Vik's Top 5 Horror Movies of All Time
I don't know how but I seemed to have access to a lot of horror very early. I don't know what my parents were doing but I can clearly remember watching episodes of Tales from the Crypt and Are you Afraid of the Dark (two amazing horror anthology shows, which Pete Rogers chronicles AYAOTD here) when I was about six years old. And I was hooked. Ghosts, zombies, vampires, demons, killer dolls, I loved it all. Halloween quickly became my favorite holiday and as a working adult much of my paychecks went towards horror DVDs. Although I must confess I was a bigger fan of a genre I would consider to be horror comedy. That would be more in the mold of Evil Dead 2, Fright Night, Return of the Living Dead, Leprechaun, and all of the Jason movies. That will be it's own list, today I'm going to focus on legit horror movies. The kind that make you want to watch cartoons afterwards, the kind that make you have a night light as an adult (not saying that's me just saying I understand). Let me preface in saying that movies and especially horror movies are extremely subjective, so this is just a list of the movies that do it for me, yours may be different. I mean after all, some people consider The Last Airbender to be scary.
My Top 5 (In No Order)
1) Halloween (1978)
A poster hangs in my room with a picture of Michael Myers standing with a large butcher knife in his hands. The caption reads "The Night He Came Home." I've written about this movie so many times I'm really at a loss of what to say. We've all seen it, we've all read about it, it's as close to perfect as a horror movies gets in my eyes. Halloween is a well balanced combination of lighting, pacing, a menacing villian, and sympathetic characters the audience can connect with. John Carpenter solidified himself early on with Halloween as a horror master. It was also the start of a somewhat successful career for Jamie Lee Curtis, and it had a great peformance from Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, the one man who can stop Michael Myers, or at least he hopes. See this immediately if you haven't already. And damn you Rob Zombie for remaking this movie and thinking that people want to know about Michael Myers childhood. Giving a character too much backstory is the number one way to no longer make him scary.
2) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
There is a 1990 remake of this movie starring Candy Man that is actually a damn good remake, but don't watch that until you've seen this first. What's special about this movie is that it really started the zombie genre. Credit goes to creator George Romero, who would go on to also do Creepshow and Dawn of the Dead (a fantastic sequel that also spawned another fantastic remake). If you've only seen The Walking Dead, do me a favor, go back and watch some old zombie movie classics.
3) The Ring (2002)
Dare I say the scariest movie of the modern era? I'm usually pretty relaxed when watching a horror movie but I was damn sure curled up under the covers with the remote in my hand as I watched The Ring. I absolutely hate all the Japanese style horror films like the Grudge that came after this, but the Ring has not been topped in modern horror movies as far as I'm concerned for pure creepiness and pure horror.
4) Child's Play (1988)
Chucky would go on to become a mainly comedic farce, a parody of himself even. But in the original Child's Play, he's just an evil little doll. Now he's still dropping F bombs and giving one liners, but it's not as over the top as the sequels. The other thing, which is the most important element is that the movie has likable and sympathetic characters. Your villain can be humorous and over the top, but it only works if the audience connects with the protagonist. If your protagonist is not likable, the audience will side with the villain and then there is no way for the movie to be scary. Luckily, Child's Play does a fine job of establishing characters who we can root for.
5) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
"1..2...Freddy's Coming for You." You may think of Freddy as a loveable old Grandpa type who kills teenagers in their dreams and mugs at the camera before giving a catchy and cheesy one liner. Yes, that is the Nightmare on Elm Street series as a whole. However, the first one, is a little bit more artistic. No, not artistic, let's just say scarier than the others. Wes Craven manages to create a serious tone with sympathetic characters which the sequels did not. Johnny Depp getting sucked into a bed is a wonderful death scene, the sheer amount of blood used in this one scene is worth nothing. Robert Englund is Freddy, casting another Freddy immediately soured me on the remake but I understand time moves on. Still, I'll just stick with my Nightmare on Elm Street Box set.
(I know I'm going to get hell for leaving off such classics as Psycho, Jaws, and The Exorcist. They just don't do it for me, but they would be on this list if I was doing a top 30.)
The Blair Witch Project (1999) - One of the first found footage film, and if it's not the first, it's the best. 3 teenagers stuck in the woods, and only they can prevent forest fires. No... actually a forest fire is the least of their troubles as they happen to be lost in the woods with a witch who isn't too happy. The marketing campaign of this movie was insane, as many in theaters thought what they were watching was 'actual real' footage. I can watch the movie now and still be creeped out.
The Others (2000)- Another trendsetter. Nicole Kidman and her kids struggle to figure out what is going on in a haunted house movie that would spawn sixty two haunted house movies over the next fifteen years. This was in direct competition with the Sixth Sense for which movie started the "horror movies that have twist endings" craze. This won out because I just don't see the Sixth Sense as a horror movie. That and I absolutely loath M. Night Twistasham. So The Others made 100 million and studios decided that the world wanted fifteen years of haunted house movies in which only four or five them would be worth anything. But I have to give it big props, when watching for the first time, you really aren't sure where it is headed. (If you guess the ending half way through I'm going to be suspicious and think you Googled the ending on your phone.)
Scream (1996)- "What's your favorite scary movie?" The creepy voice of Roger Jackson would become iconic pretty quickly and become a staple of prank calls. Scream has to get a lot of credit for helping to rejuvenate the horror genre at a time when it was pretty much dead. Around the year 1996, movie studios had stopped financing horror movies as they just weren't making money and hadn't had a hit in a long time. By this point the slasher craze of the 80s had died, and people had moved on. Enter Wes Craven, one of the best horror directors of all time. He along with writer Kevin Williamson set out to make the first self aware horror movie. Now we had characters who had grown up on 80's slasher movies and were aware of the rules you had to follow in order to survive horror movies. So the kinds of conversations horror fans were having with friends at school were actually in the script of Scream. Most importantly, it made 100 friggin million dollars the box officer and started a new slasher craze that would last a few years until we were getting random urban legend sequels straight to dvd that nooooooooooooooobody wanted to see.
Read some more of Vik's Top 5 Lists