It’s always difficult to come out and declare the top 10 best horror movies ever made. It’s inevitable that there will be complaints. One thing to remember is that movies aren’t made or seen in a vacuum. Whether you like a movie or not can be influenced by your age and what generation you’re in.
For example, The Exorcist is a classic, but it’s not on our list, and that’s because there are plenty of other scarier and more interesting flicks out there (according to us). Some flicks are historical touchstones, certainly, but we weighed other factors too. Editors Note: after a recent revisit to The Exorcist, we may have to throw it back in the list.
Anyway, here’s our take on
The Top 10 Horror Films of All Time
10. Hellraiser (1987)
You know I got soul!
A total creepout, Clive Barker’s story of the Cenobites (“demons to some, angels to others”) who visit you when you solve a mysterious puzzle box. Although we don’t know how you can see them as angels. Frank Cotton, after being ripped apart by chains, says that the Cenobites bring pain and pleasure, indivisible. Of course, he’s saying this while not wearing any skin. We’re still waiting for the pleasure.
Then there’s Doug Bradley as the lead Cenobite Pinhead. He gets all the best lines, like “No tears, please! It’s a waste of good suffering!”. Andrew Robinson (Deep Space Nine, Dirty Harry) says “Jesus wept.” before getting his face torn off. Don’t forget the weird bum walking around who eats scorpions for fun. What’s your pleasure, sir?
Spawned many sequels, mostly direct to video trash. The only other one worth watching is the second one, Hellbound, which doubles up on the “I can’t believe I just saw that” factor.
9. The Evil Dead (1981)
And the maid doesn’t come till Sunday!
The first entry in Sam Raimi’s very fine trilogy about demons possessing the living. This is where Bruce Campbell’s career really took off, although his version of Ash in this movie is nothing like in parts 2 and 3. Here, he’s reluctant to do anything heroic and there’s no wisecracking. Probably because it’s hard to think of something funny to say when your loved one gets possessed and proceeds to chew her own hand off.
The Evil Dead goes pretty damn far to gross you out. There’s decapitation, dismemberment, blood pouring from open orifices, a pencil-to-ankle stabbing, Bruce Campbell being humped by his headless girlfriend’s corpse while simulataneously spewing blood into his face, and rape by a tree branch.
Evil Dead is the ultimate in what they call “spam in a cabin” flicks. It introduced the Necronomicon (book of the dead, bound in human flesh, written in blood) which itself comes alive a few times. It shows Sam Raimi’s brilliance in long tracking shots and establishing an atmosphere of claustrophobia. It also plays with genre conventions (“It won’t start!” she cries. “It won’t let us leave!” Then, the car starts.)
And it’s gross. Sometimes, that’s enough. Reviewed here.
8. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Look folks, we already told you, we’re out of the iPod.
Ah yes, Dawn of the Dead, another grossout that happens to be about something. Those zombies are us, dude. Why do you think they hang out at the shopping mall, walking around aimlessly while Muzak plays?
Romero’s Night of the Living Dead will always be a classic (and it’s about the civil rights movement, dummy!) but Dawn will always be our personal favorite. Ken Foree is a God in this picture. And Tom Savini gets to show off his talent for gooey effects. Try not to eat anything before watching this movie. Unless, of course, you like eating human intestines.
And we still think the pie-in-the-zombie-face is pretty funny. Followed by Day of the Dead, which is pretty good. The remake is also worth a look.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Lee Press-on Nails – They won’t break or split!
Sure, we all know Michael Meyers and Jason Vorhees were pros when it came to slashin’, but nobody had personality like Freddy Krueger. Add to that the fact that his origins and supernatural abilities are far more interesting than anything in the Friday the 13th or Halloween movies, throw in some subtextual Reagan-80s angst, and let Wes Craven put the whole thing together, and you’ve got a horror film that elevates itself above the genre.
Inspired a crapload of sequels, including Freddy vs Jason. Parts 2 and 3 are ok (yes, part 2. we said it). The rest kinda suck. (Except for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, which wasn’t bad.) But this is the best, and in the end, the only one really worth watching. Watch for your favorite hunk Johnny Depp in his debut as a jock teen, as well as John Saxon as Nancy’s daddy. Because John Saxon rules in any movie. You’ll also love the ongoing bit regarding Nancy’s mom and a bottle of booze.
6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
My Dinner With Leatherface
The ultimate in grindhouse entertainment, in our opinion unmatched by any of the sequels or remakes. Based very loosely on the story of Ed Gein, who kept human skulls, skin, and other parts in his home as decorations, this film concerns a group of kids on a road trip who end up attacked by a family of crazed cannibals in rural Texas, one of whom likes to wear a mask of human skin and has a certain way with a chainsaw.
From the very beginning, when John Larroquette delivers the infamous monologue, and a radio broadcast tells the story of decomposed corpses and grave robberies, we get an idea of what we’re in for. It’s a truly surrealistic experience and it’s raw.
Tobe Hooper would later give us Eaten Alive, The Funhouse, Poltergeist, Lifeforce, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which is pretty damn entertaining in its own right.
The movie is a product of the Vietnam era, examining the decay of the rural South, and the ties that bind a family together – yes, Leatherface’s family. Roger Ebert found the movie effective and scary, yet gave it 2 stars because he found it “unnecessary” and “without purpose.” Looking past the fact that sometimes scary is enough, it seems to us that Ebert disdains the horror genre enough that he doesn’t bother to probe the film for deeper meaning. Sometimes you get out what you put in.