Top Ten Horror Movies of All Time
The first post of Zombiepalooza comes from Robert Duperre, author of The Fall (The Rift Book I), Dead of Winter (The Rift Book II), and Silas. He’s also going to be offering a pretty awesome Zombiepalooza giveaway tomorrow. Here’s his take on the Top Ten Horror Movies of All Time:
Horror movies rock…well, at least the well-made ones do. Through the years I’ve immersed myself in the genre so much that sometimes I feel like I need to watch at least one every week. There’s just something about what a good horror flick can make you feel – scared, disgusted, relieved – that draws me in. So right now I’d like to give you all a little taste of my favorite ten horror movies of all time.
Spoiler – you’re not gonna find any slasher flicks here, folks.
#10 – Hellraiser
So what do we have here? Despicable humans? Check. Inter-dimensional demons? Check. A frightened yet strong female protagonist? Check. A storyline involving a creepy puzzle box and a spinning pole covered with sharp hooks and human remains? Check, and check. In other words, even though Clive Barker’s adaptation of his own novella, The Hellbound Heart, doesn’t quite reach the levels of dread and terror achieved in the source material, it’s still a damn fine film…and the perfect sinister date movie, at that. Well, if your date appreciates dismemberment and cannibalism, that is.
#9 – Alien
When I first saw this movie at twelve years old, the chest-burster scene frightened me so bad that I had nightmares for weeks. With the passage of time this particular flick has gotten much less terrifying, but it still has to be appreciated for being the movie that brought the female heroine into vogue, which I’m sure we all appreciate. Also, its subplot involving a group of blue-collar muckers on their way back home, being looked at as expendable by their employers, who only want a buck, resonates quite true in our modern times.
Oh, and the alien itself is freaking awesome.
#8 – An American Werewolf in London
Now this one is an oddity. At first I wasn’t sure whether I should put it on this list, even though I love it. It is strangely more of a comedy than a horror flick, though the horror elements, especially toward the end, really start to take over. The transformation Rick Baker created – when David turns into the werewolf – remains, to me, the greatest in film history. I suppose what I’m saying is that the film is just too good not to be on the list, and who’s saying a terrifying story can’t be humorous, too? And I guess that’s the point. Life’s too short to not laugh at even the most horrific of circumstances sometimes.
#7 – Rosemary’s Baby
I’m not usually a fan of movies that use Satanism and the occult as a plot vehicle. This isn’t because I’m opposed to the use of that particular aspect as a rule, but because, let’s face it, most of the time they’re boring. (The Devil’s Rain, anyone?)
In fact, to some Rosemary’s Baby might also fall into this category of tedious Devil-obsessed filmmaking. But to me, it’s almost perfect. Yes it moves slow (as many films made in the seventies tend to be), but that gradual buildup to the big reveal at the end is a practice in patience, letting the plot unwind as the tension and mystery mounts. What could have been hokey ended up as a gritty and chilling tale that doesn’t utilize gore or violence to build its terror, but atmosphere. And Mia Farrow is absolutely stunning as the tragic Rosemary Woodhouse, a woman who suffers the grandest injustice imaginable – being raped by the devil. And yeah, there’s more than a little metaphor to be found there, as well.
#6 – Videodrome
From one extreme to another, coming to a film that uses violence, gore, and graphic images of self-mutilation as its major storytelling vehicles. Cronenberg’s paranoid opus about the onset of the television culture, censorship, and mind control is a frightening – and disgusting – experience. James Woods is fantastic as the conflicted Max Renn, and Debby Harry is alluring, sexual, and oddly sinister as Nicki Brand, a woman who may or may not end up existing wholly in Max’s head. In fact, plots influenced by concepts from this film can be seen much later, in movies like 8MM, Shocker, The Ring (Ringu), and Cronenberg’s own eXistenZ.
#5 – Frailty
My first thought when I saw the trailer for this movie was, Thanks but no thanks. Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey carrying the day? The overactor and the pretty surfer boy, in one movie, and a movie that’s supposed to be genuinely scary, too? I don’t think so.
Eventually I relented, though, and I’m glad I did – obviously, since Frailty is number five on my list. It’s a deeply haunting, depressing, and truly freaking menacing tale of a father who kills people, believing it to be God’s Work, and indoctrinates his sons into his craziness. Paxton reels himself in for once as the father, and McConaughey is refreshingly understated as his son, all growed up. The tone is extremely bleak, and sad. And the twist at the end I completely didn’t see coming, which made me love it all the more.
#4 – The Thing
A bunch of guys stationed at an Antarctic research facility run across an alien being. We all know the plot (at least we should), and we’ll just ignore the fact that, even though this is a scientific expedition, there seems to be only 2 scientists among the 12 team members. These are unimportant facts, people. We want aliens, we want blood, and we want terror…with maybe some uncomfortable situations added in.
Well, that’s what we got.
Though similar to Alien in certain regards, including the fact that the interplay between the characters gets much more screen time than the respective monsters, Carpenter did a fantastic job in this movie of ratcheting up the tension through paranoia. Since the thing can assimilate any living organism, no one knows who is human and who isn’t. The silent moments, such as when Kurt Russell’s McCready goes down the line, testing his compatriots’ bood samples, speaks volumes. There are quite a few instances where a simple look or shake of the head is used in place of dialogue, and it really, really works. Not only that, but the monster’s appearance, once we do see it, is so disgusting and visceral that it seems to take all the anxiety built up through the rest of the movie and unload it in one final, ghastly wallop.
#3 – The Descent
I’ll be honest with you here – The Descent was one of those movies that I had to shut off in the middle, just to catch my breath. It follows the travails of six adventure-seeking female friends as they have to battle demons, both real and personal, when a spelunking escapade goes horribly wrong.
What sets this film apart for me, and makes it beyond great, is that it’s really two movies in one. The first half is pure rigidity, watching as these girls become sealed into the claustrophobic underground cavern they’re exploring. The tension is real-life stuff, and my heart was racing just watching it. And you know what? This actually enhances the second half of the movie, when the nasties show up and the body count grows. If it had started with the creepy crawlies, without first setting us up for the fall with the brilliant opening sequences, it could have ended up as a rather sucky film. But it doesn’t. In fact, I’m tempted to put this on my All Time movie list, not just horror. It’s that good. Full of shocks, angst, and offering a refreshing look at the nature of female relationships, it’s pretty much the perfect movie.
#2 – Jacob’s Ladder
Most great art has something to say, even if that something is left to the viewer’s imagination. And that’s what Jacob’s Ladder embodies – the ambiguity of abstract art, replete with frightening images and personal angst. Tim Robbins does a bang-up job, and the mystery of the world he exists in never makes itself known until the end – and even then, what happens leading up to that point of the tale is open to interpretation. I can think of no greater praise for a film than the fact it’s remained viable ever since the day I first watched it, and each subsequent viewing brings an even fresher perspective. That makes this more than a horror movie, and puts it in the realm of simply great moviemaking, period.
#1 – Dawn of the Dead
Ah, the pinnacle of my movie-watching experience. The reason I write what I write, the director who changed my life, the film that got me obsessed with zombies and directly led to my first novel.
For myself, there’s never been a movie more inspirational than this. The entire storyline is one huge metaphor, with bunches of smaller metaphors scattered throughout. The unknown cast (never seen them before, nor since) lends a sort of believability to the film, as they pretty much look and act like anyone we’ve ever met. Yes, the look is a bit dated, but in a way that adds to its charm. It’s a reflection of where we were as a society in the late seventies, which I love. Seeing our survivors running past Foxmoor Casuals only serves as a reminder of how fickle and temporary our consumer society can be. And when the bikers arrive and the intestines start flowing? Heavy, man. Just freaking heavy.
Number one in my book. All-time, regardless of genre. Without a doubt.
What do you all think?