ByC. J. Smith, writer at
Science fiction writer, horror enthusiast, blogger, scourge of plutocracy, creator of
C. J. Smith

It's that time of year when scare junkies are pondering which movies are worthy of their annual frightfest! Perhaps you will delve into your classics collection this time around or maybe there is something new on your ghoulish agenda. Is this a year for lesser-known titles, for foreign language fare, or sequels that didn't quite live up to their genesis? Perhaps there is a particular franchise that is just screaming out for a late-night marathon.

Whatever your fiendish plans entail, here is part two of those movies that you never quite seem to tire of — those that, regardless of your initial schedule, always seem to creep back into the fold.

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10. The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

In 2012, Drew Goddard's self-reflexive play on genre took us all by surprise. Set up for a trite and seemingly convoluted stalk-and-slash horror vehicle, we soon begin to realize that all is not as it seems, as five stereotypes head to a crooked cabin in the leafy regions of nowhere, promptly warned by a tired Hitchcockian local who speaks of fates abound.

But perhaps those fates are more than just tried and tested genre tropes. Perhaps those insufferable teens decide to spilt up not because of stupidity, but because of a mind-controlling gas released into the atmosphere. Maybe the conveniently blocked escape route is more than just a contrived plot device. Maybe they are being watched, but not by the kind of monsters you might envisage.

More than just a clever exercise in film geekery, is a mirror for our own motivations. What is it that makes us crave the kind of wanton brutality that such movies purvey? Do we really need to purge vicariously in order to stop the world from imploding in on itself?

The movie is also a social commentary on the privacy-squeezing threat of modern technology, of the politics behind our survival and the idea that humanity must sacrifice the few to protect the many. Not nearly as secure as we would like to imagine, we retreat into fantasy worlds as the ceaseless threat of violence hangs over us. Life is a precarious balancing act, and, unwittingly or otherwise, we are all players.

9. Repulsion (1965)

Roman Polanski's surreal take on depression and paranoia is a devastating piece of filmmaking that makes even the most visceral splatterfest seem tame by comparison. Set in London during the swinging '60s, it is the story of a timid young immigrant who plies her trade in the hectic city, an obsessive creature who shrivels at the very notion of male contact as the modern hustle and bustle imposes on her at every turn.

Retreating into the shadows of her sister's apartment, Carol's obsessions begin to overwhelm in oppressive dreamlike fantasies, as insignificant cracks threaten to shake the foundations of her very reality and rape fantasies stalk the confines of her retreat with repercussions that threaten to spill over into reality.

Perhaps a social commentary on the changing expectations of women in a land of tie-dye decadence and sexual liberation, the emerging threat of the media and expansion of the public eye are very much the prevalent themes in this morbid little masterpiece.

8. Scream (1996)

In the mid-'90s, horror maestro would once again revolutionize the slasher genre, this time with a self-mocking, meta microscope satirizing all who had slayed before. Craven had tried a similar approach two years earlier with Wes Craven's New Nightmare, which saw his most famous creation Fred Krueger impinge on the live's of the original movie's cast.

This time, Craven's tongue was much more firmly in his cheek, and the result was breathtaking, revitalizing a genre that had all but dissolved following its early '90s decline. Ghostface was the killer in us all, the horror enthusiast who had gone just a little too far and whose haunted, pained expression hinted at the overabundance of onscreen violence permeating a generation.

The movie would spawn three sequels; its descent into self-parody marred by the overexposure it would initially poke fun at, but the original is a tour de force in genre filmmaking, and its iconic killer retains a lofty position in the horror pantheon.

7. Kill List (2011)

Director Ben Wheatley's claustrophobic genre crossover is a stark study of morality and redemption. It is a movie of inescapable gloom — a tale of two retired hitmen who become drenched in the morbid realities of a day that promises evil beyond their comprehension.

Coaxed out of retirement for a by-the-numbers job promising a substantial payoff, partners in crime Jay and Gal set off on their three-target hit list, only to discover something rather more foul at play: a furtive syndicate whose abhorrent deeds deserve the brutal methods of retribution they were once renown for. But the two men have grown complicated in their advancing years, and in revealing their hearts they ultimately contrive to reveal their weakness.

A brutal film of palpable tension and bone-stripping catharsis, begins as a gritty crime thriller and wades through the rancid underbelly of British society, drifting toward a finale of fateful and irrevocable consequence.

6. Martyrs (2008)

French-Canadian torture flick was one of the most controversial features to ever hit the Cannes film festival, a grand guignol production of excruciating brutality that is often painful to watch. In typically sensationalist fashion, it was rumored that audiences were seen fainting in the aisles and even vomiting upon witnessing scenes of extreme torture, and although I balked at the very notion, it is not beyond the realms of possibility, particularly where this movie is concerned.

Martyrs is a revenge thriller in which a formerly tortured child seeks retribution in the affluent suburbs where her unlikely oppressor resides — a peaceful, familial environment that has her friend doubting her assumptions and as a consequence her sanity until, ultimately, she discovers the truth in the most horrifically ironic of fashions.

I am not a fan of the needlessly graphic, and have little time for the abundance of torture porn features that have sullied the horror genre with their groundless and (quite frankly) tiresome extremities. Martyrs is perhaps the exception to the rule. Beneath the slosh of blood and sinew there is a point to this movie, and if you manage to sit through the torrential horror it is perhaps worth sticking around for (or perhaps not) depending on your relative threshold.

A movie that is certain to divide opinion, but one brave enough to inspire it in everyone.

5. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

The second of George A. Romero's zombie trilogy is perhaps not as potent as its predecessor, but is arguably the more iconic. is a director of great foresight, and it is perhaps an irony that a man who makes intelligent, socially relevant horror pictures chooses the brain dead as his subject matter. Never has that irony been more prominent than in .

Filmed on location inside one of America's very first shopping malls, his 1978 feature is a scathing attack on the western world's consumer culture decades before the subject became popular among satirists. Once again, the world has been overrun by as our cast of protagonists head for refuge, but their pallid complexions and penchant for cannibalism aside, are their pursuers any different from the people they replaced?

The movie is gorier than its seminal antecedent, while at the same time more fun and light-hearted as our flesh-hungry aggressors claw and gawk at store windows, almost recalling the days when their mindlessness was not only accepted, but encouraged.

4. Hellraiser (1987)

's debut film is a true original, and indicative of his innovations within the literary world. Based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, is a relentlessly bleak story of lust and betrayal, of perverse desperation, as a macabre love triangle develops between a repressed housewife, her guileless husband and his sadistic sibling Frank.

After beguiling his brother's wife, Frank had disappeared without without a trace, but just as her emotional scars are healing, the scheming louse suddenly returns, not from a self-appointed obscurity, but from the realms of an alternate dimension where his body had been ravaged by a masochistic race of demons known as the Cenobites.

Feeding on the excretions of his brother's wounded hand, Frank is somehow able to regenerate almost completely, bestowing upon his former lover the responsibility of finishing the job by luring unsuspecting victims to the family attic where he can feed on their flesh. The movie would introduce horror fans to the iconic , spawning no less than eight sequels, with a ninth due to be released in 2017.

3. American Psycho (2000)

The movie that catapulted onto the Hollywood mainstream, is a scathing satire on the vacuous, wealthy elite of Reagan's America, a generation born into wealth and privilege at a time when morality and family values had sunk to an all-time low.

In Patrick Bateman's world, the company you keep, the restaurants you frequent and the business cards you have are a matter of life and death, and people are so fickle they tend to mistake you for the next well-dressed clone to walk through the Wall Street lobby. This is a culture so self-absorbed one could probably get away with murder on their watch (or even mass murder), as our blood-crazed antihero soon discovers — the demanding environment to which he belongs gradually melting his hard-edged social facade.

Almost two decades on and you can hardly imagine anyone else depicting Bret Easton Ellis's yuppie serial killer, such was the frenzied potency of Bale's most iconic performance. Director Mary Harron made a lot of smart choices in creating her magnum opus, one of them being her decision to focus more on the source material's wit than its profoundly disturbing violence, but retaining Bale's services was undoubtedly her most important leap of faith. So convinced of Bale's suitability for the role, Harron purportedly refused to meet with a post-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio after he was offered the lead without her knowledge. A bold move on the director's part, but one that none of us are likely to regret.

2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

's most notorious film is a grubby little number that is infinitely better than it ever had the right to be. Shot in Texas on a minuscule $300,000, it is a masterpiece of sound design that grips you from the very onset and drains you of every last morsel.

The movie is also devastating in appearance, from the bleak anonymous landscapes to blood-strewn expressions of claustrophobic terror, and bone-jangling set designs that hint at an organized yet senseless madness. Who can forget the crazed hitcher who snares the deranged family, or the mummified grandfather with the icky finger fetish? All of that and then himself — a lumbering brute with a child's mentality who hides beneath the skins of his victims, the bastard father of a generation of masked killers.

The movie opened to a flood of controversy and was immediately banned in several countries, while other theaters eventually succumbed to the uproar and followed suit. The truth is: The movie isn't nearly as violent as the title suggests. It is, instead, a searing attack on the senses, a brutal production with the kind of million dollar title that was always likely to attract dissension. Add to this the lie that these events were based on fact and you're in for something of a backlash.

Never underestimate humanity's propensity for self-denial.

1. Psycho (1960)

It is more than a half century since 's most celebrated feature hit the theaters, a time when showing a toilet onscreen was considered to be in bad taste, but the fact remains that is a wonderful movie, a film whose mocking wit is as potent as its sense of dread, the two elements perhaps inseparable in achieving the film's desired effect.

Crucially, Psycho was the first movie to kill off its lead actress with more than half the movie remaining. Before Janet Leigh's character arrives at the infamous Bates Motel, she is built as the main attraction, her story one of careful detail and intimacy. Hitchcock involves us with Marion's plot to steal to the extent that we are almost an accessory to the fact. We run the risk with her. We feel her pain and regret, and ultimately her catharsis. After she is murdered, we feel cheated — as she does — of the opportunity to do the right thing. We are left lost and lurching, with absolutely no clue as to what might happen next.

But there are so many factors that make Psycho such a potent movie: —the mocking twist, the iconic house, the infamous shower scene, Bernard Herrmann's nerve-slicing score — but not to be underestimated is the miraculous performance of a young Anthony Perkins, who manages to portray a character of both delicate margins and ludicrous extremities. Norman is a likeable, timid young boy with a startling yet intangible flaw, a kid whose bright and earnest face can flash with a sudden imposing urgency, riding the line of sanity like a pig-tailed girl playing jump-rope near broken glass.

One of the reasons why Hitchcock shot Psycho in black and white was because he wanted to make it as inexpensively as possible. The logic behind this decision was simple: if terrible low-budget movies did so well at the box office, then how well would one fare when directed by a master of the art form?

Pretty well, it seems.

How many of these films have you seen? Check out 50 of the best films of the past century below:


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