Time for some lists! And since Halloween is nearing, I thought I’d start with a series of Halloween Horror Lists detailing my favorite horror films, starting with … The Classics.
Every week in October I will offer a different list outlining my favorites (four lists total, no repeated films). I’ll also do a list for my favorite horror/thriller books. Feel free to sound off in the comments below with your own horror favorites!
Please be aware that I change my mind often. The ability to change one’s mind on any subject is paramount for our culture’s growth and development. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see another version of this list next year, with totally different movies on it … what can I say, I absolutely love horror films. It’s hard to pick favorites.
10) The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
It might not be a classic yet, but just you wait. Drew Goddard’s horror send-up is a delightfully fun, funny and freaky spin on the “evil cabin” horror subgenre. In many ways, it’s a better follow-up to the Evil Dead franchise than the somewhat thin remake of Evil Dead we got in 2013. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor.
9) Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The original Evil Dead scares me a bit more than Evil Dead 2, but the second film delivers that fine blend of horror and laughs, while solidifying the B-movie icon status for star Bruce Campbell, and setting up director Sam Raimi for one hell of a career.
8) Friday the 13th The Final Chapter (1984)
If you only watch one Friday the 13th film, let it be this one. It’s not a masterpiece in the writing department, but the colorful cast, and equally colorful gore, make this one the absolute highlight of the series.
7) An American Werewolf in London (1981)
A tragic, scary, funny outing about a man who slowly comes to realize that he’s a werewolf. Every beat is stunning, and the film rarely ceases to surprise. The makeup effects are staggering, too. Many horror fans go back and forth as to which werewolf film is the best: The Howling or American Werewolf, but this one tops it for me. Always has. Always will.
6) The Fly (1986)
David Cronenberg’s creepy creature-feature is easily one of the best monster movies ever made, rich with taught direction, clever characters and outstanding writing. I am completely invested in this feature from start to finish. Honorable mentions here: The Thing and Alien. Also classics. Perhaps I’ll include them on another list at some point. Best Horror Sci-fi, perhaps?
5) Halloween (1978)
I often credit Black Christmas as one of my favorite slashers, but let’s face it – John Carpenter’s Halloween is the true classic. It’s frightening. It gets under your skin. And it’s still really great more than 35 years later. You just can’t beat it.
4) A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Gritty and fiendishly dreamy, A Nightmare on Elm Street feels like a soap opera that’s been invaded by a nefarious force of evil. Robert Englund is terrific as Freddy Krueger, and Wes Craven’s direction keeps things intense and scary as hell, even on repeat viewings.
3) The Exorcist (1974)
This is a freaky masterpiece of spiritual horror. I still recall watching it with my friends and family and feeling the room grow silent, cold and nervous as the priests performed the exorcism. To say The Exorcist is riveting cinema is a bit of an understatement. Now, I’m torn about which version to suggest watching. If I had to pick, I’d go theatrical cut first, followed by the altered Director’s Cut.
2) Jaws (1975)
To this day I am still terrified every single time Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) dips into the cage to go one-on-one against Steven Spielberg’s killer shark. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for this film, and I’m not alone. Jaws is often credited with inspiring more writing/filmmaking careers than pretty much any film ever made. It’s THAT good.
1) The Shining (1980)
Stephen King’s clever, but admittedly meandering book is tinkered and adapted into an absolute cinema masterpiece. It’s also one of the best horror films I’ve ever come across, and is mandatory viewing for any self-respecting fan of the genre. What Stanley Kubrick does, and says, with his frame is still studied to this day. Don’t believe me? Just check out Room 237. Note: there are two versions of this film available, a longer US cut and a shorter international version (or Director’s Cut, as it is sometimes called – it was Kubrick’s preferred cut). Both versions are terrific, but I tend to prefer Kubrick’s shorter Director’s Cut. The pacing and intensity is much tighter, but you can’t really feel the cuts at all.
Next week: My top ten favorite horror books!