Halloween Special: 30-ish Best Horror Films of All Time
In celebration of this year's Halloween, I have tried desperately to compile a ghooooulish list of what I think to be the best horror films of all time. Please note that some spooooky classics may not be on this list, simply because I haven’t seen them yet (e.g. Jaws. I know, I know). Anyway, enough of my blabbering, and on with the show:
34) Evil Dead (2013)
This movie got a lot of flack when released, but I like to think that was simply because of the diehard fans of the original series. Honestly in my book (of the dead) this film isn’t simply a generic reboot, it takes the original film and actually tries to make it scary, which I personally appreciate a great deal.
This one is a strange one, being as old as it is the structure of this film is unlike any that I have ever seen, due to lack of conventional film structure. This makes it a warped exploration of witchcraft through ages, the edition with narration by William S Burroughs is particularly good, through the soundtrack is a little too uppity for the subject matter.
Don't go into this film expecting horror, it’s probably the campiest and goofiest film I’ve ever seen, be ready for the bananas.
Though the villain of this tale isn’t incredible, and arguably the whole ending is in a bit of shambles, beginning to middle has the makings of an incredible modern horror film. Well acted throughout due mostly to Ethan Hawke, and with a solid sound design, this film does enough right to overshadow its more…silly parts.
30) Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright is quite simply one of the finest comedy directors in the game right now, and in this film he manages do beautifully wed his comedic style with a gruesome B-movie zombie romp.
29) Event Horizon
Very underrated in my book, this film had a really rough development cycle and deserves a little bit of research to see what a true gem it could have been. Without that its still a high quality satanic themed space movie.
28) Friday the 13th
An undeniable teen classic, more influential than most horror films simply due to the tropes it started or popularized. The sequels range from gruesomely trash to trashily gruesome (the latter is a good thing, in case that wasn't obvious).
27) The Witch
This one tends to divide audiences, some claim it's the best and most beautiful horror movie of this year, whilst others say its just plain boring. To me this film sits alongside The Thing, an exercise in horror-themed suspense with a very slow and methodical pacing.
26) Dead Alive
Zombie babies being flung round a park, that one scene with the lawnmower, that kung-fu priest. Yeah, watch this movie.
25) The Fly
The pinnacle of 80’s body horror effects, one of Cronenberg’s more disgusting films, quality stuff. Surprisingly good cast also, this film has a lot more going for it that just gruesome body deformations, though there is a lot of that too.
24) The Ring
I have no idea why this film scared me as much as it did. While a movie like The Grudge didn’t scare me in the slightest, The Ring made me jump even when nothing especially spooky was happening. Now it wasn't because of those false jump-scares that plague crummy movies, this film is actually unnerving, using its low budget to its advantage.
A visual and musical marvel, horrifying this film is not, but beauty it has in spades. Near plotless Suspiria relies completely on its visual aesthetic to draw you into its hallucinatory phantasmagoria (that was too fun to say).
22) Altered States
This film is a classic merely because of the tons of religious imagery crammed into a very short space. I’m personally a sucker for this style of film, though it takes a dip around the middle, if you’re willing to stick around till the end it will be worth it.
21) Dawn of the Dead
A beautifully low-budget film, completely stitched together in post-production, to me this film is the classic zombie flick. Not as bogged down with plot like many others, this is a very methodical film based around how these few people tried to survive a zombie apocalypse. The zombie-filled definition of ‘simple yet effective’.
20) A Nightmare on Elm Street
Whilst many remember this franchise for its wackiness and goofball teenage humour, the first installment is a legitimately horrifying vision of a dream-stalking serial killer.
Tied to the same ‘apartment trilogy’ as Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion tells of extreme paranoia and seclusion, arguably more subtle than its sequels but somehow blander in comparison.
18) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
An uncomfortable and voyeuristic experience that is impressive sheerly for the fact that people apparently watched it and enjoyed it. A great horror film, but one which disturbs rather than entertains.
17) 28 Days Later
Pretty much the finest modern zombie film, trading up from the bumbling pack zombie of the distant past, to the contemporary ultra-fast viral zombie. Honestly I just love this film for the apocalyptic urban landscape in its first half, takes a bit of a downward turn thereafter.
A mind-bending, eye-warping, Lynchian visualization of the nervous fears inherent in becoming a parent. Grotesque and often hilarious, John Nance is in the role he was born to play.
This film is the definition of horror classic. With still the most haunting personification of a vampire, this ‘symphony of terror’ holds the belt for finest Dracula adaption, even though it didn't have the rights to Dracula at all.
14) Evil Dead 2
A pioneer in the genre of splatstick (gory slapstick comedy for the uninformed), starring the one and only Bruce Campbell in the role he was born to play. If you haven’t yet seen this film, its never too late, this thing is basically timeless.
A movie with some serious commentary, even more applicable today than it has ever been. That being said, its still as disgusting and uncomfortable as Cronenberg has ever been, one of his finest.
12) The Shining
No surprises here, this is one perfectly executed film as everybody expects from Kubrick. Having basically the entire plot ruined by numerous sources (mostly The Simpsons), this film still enthralled me down to the last seconds of its slowly unraveling plot.
My nominee for the one of the finest Halloween movie of all time, the fun playfulness of this film is matched only by the amount of gore and body parts on display. All in all, the character of Herbert West is a showstealer.
10) The Conjuring
A vintage horror film told with the cleanness of modern film production. The pacing of this film is basically spot on, with its two plots weaving into one-another seamlessly, and pitch perfect acting, this will surely be a modern horror classic.
Basically, this one scared the pants off me, not entirely sure why but there’s simply something about the last 10 or so minutes that reaches down into a deep pit of terror in my stomach and makes my guts wrench.
Whilst I have never claimed to be a huge fan of slashers, this one takes the cake for nearly perfecting the genre so early into its lifetime. Setting the standard for decades to come, nuanced and as well paced as you expect from Jon Carpenter.
7) Night of the Living Dead
A film that basically singlehandedly started the zombie craze as it is today (yes I am ignoring all zombie movies prior, but this really was the first modern zombie film). An icon of the genre, and still mightily effective to this day.
With Sigourney Weaver at her finest, and an iconic monster created by H.R. Giger himself, this is simply an unfair competition. Alien is well deserving of its title as greatest sci-fi horror film of all time without question.
5) The Descent
Ok this one is personal. I understand that there’s a few naysayers around this one, but all I can say about this one is that it's a minimalistic take on extreme claustrophobia mixed with a somewhat generic monster movie, but it just gets me.
4) The Exorcist
As much as it pains me, this movie is honestly just impeccable. I spent so much of my life avoiding the movie simply due to the copious levels of hype surrounding. Yet all that taken into account, the only thing keeping it from being higher on this list is the fact that I’ve only seen it once.
It’s rare to see an author take one of his own works into such an incredible directorial debut, and when I say rare this is basically the only example I can think of. Not only does this film have some of the coolest villains, it also spawned a bunch of sequels that aren’t half bad considering other long running franchises. (*ahem* Saw*ahem*)
2) The Thing
While the balance of suspense to horror in this movie leans towards the prior, just the sheer quality of execution of each element in this film makes it worthy of any top five at minimum. The sense of isolation and fear is palpable, and comes to an incredible peak at one chillingly perfect scene (the one with the chairs, wowie).
1) Rosemary’s Baby
This movie still blows me away. Not only, in my opinion, the greatest horror film of all time, also just one of the greatest films of all time in general. The pacing in this film is without flaw, and the performance given by Mia Farrow give this classic occult film an artistic resonance that is unrivaled.
Honorable Mention: Paranorman
Paranorman is, in all honesty, probably just about my favourite Halloween movie of all time. There is just something about the playful childishness of this film’s attempted homage to classic horror that warms my heart. Coralline is a close runner-up, being a little too on the creepy side to really be a comfy Halloween classic.