Top 10: Horror

  1. CloudStrife84
  2. Mike

The 10 best horror movies ever made.

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Jaws 1975,  PG)
Jaws has made its way onto Blu-ray, which naturally prompted a re-visit to this unparalleled classic. The question is, does it still hold up nearly four decades after its release? And is it worth scrapping your DVD for this supposedly "new and improved" edition?

Well, let me start off by saying that it looks absolutely fantastic! Not that it didn't impress before, but the millions of dollars they've put into the restoration job really shows throughout, as the picture quality is phenomenally crisp and about as clean as a bottle of moonshine in Captain's Quint's private stash (that is to say, after he's downed it). Heck, it even looks better than most modern features I've ever bought for my collection. Grand improvements have also been made for the sound and music department - rendering its famous two-noted theme more haunting than ever.

Regardless of said polishments, however, it still beautifully stands the test of time. Already back in 1975, Spielberg was a visionary genius; conjuring up a level of magic that would forever put his name on the Hollywood map. For it is indeed a masterpiece that is yet to find its equal. And it's strange, because with all the CGI and advanced technology available at our disposal, you'd think the feat would be easily repeatable. But if there's anything Jaws gives testament to, it's that meticulously designed animatronics, in the hands of a skillful director, sweeps the floor with the digital alternative any day of the week.

Now, I've talked a lot about the technical bits here, but what truly cements this film into my movie-loving heart, is the spellbinding performances of its stunningly gifted cast. My particular favourite among which is Robert Shaw as Quint - a gruff, no-nonsense legend of a man, whose weathered expertise of the sea and its more fouler inhabitants, has you all ears for his story, which seem as real as to transcend beyond the very fabric of the film.

Besides the exquisitely portraited characters, there's, of course, the big bad monster himself. A great leviathan of the deep, that throughout the journey of the film, chills our blood into ice with the mere hint of its presence. And that is where we find yet another savvy accomplisment. For it is not what is displayed, but what is suggested that scares. That great dark chamber in our heads, that is left for our imagination to nervously fill in. A simple bit of psychology, that too often is lost in today's visually consumed world.

Tapping into our most primal fears, Jaws had such an incredible impact when it first hit the theatres, that it for a long time scared people away from setting foot near the ocean. Even in my own case, I can't approach a beach, without the image taking shape of those dark, soulless eyes scouting me out through the water. It's just one of the many things that makes it more than just an entertainment piece. Because this is the horror movie that all other horror movies desires to be, but seldom even come close to.

Now if only I had the money to build a home theatre worthy of its grandeur. Not that my 44" flat-screen TV isn't more than enough, but I can't help but wonder what it would be like - to experience the power of Spielberg's behemoth on a bigger screen and with some more proper surround sound. A tantalizing fantasy, no doubt, worth setting a goal for.

Or as Martin Brody might have said it: "I think I'm gonna need a bigger wallet".
Psycho 1960,  R)
Chilling, unforgettable and riddled with skin-crawling tension, Psycho is one of those landmark horror classics that ought to be on everyone's "to watch before I die"-list. An audacious tale, in the sense that it also starrs a female lead of questionable moral nature (Marion Crane, played by the beautiful Janet Leigh). She trades in lies, beds a married man, steals money from her work - yet the performances and amazing writing still allows us to care for her. And when Marion in flight from her crime gets a room at the Bates Motel - owned by creepy sociopath Norman Bates and his overprotective mother - we step into her every experience, leading up to the famous shower scene, where the nail-biting, tightly wound atmosphere, culminates in pure terror and dread thick as blood. A lesson in suspense, by wizard-of-a-director Alfred Hitchcock, who has surely inspired a great many film-makers with this paranoid, shocking and hauntingly well-crafted thriller. Truthfully, I can't believe I waited this long to see it. Because it was every bit as arresting as I've been told for years now. I can't end this review though, without giving mention to the legendary screen presence of Anthony Perkins. His uncanny transformation from seemingly kind-hearted gentleman to homicidal maniac, will have your heart skipping a beat at several points throughout the narrative. Most definitely in the hall of fame next to Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman and Sir Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter. That being said, I'm happy to count myself a member now of its appreciative following. For even 52 years after its making, Psycho yet holds sway as one of the most eerie, compelling and bone-chilling stories ever told through the art of cinema. Truly a must-see, for reasons above and many others unmentioned.
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire) 1922,  Unrated)
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire)
Forebearer of today's vampire fiction in cinema, Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau is a true landmark of a classic, that saw a new type of story brought to the screen, based upon the famous novel Dracula by Irish author Bram Stoker. A horror film deemed so "excessive", that it was actually banned here in Sweden and not made available to the public until half a century later, in 1972. Another 40 years have passed now since then, with vampires evolving (or de-evolving in Twilight's case) to a variety of different manifestations and sub-cultures. Some elegant and sophisticated like Louis de Pointe du Lac in Interview with a Vampire. Others more grotesque and monster-like, such as the adversaries of Blade in the action trilogy with Wesley Snipes. Then, of course, there's the sparkly ones, but let's not tarnish the good memory of this film with examples that have failed to honor its legacy. The wonderful thing about Nosferatu though, is not just the historical significance in defining the vampire genre, but that the story, despite its age, is genuinely thrilling. From the very first moments we meet real estate agent Hutter and his wife, I am captured by the expressive performances, and even more so by the celestial orchestral score, which ranges evocatively between beautiful and inspiring, to macabre and eerily dark. There's an authentic sense of impending terror, as Hutter's impish employer dispatches him to Transylvania to meet up with Count Orlok - a mysterious nobleman who expresses interest in purchasing a new residence in Hutter's home town of Wisbourg. What follows is a series of spine-chilling occurrences, as Count Orlok's true intentions crawl out of the shadows, involving Hutter's innocent wife and an insatiable thirst for blood. Tinted in red, yellow and blue to represent various hours of the day, the imagery takes some getting used to, but is really an element I quite liked as it gave the presentation even more character. I also loved how the grand music score went in perfect harmony with every scene. A mood yet intensified by Max Schreck's iconic performance as Nosferatu, which is destined to endure through the ages. Up until now, the wonders of the silent film period have been a stranger to yours truly, but after last year's love letter The Artist and this spellbinding, ancestral horror tale, it is with equally awestruck eyes and ears, that I now put on my adventure gear and venture deeper into the era's riches. Much like the mythological being in rendition, Nosferatu, down to the very last detail, is an immortal masterpiece, whose 90 year-old rule continues to glimmer as if impervious to the winds of time. Steadfast and unbroken, it is the belief of this critic that it will sit upon the throne at least century more. Or so I wholeheartedly hope. Five out of five blood vials to this gloriously unhallowed grandfather of all things morbid and grim.
Alien 1979,  R)
Whenever I hear the word "timeless" I think of movies like this one. I mean, considering it's still scary, and still looks good after almost 30 years since it premiered, is a true testimony to Ridley Scott's brilliance as a director. It may not be my favourite among the Alien films (the sequel by James Cameron still holds the crown to me), but it's still one of the best movies ever made, in the sci-fi and horror category alike. I think I've seen it about 6-7 times by now, and I'm bound to see it many times more.
The Sixth Sense 1999,  PG-13)
The Sixth Sense
The horror-thriller masterpiece that put M. Night Shyamalan on the map. Everything about it is of near-perfect quality, including the stunningly good ending, which holds one of the best plot twists I've ever seen in a movie. It's just a shame that Shyamalan's other films aren't as brilliant, because then we'd truly have a reason to jump for joy.
Carrie 1976,  R)
Stephen King's Carrie is a bloody and incredibly mesmerizing tale of a socially outcast girl, who is mercilessly victimized by other students at her high school. She is timid, keeps to herself and has strict, religious mother who makes her home life no less of a hell. Driven to her breaking point, she makes the sudden discovery that she is gifted (or cursed, if you will) with the power of telekinesis; allowing her to move and manipulate objects through the will of her mind. An ability that, when driven over her edge, becomes a weapon of such magnitude, that death and destruction is soon to follow in her wake. Brilliantly adapted to screen by Brian De Palma, it's a harrowing account of a regrettably common ritual within the tear-stained walls of high school. Anyone who has ever been a bully victim, will relate to Carrie's anguish and more than likely be forced to re-live those past nightmares. This true-ringing recognition factor, which makes itself known through a palpable knot in the stomach, is probably also one of the chief fortes, to which the film owes its universal success. Naturally, the ongoing supernatural elements help to boost things further, but unlike the CGI-laden frighteners of today, has them intuitively placed in the secondary slot. Instead, De Palma has made the masterful move of centralizing the characters and their respective developments. Sissy Spacek may not be the most attractive girl on the block, but she is perfectly cast in the title role, bringing just the right vulnerability to convince us that she's for real. Other notable performances comes from a pre-fame John Travolta, as bad boy Billy Nolan, the not-too-bright boyfriend of the malicious Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), who plays the school's most popular girl and Carrie's main tormenter. Last but certainly not least, there's also the fantastic Betty Buckley, as Carrie's sympathizing gym teacher and sadly, only friend. Graphic, upsetting and very raw in its visual language, it's a no-holds-barred type of horror movie that presents itself very boldly and without compromise. It's extreme, yet never overdone, in that terrific De Palma way, which later would make its distinguishable stamp in hyper-violent classics like Scarface and Carlito's Way. Macabre as it may be though, there's great beauty to the film alike; derived from a spellbinding combination of Pino Donaggio's divine music score and the phenomenal cinematography by Mario Tosi. As one of the trail-blazers in the splatter genre, it's also a film that paved the way for a more twisted flair of horror, where anything goes and pleasingly little is censored. Personally, I'm very much in favor of that particular approach, but whatever your preference, I dare guarantee that it's a movie you won't soon forget. Nor - and I say this with great emphasis - will you ever look at another high school prom in the same way again. For this is the eerie vision of a director who knows the essence of blood like the De Palma of his hand. Truly a must-see for the bonafide horror enthusiast!
The Exorcist 1973,  R)
The Exorcist
Scary beyond words! There's something so deeply disturbing about a 12-year old girl being possessed, that it never loses its fright value. This classic among classics still chills me to the very bone, and has made a permanent imprint on my retina. Never has a horror story felt so real, and so profoundly discomforting as this one has. I know it's just a movie. I know it's all just actors and make-up effects. Yet still it continues to scare the living daylights out of me. And the fact that it's inspired by a true story, doesn't make it any less effective.
Signs 2002,  PG-13)
One of M. Night Shyamalan's best movies, second only to The Sixth Sense. I'm not an easily frightened guy, but some scenes almost scared me to death in this one, especially the one with the birthday party, which almost made me choke on my popcorn the first time I saw it. The ending could have been better though. I liked the way it wrapped up everything with an inspiring theme of faith and higher meaning, but the way the aliens were finally killed off felt kind of lame and rushed. Shyamalan should have it thought it through more as it left quite a few plotholes. However, I'm willing to overlook this as I loved the rest of the movie and had a great time when I first saw it in the cinema.
The Others 2001,  PG-13)
The Others
Very creepy atmosphere, almost as good as a horror movie can get
Sleepy Hollow 1999,  R)
Sleepy Hollow
Atmospheric, well-acted and Tim Burton at his best! It also happens to be one of my favourite films by said director, as it not only endures several re-watches, but also has one of the greatest casts ever assembled on screen. Add a wonderful music score to that and you immediately have a highly recommendable movie, that combines horror and fantasy into a perfect blend. So perfect in fact, that I'm begging on my bare knees for Burton to make a sequel, or leastways something along the same lines. Rather that than another "Sweeney Todd".

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