Andrenn's Top 20 Favorite Horror Films
- Published on Friday, 07 October 2011 02:00
- Written by Andrenn
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Greetings, kiddies! Let's take a stroll down memory lane. Last year I gave you all my top 22 Favorite Horror Films list. What a fun time that was! But as time goes on things change. Your love of something may diminish or grow and even in the short span of a year some big changes can happen. Having re-thought my Top 20 favorite Horror Films, there are some big changes. Some new faces, some old faces and you may be shocked and terrified where some of these films wound up! Lets dig up that hatchet and slash our way through an update list of Andrenn's Top 20 Horror films!
A brief note about the films that are no longer on this list. If you are wondering why a movie that was on the list a year ago isn't here it's pretty simple. I simply did not think that film still fit into my top 20. Writing this list was incredibly difficult when I realized what films didn't make it still and when I realized how many films moved around in my favor. Just because the movies that were here last time may be gone does not mean I do not enjoy them, of course.
While not everyone may immediately consider it horror, Steven Speilberg's classic shark tale is definitely a classic of the genre as well as the movie that started the summer blockbuster craze. Last year I heaped a lot of praise about this film and really there isn't much I think I need to say about it. It's Jaws. Chances are pretty high you've seen this film and chances are pretty high you loved it like everyone else.
The reason I love Jaws is because of its lasting effect it has had on me. I still feel uneasy when I go swimming, even in a regular pool. The suspense Speilberg creates is intense no matter how many times I watch this film. I'm always left with a sense that I'm not safe and that is truly great horror. What you don't see is what makes Jaws so memorable. Giant sharks are great, but that huge chunk of the film were its nothing more than a fin and a terrifying theme song? Purely brilliant horror.
One of the most iconic silent horror films of all time, FW Murnau's Nosferatu is a film that really embodies the fear that silent horror could bring. Having to rely totally on visuals, the haunting shape and image of Count Orlock (Max Shreck) is one that's driven millions of nightmares and will until the end of time. I always feel nervous and on edge when I see Orlock's shadow ascending the stairs or his silhouette hovering above his victim.
The only real problem is the length of the film. An hour and a half is a very long time to watch to a film with no sound or dialogue and it can be difficult to watch. I do not watch this one as much as I would like to simply because I usually watch horror films late at night and honestly I tend to doze off during it since its so quiet. I still love it, it is just a tough watch at times. It is still a great chilling film that creeps you out in an incredibly effective way.
#18 Pet Semetary
Always a hard watch for me, Pet Semetary does everything right to freak me out. There is gore and violence but just enough that it never feels like going too far. The real strength of the film is how likable the family is. We spend a lot of time with this family, getting to know them and liking them. So, when it all goes to Hell you feel terrible which is the mark of any good story when you care so much.
There are certain scenes I still have a hard time watching. Even just thinking about them for writing this has me uneasy. The scares are very effective and the horrendous stuff that happens feels like its not too implausible. With just a little belief you feel like that creepy old Pet Semetary could be just a short walk from your house and that gets me every time.
#17 The Fly
While it may seem easy to write off as a cheesy B-movie the Fly is a chiller that captures the essence of terror with science goes wrong. A simple story about a man who dared to do the seemingly impossible and how one tiny mistake ruined his life. There is a lot of great tension through the film with the husband trying to guide his wife in her effort to save his life.
The film carries an intense feeling of doom and gloom. The opening tells you the husband's fate and all through it you know what's coming. That no matter how hard they try, its useless. Vincent Price gets a lot of credit and he is an important character but the real star has to be Patricia Owens who is great as the terrified wife of the doctor. Its a very gloomy film and the ending always sends shivers down my spine.
#16 Halloween 1 and 2
I always put these two films together. Once watching them back to back was my favorite horror experience just a few years back. I still love these two films and both separate they are really good but together they tell one great dark tale of a horrible Halloween night. John Carpenter's classic tale of the baby-sitter Laurie Strode is full of memorable moments and some great scares.
The sequel, while on its own isn't as good as the original still really completes the original nicely. Watching them back to back is like one big story about one night. Since Halloween 2 literally picks up from where the first left off it works out really well. The only real complaint I have is that Halloween 2 still isn't as good as Halloween 1 on its own and Halloween 1 is not as re-watchable as some of the later films on this list. Still, together the first two Halloweens are a great pair that back to back double the scares.
#15 Halloween 3: Season of the Witch
Not a lot of people would say Halloween 3 is a better film than the first one. Hell, I wouldn't say its better than the first one. But I do enjoy re-watching it much more than the first one. Halloween 3 is a treat to watch each year and its the only sequel I feel truly matched up to the great work Carpenter did in the first film. Even if I still think the original is better the third is still the movie I favor more by just a little bit.
I love the premise of Halloween 3, the idea of a madman bringing back the old ideas of sacrifice on Halloween and the sick way he uses child masks to accomplish it. Its gruesome stuff and really disturbing all through the film. While it definitely has plenty of weird moments that feel off in the end this movie is always a great watch each October and even its strange flaws help me enjoy it more. Easily this is the most underrated film on my list.
#14 Friday the 13th
Definitely a classic of the Slasher genre and my favorite of the Friday the 13th series (though if I were to ever rank those films Part 6 comes at a close 2nd) the original Friday the 13th gets so much about slasher films right. The mysterious killer who's face we don't see until the end, the brutal deaths courtesy of the mad genius that is Tom Savini and that chilling voice that will be whispered all through the series.
While I'm not a fan of Jason I do love Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees. Compared to the boring silent killer that her son is, Mrs. Voorhees is great. She's a crazy mother who thinks her dead son is telling her to kill people! Great stuff. I'd say Friday the 13th really relies on the great kills and Mrs. Voorhees which is why it even makes the list. Alice was an all right main character but everyone else was forgettable. Its still a classic slasher and even if it doesn't break my top 10 it's always a fun watch.
I don't know how I kept a single Universal Horror classic off this list. Clearly I've been insane these past few years to deny my love of the Universal Monsters. I knew one of them had to be on the list. Picking one was hard and where I'd put it was even harder. But at the end of the day the Universal Horror film that left the biggest impression on me and has always been my favorite has to be Tod Browning's classic Dracula from 1931.
There's so much I love about this film, but it is far from perfect. The pacing is really off and the static camera hurts that even more. Because this was early sound horror there's no music and there's several scenes that are just silence that go on for a long time. Normally these would hurt the film enough for me to put it down a few spaces but with Dracula its actually somewhat effective for creating a very chilling atmosphere.
Its weaknesses become it strength to a certain degree and even the character changes I don't like don't really bother me as much. Why is this? Bela Lugosi. Lugosi as Dracula is phenomenal and every scene with him just takes away any problems I was having with the film and makes me smile again. If its his creepy stare or his charming smile, Bela Lugosi is awesome as Dracula. There's a reason why everyone calls this the Lugosi classic, because he made Dracula great and became the image for the prince of darkness for decades to come. Now that is a great mark to leave.
So, while Dracula may not be perfect and it is definitely not the best made of the Universal Horror generation I still love it. Other characters like Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan really help boost up the film as well. But the ticket is worth the price of admission just to pay tribute to the king of the vampires, Bela Lugosi.
#12 The Monster Squad
I had originally planned to put this film near the top, around the 20 or 18 spot. But whenever I compared Monster Squad to the 8 other films before it I just enjoyed it more. Hell I was almost tempted to not put this on the list since it's not really a scary horror film but more of horror meets family comedy. But its got monsters and even if its not very scary I still consider it horror.
Monster Squad is an incredibly fun film about a group of kids vs. the classic monsters. Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, The Wolf Man, The Mummy and Gillman. The trinity of monsters, Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolf Man are all great. The only down side is that the Mummy is pretty lame and Gillman barely does anything.
Still it's a film that's always fun to watch again and again with friends. Its so silly and crazy but it all works in the end. The complaints here and there aren't strong enough to weigh down one of the funnest horror experiences for the family. Its funny, clever and a little bit crazy and whenever I pop it in I know it's going to be a great time.
#11 An American Werewolf in London
John Landis tells a familiar tale of a man bitten by a wolf and each full moon he transforms into a werewolf. Not a revolutionary tale in horror but where American Werewolf succeeds is giving us a memorable and fun main character, a nice light hearted approach to some of the darker madness and a cool twist on the Werewolf mythos with the cursed man being haunted by the mangled ghosts of his victims.
Of course, the film is more famous for the great Werewolf transformation scene. It is great stuff and one of the highlights of the film but for me it was seeing those torn to shred ghosts that look so horrifically ripped apart. Really gruesome and unsettling to see these walking talking corpses acting kind of calm about it. The only real weakness that keeps this film from being a little higher for me is the generic Werewolf ending. Its the same kind of ending that so many other Werewolf stories have. It remains a classic film that has a perfect balance of humor and horror.
#10 Wes Craven's New Nightmare
When it comes to the slasher genre my favorite series is A Nightmare on Elm Street. Even the mediocre films like parts 2 and 6 are still a lot of fun thanks to Freddy Krueger. Robert Englund as the main man in dream land is always entertaining. New Line really created a beast with Freddy that it seemed could not be contained. Even after killing him off though they still found life in that old metal glove with my second favorite of the entire series when Wes Craven returned.
New Nightmare is a brilliant take on what happens when a film becomes so big it absorbs everyone who has ever been a part of it. Heather Langenkamp, as herself, is a great lead as we follow her through a horrible nightmare when her time as Nancy becomes an all too real threat to her and her family. Langenkamp really wins you over with her frustrating examples of how Freddy has over shadowed her entire career.
It is a movie about movies and the effect on those involved. A strange idea at first but Craven's brilliant themes of ancient evil bound by stories and a brave hero having to play the role of her story self are really compelling. I will admit it's not the scariest film on our list but for sheer brilliant characters and storytelling I love New Nightmare and cannot get enough of it.
#9 John Carpenter's The Thing
John Carpenter remade the sci fi classic The Thing From Another World into a far more terrifying film about a wicked alien that hides in plain sight. Sadly there's not a lot I can say about the film without spoiling it because there's so many great tense moments and scares that would be wrong to mention. Carpenter perfectly captures the feeling of isolation and terror that comes with the situation which is so strong for the viewers. Knowing that any of them could be the Thing always has you on edge.
The special effects are a huge highlight to the film. Some of the grotesque and insane stuff that the Thing changes into will leave your jaw on the floor. While the ending is just a little anti-climactic it still works and some great performances take some just okay characters and make them memorable. Definitely a film that captures the essence of terror when being all alone and unable to trust anyone near you.
#8 Dawn of the Dead
The follow up to Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead is an equally memorable and great zombie film experience. While it does go on just a bit too long for my tastes, with some uneven pacing its really saved by a strong cast of characters and a great premise of being in a mall full surrounded by the undead. There's a lot of fun when watching this film even with some of the more grim and horrific stuff just around the corner.
One of my favorite parts is the opening out in the south. Watching people shoot zombies, standing around drinking coffee and having a good time. Its a weird idea to think that people could be so calm about the dead rising and handling it all so well. But the way its shot it honestly looks realistic, like this is seriously happening just a few miles down the road.
Dawn of the Dead may not be Romero's best but it is damn near his best. With great performances by the entire cast and some very dark turns that really scared the hell out of me this is one of the finest examples of the zombie genre.
#7 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Realistic is the best word I have for Texas Chainsaw. Tobe Hooper's gritty low budget master piece about a small group of teenagers and how they are horribly slaughtered by an insane family is just as disturbing as it was the day it debuted. Though the title says massacre there really isn't a lot of blood, its a more tame film and that's actually part of why I like it. It does splash buckets of blood around and act like the human body is a giant pool of blood that just one cut will erupt.
It has a slow pace at times but the build up is always worth it. Culminating in the ultimate nightmare scene at the dinner table. If you've seen it than you know what I'm talking about and how horrifying it really is. The feeling that this could be real and that you may be one long drive through the Texas country side away from living it yourself is always scary. The characters are crazy but never silly like in the sequels and there's a real sense of intense madness to them all.
Of all the slasher genre films its definitely my second favorite. Whenever I watch it I feel like I'm right there in that van watching as the crazy hitchhiker cuts his wrists or that I'm strapped to that chair watching the mad family cackle at my impending death. You feel like you're really there and there is few scares more effective than that.
#6 Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
Insane horror, thy name is Evil Dead. While the first film is more of a low budget chiller and Army of Darkness is a lot more over the top with the humor Evil Dead 2 is another great balance of the 2. There's lots of scary stuff, malevolent monsters and dangerous deadites as well as some nice moments of tension and suspense but its also so over the top and crazy that some times you can't help but laugh at it.
Bruce Campbell as Ash is the highlight of the film but Sam Raimi's directing and camera work also impress. My favorite thing though is how I can watch this movie to be scared and I can watch this movie to laugh. That's a tricky combination that Raimi and crew get just right. There's so many memorable and insane moments that I'd dare not ruin for you all and the overall product is one of the wildest horror movie experiences ever.
#5 Trick 'r Treat
This film certainly jumped far ahead. Last year I was uncertain I wanted it to be in my top 15 but was sure it was top 20 material. Originally I was only planning for it to break the top 15. But each time I put a film before it I realized I loved Trick 'r Treat more than that film. This continued again and again until its gone from missing the top 15 to just making it into the top 5. Yes, I really love this film that much.
Michael Dougherty's tale of a little town one Halloween Night and the mysterious spirit named Sam is a fantastic film. Every time I watch Trick 'r Treat, and over the last year I have watched it several times I love it more and more. I find something else to appreciate or love that I didn't last time. I never get tired of what I love about it and only get more excited to see it again the next time I pop in the DVD.
While my favorite story has to be Meet Sam, the way Dougherty ties all the stories together is nothing short of brilliant writing. Everything connects one way even if you don't notice it as well at first. The way the film opens and ends at the exact same spot? Again it's brilliant stuff. I can't say I love this film enough and that I hope you all go out and watch it right away. I told you to do so last Halloween and once again I'm telling you that Trick 'r Treat is Top 5 material. One of the best horror films in the last 2 decades.
#4 The Exorcist
This one has fallen a little bit. Previously my #2 spot last year. But I have a confession to make, I can't watch the Exorcist. At least not often. But It is not like with Nosferatu or Halloween where it can be difficult to sit through it often. I love this movie, everything about it is great and every time I watch it I come out of it incredibly terrified and satisfied with how amazing it is.
But, it is just too scary for me. I know that's ridiculous. I love this film but it is too scary? Well it is the truth. Whenever I do watch it I lose sleep. Even if I haven't seen it in months just thinking about the demon's face gives me nightmares. It's that terrifying and even though I love the movie and it well deserves to be in my top 5 I just can't watch it. It's just a little too good at it's job of scaring the hell out of me and not letting me forget it. Still, it easily deserves this spot and I always enjoy it even if the following is nightmares for weeks on end.
#3 Night of the Living Dead
The film that started an entire sub-genre of horror, the great grandpa of the Zombie films. George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead is an incredible movie that deserves no less than your love and admiration for what it started. But thankfully it wasn't just the start of a genre, it's arguably one of the best, in my opinion the best of the genre it started. Its the essential Zombie film that set the standard that so very few films have come close to.
From the slow and eerie cemetery scene to the escalating horrors locked inside the house until the grand finale as the house is invaded by the living dead there is not a single wasted minute in this classic. Romero gives us truly intense and unrelenting survival horror as a small group of people struggle just to keep their sanity let alone survive the night.
The main characters of Barbara and Ben are the glue that keeps a great cast of characters together. Duane Jones does an amazing job of capturing a man trying to keep his humanity in a world that is quickly losing its own. There's a constant grim feeling all through the film that they aren't going to make it. And as things only get worse and worse you're constantly biting at your nails to see just what happens and it always has me drawn in and not blinking from start to finish. A classic that deserves every bit of praise it gets and more.
#2 A Nightmare on Elm Street
My favorite slasher film and second favorite horror film of all time. Wes Craven's dark and twisted tale of a man killing children in their dreams is one of the scariest and greatest films I've ever seen horror or not. The idea is so simple but the way Craven takes it, playing it very dark and serious and creating a constant mood of dread and discomfort is amazing stuff.
The way the shadows dress Fred Krueger as he stalks Nancy through the boiler room. How He moves around in your dreams effortlessly and how he has total control of where he takes you next to torment you is the terrifying idea that in your dreams you are never safe. When we sleep we are vulnerable, often feeling we have no control over our dreams. The idea of a monstrous man using that vulnerability and killing us is scarier than any vampire or zombie.
There's also a great cast that makes Nightmare on Elm Street so memorable. Along with them a constant stream of great moments and clever ways that Craven plays off the dream setting while still making us feel our dreams have a tiny tether to reality. That there's some tiny hope you can fight back if you're strong enough and how Nancy finds that hope and uses it.
No matter how I describe it I love A Nightmare on Elm Street. I love the familiar characters, the great death scenes and the strong arc of one girl over coming that feeling of helplessness to a bogeyman in her dreams. Its horror that carries so many smart ideas and interesting themes that well after the film is over you're still pondering what could have happened and what may happen next. A horror film that doesn't leave you when the credits roll.
When I think of Creepshow I think of the single most fun film in the horror genre. While its not really comedic like American Werewolf of Monster Squad there's a sense of imagination and fun that only that strange kind of EC anthology horror could bring. Stephen King, George Romero and Tom Savini teamed up and the final product is a film so brilliantly twisted and effectively simple that its impossible not to smile when you think of all the crazy fun that Creepshow contains.
The stories all vary in quality and I freely admit that a couple of other horror films on and off the list are better made and have better characters and monsters than Creepshow. But being the best and being a favorite are not the same thing. I choose Creepshow as my favorite horror film for the 2nd year in a row because no matter what time of year or who I watch it with, alone or with friends I always love Creepshow and I always enjoy it again the next time.
There's never a moment I think watching Creepshow would be a bad idea. Never a time I feel like watching something else would be a better idea or consider that Creepshow wouldn't be a fun use of my time. I can come back to it again and again and every time I watch it that same sense of insane fun and joy continues to fill me.
Characters like Billy from the Crate, the Father Zombie, Jordy Verill and Richard the eccentric jealous husband never fail to entertain. Sure it doesn't scare me much any more but I have so much fun I couldn't care less if it scares me a lot. Its a great creepy time and its the best example of why anthology horror is so much fun and so exciting. Its 5 tales that all compliment each other well and all make up for an incredible horror experience.
So that's my big top 20. Surely your list would disagree with mine just as my list no doubt disagrees with yours. Feel free to comment and let me know your favorites, I'm always happy to hear what horror films people love. After all, October wouldn't be any fun without horror films to frighten us all month long.