Someone Else’s List of the Top 25 Horror Movies of All Time (and My Responses)
Part One: 1 thru 7
Rather than make my own list of the Top 10 Horror Movies of All Time and subject it to your judgment, I decided it would be smarter to review someone else’s.
I just couldn’t find a Top-10 list that seemed comprehensive enough for a real discussion, so I found this tasty Top 25 dish to gnaw on. It’s a good list, but like everything else in life, there are political influences at work even here. Some of these films made the list for they’re aftermath or what they foreshadowed—not necessarily the criteria a true Horror aficionado might employ. The very first film on this list, for example: the original Friday the 13th. No doubt that this film spawned the most successful Horror franchise in history, but the movie itself is low budget, poorly acted and written, and only moderately scary. Worse, this film doesn’t stand the test of time. Watch it for yourself if you don’t believe me. I get it though: You make a definitive list of Horror Movies for a mainstream audience, sitting around a table with a bunch of other know-it-alls and, naturally, you want to please as many people as possible. You don’t want to piss off John or Wes or Stephen or the ghost of Hitchcock. So you do what you gotta do. You chose your battles and make your compromises. I forgive you. Now please allow me to eviscerate your selections.
- Friday the 13th (1980): The Godfather of Horror Movies, yes, you deserve your props. Jason, you are the Patriarch, King of the Pride, Pure Evil Personified. Thank God you jumped out of Crystal Lake in the final moments of this first installment—a great gush and you were born. Now go back to the intro to see how I really feel. It was a rocky start for sure. Jason’s mother, Mrs. Voorhees, was the real killer in Part 1 and, when Jason took up the cause in Part 2, he was a super hairy man in overalls, some kind of angry hippy-hillbilly. It wasn’t until the Third Chapter that Jason went bald and donned the iconic, emotionless hockey mask. This is why I really liked the Reboot of this franchise: One film summed up the first three originals and establishes Jason as the Boogey Man Supreme in one 90 minute sitting. Plus they gave him a cool lair and at least enough intelligence to rig his own electricity. I fully support and encourage this Reboot, just, for the love of God, never put Jason in outer space again.
- Scream: The movie that changed the rules by pointing out the rules, Scream at once dashed the genre from which it emerged while simultaneously revitalizing and rejuvenating the future of Horror Movies. Suddenly, it wasn’t good enough for a Horror film to simply be scary, or hip, or big budget—it had to be smart. If you hadn’t noticed the clichés before, Scream cast a damning spotlight on thoughtless, cookie-cutter, formula driven Horror. This film and its sequels either made or destroyed Neve Cambell’s career. And hey, much props to the soundtrack crew; Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was a sweet choice.
- Dracula (1931): Vague black and white recollections from the mind of a five-year old, mid 1970’s: A man with dark hair and sharp teeth, women who sleep until they suddenly scream beneath stakes and hammers… dark blood that pooled into little lakes. Completely oblivious to the sexual undertones, for me, it was pure confusion mixed with terror. Lost many a sweet hour’s sleep. But looking back, I’m glad this is the first recollection I have of a Vampire—the classic, unadulterated Vampire. How I pity the kids who get their first taste with the Twilight Movies and The Vampire Diaries. Brooding teenage Vampires don’t sit well with me. Except in The Lost Boys.
- The Haunting: Never seen it, but I have seen (and for the most part enjoyed) the 1999 remake: The Haunting of Hill House. Another in the “Group of Strangers Brought Together by an Evil Madman” sub-genre. It’s easy to see its influence from The Cube to the Saw franchises. This is a great example of a location itself, in this case the cold mechanized mansion, being one of the main antagonists (like the house itself in Amityville Horror and the decaying building in Session 9). Still, this one wouldn’t have made my Top 25 list—probably not even my Top 50. Would I feel different if I watched the original?
- The Blair Witch Project: The BWP gets a lot of credit for “inventing” the “found film” sub-genre of Horror, even though Cannibal Holocaust beat them to the punch 25 years ago. And whereas TBWP never really fooled anybody, CH was so shocking at the time, the director was arrested and accused of actually murdering people and mutilating their corpses. I want to state, however, that I do not indorse CH as the scenes of animal torture are, unfortunately, real. But I digress. I wasn’t bothered by the shaky camera effect (another common denominator of this sub-genre that gives some people a headache) but I was never able to give in to the idea that what I was watching might actually be real. The female lead is clearly a drama major, and the overacting is sometimes unbearable. The one hard chill I felt was when we hear Josh, who disappeared the night before, calling out to his companions from somewhere deep in the darkness. But its effect on Horror can’t be ignored, paving the way for some truly great films like Rec. (and its American remake, Quarantine), Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and the vastly underrated Diary of the Dead.
- Suspiria: Never seen it. Never even heard of it before I found this list. And the list itself even acknowledges that it felt obligated to include an Italian Horror Movie. And if you’re going to choose an Italian Horror Movie, it had better be one by Dario Argento, right? See what I mean about politics? I admit that Italian Horror is one alley I have yet to transverse. Haven’t stuck my toe in that lake. Can anyone tell me if I’m really missing anything here?
- Let the Right One In: Thank God they choose to give this spot to the original Scandinavian film as opposed to the American Remake. While I’ve got no real beef with Let Me In, the connection between Eli (pronounced Ee-lee) and Oskar in the original feels so sincere and (dare I say) pure. I found this film to be truly beautiful in many ways, and a very unique take on the Vampire genre. Read the book if you really want to delve into all those hints of pedophilia. The original also has this great scene where a newly “infected” woman is nearly mauled to death by house-cats. Awesome! Just a tiny bit of comic relief for sticking around. Why they left this out of the American version is a mystery to me. It’s true, the film moves at a slow pace, but it’s all that waiting that makes the final scene at the swimming pool so intense (and satisfying).
That’s it for this week. Check again next weekend as I continue ripping through this list. See what I think about An American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead (1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Thing, The Fly (1986), Poltergeist, The Ring, and Halloween.