As we all know, “Top 10” movie lists are a sham. Nobody can definitively say what the best movie is, let alone the 10 best. Art is subjective. It’s all a matter of opinion; one man’s Citizen Kane is another man’s Slaughtered. But actually, these movie lists are good for a couple of things. First, they stimulate conversation. They get us all talking and discussing the merits of our favorite flicks—and maybe more important, they can expose little-known movies to a broader audience.
Below, you’ll find a list of 10 of my favorite horror flicks of all time. Notice how I worded the previous sentence. These aren’t what I consider to be the 10 best horror films of all time, but it’s a good, solid list of enjoyable fright flicks.
Now, this list is in no particular order. I can’t tell you which of these is better than the others—they all kick ass. And my “top 10” changes daily…hourly even. This list is accurate only at the moment I’m typing it. If you asked me to write another list five minutes from now, you’d likely get a totally different set of movies. In fact, I’ll probably change my mind before I write down the 10 films I’ve already chosen (Editor’s note: I did). So, the following is a list of 10 of my favorite horror movies…as of this second.
- The Exorcist (Director: William Friedkin, 1973): This choice is a sentimental favorite. Every time I watch it, I become a 12-year-old boy again. Though it’s widely considered one of the better modern horror films, if you watch The Exorcist for the first time now, you’ll probably think, “What’s the big deal?” That’s a valid question. The novel had already been a colossal smash for a couple of years before the film was made. But when the movie was released, it was a major event: lines of people wrapped around theaters for months; local news coverage; people fainting and vomiting due to the intense content, which when viewed today doesn’t seem all that intense I suppose. But in 1973, this was controversial stuff. And some of it is still divisive today. Any movie where a preteen girl masturbates with a crucifix is always going to push buttons, I guarantee you. But for me, the scenes where Regan undergoes torturous medical testing continue to be the most disturbing parts of the film. One aspect of the movie that’s not often mentioned is that it’s a masterful adaptation of the novel. The plot has been streamlined and Friedkin’s abrupt editing ratchets up the tension and translates the book’s terse prose to film very effectively.
- Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (Director: Sam Raimi, 1987): More a retelling of the original Evil Dead movie than a true sequel, this is the first time we really see Sam Raimi’s twisted sense of humor on full display. Poor Bruce Campbell is Raimi’s punching bag throughout this flick, gleefully suffering the tortures of the damned and becoming a cult-film star in the process. Part gorefest, part Three Stooges short, Evil Dead 2 is still a fun, cheesy ride I gladly take over and over again.
- The Tingler (Director: William Castle, 1959): I ask you: What a strange, wonderful pair were Vincent Price and William Castle? Price was a Yale-educated esthete, and Castle was a schlock-meister with the soul of a carny. Though they made only two movies together (House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler), they were two of the best flicks either ever made. Well, “best” might be overstating it. Let’s say they were two of the most-loved films they made. It should be noted that this spot on the list could’ve gone to either of these films. Actually, I originally chose House on Haunted Hill but changed my mind at the last minute…just cuz.
- Suspiria (Director: Dario Argento, 1977): This is most likely Argento’s masterwork. A twisted fairy tale starring a very young Jessica Harper, Suspiria has a number of creative, horrific deaths but is probably most unsettling due to its eerie, tense atmosphere. Watching this flick, you step through the mirror into a colorful world of witches, maggots and Udo Kier.
- The Hazing (Director: Rolfe Kanefsky, 2004): For me, The Hazing served as an introduction to Rolfe Kanefsky, a skilled, stylish director. Filled with fun performances and nods to films as disparate as Reservoir Dogs and The Evil Dead, this flick is one you should not miss. Read my full review here.
- Night of the Demons (Director: Kevin S. Tenney, 1988): Kevin S. Tenney is a proven talent. Brain Dead, his latest film, is an amazingly fun experience. Oh so many years ago, Night of the Demons was my introduction to this extremely talented filmmaker. Read my full review here.
- From Dusk Till Dawn (Director: Robert Rodriguez, 1996): A Quentin Tarantino-penned crime thriller, shot and chopped by Robert Rodriquez, which suddenly morphs into a gruesome vampire flick set in a Mexican topless bar and stars George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Fred Williamson, Quentin Tarantino, Cheech Marin and features Salma Hayek as the queen of the vampire strippers? I mean, really—what else do you need to know?
- Re-Animator (Director: Stuart Gordon, 1985): Avant-garde theater director Stuart Gordon was probably the least likely man to direct an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft, but in 1985 he did. And in doing so, he gave us one of the best horror films ever made. Read my full review here.
- May (Director: Lucky McKee, 2002): With May, Lucky McKee delivered one of the best horror films of the decade, featuring a bravura performance by Angela Bettis. While she portrays the misfit May as both touching and unhinged, she always allows us to see the complex humanity of her characterization. Jeremy Sisto keeps the movie grounded in reality as the jackass May falls for. And props to Anna Faris as May’s loopy, insensitive lesbian co-worker. With people like these in her life, can May really be blamed for her actions?
- ???: In celebration of All Hallow’s Eve, this tenth film—which I consider to be the best horror flick of 2009—will be reviewed in tomorrow’s Halloween post.
Sure, I have older, hipper cult faves, but these are my choices for this year. There’s nothing too unusual here. It’s a pretty solid list of horror flicks. Actually, you’re probably familiar with all of these films. If you’re a horror-phile, then you should be. If not, you definitely have some catching up to do.