What if zombies aren’t mindless? What if they can run? What if they are “alive” but just in pain?? What if they can’t be killed???
I have never been as scared at a movie concept as I have been in ROTLD. If not for its comedic tones, I wonder if this may not stand up as one of the scariest movies of all time. It took the classic Romero zombie and upgraded it dramatically. Most importantly, it did it correctly. The movie spends quite a long time linking itself to NOTLD, but then distances itself right away by showing that the zombies are indestructible.
Could you imagine a zombie holocaust with this unstoppable foe? It would be hopeless, and that’s why I think it has always stayed a more localized outbreak by the writers.
It plays like a tongue in cheek B-Movie, but will come back and hit you in the face with the most disturbing scenes you’ve seen. For example, one girl wants to stay with her boyfriend that is turning into a zombie. He turns and tells her that a “good girlfriend would let me eat your….BRAINS!” and stalks her for the rest of the movie. He calls out her name, and he pursues over and over and over again. It’s horrible, and it’s one of the best scenes ever that I can think of. In another, the humans interview a zombie.
Another great list! Believe it or not, there’s quite a few here that I’ve not even seen! Night of the Demons 2, Feast, Cloverfield or Dawn of the Dead (remake). I LOVE that you’ve got both New Nightmare and Freddy Vs. Jason on your list. I thought for sure that Pip and I were about the only 2 Nightmare fans that didn’t hate New Nightmare. Thought it was an incredible movie.
As I’ve said before (I think) I absolutely LOVE Freddy Vs. Jason as well. Not sure it’ll make it onto my Top 10 but I thoroughly enjoyed it even though it has some flaws. I’m SO happy they didn’t add Ash to this as was rumored. Honestly I don’t think Ash holds a candle to either of these guys (but that’s another post for another time).
DOTD is on MTV a lot recently, but Feast is a tougher one to find. Night of the Demons 2 is actually available for free (streaming on Vimeo), and Cloverfield shows up on FX a lot.
New Nightmare suffers because it asks a small child to carry the movie, and although he tries his best, he is nowhere near as good or as scary as he was in Pet Semetary (No fair!). New Nightmare fed on your imagination more than trying to scare you. It was the first movie since the original that truly made me fear Freddy.
Freddy vs Jason was just fun from the beginning. Jason attacked everything in sight…Freddy planned…and then we had the battle. It was a perfect popcorn horror movie.
I read 4-5 scrapped scripts which differed from having Jason having to battle his way out of hell (Freddy was the devil) as a hero to Jason and Freddy being pulled into hell by Pinhead. Tommy Jarvis and (I think) Alice from NOES 4 and 5 show up in one them as well. I remember one being pretty good, but most were not. Hell, one even went the route of the Halloween franchise and attempted tying in a cult that worshipped Freddy.
3 movies that came really close to making this list were Poltergeist, An American Werewolf in London, and Phantasm 2. I remember watching Poltergeist as a young child, and cringe at how my boys would react to that terror (especially that freaking clown). It makes me sad that only 2 and 3 have been available on Netflix recently (although 2 was a beast of its own…dear God! That worm scared me.). A remake of Poltergeist is being made in 2014 however, which both thrills and saddens me. AWIL is another comedy horror, and Phantasm 2 just plays like the Splatterhouse video game years ago that I loved.