In the great sinister spirit of this time of year, I thought I might as well share some of my very favorite horror movies, and why they remain in my mind as important pieces of artwork. I love the genre of horror (even the hilariously shitty stuff), and I am always open to new films. I must warn you, I am not creating a list of the “scariest” movies. I feel it is an inaccurate assumption that a good horror movie must be scary. If these movies were judged simply by their scare-factors, I fear the genre would no longer exist. Horror is a style, and that is what I base these selections on.
1. The Exorcist
– This is an obvious selection, and is widely regarded as the “scariest horror movie of all time.” However, my love for this film is strictly personal. First of all, I have quite a soft spot for possession films. I find that this style holds the greatest amount of perversion and evil, and it makes my heart smile in delight. The very idea that a demon could inhabit your body and use it to spread death and destruction is perhaps the scariest concept known to man. There is no control. There is no reasoning. The demon’s purpose is simply to spread the will of Satan. Even as an atheist, this concept is chilling. It takes all understanding of self-control and tosses it aside. I read the book before I saw the movie, and I loved both. The writing is disturbing and wonderful. Linda Blair’s acting in particular is fantastic, and the film’s most memorable moments changed the very essence of what could be done in horror movies. It changed the game. It is the Black Sabbath of horror films.
2. The Shining
-Beyond anything else, Stephen King is my favorite writer. Though numerous things were changed in the making of this film, the frightening concept that Mr. King envisioned remained intact. Kubrick was a beast of a film maker, and Nicholson is at his most insane and most brilliant in this movie. The music makes me feel so uncomfortable, it adds an entirely new layer of fear, along with all the weird little things that occur throughout the film (type writer change, impossible hotel layout, carpet pattern change). Top notch horror.
3. The Omen
-There is something about evil children that is inherently scary. When that evil child happens to be the spawn of Satan, it makes it all the more frightening, and all the more exciting to watch. It is interesting to watch as no one is safe. Anyone that acts against Damien is sure to meet a horrific, unexpected end. I’ll never forget the “It’s all for you” scene where the nanny jumps from the roof and her lifeless body smashes through the window. I think it sets an awesome tone for the rest of the film.
4. Shaun of the Dead
– I love horror comedies. I love British comedies. I love zombies. I love Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This movie has it all. It’s bloody, it’s well written, and it is hilarious. I could watch this movie every day.
5. The Strangers
– Maybe a lesser-known selection, or perhaps less popular, but I really enjoy this movie. The entire thing consists of six or so characters, and only two of them are present for the majority of the film. In fact, I would say that the most important character throughout is sound. The knocks, bangs, scratches, and bizarre music pushes viewers to the edge of their seats and brings about a terribly uneasy feeling. Also, the very idea that everything occurs “because you were home” makes it a very real and horrific creation.
There you have it. My five favorite horror movies. There are many other great ones out there (Jaws, Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead, etc), but I only chose five. Enjoy this devilish time of year!