Horror films are far and beyond one of my favourite movie types going around, they have the thrill, suspense and violence that I am after all in one film. There are certain films I feel bad for leaving out such as Nimród Antal's underrated Vacancy, American Psycho,John Carpenter's Halloween and Ridley Scott's Alien.
This article could go on for hours if I were allowed to ramble on about all my favourite horror films but instead I've narrowed it down to five (in no particular order). Here are five horror films you should see.
Evil Dead 2
Although the original Evil Dead has many merits, and is a highly influential film, Evil Dead 2 is what happens when a visionary gets all the freedom he needs to create a masterpiece. After much concealed success, funding for a sequel became likely, and a young Sam Raimi saw a chance not just for a sequel, but also for a sort of re-imagining of what ‘Evil Dead’ could have looked like with a huge budget. Throw Ash into the same cabin, facing the same demons, add more comedic elements, and enjoy the purely insane pandemonium.
The ever-loved demon destroyer ash takes his girlfriend Linda for a weekend away in a seemingly off putting ‘cabin in the woods’. Upon arrival at the cabin, not so coincidently Ash discovers the Necronomicon again and manages to summon the ‘evil dead’ once more. What entails after that is truly iconic to the splatstick genre, from killing his girlfriend with a shovel to Ash’s hand becoming possessed to the point of self-pummelling, Sam Raimi perfectly encapsulates his ‘re imagining’ of the original Evil Dead story.
John Carpenter's The Thing is progressively being recognised as a modern chef-d'oeuvre. The tense story of an Antarctic base under siege from an extraterrestrial shape shifter is both a model of narrative economy and a cavalcade of mind-bending physical effects, done back when computer graphics meant Donkey Kong Jr. Rob Bottin's monster make-up, seen in unforgiving clarity is both seamless and terrifying. The film opens perplexingly to a Siberian husky being pursued across the Antarctic by two men in a helicopter shooting from up above.
The stark white landscape and the astonishingly dread-inducing camera work accentuates our uneasiness as Ennio Morricone’s relentless, heavy bass score pounds away at our fears. The strange goings-on of the film spawn from the husky turning into ‘the thing’, the monster is able to mutate into anything it kills. This means the men of the base (including Kurt Russell in all his glory) are involved in a losing and spectacularly gory fight against ‘the thing’, not knowing who is one of their own or ‘the thing’ in disguise. This cult classic that helped to stimulate a new wave of sci-fi horror films is sure to stimulate your fears.
Psycho is a prime example of a well established director captivating audiences with unsettling material by turning it into gold. An exquisite vision of merciless terror, Hitchcock converted to all out horror for this warped tail of mother problems, inhumaneness, vicious insanity and sexual violence and yet it was executed with such panache and refinement. Right from the opening scene involving pleasure and guilt, Psycho made the audience feel as though they were in for something unlike anything they had experienced before. Marion Crane is the guilty real estate agent that decides running of with 40K will go without consequences, I guess she hadn’t heard of Karma.
After fear and fatigue begin to overcrowd her conscience she checks into the Bates Motel where she meets Norman Bates who is the ‘architect’ behind the famous shower scene. While the shower scene is iconic in its own right it’s not what makes the film, Psycho is littered with memorable bits throughout. Checking into the Bates motel would be the greatest mistake of your life, but it’s still a must watch horror film. There’s no disputing the cultural impact and influence this psychological thriller has had on the horror and slasher genres today.
Master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick has successfully turned every genre into cinematic art. Jack Torrence's decent to insanity boils ever so slowly below the surface that people can only stare in stunned terror and pray it never happens to them.
The shining is a horror film whose effect deepens with each viewing. Knowing what's coming up just accentuates the unforgiving dread, and makes us wish we could send writer Jack Torrence and his family back from the haunted Overlook Hotel to safety and sanity. Kubrick’s austere, formal style sends shivers across the senses way before he scares the living daylights out of us.
From the opening scene, following Jack’s car up the mountains as the frightened Wendy Carlos soundtrack swells and screams, this experience is a truly immersive nightmare. The visual payoffs, a lift unleashing a tidal wave of blood, the spooky twin girls, the dead woman in the room and Jack’s face through the shattered door are purely astonishing. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” or rather a homicidal boy, one viewing of this masterpiece will make you feel as though the Overlook hotel has had an effect on you.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Gritty and foreboding in every scene, this slasher flick revels in all the violence and gore that it could possibly throw at its loyal audience. When a group of friends decides to pick up a hitchhiker on their way to a family homestead, they have no way of knowing just how horrible their world is about to become. Awaiting them with open arms and empty stomachs near their destination is a family of cannibals who use the bones of their victims to furnish their home. Most noteworthy of the cannibals is ‘Leatherface’ the sadistic chainsaw wielding, flesh desiring fiend who has a predilection for human flesh.
The start to finish suspense will leave you holding onto the edge of your seats, the terror filling your body will eventually overcome you as you watch ‘Leatherface’ pick off the inauspicious teenagers one by one. Watching ‘Leatherface’ give chase through the woods cutting through the trees and our ears with the overpowering roar of the chainsaw still sends shivers down my back. Among the most promiscuously violent films ever made to this day, if this massacre doesn’t chill you to your very core, we don’t know what will.
Let me know which of these is your favourite or which films I may have missed.