Friday, 17 February 2012

Listorama! My Top 10 Horror Movies

I've been meaning to do a list of my all time, top 10 favourite films of all time for a while now, but for me, compiling a list seems rather harder than John Cusack found it to be in High Fidelity. My tastes change all the time, depending on my mood, and what might make my personal top 10 today could be relegated to the dustbin of history (or outside of my top 10 anyway) next week. To make it a bit easier on myself, I've decided to limit the list to a genre of films which I'm a sucker for (no pun intended): horror movies.

Even with a list confined solely to the world of horror, I found that there were lots of films which I really like, but which I couldn't quite find a place for in this top 10. Honourable mentions go to The Dead Zone, Dawn of the Dead, Alien, Misery, The Brood, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, The Fog, Scream, REC, Friday the 13th Part IV (The Final Chapter), Switchblade Romance, The Exorcist and Black Christmas, all of which just failed to make the cut.

This is a personal list, entirely subject to my own tastes and whims, and although I've seen quite a few horror films, there are a number of classics which I've missed out on to date. A particular blind spot for me is classic monster movies - I've never seen the original Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolf Man, or any of the Hammer Horror films. I'm sure I'll get around to making up for those omissions at some point, but for the time being I obviously can't include them.

Having said all that, here's the list. Enjoy!

1. The Shining (1980)

When I started writing this list, there was no question in my mind which film was going to be number one, and this is it. I reckon I've seen The Shining far more than any other horror movie, and there are so many powerful images from the film which are permanently stuck in my mind (the Grady sisters, the old lady in the bath tub, the elevator full of blood, the guy in the bear costume...)  Of course, it isn't just scary, it's also a wonderfully directed film from one of the cinema's great auteurs and a fascinating character study of a man slowing losing his mind. On top of that, it has the honour of providing the inspiration for one of the funniest ever Simpsons Halloween segments. No TV and no beer make Homer something something... (

2. Halloween (1978)

A movie which spawned a thousand imitators, none of the slasher movies which followed Halloween could match the original and best film of that subgenre. It's brilliantly creepy and suspenseful, with an iconic villain in Michael Myers and a number of fantastically executed scares that still make me jump out of my seat. John Carpenter may have gone on to bigger things, but for me, he never made anything which matched this film, produced on a budget of $325,000.

3. The Fly (1986)

David Cronenbourg is one of my favourite directors, and this may be his best film; it's certainly the one which really made his name. It's a brilliant mix of dark comedy, sci-fi and gross out body horror, but what really makes the film so great is the tragic love story between Jeff Goldblum's ill-fated scientist and the journalist played by Geena Davis. I reckon the tag line to Wayne's World is actually more applicable to this movie - after seeing The Fly, there's a good chance that you really will laugh, cry and hurl, all in the space of an hour and a half...

4. Suspiria (1977)

It might not make a whole lot of sense, but Dario Argento's twisted and terrifying story of a girl menaced by witches at a Bavarian ballet school makes it to a lofty spot on this list for being so incredibly stylish, as well as featuring a brilliantly ominous soundtrack and stunning cinematography. It's also got one of the all time great opening sequences, in which our American ballerina heroine gets a less than warm welcome to Germany... (

5. Carrie (1976)

Another Stephen King adaptation from an acclaimed director, Carrie doesn't make it quite as high in my list as The Shining, but it's still one of the great '70s horror films, with one of the original (and best) twist endings. It's one of the rare horror movies in which you sympathise with the 'monster' more than the victims, but seeing all the misery which telekenetic teen Carrie White has to suffer, you can understand why she explodes into violence in the grand finale. Brian De Palma has since made a few further forays into the horror genre, but this is definitely his best effort.

6. The Thing (1982)

The second John Carpenter film on this list, The Thing is a terrifying and claustrophobic story set within a remote research station in Antartica. When the base is invaded by a alien being able to change its shape at will, none of the scientists are able to trust one another... As well as featuring a tremendous lead performance from the always reliable Kurt Russell, the film is also notable for its groundbreaking (and sickening) special effects.

7. Let The Right One In (2008)

A brilliant recent Swedish film, Let The Right One In is kind of like a cross between My Life As a Dog and Nosferatu. It's more of a melancholic, bittersweet coming of age story than an out and out horror movie, but I love this film so much that I really wanted to include it somewhere on my list. Although it's ostensibly the story about a lonely young boy and a vicious but childlike vampire who befriends him, it contains more truth about the darker side of growing up than pretty much every Hollywood 'teen' picture ever made.

8. Braindead (1992)

Before Peter Jackson became a respectable, Academy Award winning director of Tolkien adaptations, he was known for directing low budget gross out horror films. This is one of his early efforts, a brilliantly gruesome story of a man, a lawnmower, and a battle to the death with a horde of zombies. This is definitely the goriest film on this list, but it's also by far the most amusing. As long as you have a strong stomach, it's tremendous fun.

9. Rosemary's Baby (1968)

The oldest film on my list, this one sees Mia Farrow star as the tenant at a block of flats under the grip of a cabal of satanists who are keen to use her as a surrogate mother for the son of the devil. What could have been a bit of hokey tale (like The Omen) is turned into something far more interesting and unsettling by director Roman Polanski, and by a strong cast full of memorable characters. Remember, it isn't paranoid if they really are out to get you...

10. The Others (2001)

I had to include a ghost story on this list, and this is an excellent recent example. Set during the Second World War, Nicole Kidman plays an overprotective mother, confined to a grand, dark old house with her children. The family are haunted by a series of spooky apparitions, but as the film progresses, we discover that nothing is what it seems.  It's a  gloomy, gothic story with a brilliant final twist in the tale.

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