I decided halfway through the last post to just cut it in half, because what follows is gonna be a lot of reading, but it’ll be our top tens and Mike and I (STinG) are really excited to show you what’s up with our lists…
AND NOW ON TO THE MAIN ATTRACTIONS!!!
MIKE’S TOP TEN HORROR MOVIES!!!
10. Halloween (1978/dir. John Carpenter/USA)
When you make something as archetypal as Halloween is (for now it essentially represents the high watermark of slashers, innit?), it’s hard to explain what works in it without just sounding sort of observational like “look at dat shot!” and “look at dat performance!” where it’s all surface without being able to dig really into the film. At least that’s me, so I just have to say… there’s some unique mystery ingredient to the chemistry that I just never get my finger on… but the movie is simply perfect as it is. You can tell Curtis, Pleasance, Castle are strong as they must be, but they’re playing stocks at this point. You know Carpenter’s 5/4 synthesizer theme brings goosebumps out of you, but that doesn’t make a movie. Dean Cundey’s has a brilliant sense of catching Illinois fall days in warm oranges, but those night scenes… in ghost blues defining the shadows…. that’s how you get me shivering and shit, dawg. All these elements are brought together in a manner that makes Halloween of its own kind and never ever to be adequately copied.
Made for only $300,000, Halloween is a master class in crafty budgeting. It remains one of the scariest and most effective horror films ever made and is easily the best slasher. Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance are great, especially the latter who worked miracles with his short five day stint on set. Halloween spawned seven sequels, most of which were terrible, and two Rob Zombie helmed remakes that were surprisingly pretty solid.
9. Suspiria (1977/dir. Dario Argento/Italy)
Speaking of visual breathtaking, Dario Argento’s visual orgasm masquerading as a film Suspiria is a horror film in the way that Obayashi’s House is a horror film, well, maybe it’s a bit creepier than House. Set in a boarding ballet school in Italy, an American student must stop a supernatural evil that haunts the school. One of the prettiest movies ever made and expertly directed. Udo Kier is in this.
8. The Thing (1982/dir. John Carpenter/USA)
Oh man, this is some one of a kind type of snowy cinematography. I haven’t seen whites feel so soft and cool in another movie save Fargo. As for how good the movie as a whole is… well, I’ll give Carpenter this: he worshipped the shit out of Howard Hawks and essentially most of his classic films are Hawks remakes, although this is the only official one. This is also the one where I think he surpassed his hero – the movie is tense, shocking, visceral, fluid… all the things a growing alien monster needs!
John Carpenter’s best in my opinion, The Thing is a relentless monster movie about the destructiveness of paranoia. It takes a bit to set-up but the final thirty minutes are truly breathtaking. And that music score! Fuck, that’s a great score!
7. Dawn of the Dead (1978/dir. George Romero/USA)
One word: Savini.
Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is an excellent classic horror film, but he managed to out-do himself with Dawn of the Dead an incredibly entertaining yet poignant zombie flick that compared the undead to mindless consumers. How perfect that it’s set in a shopping mall.
6. House (1977/dir. Obayashi Nobuhiko/Japan)
Films don’t get more avant-garde and bizarre than Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House. I don’t mean to say the film is pretentious, because it’s the furthest thing from pretentious. In fact, it might be one of the only experimental films made that didn’t have an heir of pretense to it. You probably won’t understand most of the film but you will be engaged and enamoured for it’s entire 88 minute runtime. BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS BANANAS!
Badda bing bada boom, here’s the key to getting into the groove with this movie: it’s concept was fully conceived by Obayashi Nobuhiko’s daughter Chigumi when she was age 13 and the writer Katsura Chiho more moved it to paper rather than actually added anything. Bada bing bada boom, if you can’t watch the movie knowing that, go suck on a banana. Or Watermelon. Whichever you prefer.
5. Braindead/Dead Alive (1992/dir. Peter Jackson/New Zealand)
My mom tried to tell me A Nightmare on Elm Street was the bloodiest movie she saw. Boy, did I show her. But thankfully it’s not as hard to watch and there’s a real reason for that like you say… Peter Jackson, back in his early career, knew how to have fun like everybody’s business. He knew what to do to make such bloodfall funny and hilarious, to make it wacky, maybe a slight disgusting, but in the manner of a carnival funhouse where you gasp and then giggle at your own silliness. Peter Jackson was a silly motherfucker, I tell you hwat.
Babies are hilarious. Just ask Tom Bergeron of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Unfortunately, we never got see a home video of a baby ripping a woman’s head in half, so future Lord of the Rings-helmer Peter Jackson made Dead Alive, an absolutely ridiculous zombie movie set in New Zealand. Unbelievably graphic gore and violence earned this movie some controversy, but it’s done in such an obviously fake and humorous manner that it’s totally easy to digest. And boy, is it humorous, Dead Alive is among the funniest movies I have ever seen in my life. You’ll be sore from laughing when all the dust and blood has settled.
4. Alien (1979/dir. Ridley Scott/USA)
There has never been a more visually terrifying creature in a film than the xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s magnum opus Alien. H.R. Giger created something that instantly struck fear into the hearts of human beings. Maybe it’s because it’s so phallic. Are we afraid of being raped? Or maybe we’re afraid of our own sexuality? Feelings we can’t control? Besides the creature, the film features eye-opening art direction and an impressive cast. I’ll never look at a lunch break the same way again.
Now how the fuck am I supposed to follow that? Mike pretty much hit the nail on the head. I think the only other thing I can say is how the design of the Nostomo, the bigness of it, the ambiguity of character between the main cast (well, ruined now that we’re familiar enough with the franchise to know Ripley’s survival, but then indistinguishable before) make this a hell of a genre picture on its own even if all that blatant thematic denseness weren’t there: it’s a mix between a haunted house picture where the monster is a violent beast and a ten little indians tale where we watch each man and woman get picked off one by one without any ability to predict what’ll be left.
3. Psycho (1960/dir. Alfred Hitchcock/USA)
SPOILER ALERT – Setting up Janet Leigh as the protagonist and then brutally murdering her in the shower was an ingenious move. That’s been said by every critic ever so I feel like an idiot re-hashing it. What can you say about Hitchcock’s classic that hasn’t already been said a million times? I love how the movie shows the dangers of coddling your child and being best friends with your mother. Your mom isn’t your friend, she’s an asshole, dudes! Remember that.
2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991/dir. Jonathan Demme/USA)
You know, it’s fucking awesome to really take note of two things: One the Oscars gave Best Picture to a movie with this sort of objectionable and shocking content and did it with a straight face. Not to say most of its Oscars aren’t deserved – Indeed, I’m all in a happy hoopla over Foster and Hopkins’ wins which leads to another thing….
The best acting you’ll ever find in a horror movie and possibly the greatest characters are in Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter. One is an brilliant and ambitious FBI trainee trying to move past her redneck past and one is a brilliant and manipulative former psychiatrist locked away for countless murders. A great cat and mouse game is built around a pretty solid mystery with excellent performances all around. Hopkins and Foster both won Oscars for their work, but it’s worth mentioning Scott Glenn and Ted Levine for their excellent but obviously overshadowed performances.
The second thing, which is how happy I am that a movie with this much dedication to telling rather than showing – it’s really not all that visually brutal… it’s heavy based on Foster’s performance and reaction to being in the presence of fucking monsters – that it can be considered one of the scariest movies of all time. Now ain’t that something.
1. The Shining (1980/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK & USA)
You might argue that Stanley Kubrick wasn’t the greatest filmmaker to ever live and I would tell you that you’re wrong and stupid and a cockface. Then I’d apologize and say I got carried away with the whole “cockface” remark, and begin telling you how much I love Kubrick. His films are so meticulously crafted yet so emotionally resonant. He succeeds in walking that tightrope between intellectualism and heart. My god, the man had a 200 I.Q. He just saw the world clearer or at least differently. The Shining isn’t his finest work, but it’s one of the most amazingly made horror pictures of all time. This isn’t because of the characters, the actors or the story. This is because of the atmosphere. Kubrick creates a terrifying atmosphere that automatically fills you with dread. Everytime you ride down that hallway with Danny, your heart sinks.
Hell yeah to Mike for that round of fantastic horror movie classics and now…
STinG’s Top Ten Horror Movies (circa 2015)
I want to note that by some sheer idiocy I absolutely forgot Ugetsu (1953/dir. Mizoguchi Kenji/Japan). I’m way too far along to actually put it in the list now since I think it’d make too much of a mess, but it would especially be a top 10 entry.
10. Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922/dir. F.W. Murnau/Germany)
Only seen bits and pieces, but it’s creepy as hell.
Oh boy, more Murnau gushing from me. Undoubtedly the second most accurate Dracula adaptation I’ve seen (save for Coppola’s take), it’s quite a miracle that this wasn’t destroyed because images of it may be chilling and creepy enough, but not as much as seeing Max Shreck’s beastly Count Orlok moving at a limited amount of frames between teleportation and gliding. It’s enough that even once he’s off-screen, we’re still shuddering at the thought of his return.
9. Psycho (1960/dir. Alfred Hitchcock/USA)
Has any one movie changed cinema more than Psycho? Probably Citizen Kane, but that’s not a genre picture in the same manner as Psycho. And it’s not as willing to break its narrative to such a frightening manner like Psycho throwing us in the company of Anthony Perkins’ manic performance before we have any say in the matter. That’s some dirty shit, Hitch. That’s some dirty shit.
8. The Wicker Man (1973/dir. Robin Hardy/UK)
I heard this is much better than the Nicolas Cage one, but I’m afraid it won’t be as funny as the Nicolas Cage one, I’m afraid this movie is really Face/Off.
I mean, the really strange thing about The Wicker Man is how, even though there is a constant phobia about paganism and mysticism throughout and it remains quite a thriller in every sense on account of how everyone is so obstructive and sycophantic towards Sgt. Howie, with all its pleasantries above it being so unnerving knowing that people are just not going to talk to him. It’s the backend of The Wicker Man that really really really hits horrortown, all the more potent on how it’s too late to do anything to delay the inevitable.
7. The Shining (1980/dir. Stanley Kubrick/UK & USA)
I’d love to turn this into a circlejerk about Kubrick (no for real we oughta make a post ‘cause I love the shit out of the guy too). But focusing specifically on The Shining and how I see it as a standalone movie… it’s how each new toy Kubrick gets to play with (as he always has with every new picture of his) he’s going ahead to use it to actually use these techniques like the steadicam and the fade to make the picture feel more like a ghost story. Like the characters are already spooks. Like we’ve been stuck in the Overlook just as long as Jack. Like we’ve always been stuck there. And we’ll never get an answer how.
6. The Beyond (1981/dir. Lucio Fulci/Italy)
Heard amazing things, but haven’t seen this.
Bruh. This movie has no chill with being spooky as hell. No fucking chill. You want to see something scary? Zombies! Check. Spiders eating your flesh? Check. Melting flesh? Check. Jump scares? Check. Why so many shocks and scares? Why you gonna not give us a break with the witchcraft and demon shit?
Dawg! You opened the Gate to Hell! Now, you’re gonna pay for good. The Beyond has no chill!
5. The Haunting (1963/dir. Robert Wise/USA)
Never seen this.
Ah how wonderful it is for a ghost story to really really sink its teeth into being a psychological story without ever once having to give us even the slightest hint that the ghosts are actually there. Just a group of people surrounding themselves in a place with a history of violence and going into hysterics based on their own wants and fears. It’s kind of an actor’s movie for this sort of reason – the demand to make us fear threats to characters that are never totally established – so I’m pretty sure you’d love this.
4. Vampyr (1932/dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer/France & Denmark)
Never seen this but I’m meaning to check out the Criterion Collection on HuluPlus.
Oh do. It is like passing through a nightmare, all the surrealness, the fact that our lead character kind doesn’t even react very much to the events of the film, the mix between grounded crime drama and the truth of something supernatural being in the wings. It’s a very very ghostly picture. I’d like to make a miniseries out of it one of these days.
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974/dir. Tobe Hooper/USA)
Oof. Maybe being a huge Buckethead fan warmed me up enough for this but man, is it ever so brutal and hardcore in all the right ways that makes a movie as bloodless as Texas Chainsaw Massacre so harrowing and spindly an experience. From Daniel Pearl’s sunbaked and dried photography of the events to the sudden drop of each cut every time a blow is struck by Leatherface to really project the fatal impact of his strength, this is movie making at its most hardcore and of course the two best slasher films (this and Halloween) would belong to the finest era in American filmmaking as two sides of the Americana coin.
Terrifying, barely missed my top 10 list. I love how amazingly disgusting this film is without spilling much blood. Edwin Neal, you twisted fuck.
2. Suspiria (1977/dir. Dario Argento/Italy)
Hallucinatory and broken as a movie, it still doesn’t once hurt how unforgettable and lively Suspiria is a child’s tale for adults. The colors and shapes of our vaguest nightmares, the lullaby from hell that is the main theme by Goblin, the heightened castle-of-a-building that is the dance academy, and the very childish and animated acting from everyone is all the ingredients needed for a mix of a horror concoction and nothing else on a narrative level.
And that is SO ok, by me.
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968/dir. George Romero/USA)
This is a classic but I feel like it pales in comparison to it’s sequels Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. Whistle tips to having an African-American in the lead way back in 1968.
You’re probably right that Night is kind of meager potatoes next to the likes of Dawn of the Dead. Part of Dawn’s strength as a movie is how well it expanded on all of Night’s strengths without any of its DIY limitations.
But it’s still chilling to me. It’s still absolutely kinetically violent in a manner that shocks me so much, I forget largely that this isn’t the first movie to use cinema to shake audience’s into feeling in danger (I mean… hey hey, that there Psycho), but it does it so strongly every time I watch it get floored by its hopelessness and rage by the end of the movie. I could probably big up to how it’s a hallmark of the creativity and ingenuity of indie filmmaking as far back as the 60s and its ability to comment on complex topics such as race relations and Vietnam War, but maybe for another time. Because, you see, the only reason I can say I put Night of the Living Dead at the top spot is because it shook me to watch it and it never stops shaking me every time. It pushes me as a filmmaker and it throws me about as a horror fan.
AND THAT’S A WRAP! Thanks so much for reading all of these guys! Got any top ten horror movies of your own? We’re totally curious to see yours, comment below and let us know.
Mike and I have an idea of what our next Rank My Ranks will be so, here’s to looking forward to the next one. I want to especially thank him for having this idea, Mike is the man!