Take a gander at our hard-fought-over Top 10 list of the scary movies you need on your itinerary tonight. From the classics to the cult-faves, these are the films guaranteed to make your All Hallow’s Eve a scream-fest to remember.
You’d think a Top 10 list of scary movies wouldn’t be a difficult list to put together, but wrangling a consensus from the varied and passionate opinions of the staff of RazorFine proved to be more of an endeavor than we imagined. Though in the end we hammered out a list of the films we think make for the best Halloween viewing. Presented (in no particular order, seeing as that might have prompted a nuclear war among us) is our semi-definitive list.
- The Exorcist:
30 years (and 2 sequels and 2 prequels) later, William Friedkin’s exploration of a young girl possessed by demonic forces still proves to be a powerhouse of the genre. Not just a great scary movie, it’s a great movie period. And one of the few horror films to ever win an Oscar. Okay, so it was for best sound but still…. A couple years back The Exorcist was re-released with more footage and Dolby Digital sound, adding even more visceral punch to an already turbulent film experience. You’ll never look at a pea soup the same way again.
- The Shining:
Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of his novel, but film fans recognized it for the gem it truly is. Just as much the story of one man going completely insane as it is a ghost story, The Shining works on multiple levels as a horror film. Sure, there’s ghosts, ghouls, and bloody twin girls haunting the Overlook Hotel, but Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) is the real monster here, losing his mind and trying to axe murder his own family when he thinks they’re holding him back from finishing his novel. Big Wheels and Bear Suits take on new levels of weirdness here-in, and on top of everything else it’s got Scatman Crothers. Bonus points for showcasing the greatest two paintings of all time.
- Dawn of the Dead:
While many of us here at RazorFine would like to completely forget Land of the Dead, Romero would have to make about 50 atrocious movies to erase our fondness for Dawn of the Dead, the semi-sequel to his iconic Night of the Living Dead. Night was more ground-breaking, and Day of the Dead was a hell of a lot gorier, but Dawn of the Dead found Romero walking the fine line between commentary and cautionary film-making. The finest exploration of human behavior in a zombie filled world, Romero used his zombies as stand-ins for the mindless consumer culture just exposed to the concept of a shopping mall, while also taking a hard look at what people will do to make a life for themselves in every situation. There are some stand-out moments in this film and, while it’s not the scariest movie you’ll ever see, it’s certainly one of the most well-thought-out horror films you’ll come across. Ken Foree just owns as the cop who leads a small group to survival in the confines of a massive shopping mall. The recent remake had 17 minutes of greatness that still can’t make the power of it’s inspiration.
- Evil Dead 2:
Sam Raimi may be the master of Spider-Man now, but for many, many years he was the cult-director who gave us the double whammy of Deadites and chin-tastic actor Bruce Campbell. The first Evil Dead is scarier, and Army of Darkness is infintely more quoteable, but like Goldilocks figured out, the middle one is sometimes the best. Evil Dead 2 keeps you balanced between screaming and laughing as you hang out with the intrepid Ash, whose adventures have made him crazier than the beasties he’s fighting. After all, it’s not many heros who would lop off their own hand and replace it with a jury-rigged chainsaw. Bruce Campbell is kind of like the B-movie Indiana Jones, in that it’s not how much ass he kicks, but how much damage he takes throughout the process. Raimi utterly tortured Campell during the course of this film, and every slapstick minute of it is loving captured. Zombies, dismembered (and angry) limbs, naughty, naughty trees, and more insanity that you can shake a stick at. A true classic worthy of your time.
Director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) ruined clowns for an entire generation with his tale of a family under siege from the malevolent spirits inhabiting their suburban dream home. Diminutive psychics, maggot filled steaks, crazy clown dolls, killer trees, and a swimming pool full of fun awaits you if you take some time to visit with the Freeling family. Though it’s a toss up which is creepier: the evil ghosts or precocious Carol Anne.
C’mon, it’s even CALLED Halloween. John Carpenter set the standard for creepy with nothing more than a synthesizer and a translucent William Shatner mask. Much like his hockey-fan lake dwelling peer Jason Vorhees, masked maniac Michael Meyers don’t take kindly to the teens with their sexin’ and loose ways, and he’s escaped the asylum he’s been rotting in to paint the town red. You know he’s a bad seed if for nothing else than stabbing his sister to death when he was 6 years old. He didn’t take into account the combined power of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, though. While there have been numerous sequels, once again the first entry is the best of the breed.
- The Omen:
And you thought your kid was a terror. How’d you like to find out your kid is the literal Anti-Christ? Gregory Peck and Lee Remick have parental anxiety as the parents of said hell-spawn, which they don’t figure out until the nanny’s hung herself, a priest is skewered by a falling steeple, and well…all manner of bad happenings. It’s got both 70’s corny charm and some seriously disturbing undercurrents. You’ll find yourself crossing Damien off the baby-name list pretty damn quick afterwards.
- Nightmare on Elm Street:
Ah, nothing says lucrative franchise like a child-murdering burn victim with a knife glove, does it? The first time out Freddy was pun-free and a lot more vicious as he sliced his way through the rambunctious teens of Elm Street. A young Johnny Depp learns the dangers of impure thoughts (and water-beds), but the horrific slice-and-dice of a sex-crazed teen (while her boyfriend looks on) is a great horror moment. It’s too bad the sequels turned Freddy into a bad comedian, as the first Elm Street really packed a punch that stuck with you for a long, long time.
While it’s overshadowed by it’s balls-to-the-wall sequel, the first film stands out as one of the best monster movies of all time. A nigh-unstoppable biological killing machine let loose in the claustrophobic confines of a deep space freighter. In addition to one of the greatest cinematic monsters of all time, this film also introduced audiences to the simply excellent Sigourney Weaver and the twisted artistic visions of creature designer H.R. Giger. Everything about this film screams bio-terror, from the egg pod field, to the facehuggers, to the chest-bursting alien pup. Bonus points for showcasing the evils of robots.
- Dead Alive:
Peter Jackson may be the Lord of the Rings, but this low-budget bloodbath is the high (or low, depending) watermark for over-the-top guts and gore. Seriously, this film makes Romero’s zombie films look like E.T. And all thanks to the poisonous effects of the Sumatran Rat Monkey, whose bit turns victims into crazed flesh eating zombies, who need to be dispatched as horrifically as possible. Just as much an exercise in making viewers queasy as it is a horror film, Dead Alive (or Brain Dead as it’s known in some parts of the world) shows you new uses for your lawnmower, and may put you off pudding for life.
America got a much more effects heavy remake of this ground-breaking Japanese horror classic, but the original out-scares it’s big budget children through sheer will alone. After all, when a film-maker can instill fear with nothing more than a Polaroid and a turned off television set, you know there’s some serious scares going on. While a big part of the film gets bogged down with the detective story going on, the sad and scary tale of little terror Sadako has a creep factor that will keep you jumpy well after the film is over. While we’ve been overrun with J-Horror remakes in recent years (with many more to come apparently), it’s easy to forget what makes the originals so powerful. Japan has a much more storied (and respected) ghost story history, and the willingness of filmmakers to let those ghosts remained somewhat unexplained just adds to the flavor.
Well, that takes care of that. Like all lists, this one isn’t meant to be a definitive answer to what makes the best Halloween movies as much as it’s meant to maybe open your eyes to some unknown classics, or just get you started on making your own list. Fire away in the comments and let us know what you think. And most importantly, Happy Halloween.