We’ve reached our penultimate entry! Now it starts to get gooood. If you want to catch up on the previous lists, click the links below…
- The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods is one of those films that some people (morons…) think is just a standard, shitty, teenagers-staying-in-a-cabin-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-and-being-picked-off-one-by-one type of horror film … in actual fact it’s the cleverest examination of the genre since Scream. I can’t tell you much about the film as it would ruin its plethora of delights, but just know that the film joyfully pokes fun at the genre without ever becoming a spoof. If you want the full effect of the film, then watch all of the others on this top 50 first, then you’ll really get why it’s so brilliant.
- It Follows (2014)
As these lists prove, I like horror films, however it’s rare that I find one that I looooove and find myself watching about once a fortnight. I watched It Follows one Friday evening alone and instantly knew I was watching something special. The funny thing about the film is that the premise sounds absolutely awful and yet the film is a triumph. Essentially, there is a sexually transmitted curse that when you have it, it means you are followed by this shapeshifting entity until it catches you. The hook is, that ‘It’ never runs, it just steadily, emotionlessly walks after you until it can eventually catch up. The film executes this premise perfectly and its also a nice little examination of the genre as well (look out for the multiple, obscure Halloween references). Potentially the cleverest horror film since The Shining.
- Eraserhead (1977)
David Lynch is probably most famous for the cult sci-fi/fantasy/horror/drama/thingy TV show, Twin Peaks, however his most acclaimed work is often his movies. It could be argued that Eraserhead is actually not a true horror film, however it’s dripping in enough creepy, weird nastiness that I think it can be classified with the others on the list. The film is largely about the fear of being a parent and the film encapsulates this in the disgusting baby-thing that is central to the film. The whole picture is weird, disturbing, and oddly brilliant.
- Poltergeist (1982)
Poltergeist was probably the first horror movie I watched … when I was way too young … way to go parents … and I still can’t be in the same room as a clown toy to this day. Poltergeist was directed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper and was produced by Steven Spielberg. It is about a house that is haunted by … you guessed it … a poltergeist. This isn’t a friendly, mischievous, Harry Potter-style Peeves the Poltergeist, either. This one means business and even kidnaps the family’s little girl. The film was catapulted back into the public eye last year when it became apparent that the smash Netflix hit, Stranger Things, was essentially a merging of Poltergeist and Stephen King’s It.
- The Blair Witch Project (1999)
I only watched this rather recently, I must admit, and the reason for this, was because I assumed it was a product of its time and people only really talked about it as it almost single-handedly spawned the ‘found footage’ sub-genre of cinema. I was happy to be wrong. Even in 2017, this film still scared me … even though nothing really happens … the films construction is just genius and the tension gets cranked up to such heights that you might just be better turning the TV off and listening to an Enya CD … If, like me, you thought that the film was just another over-hyped 90s thing (seriously, it was 17 years ago, get over it … it was just a decade) then give it a watch, as you’re in for a treat.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Oh goody, we’re back to slasher territory … my favourite! A Nightmare on Elm Street may not be the scariest film by today’s standards, however it is expertly made and still stands up as a piece of horror cinema to this day, even if most of the scares have ebbed. I’m sure you all know the story, ol’Burn Face rocks up to your dream and kills you … then you die in real life. Why the film is so clever, however, is because you don’t always know if a character is currently dreaming or not, and so Freddy might just appear to do some hacking and slashing while the teen is at school ‘awake’. The other reason the film works so well, is because the kills are so well executed, particularly a Mr Johnny Depp, whose death is one of horror cinema’s greatest.
- Don’t Look Now (1973)
We’re back in the Eraserhead territory of ‘is it a horror, or not’? I would say it is, due to its imagery and slow-burning tension. A young couple lose one of their children in a drowning accident, so they then head to Venice, where the father (Donald Sutherland) is working on restoring an old church. In Venice, however, they start to catch glimpses of their dead child and the wife (Julie Christie) befriends a pair of creepy sisters who appear to be able to see the dead. The film is unnerving, beautifully shot, and has one of the most shocking endings in cinema. What I like most about the film, however, is you have to figure out for yourself what happened, as it’s not spoon fed to you like most movies.
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Horror films don’t win Oscars, it just doesn’t happen … Until The Silence of the Lambs arrived and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was only the third film in history to win these ‘Big Five’ awards … and it was a horror film! It is still the only horror film to win Best Picture (even though Jaws and The Exorcist were nominated) and for good reason. The film features young FBI agent, Clarice Starling, who needs the help of serial killer, psychologist, and cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, in hunting down serial women-skinner, Buffalo Bill. The film’s opening, where Jodie Foster runs through a wood in perfect safety, is still terrifying and the film doesn’t really let up for its entire run time. Don’t watch the pitch-black ending with a full bladder … just a warning not based on experience at all …
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
The goriest film in history? Wrong, there’s hardly a drop of blood in the entire film. Even if you’ve seen it, I bet you don’t believe me … well then, watch it again and you’ll see. Tobe Hooper did such a good job at conjuring the violence without showing the gore that people, who have seen the film countless times, remember it being blood-soaked. The film is one of the original slashers and features all the hall-marks: a group of sexy, promiscuous, drugged-up teens wandering off into the woods and being hacked away by a man in a mask (plus his cannibalistic family). Also features two of cinema’s most iconic deaths: the metal door, hammer to the head kill and the girl on a meat hook … Plus, the ending ‘chainsaw dance’ is balletic in its beauty and horror. A true masterpiece of the genre.
- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby is a masterclass in horror direction. Roman Polanski had proved he could do clever, cerebral horror in Repulsion, but it was in this 60s classic, where he proved what a master he was. Rosemary and her actor husband move to a swanky New York apartment where rumours of historical witchcraft abound. It isn’t long before the nightmares begin and Rosemary falls pregnant … but pregnant with what … Polanksi manages to make the simplest of scenes drip with tension. For any budding horror directors out there, you need look no further than Rosemary’s Baby.
Have we listed your favourite yet? If not, come back next week to see if it makes out top 10! Let me know what you think of the lists so far on Twitter @MugwumpBlog