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I Wake Up Screaming:
My Top Ten Halloween Horror Flick Picks

2,284 words

It’s not clear why human beings enjoy being frightened. Indeed, in most circumstances we don’t. I find nothing particularly “thrilling,” for example, about the frightening threat posed by mass non-white migration into the lands of my ancestors. Nor do I enjoy how I feel when I’m the only white person on the J train at midnight. But I thoroughly enjoy the imaginary threats posed by ghosts, witches, and vampires. There’s a lot to be said here about the human fascination with the uncanny, and what it reveals about us. Is it, for example, cold water thrown in the face of modernity? If we are “built” to respond to the uncanny, then doesn’t that suggest that there may be more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your flat-souled, deflationary, modern materialism?

Perhaps someday I’ll write about this (I’ve already said something about it here). The purpose of the present essay, however, is merely to offer you some possibilities for exploring the uncanny this Halloween, through the awesome power of cinema. My top ten list of horror films was not easy to compile. I had to eliminate quite a few films I like in order to get it down to ten. Those that did not make the list include The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971), The Exorcist (1973), and The Sentinel (1977).

I should also mention that in order for something to count as a “horror film” in my book it must not just be “scary,” it must contain some element of the “supernatural” (either clearly present, or somehow implied). By the way, since Halloween is almost upon us I should mention that I believe all of these films are available for immediate viewing: they can be streamed on Amazon or YouTube. So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The Innocents (1961; dir. Jack Clayton). This glorious black-and-white adaptation of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw may be the finest ghost movie ever made. It concerns a governess (played by Deborah Kerr) who assumes care of two children, a brother and sister, who may or may not be possessed by the spirits of two dead servants. The “may or may not” here is crucial, as James’s story never really establishes whether the possession is real or imagined by the governess. Nevertheless, the scenes of ghostly visitation – when the spirits of the dead servants appear – are genuinely artful and chilling. The great Peter Wyngarde is particularly effective as the male ghost. Screenplay by Truman Capote.
  2. Nosferatu (1922; dir. F. W. Murnau). The first film adaptation of Dracula is certainly one of the creepiest. It is also in all probability the most frightening film of the silent era. Famously, Murnau and company made the film without permission from the estate of Bram Stoker. When Stoker’s widow sued, all copies of Nosferatu were ordered destroyed. Thankfully, some survived. What makes this film so chilling is the presence of Max Schreck as “Count Orlock” (Dracula). Tall and gaunt with long, claw-like fingernails and rat ears, Schreck is the vampire I would least like to buy real estate in my neighborhood. (What was that thing about Dracula wanting to buy up old, broken-down properties in London? Was he planning to flip them or something?) The primitive, jerky quality of this film only adds to the horror, somehow. Avoid at all costs Shadow of the Vampire (2000), a lame, pretentious film about the making of this film. But do check out Werner Herzog’s remake – Nosferatu (1979) – which is quite faithful to the original, and just as artful in its way.
  3. The Shining (1980; dir. Stanley Kubrick). According to legend, Kubrick was looking to make a commercial horror film, so his secretary went out and bought him a stack of recent horror novels he might adapt. Sitting outside his office she heard a “bang!” periodically as Kubrick got fed up with the trash he was reading and tossed it at the wall across from his desk. One day she noticed it had been a long time since Stanley had gone “bang!” He had found Stephen King’s The Shining. Whatever one thinks of this novel as source material, or of how faithful Kubrick’s adaptation is (who the hell cares?), this film is undeniably one of the scariest ever made. It has the dubious distinction of featuring the most frightening scene I personally have ever encountered in cinema, and one which literally causes me to pull the covers over my head on returning from midnight visits to the john. And don’t miss The Simpsons parody (“That’s odd. Usually the blood gets off at the second floor”).
  4. Kuroneko (or Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko, “A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove,” 1968; dir. Kaneto Shindo). This is the best Japanese film you have never seen. It begins when two women are raped and killed by samurai, who then set their little house on fire to conceal the evidence. A black cat is later seen scratching around the charred ruins, licking the blood from the bodies of the two women. Soon, word travels far and wide that two ghosts are plaguing the land, killing samurai after luring them to a magical house in a bamboo grove that appears only at night. Finally, a young man is hired to try and destroy the two ghosts. He allows himself to be lured to the mysterious house — only to discover that the ghosts are his wife and mother. Revealing even this much will not spoil this truly magical film. It is genuinely eerie, and often hauntingly beautiful. Superb black and white cinematography with some interesting trick photography, and other simple but effective tricks. Watch the trailer here.
  5. House of Dark Shadows (1970; dir. Dan Curtis). This is a big screen adaptation of the cult-classic Dark Shadows daytime serial, featuring the original cast and shot while the serial was still being broadcast on ABC. If you like the TV show you will love this movie — and if you think the show was creaky and campy and bad you will be pleasantly surprised by it. It is fast-paced, stylish, spooky, and violent. Curtis (in his directorial debut) makes the absolute most of a small budget, which (as so often happens in low-budget horror) adds to the film’s creepy realism. The plot is essentially a re-telling of the introduction of the Barnabas Collins character and his attempt to mold governess Maggie Evans into the reincarnation of his dead fiancée, Josette. This time Barnabas is much more of an outright villain than the brooding romantic he was in the series. With time for rehearsals, the cast shows what it was really capable of: nobody flubs a line, or knocks over a fake tree. And no boom mics are seen at all. Please hang some garlic and wear a cross to keep away the godawful Tim Burton remake (reviewed by me here).
  6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992; dir. Francis Ford Coppola). People either love this one or hate it. I loved it and saw it in the theater five times. It is by far the most artistically interesting Dracula film since Nosferatu. Sure it’s self-indulgent and over-the-top. But it’s also rich with detail, and has style to spare. It’s genuinely frightening and, in places, genuinely moving. Plus, Gary Oldman’s performance as Dracula is impressive (he affects an authentic Rumanian accent). Unfortunately, however, not all the casting was so successful. In an apparent nod to Brat Pack followers, Coppola casts Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker and Winona Ryder as Mina. Both are weak, and Reeves’s British accent is probably the worst in cinema history (far more cringeworthy than Dick van Dyke’s much-maligned cockney accent in Mary Poppins). Incidentally, purists rightly point out that despite the title this film is often untrue to Stoker’s novel. For example, the love angle, wherein Dracula thinks Mina is the reincarnation of his dead wife, was actually licensed from producer Dan Curtis, who used it in — you guessed it — Dark Shadows (see above). Curtis later used the same plotline in his own stylish adaptation of Dracula (1974), starring Jack Palance. Before that, the same gimmick had been ripped off in Blacula (1972). Yes, there really was a film called Blacula. And it has one genuinely scary scene (be patient).
  7. The Witch: A New England Folktale (2015; dir. Robert Eggers). This was recommended to me by a neo-pagan friend, who (I believe) thinks the witches in the film are kind of cool. They are anything but. This film depicts the Christian perception of witches with chilling faithfulness: the plot contains many details drawn directly from witch-trial testimony. And, let me tell you: ten minutes into this film I was feeling uncomfortable that I was watching it alone in my dark, empty apartment. Twenty minutes into it I had already formed the impression that it was one of the most disturbing films I had ever seen (the music, by Mark Korven, helps quite a lot to establish a genuinely oppressive mood). One single scene appears to be (mildly) inspired by that scene in The Shining I cannot bear to watch. Aside from that, it is remarkably original. And the performances, especially by the youngest actors, are excellent. Audiences were divided over The Witch (actually written as The VVitch), with some thrilled and creeped out by it (as I was), others complaining it was “too slow.” Don’t listen to this latter group, whose tastes have been corrupted by high-speed Hollywood trash. If you want to see a recent horror film that may one day be considered a great film, see The Witch — but don’t see it alone.
  8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968; dir. Roman Polanski). Yes, you don’t need to remind me: Polanski is a colossal perv. But even colossal pervs can make great films, and Rosemary’s Baby is not just a great horror film, but a great film. As everyone knows by now, the plot concerns a young married woman (Mia Farrow) who is tricked into carrying the devil’s child. One of the remarkable things about this film is how Polanski manages to make it suspenseful and frightening even though everyone in the audience knows exactly what’s going to happen (the novel on which it was based was a bestseller at the time). This is one of those films that you will get something new out of every time you see it. Polanski manages to imbue scenes with a simple, detailed realism (the ticking of a clock, a Kleenex gently blown by an AC unit, etc.) which makes the disturbing events of the film all the more nightmarish. There is also subtle humor in Rosemary’s Baby, which one often doesn’t notice at first because the film is just so damned creepy. Polanski cleverly cast a number of character actors as the members of the coven — actors who were very familiar to American audiences from TV sitcoms, among other things. This somehow seems only to magnify the horror of the eventual revelation. Pervert or not, Polanski is here teaching a master class in filmmaking.
  9. The Hour of the Wolf (1968; dir. Ingmar Bergman). This one doesn’t make it into most lists of horror films. That’s probably because horror films are supposed to be titillating trash, and Bergman is an “auteur director.” But Bergman himself — who loved all manner of films — wasn’t anywhere near as pretentious as his fans and interpreters. Hour of the Wolf follows the story of an artist (Max von Sydow — naturally) and his wife (Liv Ullman — naturally) living on a remote island. It seems that the artist is gradually losing his mind: he keeps seeing strange and terrifying creatures, which Bergman clearly models on figures from Hieronymus Bosch paintings. It all seems like an obvious case of madness — until his wife starts seeing the creatures as well. And that’s just the beginning. Is Max mad? Are the creatures real? It’s up to you. Most of Bergman’s films qualify as “creepy,” but this is the only one that has scenes that are genuinely frightening. By the way, Bergman himself believed in the supernatural: he often spoke in interviews of his belief in “other realities.”
  10. The Birds (1963; dir. Alfred Hitchcock). This one also doesn’t often make it onto lists of horror. The plot concerns a series of inexplicable attacks by huge flocks of birds on a remote, Northern California town called Bodega Bay. At the center of these attacks is the beautiful Tippi Hedren (Hitchcock’s “discovery”). One cannot help but make the correlation: before Tippi arrived in town, there were no bird attacks. As one hysterical townsperson puts it, her eyes lit by a kookaloris, “They say this all started when you got here!” Is Tippi somehow causing the attacks? And if it’s not her, what is it? Hitchcock offers us no explanation — probably the most notorious thing about the film. In doing so — or not doing so — he seems to be holding up a giant middle finger to modernity: not everything is explicable; there are mysteries. And when we least expect it, nature — or whatever is behind nature — is going to squash us like the bugs that we are. The Birds is like the horror film Heidegger would have made. Admittedly, some of the special effects look very dated now — though they still work surprisingly well in some scenes. And Hitchcock did use a lot of real birds: in shooting one scene he spent a week hurling birds at Tippi until the actress basically had a nervous breakdown. This is a brilliant and unforgettable film. I love it so much I made a pilgrimage, years ago, to the actual town of Bodega Bay to visit the locations where the film was shot.

So, there you have it, comrades. Have a happy, cinematic Halloween . . . but don’t say I didn’t warn you . . .

 

37 Comments

  1. Peter Quint
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I think that “Jaws” could be added to any horror list. Sharks are real-life monsters, and there has never been a shark movie made better than “Jaws.” The hunters become the hunted, classic buddy film, even if it was made by a jew–well done. I watch it once a year. We can also add “The Hitcher” (Rutger Hauer) version, classic man with no past/no records comes out of the desert, and starts killing everybody. There is a scene where C. Thomas Howell is looking out at the desert designed to make you think this is a monster come out of the wasteland. Demons from the wasteland are also the theme in Pierce Brosnons’ “Nomads.” We also see the motif of a demon that came out of nowhere in “Lights Out.”

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but I only counted films with elements of the supernatural as “horror films.” Jaws doesn’t qualify.

  2. Peter Quint
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    22.) The Descent
    23.) The Descent 2
    24.) The Ruins

  3. Petronius
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    More Vampires:

    Carl Dreyer’s “Vampyr” is a delirious masterpiece, it takes place entirely in a visually stunning, strangely “white” night, and the actors speak and act as if sleep walking or under hypnosis (including strange, probably unintended effects by technical impediments of early sound cinema)

    Herzog’s “Nosferatu” remake: awesome use of Wagner’s Rheingold prelude and daring “silent movie acting” in a sound & color movie. Kinski was never more impressive (watch rather the original German cut with subtitles, if possible). Max Schreck however remains the ultimate credible vampire (you really think he must be real all the time!). Agree with Jef that “Shadow of the Vampire” was very disappointing.

    Tobe Hoopers “Salem’s Lot”, shot in the same year as the Herzog-Kinski movie, also features a “Nosferatu” style vampire, and is genuinely frightening and nightmarish.

    Abel Ferrara’s “The Addiction” mixes vampires with existenzialist/Kierkegaardian philosophy, only succeeds partially, but stays in your mind. Christopher Walken is great as always.

    The original Swedish “Let the Right One In” is very intriguing and poetic as well. Sort of as if Aki Kaurismäki directed a thinking man’s “Twilight”. The US remake is basically a scene-by-scene re-shot and does work as such.

    Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark” has lyric qualities and an intriguing 1980’s feel to it (including a nice synthie soundtrack), if you’re into that sort of thing.

    I also enjoyed Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” , mostly rather shallow sophistication and eye candy for sure, but great casting (Tilda Swinton is great to look at) and music score, and in spite of the director’s cosmopolitan inclinations it reminded me how implicitly white and “occidental” that whole vampire genre is …

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t seen Vampyr in a long time, actually. I agree with you about Salem’s Lot. It’s quite scary. Ultimately, it was hard to narrow my list down to 10.

  4. Petronius
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    A recent seriously scary and artful film is “It Follows”… Soiled Sinema argues that there may be a “White Flight” subtext to it:
    http://www.soiledsinema.com/2016/02/it-follows.html

    • Pietas
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      No way, I was going to say that myself! A lot of deep subtext in this movie. Set in Detroit. What don’t you see? What does the director show you? Now what is following us?

    • Pietas
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Wow, very intriguing blog, thanks for posting! She seems like someone who enjoys cinema as much as I do!

  5. Petronius
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 3:44 am | Permalink

    The music score of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” by Wojciech Kilar is also terrific…

    I’m most fond of those 1930’s old school Gothic flicks:

    Dracula (stagey and flawed, yes, but Lugosi is great), Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Freaks, The Most Dangerous Game, The Old Dark House, White Zombie, The Wolf Man…

    And the Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur series of course, “I walked with a Zombie” is especially beautiful.

  6. Jaego
    Posted October 31, 2017 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. Far scarier than any of the classic Vampire movies. Barlow wandered this planet for centuries seeking a home. The evil house in Maine, once owned by one of his disciples, drew him at last.

    Thirty Days of Night. The Vampire Lord of Siberia is a Philosopher: What is broken must be broken.

  7. Darryl
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
    2. Halloween (1978)
    3. Suspiria/Inferno (1977/1980 – Two Parts of “Three Mothers” Trilogy)
    4. The Gates of Hell trilogy (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, The House by the Cemetery)
    5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
    6. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
    7. The Wicker Man (1973) – I don’t really see this as a horror…Pagan preference bias maybe.
    8. Shivers (1975)
    9. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
    10. Possession (1981)

  8. Richard Benson
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    The Man Who Laughs (1928)
    Cat People (1942)
    Carnival of Souls (1962)
    Re-Animator (1985)

  9. Apeneck Sweeney
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    As a child, I was scared by House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler, both from 1959 but pretty tame stuff by today’s standards.

    The Exorcist was certainly a great film and makes my top ten. It’s intriguing from a WN standpoint. Though directed by Jew William Friedkin, on the surface it could be seen as pro-Christian propaganda. Jesus and the forces of Good in the form of Catholic priests do battle with Evil and defeat it. What’s not to love about that? The pre-possession Linda Blair was perfectly cast; she looks so sweet and innocent, like an angel made flesh. I guess she was pretty hard-boiled already though, even at age 12, and was likely no virgin. This movie could never have been made today, given present moral panics about pedophilia. According to one account Friedkin interviewed her for the role with her mother by her side, and asked her whether she knew what masturbation was, and whether she’d ever masturbated. (There’s a scene in the movie where Regan masturbates with a crucifix.) “Sure,” she shot back. “Haven’t you?” He cast her on the spot. Her possession by the Devil then prefigured what was to become of her as an adult, as in real life she later went on to become a major whore for black cock.

    Anyway, here are a few that make my worth-a-look list as an adult. Not much in the way of cinematic history is made here, but they’re fun to watch.

    Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) – A Tromba film, need I say more?
    Near Dark (1987) – Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and Jenny Wright as the gamin vampire seductress.
    Antichrist (2009) – Lars von Trier directing.
    Melancholia (2008) – Another one by von Trier, not really horror genre, but horrifying.
    The Vanishing (aka Spoorloos) (1988) – Serial killer film, nice ending.
    A Serbian Film (2010) – Snuff said? Very hardcore.
    Mum & Dad (2008) – Just a typical pair of married serial killers.
    Man Bites Dog (1992) – Serial killer (horror/comedy)
    From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Maybe the only decent George Clooney film.
    Hellraiser (1987) – Would make my top ten list. Frank, Julia, cenobites! What more do you want?
    Messiah of Evil (1973) – Is he returning?
    The Lords of Salem (2012) – Sheri Moon Zombie, always watchable.
    House of 1000 Corpses (2003) – Rob Zombie’s first film, not bad.
    The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Rob Zombie’s second film, memorable ending.
    The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Vincent Price film, later remade as The Omega Man.
    Martyrs (2008) – Is there life after death? Some people will do anything to find out.
    The Grudge (2004) – Japanese horror, American remake.
    Hannibal (2001) – An FBI agent is fed part of his own brain. Tasty!
    Zombie Strippers (2008) – Lots of fun! Jenna Jameson fires a pool ball out of her twat.
    The Night Stalker (1972) – Vampire movie made for TV, later became a series.
    Grotesque (2009) – Japanese horror with lots of blood and guts.
    Ooru naito ronga 3: Sanji (1996) aka All Night Long, vol. 3 – Almost everyone in this movie is a sadist.
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – It reset the bar for gore in film.
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – Went even farther.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      The Night Stalker — I should have remembered that one.

  10. KPD
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Saw The Witch on your recommendation, was not disappointed. That scene inspired somewhat by the Shining was tough to see, but for me that’s not even the creepiest scene (the guy in the bear costume – the first time I saw that it haunted me). Haven’t seen most of these and forgot how much I loved horror.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      I’m glad you enjoyed The Witch. I will not steer you wrong!

  11. Nestor
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    -Ringu
    -John Carpenter’s “The Thing”

  12. Cecil Henry
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    ‘Sorry, wrong number’ was a great movie for suspense.

    But for me, Disney’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’, was my favorite halloween movie.

    Sure its for kids, but it was scary in Grade 1. And I still love the story. Its classic 19th century American literature too, and has deeper themes than at first appears.

    I walked home extra fast that Fall.

  13. Claus Brinker
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    My own honorable mentions would include George Romero’s Dead Trilogy (Night of the Living, Dawn of the, and Day of the…) but I suppose these could classified as Science Fiction. Similarly I love a number of David Cronenberg movies like The Fly, Dead Zone, Naked Lunch, and Videodrome. But maybe these are also more Science Fiction than Horror.

  14. Bernie
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Nice list. Glad to see The Witch and the 1992 version of Dracula. Both very good horror movies.

    On a somewhat related note, The Lost Boys has aged very well. Still stylish after 30 years though more in the horror/comedy genre. Amazing how white – complete with white sound track – movies were only 30 years ago! No black best friends or brooding Negro alpha male/tech genius to save the day as there would be if it were remade today.

    • Voryn Illidari
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      The Lost Boys was a classic. Amazing soundtrack too

    • Pietas
      Posted October 31, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Lost boys is a classic. That was the Origen of Buffy the vampire slayer. There was so much talent in 80s movies!

  15. Posted October 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    An admirable list. BTW, I thought “The Witch” was brilliant. I will have to check out “Kuroneko” and “House of Dark Shadows”.

    So many films to choose from… A few others that are faves of mine:

    Haxan: Witchraft Through The Ages (1922): This is worth it if only for those ‘demons roasting babies over a fire’ images.

    The Seventh Victim (1943): I love films with that whole ‘normal people who secretly worship Satan’ films (e.g., “Rosemary’s Baby”). This film by Mark Robson is an early entry in that subgenre.

    Night of the Demon (1957): I watch this Jacques Tourneur classic every few years. It’s also sometimes billed as “Curse of the Demon”. The atmosphere that Tourneur creates is terrifying.

    The City of the Dead (1960): Like “Psycho” released the same year, this film kills off its female lead in the first act. Stars Christopher Lee.

    Incubus (1965): This underrated Leslie Stevens film stars a young William Shatner and has dialogue entirely in Esperanto!

    Don’t Look Now (1973): Stylistically a bit dated, but Nicholas Roeg’s foray into horror is still quite effective and memorable.

    The Wicker Man (1973): Robin Hardy’s film is still the granddaddy of the British pagan-horror tradition.

    Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975): Not horror in the traditional sense, but this Peter Weir mystery has an overall mood of unseen, supernatural forces to it, like an Ambrose Bierce story

    Trilogy of Terror (1975): This made-for-TV film featured 3 vignettes, all with Karen Black. The one with the voodoo doll is the only one worth watching.

    Eraserhead (1977): Does Lynch qualify as horror? That’s debatable, but this film about the anxieties of fatherhood has certainly given me nightmares.

    The Brood (1979): So many Cronenberg flicks arguably qualify as horror. This one and “Dead Ringers” (1988) are my faves.

    The Blair Witch Project (1999): Another film that people either love or hate. I was blown away by it when it came out, still the best of the ‘found footage’ films.

    Black Swan (2010): I thought this Aronofsky film was strikingly original.

    The Babadook (2014): This impressive film by writer/director Jennifer Kent has entered the canon. You see it popping up on more critics’ “Best Horror Films” lists.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. Yours is a good list. I’m especially fond of Trilogy of Terror. Ditto Haxan

    • Bernie
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      The Blair Witch Project was a masterpiece! Sam Francis really liked the movie as well and saw it several times.

  16. Voryn Illidari
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    SPERG ALERT:
    The above list is great and obviously betrays Mr. Costello’s appreciation for the classics. If anyone would like a good taste of the 80s, I strongly recommend the Italian directors/producers. Any movie About demons, zombies, or society being overrun by both, has always fascinated and terrified me. I recommend Dario Argentos Demoni and Demoni 2, Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Zombie (despite this directors weird Anti-Catholic biases); American hits like The Evil Dead Trilogy (even though Sam Raimi is a Kike, which I learned recently and to my dismay), Night of the Demons, The Howling, and The Prince of Darkness. Sci-fi horror is always great: See The Thing and Leviathan.
    Just throwing those out there

  17. Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Great list! One thing to add – I read Rosemary’s Baby as a teenager. Along with most of the other books by Ira Levin. Didn’t know anything about the JQ back then but I did notice they all had some very weird sexual relationships (Rosemary’s Baby – sex with the devil. Stepford Wives – sex with robots. This Perfect Day has a rape scene that the woman is just accepting of later).

    Levin was a good author, and Polanski did a great job with the source material. Matter of fact – there was NO SCRIPT. That’s why it’s one of the only good film adaptions of an Ira Levin novel. They just used the book, with no screenplay.

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      There had to have been a script — but you are right that it was very closely based on Levin’s novel. There is a similarity, I think, between the plot structure of Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives.

  18. Dr. Krieger
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    An excellent top 10 list.

    I would have included the gothic-futurist horror classic “Alien” on that list.

  19. Peter Quint
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    19.) Oculus
    20.) Big Bad Wolf
    21.) It Follows

  20. Peter Quint
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    My list:
    1.) The Ring
    2.) The Midnight Meat Train
    3.) Autopsy Of Jane Doe
    4.) Case 39
    5.) After Dusk They Come
    6.) Honeymoon
    10.) From The Dark
    7.) Absentia
    8.) The Craving
    9.) Lights Out
    10.) We Are Still Here
    11.) Sinister
    12.) Hidden
    13.) Leprechaun: Origins
    14.) Friday The 13th
    15.) Friday The 13th Part 2
    16.) Nomads
    17.) Prince Of Darkness
    18.) Halloween

    • Jef Costello
      Posted October 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Not only have I not seen any of the films on your list (save for The Howling), I have never heard of most of them. Interesting.

      • Peter Quint
        Posted October 31, 2017 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        They are all great films (at least I think so); I like your list, but I have been so jaded by jewish ultra-violence, and hyper-sexuality that they fail to move me. I did not list “The Howling,” but I did list “Big Bad Wolf” (werewolf runs around raping, and killing). Anyhooo, they can all be found on Amazon for a more detailed description, and reviews.

  21. Pietas
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I think the appeal of horror may be akin to aristotles theory of cathartic power of tragedy. I admit I never fully believed this theory until you posed this related question about horror. Perhaps watching horror prepares us mentally for a true terrifying situation by watching it vicariously, in the sense that Aristotle described regarding tragedy. I always considered horror the lowest of genres until this connection came up.

    Secondly, and related, perhaps the appeal of horror has something to do with the fact that we hardly ever feel true fight or flight fear in the modern world. There is something gratifying in feeling unused nerves tingle, similar to how good it feels to clean ones ear with a q tip.

    Third, for me at least, horror is closely related to fantasy. Often, even if horror does not actually scare me–little does these days–I enjoy the fantasy elements. The indie film It Follows had this effect on me. I thought it not particularly scary but interesting in a similar way as Buffy the vampire slayer.

    Fourthly, some people like blood and guts. I suppose horror has the inverse effect on them, and may be watched like pornography. They say the sort of people who like the magazine Fangoria tend to be sadists of this ilk. These are your latent Jeffrey daumers and Mishimas.

    Wes craven supposedly wrote an insightful essay which I have only heard about by word of mouth, in which he does a Freudian analysis of a certain type of slasher film. The peak age group for this genre is boys 12–14. They are undergoing puberty so they identify with the female, and her struggle with the monster is their struggle with the travails of achieving masculinity. Also in this formula, the boyfriend dies, and they enjoy this as the removal of a sexual competitor. I was never able to find the actual essay where Craven talks about this. If anyone knows the reference or can elaborate, I would greatly appreciate it!

  22. James J OMeara
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    Simpsons parody? Surely not! That was The Shinning, not at all the same thing. Don’t want to get sued by Stanley, do we?

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