Note: Right as I was posting this I was shown EW's 100 New classics, so I'll probably respond to that one too in the next while...
The AFI released another boring list this year, where they patted themselves on the back and arranged the same films from past lists into genres. However, they left out the most important film genre: the horror film.
No other genre has been as successful, long-lived, or relevant. It’s survived numerous changes in taste, parodies, self-indulgence, and film making models. A horror film has been produced in some form or another by every film making culture on the planet. Yet, it is, structurally speaking, the most limited genre expression there can be. There is something out there in the dark, or there is darkness in us, and we explore the space in between. In fact, one can see the tropes already prevalent in the genre 90 years ago.
But it’s not just the imagination, the re-alignment and questioning of form that makes horror so important. It is in the horror film where the most pressing social issues are first manifested on film.
Finally, its not just contemporary events. It’s the collective unconscious asserting itself, remnants of the ancient myths and legends, horror tales in their own right...
So, here are The 15 horror top 10 lists
(and apologies to the werewolf/wolf-men crowd, there just haven't been enough notable films to make a 10 list)
(and apologies to the werewolf/wolf-men crowd, there just haven't been enough notable films to make a 10 list)
1 Vampire Films
1. The Addiction
a. Abel Ferrara’s masterpiece about sin and atonement. So smart, witty, and effective that it’s not available on DVD.
3. Noseferatu (22)
4. Near Dark
a. May be Romero’s most troubling film.
6. Noseferatu (79)
a. Klaus Kinski was born to play this role. Which is a scary thought in and of itself.
a. Still Del Toro’s best
8. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary
a. Guy Maddin tests my patience, but this is right up his alley.
9. Dracula (Spanish Version)
a. Unlike the American version, filmed on the same sets, its atmospheric and not boring.
2 Zombie Films
1. Dawn of the Dead (78)
2. Night of the Living Dead (68)
3. Shaun of the Dead
a. One of two spoofs to transcend that genre and be a truly great film of any sort. The other? Hot Fuzz.
4. The Beyond (Aka. The Seven Doors of Death aka like seven other titles…thanks British Censors!)
5. Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead)
a. This early Peter Jackson effort is a cute romantic comedy interrupted by the most over the top bloody zombie movie ever made.
6. I Walked with a Zombie
a. A horror version of Jane Eyre…For the horror version of Wuthering Heights see Week End…and if you’re still taking advice from me after that one, I’m impressed.
7. Land of the Dead
8. 28 Days Later
a. The ending is rather weak, but the first half is incredible.
9. Night of the Comet
10. Dead and Buried
a. A nasty little film no one’s seen.
3 Psychological Horror
1. The Vanishing
a. One of the few films that still maintains its ability to horrify after multiple viewings. Avoid the American remake at all costs. And the less you know about it the better.
2. Day of Wrath
3. The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari
4. The Spider’s Stratagem
a. The greatest film nobody’s seen.
5. Don’t Look Now
6. The Interview (98)
a. One room…two guys talking for 100 minutes (one of them Hugo Weaving in his best work)...one scary film.
7. The Wicker Man
a. A bit overrated but its ending is one of the biggest gut-checks in film history.
8. The Ninth Configuration
a. Blatty called this spiritual comedy/drama the true sequel to The Exorcist. It’s his most thought provoking work and a criminally underrated film.
10. Session 9
4 Slasher Films
1. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
a. Residual effects aside, probably the greatest horror film ever made.
3. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
a. Probably the best self-aware horror film.
5. Blood and Black Lace
6. Scream 2
7. Child’s Play
a. Despite its reputation, its sequels, and premise, it’s really quite good.
8. Twitch of the Death Nerve
10. A Nightmare on Elm Street
a. The alternate ending on the Anchor bay version is far superior to the theatrical one. And I think I like the third one better.
5 Non-Genre horror Films (actually, now that I look at this my Sight and Sound poll ballot would look a lot like this…)
1. Blue Velvet
a. Took me three viewings before I didn’t hate it…Now I think it’s the best film of the last 25 years hands down, and one of the greatest American films of all-time. One more unnecessary superlative: if anything, the “In Dreams” sequence is the best in all of film.
2. There Will be Blood
3. Medea (Pasolini)
a. Pasolini was one of the most gifted adapters of literature that film has had, perhaps because he was a writer first. Here he takes Euripides tragedy and adds about five more levels of depth.
4. Apocalypse Now
a. Heart of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse, the film that documents the troubled filming of this movie is a horror film on its own right.
5. Mulholland Dr.
a. Contains the most frightening scene in film history. The first time I saw it I jumped and fell out of my seat.
7. Punishment Park
a. Most relevant counter-culture film for today.
8. Assault on Precinct 13
a. Still can’t get over how reckless that Ice Cream truck scene is.
9. Taxi Driver
10. Vedas Secas
6 Horror of Personality Films (Where the killer is us or sympathetic)
2. Le Boucher
a. Best use of a fade in film history.
4. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
a. If you can sit through it, this is one heartbreaking and troubling film.
a. Mallick’s Peter Pan Vietnam film.
6. Peeping Tom
a. Read about how it was made before you see it.
a. The only time I’ve had to stop a film, take a break, breath, walk around, then resume (I did it 3 times and still couldn’t make it all the way through the last 15 minutes) during a film.
9. The Stepfather
a. See our man John Locke go ballistic as Terry O’Quinn gives one of the great acting performances of the 80’s.
10. Santa Sangre
a. If you’re not familiar with Jodorowsky you might not want to start here…then again it may be his most accessible work. Which is saying something.
7 Serial Killer Films (where the serial killer is an “other” or pursued)
2. The Night of the Hunter
a. One of the great tragedies in film is that Charles Laughton didn’t get to make any other films.
3. The Last House on the Left
a. Really, don’t see this unless you’ve read up on it. It’s a vile film. But an important one.
4. Shadow of a Doubt
a. I really think Brian Cox is the better Hannibal Lector. He plays him more subdued and unassuming, like the kinda guy you would underestimate.
7. The Silence of the Lambs
a. Hannibal was one lousy picture wasn’t it?
8. No Country for Old Men
9. Helter Skelter (76)
10. Nightwatch (94)
8 Demon/Possession/Evil Films
1. Jacob’s Ladder
a. This is a tremendously smart, touching, and criminally overlooked film.
2. The Evil Dead
4. The Exorcist
a. I’m going to say this and I’m serious: Exorcist III is the scarier film. Seriously. This is more shocking and intelligent, but the third is scarier. It’s a mess but man its unnerving at times.
5. Rosemary’s Baby
6. The Blair Witch Project
a. One of those films everyone liked, then hated, and now its ok to say good things about again.
7. Twin Peaks
8. Hellraiser V: Inferno
9. God Told Me To
a. I put this here because it sort of fits, and to put it where it technically goes would ruin the surprise. Larry Cohen’s best work.
9 Multi-cultural/other Monsters
1. The Host
a. Like a lot of obscure horror films this was too smart for its own good.
5. Mr. Vampire
a. If you haven’t seen any Chinese Vampire films see this…or if you like to be entertained see this…or if you like movies see this…you’ll agree it’s probably the greatest thing since curly fries.
6. Cat People
7. The Golem
a. A great example of the brilliant use of color tinting in the silent days.
8. Bubba Ho-Tep
a. More touching than scary.
9. The Mothman Prophecies
10 Amiable(or more ambiguously not evil) Ghost Stories
a. Ok, it’s pretty much unfair to have this on the list.
2. The Others
3. The Sixth Sense
4. The Frighteners
5. Fanny and Alexander (Mini-series)
6. Scrooge (1951)
a. All Christmas Carol adaptations have their strengths and weaknesses.
a. Sappy? Yes. But still one entertaining movie.
8. The Devil’s Backbone
9. Pulse (Kairo)
a. I really don’t care much for this film, but I was running out of nice ghosts.
11 (Evil)Ghost Stories
1. The Ring (US)
a. The only time I didn’t sleep because of a film. Partially because I was so darn scared the first time I saw it I re-watched it twice more that night to try and figure out why.
2. The Kingdom (Riget) Saga
a. Lars Von Trier’s best work. Too bad we’ll never get the final installment.
3. Ju-On: The Grudge
a. I wasn’t alone: this scared the living crap out of Sam Raimi too. Avoid the US version.
a. May be my favorite horror film.
5. The Changeling
a. The first horror film to win Best Picture…in Canada, but still that’s something…and it deserved it.
6. Carnival of Souls
7. The Orphanage
a. May be the only horror film that’s brought me to tears. Other than the remake of Invaders from Mars but that was for different reasons.
8. The Shining
a. By now I really can’t look at this seriously.
9. The Entity
a. Probably the most violent ghost in film history.
a. Funnier and smarter than people give it credit for.
12 Anthology Films (note, for some reason I’ve yet to See Kwaidan)
1. Dead of Night
2. Black Sabbath
3. Trilogy of Terror
a. Best TV horror film ever?
4. Waxworks (1924)
a. The germaphobe story is amazing…
7. Tales from the Crypt (72)
a. Not related to the TV show.
8. Twice Told Tales
9. The House that Dripped Blood
10. J-horror anthology: Urban Legends
a. What is up with hair in J-horror films?
13 Evil Alien films
1. The Thing From Another World
2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
4. The Thing (82)
5. The Village of the Damned (original)
6. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (78)
7. The Hidden
a. Spots cars + aliens + lots of guns + constant hard rock = good time had by all.
a. Sadly the series was a little too camp but the set-up is pretty great.
a. It’s a bit cheesy but that birthday party footage is quite the scene.
10. The War of the Worlds (53)
14 End of the World(ish) Films (non monster/zombie related)
1. The Road Warrior
a. The only worthwhile film from the Mad Max series, and one of the all-time greats.
2. Colossus: The Forbin Project
a. No one’s seen this…please fix that problem.
3. The War Game
a. A documentary? A satire? Peter Watkins does a lot here. Banned until Threads came out.
a. The Oscar winning Nuclear holocaust film.
5. The Crazies
a. See it before the remake.
6. An Inconvenient Truth
7. The Birds
a. TNT made a sequel…I watched it…yep, I wouldn’t do that again.
a. The most nihilistic and thoroughly depressing film I’ve ever seen.
9. The Day After
10. The Terminator
15 Medical/Body Horror
1. The Brood
a. Probably Cronenberg’s most accessible and frightening film.
3. Dead Ringers
a. One twisted messed up film.
a. May be Corman’s best film.
5. The Fly (86)
a. The last 15 minutes are so brutal it’s almost unfair.
a. I tried to limit my Cronenberg films here…my favorite of his, though not his best work.
a. One of the most transgressive films I’ve ever seen. There are things done in this film that no one should see…that said…
8. Bride of Frankenstein
9. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
a. If Fritz Lang grew up with punk-rock in 1980’s Japan, and probably been on uppers, he would have made this film.
a. Like I said I tried. But I couldn’t pass up Patrick McGoohan and the exploding head seen round the world.