And we continue with our countdown. If you’re interested in the previous lists, click on the links below.
- Friday the 13th (1980)
What will soon become apparent with this list and the Parts 4 and 5 to follow, is that I’m a massive fan of classic slasher films. If you’re ever bored, then put on a high numbered slasher sequel and everything will be alright! They are so bad, that they almost become good, and they are definitely watchable. Now, although the constant sequels can get you down, the first in a slasher series, is usually pretty good (hence why they keep milking it for more and more dollar) and that is true of Friday the 13th (although, if I’m honest, I prefer the first sequel). You know the story, killer kills lots of teens – including Kevin Bacon - in inventive ways in the woods near a lake … but what you may not know is that Friday the 13th has an excellent twist … one of the best in movie history, if I may be so bold.
- Black Christmas (1974)
Often people claim that Halloween cemented what we know today as a teen slasher, however I always find that that claim ignores The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas. Whilst these two don’t follow the structure to the letter, they have enough of the elements that I think they can be classed with originating the sub-genre (that Psycho and Peeping Tom first laid the seeds for). If you want a slasher film, that is genuinely scary, then look no further than Black Christmas. The film is set in a sorority house over – you guessed it – Christmas, where a crazed maniac known as ‘Billy’ has let himself into the attic and is a very unwelcome guest. It’s creepy, shocking, and doesn’t rely on jump scares. An excellent film … and remember … the call is coming from inside the house …
- Ringu (1998)
Japanese horror was everywhere in the late 90s and early 00s, and every American studio was looking to remake them for Western audiences. One of the better remakes was The Ring, however we are going to focus on the original Japanese version. American remakes usually rely on good old-fashioned Hollywood scare tactics … you know the ones (just watch any of the films on this list), however Japanese horror seeps into your sub-conscious and builds itself a little nest; it gnaws away at your nerves until you snap and have to watch a SpongeBob SquarePants marathon, just to reset your frayed nerve endings. If you aren’t familiar with the plot yet, you’ve probably heard of it without knowing (or seen Scary Movie). You watch a creepy videotape and then you get a phone call saying you’re going to die in seven days … and then you do … when a creepy girl crawls out of the TV. Enough said.
- American Werewolf in London (1981)
If Ringu has devoured your spirit and left you a desiccated husk, then ease yourself back into the world of horror films with this horror comedy from the early 80s. Two American teens are backpacking across Europe and get lost in an unfriendly Norther town where one is killed by a ‘wolf beast thing’ and the other is wounded … come the next full moon, guess what’s going to happen? There will be an American werewolf in London … it’s baffling how they wrote that title? … If you haven’t seen the film, then you might be surprised with how funny and scary it actually proves to be, plus the special effects are almost in the same league as The Thing, so it’s worth it for that alone.
- Let the Right One In (2008)
We’re moving away from the UK and US again, and this time heading to Sweden … an unlikely place, you may say. Although it has been remade into the passable Let Me In, I’m going to focus on the delightfully creepy original; a story about a young boy who is a bullied social outcast, who begins a very strong friendship with a young 12ish year old girl … only as it soon turns out she was 12ish when she became a vampire and has been 12ish for a very long time … The film is split across two genres, if you will, where we get to see a buddy film about two people slowly realising they care a lot about each other, and a horror film as the ‘young’ vampire must prowl the town in search of flesh blood. This is one of the most original and most beautifully shot horror films on this list.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
I could have put the original 50’s version here, however I personally prefer the 70’s version. This is for two reasons: one: it’s really good and two: it proves that remakes can actually work, and be excellent in the process. It’s a simple story about alien plants that fall from the sky one day and slowly start replicating the humans, whilst killing off the originals, until everyone is an emotionless shell of their former self. Cue a whole load of paranoia and doubt … and Spock, for some reason. It soon becomes a race to escape a city that has been overrun with ‘body snatchers’ and ends with one of the most shockingly brilliant closing shots of all time … plus, Jeff Goldblum … so, yay!
- The Mist (1980)
We talked about The Fog last week and now we will talk about its spiritual successor, The Mist. The premise is very similar, a mysterious fog/mist, rolls into town and anyone caught in it is never seen again, only this time, instead of ghost-pirate-leper things, it’s a myriad of disgusting monsters, ranging from spider things, pterodactyl things, and giant tentacled skyscraper things. Based on the Stephen King novella of the same name, the story is actually about religion and how quickly cultish behaviour can manifest in a group of people once they are locked in a supermarket for a few days while eldritch nasties patrolling outside. Be warned, it literally has the saddest, most shocking, most ‘I can’t believe that just f**king happened’, ending in the world.
- The Babadook (2014)
Oh, hey Australia, I didn’t know you could make horror films? I had wanted to watch this for a while, as it was being heralded as an ‘excellent modern horror film’, and as we’ve discussed before, they are far and few between, but I’m a bit of scared-y cat with modern horror films and much prefer my horror films to be set in the 70s and 80s and feature a man in a mask with a knife. So, before I watched, I did some research and lots of people said, ‘oh it’s fine, it’s more of a supernatural drama than a horror film’ … well those people can do one, as this scared me. Set in a house with a young widow and her creepy son who is terrified of ‘the babadook’; a sort of bogey man. Well his fears soon become reality and the Badadook is born and he will continue to haunt my dreams for as long as I live and has now been added to the list of reasons why I will never visit Australia. If you’re interested:
- Kangaroos that can kick my head off
- Too hot
- Eat vegemite instead of marmite
- Forest fires
- The Babadook
Whilst the film is very creepy, it is also brilliant, as the Babadook is a very clever metaphorical manifestation of the woman’s depression and the son’s anxiety. All in all, an excellent modern horror film.
- The Descent (2005)
Now we get to a film that you will probably assume is American, but is in fact, British. The Descent is about a group of women (one of which is coming to terms with the tragic death of her child and husband) who decide to go cave-diving. One of them (who we find out early in the film was having an affair with the dead husband … karma will catch up with you…) decides it would actually be more fun to explore an unmapped cave system and not tell the rest. Things soon go south as the women get stuck with no means of escape and then discover that they are not alone down in the caves beneath Appalachia. The film works for me, because the first half has no subterranean nasties and is still horrendously tense, just because of the sheer claustrophobia felt by the audience … It was actually a relief when the mutant nasties turned up.
- The Omen (1976)
Kids are creepy even when they aren’t the literal embodiment of the devil, but when they have a 666 tattooed on their head and can make their nannies hang themselves from the top of the house, they become a little bit creepier … The American ambassador to the UK has a child that ‘dies’ shortly after being born and so the lovely nuns at the hospital offer to swap it with a baby whose mother has just died and is now an orphan … something is already fishy, to be honest … and so the ambassador (played by the delightfully eye-browed Gregory Peck) accepts the son and passes it off as his own to his wife … well the kids the devil and shit goes south quick … It was his own fault, really. The film has a creeping sense of dread, which is only escalated by the iconic music and the scenes of shocking brutality. Do not watch this film if you own a Rottweiler … you have been warned.
If you’re enjoying our series on the best horror films of all time, then let us know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog or by searching on Facebook for @MugwumpBlog. Tune in next week for Part IV…