For the run up to Halloween, we thought that we would decide what the very best horror movies of all time were, so we thought that we would countdown the top 50. But, instead of rushing it all out in one week, we decided to take our time and do 10 a week, in a cheap way of cranking up the tension … which you won’t see in any of our top 50. The time for cheap jump scares and forced tension, is over because for the next five weeks, we are going to celebrate the very best from cinema’s greatest genre!
Unless otherwise stated, all the movies are originals. In a genre that is so ripe with remakes, younger audiences can sometimes not realise that the shit horror movie they are watching is actually a remake of a far superior film from a couple of decades earlier. I have included dates to also help clear up any confusion.
- The Sixth Sense (1999)
I struggled with myself whether to include The Sixth Sense, as it sometimes strikes me as more of a supernatural-thriller, but after discussing with some peeps, I’ve agreed that it has enough horror elements (and scared the child me enough) to be classed as a horror film. Most people who have seen the film, however, remember it for one reason and one reason only: the twist ending. This ending announced to the world M. Night Shyamalan’s penchant for surprise endings, which he’s only ever been able to successfully replicate once (Unbreakable) and the other times he tries it, he ruins his films in one simple swoop (The Village and Signs for example).
- The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
By today’s standards, the original Wes Craven version of The Hills Have Eyes isn’t so much scary, but it is still very uncomfortable. I mean, the advertising poster for the film stated: ‘They kidnapped the baby. They burned the father. They raped the sister. They killed the mother … and they’re coming to your local theatre’ … I mean, come on! The film follows a family of all ages (with a couple of dogs in tow) as they drive across the desert where they inevitably break down and are then stalked, tortured, and killed off by a family of planet-named cannibals. The film has never been overly well received by critics, however it has achieved a massive cult following, which has been helped by the success of the remakes.
- Insidious (2010)
Insidious falls into the category of ‘good modern horror’ films, which is rare, as most of the horror films released in the past 25 years have been awful (although, as this list will prove, there have been many great ones hidden amongst the crap). The film follows a young family whose son is haunted by a myriad of spirits who want to inhabit his comatose body. A rare film, that is able to pull off a good jump scare without feeling cheap and has been able to kickstart a successful franchise. Whether or not they will go down the Saw route and release 47 different films (I’m assuming there’s that many as I lost count around number 6) or whether they will settle for a good old trilogy, remains to be seen.
- Children of the Corn (1984)
Now we’ve reached the first of six different Stephen King films (well, he is the master of the genre) and some may be surprised to see this sequel vomiting film make the list. Not everyone would include the film, but it stars Linda Hamilton, aka Sarah Connor … so what was I supposed to do? The film features a young couple who get lost and are subsequently lured to a town where the children have murdered all the adults and seem to worship something that lives in the corn rows. It’s not everyone’s favourite Stephen King film, however I found it effectively creepy and the lead child, Isaac (played by John Franklin) will haunt your dreams forever.
- The Orphanage or El Orfanato (2007)
America and Britain are the (self-proclaimed) kings of the horror genre, however this list does feature a few surprise entries from other countries like Australia, Japan, Italy, and for the first of our international entries: Spain. Guillermo Del Toro is a master of horror cinema (and Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, nearly made our list, although for various reasons, they didn’t) and this Spanish language chiller is one of his best. It features a creepy child wearing a sack on its head and has one of the best twists in cinema history. It’s reliance on good old fashioned skin crawling tension over jump scares, is what really sets this film apart from the herd.
- Frankenstein (1931)
Now we jump back to our second earliest entry on the list: Frankenstein. One of the first ever horror films, and undoubtedly the most famous from this era of cinema. Frankenstein and its sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, are two of the most famous, most parodied movies in existence. Loosely following the events of the book (they had to cut the scariest and saddest moments for the audience of the day) Dr Frankenstein tries to play God and creates a man out of dead body parts. When he successfully brings it back to life, he is horrified by what he has done and shuns the creature, which – rightly so – gets pretty offended and goes on a murderous rampage. Serves him right, if you ask me.
- It (2017)
From one of our oldest entries to our most recent entry; this massive box office record breaker was only released a few weeks ago. It, the second of Stephen King films, is based on one of his most popular novels. It is NOT a remake of the Tim Curry miniseries, so people need to stop getting bent out of shape over the differences. This version plays it much closer to the source material and is genuinely brilliant. Unfortunately, the scares are only really there when something shouts out ‘boo’ at the screen, but when you’re dealing with a killer, shapeshifting, entity that can take the form of anything you fear from a killer clown, to leper, to a headless man, to your own dead baby brother, you’ve got the recipe for an extremely entertaining film, that is equal parts scary and hilarious thanks to an inspired cast.
- The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi (yes, the Spider-Man guy) scared the world back in the early 1980s and managed to spawn one of the most iconic movie characters in existence: Ash Williams. Also spawning two genre-defying sequels, a remake, and a TV series, The Evil Dead is a stone-cold classic horror film that needs to be in everyone’s collection. One of the original ‘cabin in the woods’ stories, the plot features a group of teenagers (of course) travelling to an old cabin in the woods (of course) where they are soon set upon by an undead evil that takes over the souls of the recently passed and turns them into strange, joke flinging, vomit spewing zombie things (… of course?). The sequel became an all-out horror-comedy where Ash even chops off his own hand and replaces it with a chainsaw … The Evil Dead series needs to be seen to be believed … the third one is the craziest -- and some say, best -- of them all.
- The Witch: A New-England Folktale (2015)
The Witch did not make it easy for itself, as in a bid for money, money, money, they decided to market it as a normal teen-lovers horror film in the style of Insidious or The Conjuring, however what it actually is, is an arty, beautifully told masterclass in cinematography and tension. Set in the 1700s, a family settle in the woods (again, with the woods!) where they build a farm. Their youngest baby is stolen from them and it is not long before they suspect witchcraft and begin to turn on each other. With cinematography akin to The Revenant and slow-burning tension akin to The Blair Witch Project, The Witch was a surprise modern-classic from 2015 … a film that nearly killed itself with a terrible PR scheme that backfired, but luckily has been saved by critics and bloggers who saw through the ruse and realised that we had one of the best horror films in recent years on our hands.
- The Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This entry really encapsulates the entirety of George A. Romero’s trilogy, The Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. This entry was one of the first zombie films and has spawned hundreds of imitators, however none (with the possible exception of 28 Days Later) has come close to beating it. Set in an old farmhouse during the first day when the dead rise and eat the living, a group of strangers must join forces in order to survive the apocalypse, with the dead literally knocking on the door. Best witnessed in black and white, this film has grown to become one of the most-loved cult classics in cinema and it’s easy to see why. It’s brutal and unsettling and paved the way for the future of the genre.
At the end of the five weeks I will place them all together, so you can see the final list, but if you want to let me know what you think will make the final cut, or want to complain about the choices I’ve already made, then let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog