Geto Boys' classic song and equally classic video managed to capture the universal fears
that exist inside all of our minds, ya know, like a man who stood "6 or 7 feet."
that exist inside all of our minds, ya know, like a man who stood "6 or 7 feet."
Horror movies are inevitably flawed; even the best horror movies have some moments of cheese or absurdity that take you out of the moment and remind you that this is all just make-believe. Sometimes that ruins a movie, but many times it adds to the enjoyment (albeit making it a little less horrifying). In other, special cases, the cheese is the entire draw.
I'm a big fan of horror movies, but I realize that 90% are straight garbage. And I don't mean enjoyable garbage like Troll 2, I mean un-imaginative, uninspired, boring bullshit like Troll.
So if you're looking for some quality creepy entertainment in the next few weeks of Halloween/Pumpkin Spice fever, this list will help you get to the heart of the horror genre and avoid the tragically awful cinematic turds that are most horror movies. I start with the laughingly cheesy and end with the pants-shittingly terrifying in order to truly capture the diverse beauty that is the horror genre.
Here are the only 13 horror movies you ever need to see:
I started here because this is a hilariously clever satire of all horror movie themes. I highly recommend it to everyone who simultaneously loves and hates all overused horror tropes, but everyone can enjoy this overly ridiculous film. The genius in the movie lies in the fact that it revels in the horror genre while brutally mocking it. It is the Scream of the 2010's, minus the big stars and any attempt to be scary, besides a few jump scares here and there.
"I'm horrible and stupid and I suck." - Annabelle
Also, I actively hate any and everything remotely related to those scam artists the Warrens.
If you have to see a movie about a possessed doll, there's really only one option:
"Fuck that bitch Annabelle!" - Chucky
Saw wasn't particularly scary, it was just fucking crazy, gory, and original. The sequels all sucked, but Saw 2 had one great scene where a girl fell in a pit of hypodermic needles to get a key; I think my brain twitched for like 5 days after that.
Saw took torture porn to a new level. The violence is so visceral that you feel it. Its gratuitousness is by far its most memorable feature, but, it was pretty damn memorable. The various set-ups for the kills were interesting (for one movie) and the original's twist was satisfying, until you over-analyze it and realize how stupidly unnecessary it is to the killer's plans. In fact, the whole idea behind the story line is pretty ridiculous ("I have learned to appreciate life and now I'm gonna make you appreciate life by killing you!") but ridiculous doesn't always equate to bad; it's almost necessary in horror.
Nothing compares to watching Blair Witch opening night when it was still pretending to be "based on a true story." Basically every horror movie these days claims that, and most are bullshit, including Blair Witch. But moviemakers know it's automatically more terrifying for viewers when they think the events are real. The trend started (as far as I know) when Texas Chain Saw Massacre opened with the statement, "The film which you are about to see is an account of the tragedy which befell a group of five youths..." Blair Witch took that to the next level with their online marketing ploy, where they swore for months that this was all found footage; speaking of which, they basically invented the found footage horror genre (you can decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing). The movie doesn't hold up as much after numerous viewings, and a few scenes are unintentionally comical, like when the guy's screaming, "Fuckkinggg Josssshhh!" and when the girl has snot bubbles. But it still has many strong points, especially its use of the darkness of the woods to stimulate the viewer's imagination and personal fears. The silence and the faint rustling of leaves did more to terrify crowds than any CGI monsters ever have.
Psycho is just one of those films you have to see and you have to include in your list of best horror movies. It's scary in that film school sort of way. You admire it while watching more than you are scared of it. There's an entire subplot that starts off the movie and has no bearing on anything, except as a device to get the woman to Bates Motel. There's a lot of build up, too much for today's viewers, and not a lot of action. Plus, that damn voice-over in the last scene explaining what every viewer already knows is absolutely cringe-worthy.
Now with all that being said, the shower scene is one of the most iconic scenes in film history, and to this day, every few minutes in the shower I throw open the curtain to check for stabby transvestite psychopaths, so I have no problem including it on my list. Besides, Norman Bates is the ultimate creeper.
Ok, I'm cheating here, but none of these movies deserve their reputations as the greatest horror franchises ever, and I really wanted my list to have 13 entries. These are some of the original slasher films, and they are cool in many respects, but they are largely boring, silly movies full of stupid, stupid kids. In each series, the originals spawned some of the worst fucking cinema ever created, so for that alone they don't deserve their own spot. Their names are tarnished by the increasingly poor quality of their successive films (the exception is Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which might be the best in that franchise) culminating in the horrid Freddy vs Jason. Somehow, Mike Myers avoided that particular travesty, but he hasn't avoided the travesty of the dreaded (pun!) Rob Zombie remake. In fact, all of them have been recently remade, and they all attempt to be more action-packed to remedy the boredom, yet none maintain the spirit of the originals.
Out of the three, Halloween is the best single movie with the scariest character; Nightmare is the best series with the funniest character and the most purposeful cheese of any decent horror series; and Friday the 13th has the best twist ending. All three original films are enjoyable and have moments of true terror. They are definitely recommended viewing, just to be a participant in pop culture at the very least, but there's so many more enjoyable scary films, like:
Yes, Scream is a satire of the films I just mentioned, but it somehow manages to be superior to those films. It absolutely nails the slasher film parody, but it reaches "classic" status because of the fact that it was actually frightening, too. It flipped the genre on its head, and instead of mocking the genre, it embraced and rejuvenated the existing formulas.
Case in point: the killers in the scream mask are clumsy oafs who can barely kill a young unarmed teen girl. Watching them flail around and run into poles is hilarious, but it manages to increase the terror because it's more realistic. Jason walking at grandma speeds yet still catching up to the sprinting teens is absurd, but he looks cool and intimidating. A real killer would have to run around a little and deal with a few kicks to the groin, which never looks very smooth. Besides, ever try walking around with one of those masks on? You can't see shit. Scream shows us what it would really look like if a guy with a stupid Halloween mask went on a killing spree: kind of silly and stupid looking, but everyone is still dead from all the stabbing.
This film has a special place in my heart because I loved the book (I was a big Clive Barker fan as a kid...people worry about video games influencing kids, but no one stresses over the kid reading about murder and demon rape if it's in a book). There's some definite cheese, as with any movie dealing with the occult, but it doesn't hurt the overall quality of the movie. Pinhead is so creepy and cool, despite his silly name, and the movie is just plain spooky. The tagline says he's going to tear your soul apart; that's waaayyy scarier than just hacking off a limb with a knife.
Kathy Bates can be the most terrifying human being in the world when she wants to be. This was another book I loved, and I thought it was a great adaptation. More than anything though, this movie is propelled by the stunning performance from Bates and James Caan's awesome reactions to Bates.
In fact, this makes the list simply because of the greatest sentence ever uttered in movie history:
Not to mention, that fucking sledgehammer scene.
This doesn't quite hold up 40 years later, but it's still a must-see. The average comedy has more gross out scenes nowadays, but the movie is more than just projectile vomiting. It deals with spiritual fear, that other-wordly evil, which can add another element of terror (if not overdone).
I saw Possessed with Leslie Nielson before I saw this, and it in no way prepared me for what I was getting myself into. It is definitely slow and some scenes look a little cheesy now, but a little girl puking violently, shoving a cross into her crotch, and yelling "Let Jesus fuck you!" will always pack a punch.
This is one of my favorite movies of any genre. Unbelievable suspense and tension throughout. Amazing performances all around. A sick and twisted evil genius serial killer helping a rookie FBI agent catch a sick and twisted weirdo serial killer with an interest in skin-suits, moths and tucking. What more can you ask for?
Another Stephen King adaptation, but I didn't read that book so I didn't care that Stanley Kubrick made it his own. This was one of the first movies where I realized the importance of scenery. The hotel embeds itself into the viewer's mind. It's suffocating, and you yearn to escape with little Tommy and Olive Oil.
The tension builds throughout the movie with every little detail: the setting, the music, the furries, the camera angles, and of course, the acting. 40 years later and Jack Nicholson still gets to watch the Lakers at court-side because of this performance.
The movie is long, but every second is important, and the more closely you watch, the more terrifying it becomes.
Here we have it. The Father of all slasher films. The Father of all shock films. The Father of all torture porn. The Father of all hitchhiker horror.
There's just so much going on and it's all insane. It opens with decomposing corpses atop a grave stone and never eases up. The crazy fuckin hitchhiker slicing his own hand. That fuckin mask made of human skin. That fuckin chainsaw. That fucking house full of bones and feathers and weird shit everywhere. That fuckin old decrepit guy sucking on the girl's finger.
Man I love a good scary movie.
I Love You All (And Would Never Let You Walk Into The Woods Alone At Night)...Class Dismissed.