Compiling this list, I tried to make it as accurate, yet original, as I could. Upon looking at several other lists, I discovered that most of these can be seen on most critics lists as well as the definitive 100 Scariest Movie Moments which aired on Bravo in 2005 and has been the regarded as the list to end all lists of the movie genre. Much like AFI’s list has its place in the back of minds as the authoritative source for the greatest works of film, the Bravo segment has put our horror in an ordered set that proves conclusive. With that said, this list is not simply a scary movie list, this has to do with the horror genre for the most part yes, but not all of the these flicks are horror outright. Many of them aren’t scary at all in their over the top ridiculousness and some of them are actual comedies—one of them isn’t even a movie. Thus I defend my picks as being anything but another, alternate list to refute the picks made by whatever selection committee Bravo employed to compose their choices. As always, comments are appreciated, so tell me what you think of the little list I have composed here, and let me know if you have anything to add about any of these films or you would like to recommend your own.
The Evil Dead Trilogy- What can I say besides Bruce Campbell is a God among men. The film “Bruce Almighty” in fact was actually a screen adaptation of BC’s life. One of the coolest things I have ever heard was a kid I knew who claims to have hooked up with Bruce’s daughter and afterwards he said “you know what’s really great about this? Your dad is Bruce Campbell!” That did not go over well, as the story goes, but everyone was in agreement that that was the only appropriate thing to say when such a thing happens. I mean who doesn’t love/idolize a guy who writes books titled If Chins Could Kill and Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way? These films are a fist full of “boomstick” and should not only be watched but studied for all those who think Z-Day is coming or who just want to see the manliest of men kick Deadite ass and look extremely cool while doing it.
The Exorcist- The last movie I watched that totally scared the shit out of me. I went to see it my senior year of high school with my lady friend at the time who was extremely averse to watching it. I told her something like “I’ll be here to protect you baby” or something like that. And for the most part I was, but when Linda Blair, in full getup, climbs down the stairs in the way that she does, which I could never accurately put to words, it really must be seen to be appreciated, I was petrified. I could then understand why people fainted, vomited, and ran out of the theater screaming when I saw that incredible scene on the big screen. I couldn’t look at the stairs in my basement where my bad faced them for weeks and slept on the couch upstairs it fucked with me so badly.
Event Horizon- Rented the film thinking it was going to be a rip off of Star Trek and/or Alien and would involve a bunch or space/science fiction stuff that I was used to. Thus I was completely unprepared for how freaky and terrifying this movie really is. I have talked to many people about this movie and all of their reactions are ultimately the same, saying something along the lines of “that was the scariest fucking movie I have ever seen.” And with the exception of The Exorcist, I would say this film staring Sam Neal and Lawrence Fishburn is, surprisingly, one of the scariest films ever made. Traveling into other dimensions that are thought to be pinnacles of human achievement, they actually open up a gateway to hell, I know it sounds cheesy but you have no idea how chilling this movie really is until you watch it and are paralyzed with absolute fear.
Halloween 1 and 2- October wouldn’t be complete without at least one viewing of each of these two John Carpenter films. These archetypal slasher flicks really should be watched together, but never watch 2 without 1. Many of the critiques that caused the second film to be so much less popular hold true—stuff like it not making any sense if you haven’t seen the original (as with any horror sequels I feel), the plot being absurd, full of cheap thrills, etc. But when viewed together, the second one has a charm that one has to like in films where upwards of a dozen young people are brutally murdered. Plus it provides conclusion which you don’t get with the first one. Though don’t even bother watching any of the ones that follow. They just aren’t very good. (Rob Zombie’s remake isn’t too bad either btw, and for someone who grew up on these flicks, there are a bunch of little nobs to original franchise. One of note is that Danielle Harris, who I sort of had a little thing for when I was a child based on her staring roles in Halloween 4 and 5, returns to the series in the role of Annie Brackett, protagonist Laurie Strode’s best bud. Malcolm McDowell takes over Donald Pleasence’s old role as Dr. Loomis, another little perk that may make this little diddy worth seeing.
In the Mouth of Madness- Another Sam Neal staring role, as well as a John Carpenter film, this 1995 film might be the director’s most chilling work. In this horror flick, a best selling author goes missing while he still churns out creepy work. Neal then goes on the hunt to find the author and ends up in one twisted town that turns out to be some kind of Hell where the books play out in real life. While staying in this hell-hole, he finds that whoever reads the book goes completely and violently insane. With people assuming he has gone mad, he is tucked away in a mental institution while a film version is in the works with anyone who watches again being instantly transformed, and considering the mass appeal and easy access to the film, the work of fiction is ready to alter the outcome of civilization.
Re-Animator- As you can probably already tell, I love myself some absurd, over the top zombie flicks and this one is right up there with Army of Darkness as being the best of the best. This is a bizarre, low budget film, that is as gory as it is darkly funny. For example, an asshole doctor who has been decapitated, carries his head around and after he ties up his colleague’s daughter, one of his student’s who is romantically involved with the medical school’s prized student, he takes the severed head and attempts to perform oral sex on the girl in the film’s most infamous scene.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein- Bud Abbott and Lou Costello team up with horror greats Bella Lugosi (the quintessential Dracula), Lon Chaney Jr. (the timeless wolf-man), and Glenn Strange (after Boris Karloff gave up the monster role afraid he was being typecast, it was Strange who would go on to star in half a dozen or more Frankenstein roles) in this monster movie spoof that was kind of a farewell to all of these great stars from the genre’s golden age. At times hilarious, even by today’s standards, it is another over the top monster movie which without would leave my list incomplete.
Scream- My favorite “teen scream” of the 1990s, this came out just when I was about to enter high school and I loved it. A bunch of hot little things running around being chased by a masked butcher sporting THOs, it was great. It also paid tribute to all the slasher flicks that came before with a horror encyclopedia incarnate. As a trilogy, Scream left something to be desired, although all three were alright in their own little ways, the original was clearly the best and the only one I will more than likely watch this Halloween season.
Silence of the Lambs- It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
The Blair Witch Project- The first time I saw this, during the summer of 99 at Tibbs Drive In, where I spent more time and energy making out/getting it on than I did watching the movie, I ended up in the concession stand buying hamburgers and nachos and missed the beginning part where it was explained that the serial killer guy would make one of the kids face the corner while he killed the other one. The girl I was with at the time also missed this bit of information although she stayed back in the car watching the movie. So when I saw the end, with that guy in the corner being the last thing we see before the camera falls to the ground and we hear screaming, I didn’t get it. I remember thinking something like WTF that does not seem like an appropriate time to just whip it out in the corner and start taking a piss, this movie sucks and is not scary, people, why are going to see this stupid, stupid movie. Then a year later, with a new gf, I was forced to watch the film I had put way out of my mind. I didn’t remember anything about it when I rewatched it on Halloween 2000. After viewing it that time though, I got why it was so goddamn scary and what all the hype was about. Good show.
Fifteen Notable Mentions: Nosferatu; Rosemary’s Baby; Psycho; Hell Raiser; The Omen; Vacancy; The Vanishing; The Howling; The Others; Thriller; A Nightmare on Elm Street; The Hitcher; House on Haunted Hill (1959); The Last House on the Left; Jacob’s Ladder