For reasons I can’t quite explain, I love horror films. The first movies I ever saw that scared me were Poltergeist and Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter. Ever since, I’ve loved scary movies! Every year when summer’s brutal grip finally relents and the cool air of fall arrives, I want to watch horror films. Though our cool weather has only just arrived, I’ve watched a number of my favorites already and thought I would post a few.
Halloween – John Carpenter’s original, of course. While Zombie’s remake was good (let’s not mention the debatably tolerable Halloween II), nothing really could compare with the original, a film that defined a genre (or perhaps sub-genre) and spawned a thousand imitators. There are any number of reasons why I love this movie, but perhaps it could be boiled down to two elements—it’s downright creepy and the story is largely believable. Provided there is always a necessary measure of suspended disbelief, but The Shape is portrayed as one could show up unannounced and wreak havoc in your town. Plus, the expressionless mask donned by Michael Myers is perhaps the most iconic in horror cinema.
*Memorable scene(s) – Take your pick of any in which Myers is standing creepily still, staring at the person who would become his next victim.
Saw – Forget the confusing and derivitave sequels—Saw was a great film, a creative burst of originality against a backdrop of countless pedestrian horror films. Though dubbed “torture porn” by many, Saw is not merely a gore fest. Yes, the kills are gruesome, but underneath Jigsaw’s sinister schemes and abnormally cruel manner in which he teaches the victims to cherish life lies a lesson we could all stand to learn—be grateful to be alive because you never know when you’ll find yourself locked in reverse bear trap helmet set to spring at a timer’s expiration.
*Memorable scene(s) – There are a number of good ones, but the final scene is my favorite by far.
The Exorcist III – Yes, I know–the first film is the one that garnered all the attention. I’ve seen The Exorcist twice and that’s plenty for me. It is haunting like few other films are. However, for me, the frequently-overlooked third installment is rife with creep, which is augmented by an unsettling atmosphere and some truly scary moments (the “nurse scene” in particular). George C. Scott’s performance is magnificent as are the supporting cast. If you haven’t seen this one, check it out!
*Memorable scene(s) – The aforementioned “nurse scene” is hands down the one that creeps me out the most.
The Omen – I never did see the remake, and perhaps I will someday, but I am positive that there’s no way it can outdo the original. The Omen has it all–creepy evil kid, overprotective and sinister nanny charged with his care, and thematic imagery pulled straight from John’s Apocalypse. It is a recipe for terror and this movie delivers it! Creepy kids in horror movies are usually either campy or terrifying–I’ll leave you to guess which characterizes Damien.
*Memorable scene(s) – The jackal scene–yep, that one is a little freaky.
Eden Lake – What I like about this film is that the fright element doesn’t involve violence so much as the fear of impending doom. Once the couple begin to fear for their safety at the hands of the hooligans pestering them at their campsite, things go from bad to worse, then from worse to worst. This movie might make you short of breath because the tension is so taut all the way through. Then, well, there’s the ending. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that…
*Memorable scene(s) – Again, the ending…
The Silence of the Lambs – You knew this one would be here, right? It’s not often that this type of movie gets the honors and praise that this one did and it’s not difficulty to see why. Thomas Harris has created in his novels one of the most intriguing, yet disturbing individuals ever in Hannibal Lecter, and Anthony Hopkins brought him to the big screen as one of the most fearsome characters in recent cinema. While the other films in the series were good, none hold a candle to this experiment in psychological terror. *PS–NBC’s Hannibal has also proven to be a riveting psychological drama–check it out if you haven’t.
*Memorable scene(s) – The night vision scene tops my list, but there are plenty of creep-out moments in this one.
A Nightmare on Elm Street – One of the most iconic horror villains ever is Robert Englund’s portrayal of the dream-stalking killer Freddy Krueger, who is introduced in this slasher classic. The seemingly endless sequels seem an attempt to cash in on Krueger’s marketability, but none of them can stand with the first. Everything about this movie is creepy–the score, the kills, the sound effects, even Freddy’s occasional humor. The horrors that visit the slasher-film-necessary teenagers occur in their dreams, which somehow translate to real-world aftermath. The scenery also contributes to the overall atmosphere, which is a big part of the effectiveness of this movie. This one is a classic for sure.
*Memorable scene(s) – The kills were quite unusual and incredibly violent, so any of those; the sheep in the hallway; the girls jumping rope while singing.
The Ring – This was one of the best movies of its kind when it came out. Like so many other genre-altering films, this one saw a number of imitators follow in its wake. However, none of them matched the latent foreboding present throughout this film. If I recall, there isn’t a single moment in this movie where the foreboding mood relents. This movie is present with you as you watch and, like The Omen, the creepy kid factor is played to the hilt and with great effect. Good thing VHS is a thing of the past!
*Memorable scene(s) – Samara and the TV
Silver Bullet – This is a must for me during scary movie season. From the pen of the master of horror Stephen King comes this tale about one my childhood fears–wolves, though in this case their human-like counterparts–werewolves. I’ll admit that there are parts of this story that are a little hokey, but as a whole I love it. The fact that the main character (played by the late Corey Haim) is bound to a wheelchair adds to the feeling of helplessness–you can’t help but squirm when danger draws ever closer. Oh, and Gary Busey’s portrayal as Uncle Red is great.
*Memorable scene(s) – When Marty sees the werewolf for the first time on the bridge; when Jane learns the identity of the wereworlf.
The Amityville Horror – This one ranks near the top for me. There is still some debate whether or not the events that inspired this story were part of a hoax perpetrated by the Lutz family, but that is a secondary or even tertiary concern for me–this movie genuinely scared me the first time I saw it. Even now, anytime I watch it I get a little weirded out. Satan, possession, and all attendant phenomena are prime source material for scaring the wits out of moviegoers and many movies have employed them, sometimes to great effect, though many attempts have been less than stellar. This, for me, remains one of the exceptions. Watching the Lutzes’ steady descent to the brink of madness at the hands of this house is quite unsettling at points and despite the cloud of suspicion that hangs over the veracity of the story’s origin, it remains one of the better spooky-house stories out there. Additionally, while the sequel is pretty good, forget the newer stuff–it doesn’t even compare. *PS: Read the book–it’s even scarier.
*Memorable scene(s) – the room of flies (probably the freakiest moment in my opinion); the inverted crucifix; the pig–good grief–the pig!; the black ooze; the rocking chair; so many in this one!
There are also a number of films to which I’ll give an honorable mention: Funny Games, Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity, Wolf Creek, Martyrs, The Strangers, Them (or Ils), High Tension, The Last House on the Left, The Descent, Insidious, Sinister, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pet Sematary.
I should also mention The Shining and Suspiria. Both of these movies are highly regarded horror films, but I’ll be honest–I don’t care for either of them. Yes, there are creepy elements in both, but I was rather bored with them. I think had I seen them when they were initially released I would have liked them better.
So, what are some of your favorite horror films?