The lack of scares in mainstream cinema is becoming quite ridiculous now, in my lifetime I’ve never seen a film in the cinema that has given me sleepless nights (other than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but I was young, naive and the thought of a massive snake that can petrify you, well petrified me).
The horror genre as you all probably know, has had a huge impact on film history they have created some of the greatest films (and film moments) of all time. My relationship with the genre has been a committed one, it’s already moved in with me and is constantly leaving the bloody toilet seat up. To show my commitment I have compiled what I think are the 10 best horror films of all time.
10. The Blair Witch Project (1999) If using found footage in horror films was a trend, this film was the trendsetter. It bought the idea of found footage to mainstream cinema…saying that, maybe we shouldn’t be praising it after all.
However, that aside, it did something interesting with the sub-genre with many audience members thinking the film was a documentary, showing real life. A good solid, simple, story-line and remarkably intelligent marketing, Blair Witch to this day still has things in it that give me the heebie jeebies.
9. Jaws (1975) The ocean is a vast mass of unknown entities and even the ones that are known don’t seem that cuddly. Whilst carelessly swimming there could be an array of monstrous creatures lurking beneath you.
And the thought of being suddenly dragged under by a shark named Bruce, has resulted in me never going deep enough in the ocean that my feet don’t touch the seabed. Sometimes I question myself why I watched this film so much as a child.
8. Halloween (1978) Many say less is more and this is certainly the truth in this films case, Halloween shows that it’s what you don’t see that truly creates the scares.
Not only did it pretty much launch the teen slasher genre but it’s a horror film that features virtually no blood. Instead it uses lighting (shadows) and sound to scare it’s audience. John Carpenter’s classic gave us a good scare without throwing guts in your face, a horror genius.
7. Scream (1996) A brilliant tongue-in-cheek script that cheekily pokes fun (in a respectful manner), and concurrently, pays homage to many great horror films of the past. Laughter and fear are two emotions very close to one another, but being able to make an audience do both is a hard task.
Scream however, shows how comedy and horror can play alongside each other in harmony. I repressed Scary Movie from my memories so that whenever I watch this film it is and will always be a joyous experience. In the way that watching teenagers getting slashed by Ghostface is joyous.
6. Alien (1979) Basically a haunted house in space, Alien follows the formula of a teen slasher film but changes a few things by making it about a group of people that you believe in, making a woman the lead and by setting it in space (“where no-one can hear you scream”) it became one of the most ground breaking films in history.
Thematically about something I think every human is afraid of, the unknown. The feeling that something better than us, more intelligent than us is out there, the “ultimate life-form” is a frightening thought itself. In my eyes better than its action genre sequel, Alien was a game changer in both horror and sci-fi and other Blade Runner, it’s Ridley Scott’s best film.
5. The Thing (1982) Flamethrowers, dead dogs and special effects that for the time were revolutionary. The Thing was another John Carpenter classic and similar to Alien was about a group of people, alone in the middle of nowhere with something otherworldly threatening their lives.
Exploring the unknown, isolation, paranoia and mistrust The Thing is a timeless horror film (but apparently a remake was necessary) that froze me to the core.
4. Videodrome (1983) A Cronenberg classic that you will never ever forget. A surreal mind-bending body horror about the dangers of violent explicit reality television, probably one of the most provocative films I’ve ever seen. Featuring scenes that had my jaw dropping to the ground and my eyes peering through the gaps of my fingers, the feeling of dread that surrounds and which
I had during this film was unbelievable. It’s a film that (like many horror films) benefited from the poor special effects, if it was made now and CGI was substituted for the prosthetic makeup used it would’ve suffered.
3. The Shining (1980) The Stanley Kubrick masterpiece that centers around Jack Nicholson isolated in a hotel with his wife and son for the whole of winter, doesn’t sound like it’s the family comedy of the year does it? Nope there is laughter or smiles here – well only if you count the satanic grin on Nicholson’s face.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, this sends Jack insane and he has an axe to grind. Even though it has come in at number 3, this film features my all time scariest film moment, it involves fellatio, a bear costume, a hysterical Wendy and nightmarish chanting.
2. The Exorcist (1973) The stories and reports that came from this film were astounding, stories of people fainting, becoming ill, running out of the cinema in tears. Even reports of people having to be institutionalized, and it was to blame for a miscarriage. Personally I can’t think of any film that freaked me out and shocked me as much as The Exorcist did.
I only saw this film for the first time a few years ago I was surprised at what I was watching and how it got away with it in 1973. Madness, mayhem and masturbation The Exorcist has it all but most importantly is that it is scary. A plethora of factors of this film make it one of the best, scariest and weirdly enjoyable horror films of all time…but not the best.
1. Psycho (1960) The master of suspense dabbling in the horror genre for the first time in his Hollywood career, and I think he might’ve pulled it off. Creating the most famous (and most parodied – I even saw it in a shampoo advert the other day, shame there was no knife or blood) scene in horror film history…probably even film history. Psycho is a creepy tale of the friendly insanely sane schizophrenic motel owner Norman Bates.
For me, Psycho is probably the closest thing to prefect I have ever seen on a cinema screen, every element of the film seems thought about thoroughly and executed with skill, finesse and expertise. It is a horror film the likes of which you will never see in the present, it uses lighting and most of all sound to scare the audience – and scare them it did.
It doesn’t shower them with pointless gore or insult them with cheap jumps and frights. It tells a chilling tale that made mummy boys everywhere a little closer to daddy, and most of all it made people think twice about showering alone in the house.