Mysteries of the macabre, delvings into dark derangements and wails born in the lung of a banshee. These traits and more find their homes in the small frostbitten crevices of film know as horror movies. They illuminate the beings that were born in times of primordial fear and they happen to be my favorite genre.
Here I have collected what I find to be the top 10 classic horror movies to have ever plagued the silver screen.
10. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Of all the movies on this list, this one by far has the strangest plot. And that is why it takes a place on this list, plot alone has captured my imagination which makes this movie worth the watch. The movie follows the tale of a woman named Rosemary, who encounters a series of strange events during her pregnancy that leads her to believe that the old people next door are really part of a cult. Fearing her child may be in danger she tries to get away from the cult with a seemingly unending amount of supporters.
“Rosemary’s Baby” is a great deal more terrifying conceptually than it is in execution. The failure to execute the movie as well as it could have been, keeps it from taking a higher place on this list. “Rosemary’s Baby” seems to lack the proper timing to make it a truly great movie, which may sound like a bad thing but the movie still has a terrifying undertone that comes across between the funnier aspects like an old people cult and some odd parties that ultimately held it back.
9. American Werewolf in London (1981)
The plot of “American Werewolf in London” is simple, two friends go on a hike in Europe where they are attacked by a werewolf, I bet you could have guessed that from the title. From there the movie unfolds as the main protagonist wonders if he is going insane or if the werewolf curse is actually real.
Imagine a movie that combines all of the best parts of a werewolf movie (namely the werewolf itself) while still taking the movie beyond just another werewolf movie. “American Werewolf in London” does this by taking those essential elements, adding in a good deal of witty humor and horror and adding in elements of good movie making that elevates it beyond the other. The transformation scene still sticks into my mind, years after I have seen the movie.
8. Dracula (1931)
Even though there was a massive change of the storyline from the novel to the movie, “Dracula” is well beyond being worth the watch. I recommend it for its historical significance more than for its actual modern enjoyment, as this is the movie that created the common image of Dracula that pop culture knows today. Despite its age “Dracula,” much like the vampire himself, still holds relevance and tells a well written story that was terrifying in its day but comedic now. If you watch it for any reason, watch it for the hilariously dramatic stares and faces that Bela Lugosi, the actor playing Dracula pulls off, in an attempt to convey the vampire’s hypnotic powers.
If you have read Bram Stokers novel then you will already know what the movie’s plot will follow, with some changes. In short, the movie follows the horrific acts of Dracula as he terrorizes the group of protagonists. The foremost of these protagonists is Van Helsing, who leads the group against Dracula.
7. It (1990)
If there is one universal truth, it is that clowns are the most terrifying thing on the planet. Children know it, adults know it, I know it and Stephen King sure knew it when he wrote “It.” This movie is based on the novel written by King and I have to admit that I have never read it. This is partially due to having watched this dreadfully long movie and not wanted to know more. If anything is holding “It” back on this list, it is the run time of 178 minutes. Yes that is around three hours and I can only bear seeing movies that long once or twice, The Lord of the Rings being the only exception.
Ignoring “It”’s draining run-time is a hard thing to do at first but once you do you will be treated to some really creepy scenes, a good story and amazing acting on account of Tim Curry who plays Pennywise the dancing clown, better known as “It.” The combination of these elements have made “It” a part of popular culture and unlike many old horror movies that begin to feel clichéd over time, “It” still holds up.
6. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
I doubt that this movie needs an introduction of any kind as even people who have never seen this movie could probably pick the main villain Freddy Krueger out of a line up. “Nightmare on Elm Street” has spawned so many sequels and spin-offs it could make your head spin but the original film remains as the best movie out of the whole series.
Like many movies on this list, the horror of this film lies mostly beneath the surface. Freddy Krueger is a murderer who hides in your dreams, the one thing you cannot escape. Everybody has to sleep sometime. The director, Wes Craven, uses this concept perfectly as the film progresses mixing a few good jump scares into the mix as well. Unfortunately the effects are dated to the point of losing some of their fearful effect, this only harms a few jump scares scattered throughout the movie though.
5. The Shining (1980)
Here it is, “The Shining,” the one movie on this list that has practically become an obligatory addition on any horror list. “The Shining” is deserving of both my ensuing praise and the praise it has received in the past. The movie is about a family taking care of a haunted hotel for the winter. Their utter isolation is conveyed by wide shots and long gaps of seeming nothingness, followed by the beginning of supernatural occurrences that mimic the fathers decent into madness as he is possessed by the dark spirits of the hotel. Scattered throughout this cursed gem are lines that have been quoted repeatedly before I was even born. Lines such as, “Here’s Johnny!” and “Redrum” have been immortalized beyond the movie itself.
4. Hellraiser (1987)
Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” presents on of the creepiest and weirdest version of demons I have ever seen. And it is wonderfully creepy. The Cenobites are strange entities that exist in an alternate realm, they serve as a secondary antagonist in the film. Their secondary role in the movie works to emphasize their neutrality and uncaring demeanor to mortal affairs. The main antagonist though human, is also incredibly evil and creepy. Frank, the main antagonist, is an undead human whose rebirth scene is hauntingly executed despite the limitations of the time.
“Hellraiser” tells a complex story that centers around Frank’s brother and his family and progressively tells a darker and complex mystery. The main bulk of the plot is more akin to a mystery movie than a horror one but the stories direction suits the overall direction of the movie.
3. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero’s master piece invented the Zombie genre as we know it. This black and white classic forces complete strangers into a farm house where they are forced to survive against the onslaught of oncoming zombies. “Night of the Living Dead” is well paced, aesthetically creepy and tells a woeful story that has a sharp conclusion that I will not spoil. Even by today’s standard, this movie looks amazing due to the lack of any major special affects used. I urge you to watch this movie, even if you are not a fan of zombie movies.
2. Alien (1979)
Many would argue that the “Alien” franchise is more science fiction than it is horror. I wholeheartedly disagree with that statement, the original “Alien” is a dark horrific experience upon your first watching. The Alien itself has an iconic design that inherently lends itself to horror, through its inner mouth, claws and elongated head. It is a great predator that stalks the crew hunting them down mercilessly. “Alien” will have you move between moments of horror and surprise to moments of triumph when the Alien is defeated at the end.
“Alien” created what is probably the most iconic monster of our time. Its sequel, although not a horror movie, continued this by elaborating on the Alien’s design and by adding the Queen alien. If you have not watched Alien, then you need to take the time to watch this and its sequels. I cannot think of a better way to spend a weekend movie night.
1. The Evil Dead (1981)
Lying somewhere between comedy and horror, the master of the macabre is ultimately “The Evil Dead.” Personally this is one of my favorite movies of all time, just in general. If you need a good laugh you can watch this movie. If you want to huddle up in a corner and watch a good horror movie then you can still watch it. Be cautious of its exaggerated gore and score of other graphic content, for it is done to an artful excessiveness that may be too much for some people. It truly is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. Not because of the lasting cultural impact it left or for its special effects (which are terrible, yet awesome) but because of the dedication and excellent cinematography put into it.