Thursday, October 18, 2012

Top 10 Scariest Horror Movies

Being as it's Halloween season, I thought I'd make a top 10 list of scariest horror films. I'm also not listing ultra gorey and or exploitative films like Cannibal Holocaust, Salo, or The Human Centipede. Those types have never scared me as much as made me feel extremely uncomfortable and disgusted.

And films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street just haven't aged well with me. Don't get me wrong, I still like them, but I wouldn't watch them if I wanted to feel scared. Also, all of those contemporary over-the-top CG effects based films that completely lack subtlety, just don't blend with realism enough to be scary. I find films like The Grudge or The Ring to be lazy writing. A good story needs to have a world with rules, and breaking them whenever doesn't work unless you also break the audience's sense of reality.

10. Nosferatu
I will admit it is dated and requires more out of its audience, but Max Schreck as Count Orlok is the scariest looking vampire I've ever seen. And the part where his shadow ascends the staircase, enters the room, and attacks the sleeping woman is absolutely brilliant. For it's time, it certainly lived up to being a symphony of horror.

Max Schreck as Count Orlok in Nosferatu

9. The Blair Witch Project
This one was difficult to put on the list because it's so polarizing. But I remember being truly scared at the theatre. The found footage thing wasn't new. So, I'm not going to credit it as groundbreaking; the first one I had seen was The Mcpherson Abduction Tape. And I already mentioned Cannibal Holocaust above. But even before then, in the literary world, many horror stories would be told with the found journal format. Don't believe me? Just read Frankenstein or Dracula. Anyways, the movie features the scariest monster I've ever seen: My imagination. And that's why it made the list.

8. The Changeling
This film is pretty much a course on how to creep people out with sound effects and music. It gives you this sense of building unease as you go down its rabbit hole. And the effects, while far more subtle and simplistic than today's films, only aid to its more psychological approach. This is the perfect film for people who aren't scared by gorey exploitation or modern CG monsters.

7. Misery
I didn't think the word "cockadoodie" would ever cause a fear response in me, but it can. I think most people know the plot here: writer gets in car accident during a snowstorm, on his way to his place of seclusion. Psychopathic fan of said writer finds him injured and, you know, just decides to keep him ....

6. Jacob's Ladder
A vietnam vet survives the horrors of war only to find himself in a conspiracy theorist's worst nightmare. It's another smart movie with lots of complexity. It's more of a psychological horror, but it doesn't stray from the supernatural angle.

5. The Shining
Do you want a great recipe for making a great horror film? Combine one of master of contemporary horror, Stephen King, with one of the greatest directors to ever live, Stanley Kubrick, and a dash of Jack Nicholson! It's part cerebral, mysterious, and outright creepy at moments.

4. Jaws
This movie still has people afraid of going into the ocean. The shark here is one of the most feared monsters in cinema history. The reason it's my number four is because it's actually scary and timeless. There is never going to be a time, in my life, where I see a dorsal fin popping out of the water and not immediately picture scenes from this film!

3. Communion
This was based on Whitley Strieber's book of the same title, which is also based on his true story. Now whether you believe his tale of alien abduction or not, thankfully, is irrelevant. I've never read the book, so, I can't really comment on how it stacks up to it. But as horror goes, it has this surrealism that makes you feel creeped out on another level. I'm a real fan of Christopher Walken, and his performance here, while bizarre, just works and brings everything together. It really does feel like walking around in a dream.

2. The Exorcist
This one is just a masterpiece of filmmaking. It is the most complete horror film on my list. William Friedkin squeezed every ounce of talent out of his actors. The iconic possessed Linda Blair set a standard for copycats that has yet to ever be matched. I periodically watch this film, and I'm convinced that it's timeless.

1. In the Mouth of Madness
This is a bit more obscure despite having John Carpenter as a director. I mean, I haven't even seen it listed on top 100 horror film lists! Anyways, it's very Lovecraftian and has some of the creepiest imagery I've ever seen. It also has that touch of postmodernist self awareness that can really mess with the audiences' minds. And it's definitely smarter than it gets credit for.


  1. Haven't seen "In The Mouth of Madness." Going to have to check it out.

  2. I believe it's still on Netflix. :)

  3. Good list. Although I do think both Salo and Cannibal Holocaust are, for me, the most frightening films I have seen. I understand the exclusion, but also think having them in the same sentence as Human Centipede is a disservice.

    Salo, for what it is, is actually artful cinema. Cannibal Holocaust is unique in that it still inspires debate as to whether it is "real." It's trashy, yes, but powerful nonetheless.

    And besides, who hasn't had a romantic evening, with chocolates and wine, watching Salo with your lover?

  4. I meant "a lover," not "yours." Oops :)