About This Item

Unique ID Code: 0000122739
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 31/10/2009 16:13
View Changes

Videos and Info
  • Log in to Add Videos, Interviews, Etc
  • This article is lonely!

    Places to Buy

    Searching for products...

    Item Images

    This item has no attached images.

    My Top 10 Favourite Horror Films

    In the spirit of Halloween I've decided to go through my collection and try and work out (in the style of High Fidelity) my top ten all time favourite horror films.  I've had in mind those that would go into the list and have been slowly reviewing those films for the site but this article is the culmination of hours of thought. 
    Creating a list like a top ten favourites can never be definitive as tastes always change plus films are released that you feel should be on the list.  These films came from the ones that got me interested in horror from different directors, localities, subgenres and eras.  It was a nightmare to sort and I'm still not entirely happy with how some of them placed.  In addition, narrowing the list down to ten was a hardship and saw some films I really love miss out - I would have loved to include both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead but Dawn is my favourite of the trilogy and other films moving above Night and bumping it out of the top 10 (the same goes for Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn). Likewise, Hellraiser, Ring, Eyes Without a Face, Alien, Frankenstein and numerous others just missed the cut.

    10. Halloween

    A must for October 31st and a film that, with Bob Clark's Black Christmas, defined the stalker/slasher film, Halloween was a breakthrough for promising filmmaker John Carpenter who only had the student film Dark Star to his name, giving his career a big boost and turning Janet Leigh's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, into a star.  It's success is something of a mixed blessing as it is as great film that deserves to been seen by any film fan, making horror mainstream and slightly respectable but it also spawned the rash of sequels and imitations by directors who weren't as restrained as Carpenter, choosing to abandon the sense of unease that makes this film so special and rely instead on cheap shocks and gore effects.  Closing your eyes in the scary bits won't work as the sound design and Carpenter's score make the horror aural as well as visual.  This is just about the perfect horror movie and a film that should really be seen at this time of year. 

    9. Nosferatu

    One of the finest examples of German expressionism and the best vampire movie ever made, Nosferatu is lucky to even exist. Bram Stoker's estate realised that F. W. Murnau had used the Dracula novel as the basis for the film and were granted a court order demanding that all copies be destroyed. Fortunately they were well spread and copies were already in the US, so Murnau's classic survived, Max Shreck became the most frightening vampire and I'd rather watch this than just about any other vampire film.  Werner Herzog made a creditable remake in 1979 with Klaus Kinski fantastic in the title role but he isn't as effective as Shreck and there's just something about Murnau's visual flair and the performances that make this such an important film and a landmark in the genre.


    8. Suspiria

    Dario Argento has always been a director more concerned with visuals than coherent narrative but in Suspiria, he practically dispenses with plot and creates such a visually stunning film that it doesn't matter the story is so thin!  The plot is an odd one, but not particularly any stranger than any of Argento's others, with an American ballet student going to Germany to perfect her skills only to find that the school is run by a coven of witches.  As the first in Argento's 'Mothers' trilogy, it is the best though Inferno puts more flesh on the bones with Mother of Tears finishing the series with a competent film that fails to live up to the promise of the first two instalments.  The pounding soundtrack by Goblin is an aural treat worth listening to on its own. There are many Italian horrors that I love but, if I had to pick one, it would be this.


    7. The Shining

    Stephen King is a great horror author but you occasionally get the impression he doesn't know when to say 'enough' and his books can get a bit saggy and wordy. This is the case with The Shining, where Kubrick improved the story by stripping away some of the unnecessary back story and making the ending more ambiguous. Just as he (and co-writer Diane Johnson) reduced the amount of the book that went into the film, Kubrick then responded to the initially poor reception by cutting about 25 minutes out, making it a tighter and more suspenseful film. I have a lot of time for both but think that Kubrick was right and that the shorter version is better - a clear case of 'less is more'. The filming is extraordinary, with phenomenal use of Steadicam, Kubrick demanded take after take until he got what he wanted, resulting in great performances from Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and a career-defining turn from Jack Nicholson.


    6. The Wicker Man

    Released as the B-movie to Nic Roeg's sublime supernatural horror, Don't Look Now, The Wicker Man was misunderstood from the moment it got back to the studio. British Lion gave the go-ahead for the project but, by the time they'd finished in Scotland, there'd been a change of personnel at the studio who didn't like the film and didn't see it as a main feature. The only way they considered it could be released was in a supporting role, so cut it down from 100 to 88 minutes and put it out as a B-movie. From those humble beginnings in 1974, it has garnered a reputation as one of the most original and intelligent British horrors of the decade and is a true cult classic. Though the quality of the Director's Cut (the best and most complete version of the film) is patchy, it is still a great piece of work with an ending that still sends shivers up the spine.


    5. Psycho

    Alfred Hitchcock didn't get the nickname 'The Master of Suspense' for nothing. His thrillers and horrors spanned decades and countries from The 39 Steps in 1935 to Notorious in 1946 and 1972's Frenzy. It was 1960 that cemented his place as a true master of the macabre by bringing Robert Bloch's pulp novel Psycho to the big screen. Assembling a terrific cast and using every bit of the technical ingenuity that he'd picked up during his time working in Germany as a young man, the film stretches the tension to breaking point with some beautifully worked set pieces . Whether it's the shower scene, Arbogast's encounter with Mrs. Bates or mother's revelation, the film is full of wonderfully crafted moments that are there to savour and illustrate why Hitchcock is considered by many to be the greatest director that ever lived. If this didn't convince people that he could make a scary film, three years later he released The Birds, which ensured that few looked at our feathered friends the same way again.


    4. The Evil Dead

    In 1968, George Romero showed that, with a bit of money, some committed friends, a good script and technical know-how, you can make a film for very little outlay and gain respect amongst genre fans and critics alike. Being headstrong doesn't hurt either. Thirteen years later, aspiring filmmaker Sam Raimi and some friends headed south to Tennessee armed with some equipment and a screenplay. By most accounts the shoot was miserable with many cold, wet nights and long days but it was all worth it as the end result, The Evil Dead, marked Raimi out as a formidable talent, established Bruce Campbell as a B-movie legend in the making and his character, Ash, as one of the horror genre's true icons.  It ran into trouble with the BBFC and then the Video Recordings Act (1984) but has since been released uncut and many people (including me) have bought multiple versions of the film and love it and its sequels. 


    3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

    Fresh out of film school, Texas native Tobe Hooper, who had been raised on stories about Ed Gein (the inspiration for Norman Bates in Psycho), decided to turn these tales into a film.  Working with friend Kim Henkel, he co-wrote and directed a film that shocked and confused the ratings bodies as it was virtually bloodless but unrelenting in its horror and is such an onslaught to the senses that there was nothing he could cut out to reduce the impact so his idea of a PG certificate was quickly dismissed.  Released with an R rating in the US and banned in Britain until 1999, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre gained cult status and became a film that you could only watch if you knew someone who had a dodgy video copy, traumatising many children in the process.  Those who banned or dismissed it as a grotesque or sick film missed the sociological points, the intelligent use of mise-en-scène and interesting camerawork - it is a much more interesting work than something like The Omen, but that's more audience friendly.  Since 1997, TCSM has had numerous video and DVD releases and debuts on Blu-ray on November 16th. 


    2. Dawn of the Dead

    After making his name with a ghoul movie in 1968, George Romero made other fascinating horror films such as The Crazies and Martin but, five years later, returned to the genre in which he made his name with another zombie film, again with a topical subtext and effects to test the stomachs of cinema goers.  This time taking aim at the rampant consumerism spreading across America (and most of the western world), he moved away from an isolated farmhouse and into a mall with the zombie outbreak still in full flow.  Featuring two disheartened SWAT members, a helicopter traffic reporter and his TV technician girlfriend, Dawn of the Dead earned praise from as diverse sources as the horror magazine Fangoria and respected film critic Roger Ebert.  It is now the most loved of Romero's zombie movies and is the reference point for most works in that subgenre.  (There are three cuts of the film: the Theatrical Cut, Director's Cut and European Cut; Argento's version loses the satirical subtext and much of the library music and the erroneously titled Director's Cut is the version that Romero sent to Cannes prior to re-editing the film to his preferred, shorter, version.)  I loved Night of the Living Dead, as well as Day of the Dead and respect and admire his latest two, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead, I have high hopes for Survival of the Dead but Dawn is my favourite and probably always will be.


    1. The Exorcist

    I wasn't much of a horror fan growing up (or much of a film fan for that matter) but happened to be in the right place at the right time as I was becoming interested in film in the mid-1990s and so, when the BBFC revisited the list of banned films and opened the floodgates with a whole load of fascinating and interesting works, I was there to lap it up and see them at the cinema and buy them on video and, later, on DVD.  The first of these was The Exorcist, a film that I had only heard of but never seen or knew much about.  When I saw that there was going to be a midnight showing on June 5th, 1999 at my local multiplex I made arrangements to go and was blown away by the power of the film and its lasting impact.  I have now seen it more than any other film I own and have read widely about it and even based an MA dissertation around it and other films in that movement.  There are fans that are more obsessive than I am, most notably the film critic Mark Kermode who regards it as the greatest film ever made.  I wouldn't go that far, only regarding The Exorcist as the greatest horror film ever made.  It has been my favourite film for over a decade and I can't see anything that would make me change my mind. 

    Your Opinions and Comments

    What?!! No Universal? The veritable mothers of the genre as a popular mainstream art-form? And no Hammer, Amicus or Vipco? That's the trouble with lists. Everyone's will be different. I would extend this to a top 20!!
    posted by Stuart McLean on 31/10/2009 23:42
    I've never been much of a modern horror fan.  Universal Horrors and Hammer Horrors - that's a different story.

    I was thinking - you could have a top ten Frankenstein movies, or Dracula movies they've been done so much.
    posted by Mark Oates on 1/11/2009 02:34
    8 / 10
    As I said in the intro, it was a nightmare narrowing all those great horror films down to just ten and loads that I love missed out.  This started as a top twenty and was cut down to ten.  The great films that Universal released (Tod Browning's Dracula and James Whale's Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein) are fantastic groundbreaking films but some had to miss out and they were some of the many that were cut. 

    To do a top twenty, I'd have to start with about fifty films and then gradually whittle it down, removing thirty from the list.  You'd see some Universal and Hammer - probably Frankenstein and the 1958 Dracula - but there are so many good horrors that even those would have competition in the 20-11 range.
    posted by David Beckett on 1/11/2009 11:49
    'Dracula' vs 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'? You may be on your own there David. ;)

    That said, I agree with many of your choices and only recently watched 'The Excorcist' again and enjoyed it tremendously once it got going. Certainly not as scary as I remember it in the early seventies!
    posted by Stuart McLean on 1/11/2009 19:53
    8 / 10
    That's what this top ten is all about - I'd rather watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre than Dracula.  Not an opinion I imagine many others share, but it's my opinion and that's all that matters!
    posted by David Beckett on 1/11/2009 20:16
    Exactly, but isn't the point of doing one of these lists to encourage debate of your selection?
    posted by Mark Oates on 1/11/2009 20:21
    8 / 10
    Precisely, I would have hated it if no one had commented!  Already thinking about another top ten - but what?  Western, Sci-fi (I don't watch Star Trek and dislike Star Wars!), Epic, Fantasy?
    posted by David Beckett on 1/11/2009 20:42
    Comedy is always subjective and I'm sure will generate some lively debate!
    posted by Stuart McLean on 1/11/2009 22:04
    It's always fun to do a top ten movies you love but you're sure nobody else will like - and find out other people like them too.  Of course, you may find out your suspicions are confirmed.
    posted by Mark Oates on 2/11/2009 00:16
    9 / 10
    What! Me chipping in to a horror movies thread, at this time of day, with my reputation?

    See there are movies that creep me out, put the chills up me, but I don't know if they'd be horrors exactly. I'd have The Omen, The Hitcher, The Fly (remake), Jacob's Ladder, The first Alien movie, Gremlins?

    Must admit that Halloween did creep me out as a kid.
    posted by Jitendar Canth on 2/11/2009 10:54
    8 / 10
    I'd definitely class all of those, with the exception of Gremlins, as horror films.  Gremlins is comedy/horror but I was going for just plain horror.  I guess you could put The Fly and Alien as horror/sci-fi but I consider them horror films.
    posted by David Beckett on 2/11/2009 16:04
    9 / 10
    See, for me, The Hitcher and Jacob's Ladder are more psychological thrillers, and the Omen has those biblical overtones that in my view sort of make it Horror+. Same goes for The Exorcist

    I'd also be willing to add Spielberg's Duel and Jaws to the list, for requiring a change of underwear. Other unlikely titles, not necessarily because they are Horror, but because they terrified me, are Beneath The Planet of the Apes (the bit with the masks, and Taylor's Final Solution), and By Dawn's Early Light. Cold War nightmare.
    posted by Jitendar Canth on 2/11/2009 16:30
    Comedy horror - now there's an underrated genre.  I keep hearing the term bandied about with modern horror movies but I frequently fail to see what people find amusing about them.  Don't get me wrong, I can find splatstick hysterically funny, but some movies just don't work for me.

    Now on the other hand, pictures like The Cat and the Canary (Bob Hope), The Ghost Breakers, Arsenic and Old Lace - insanely funny but wonderfully atmospheric.  Guess they just don't make 'em like that any more.
    posted by Mark Oates on 2/11/2009 16:46
    8 / 10
    This is what I love about horror.  There is so much debate about what is and isn't a horror film, and where a psychological thriller becomes a horror and the difference between a comedy horror and a horror comedy just depends on the balance and your own tolerance to horror.

    There are arguments for considering something like Se7en as a horror and Fight Club as a updating of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, a fine gothic horror.

    I would never consider Arsenic and Old Lace as a comedy horror as it's more a screwball comedy with a macabe subplot than something like Shaun of the Dead, but then times and tastes change.
    posted by David Beckett on 2/11/2009 17:12