Top 5 Horror Movies of All TimeApril 14, 2014
I’ve been following the horror genre for over thirty years, basking in all its gruesome glory and cringing at horrific missteps. For this reason alone, I should know better than to make a ‘best of’ list. After all, it will most likely cause many arguments and really solve nothing.
However, that’s not the point. To me, these five movies have not only had a huge impact on the world of horror but to myself as a horror fan as well. They have stood the test of time and continue to be relevant today. I’ve picked my five below; feel free to use the comment section below and let me know what some of your all-time favorite horror movies are.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974
Widely hailed as the first slasher film, Leatherface and friends made this movie a disgusting treat for horror fans. Everything in this film is just dirty, from the landscape, feel to the people themselves.
The plot itself, a group of friends falling prey to a family of cannibals, sounds very simplistic but the aura of realism that surrounds the film adds an extra amount of terror to an already terrifying situation.
Many countries around the world banned the movie upon its release for the extreme amounts of gore and violence. While the gore was definitely eye opening, it was the way that it was presented that was so shocking. I found the actual amount of gore to be minimal, just very explicit when it reared its ugly head.
We are also lovingly introduced to the first faceless and mindless killer of a slasher movie in Leatherface. The combination of his size, face and use of a chainsaw (the power tool as a weapon also being a first) was hauntingly real.
While the movie was falsely marketed as a true story to reach a bigger audience, director Tobe Hooper made the movie look and feel very real, making the audience wonder if something like this could really happen and heighten the sense of horror already hanging over the shocked viewers of this masterpiece.
Night of the Living Dead – 1968
The first time I watched this movie was in a friend’s basement, mostly just to get him to shut up about it. I sat down to watch it and was transfixed, transformed and enthralled. Like most that saw it for the first time, it was something very new and graphic, even for black and white.
Director George Romero redefined the world of zombies and pushed the horror genre into new and exciting areas as a result of this movie. He showed how the simplest of settings can become wonderful areas for horror to explore.
Having an African American as the star was mind boggling enough for a film in 1968. Then to push the envelope further, Romero also made him the lone survivor, only to be ‘mistakenly’ killed by a group of white guys that could only be described as rednecks.
Did I mention the movie was a great horror film as well? Neighbors eating neighbors, kids eating parents, no wonder they were up in arms about this movie in ’68. This film dipped its toes into many pools that until this point had remained undisturbed in the world of horror. Ground breaking? I would say so.
Psycho – 1960
When most people hear the movie Psycho mentioned, their thoughts immediately go to the very famous shower scene. Heck, why wouldn’t you think of that? The scene was intense enough, and combined with now famous and chilling screeching violins, it was very powerful.
However for me, the movie was all about Norman Bates and him morphing into his domineering (and now dead) mother, Norma. The creep factor that Anthony Perkins brought to the role of Norman was extremely believable, which in turn made the situation in the movie that much more demented and weird.
Alfred Hitchcock, always with a great eye, shot the movie in such odd but strangely fitting angles to add more to the already creepy vibe seeping into each scene. This of course reached its peak with the shower scene, still considered one of the pivotal scenes in the history of horror movies. When you put it all together you had something very special and a mainstay on people’s lists of best horror films of all time.
Jaws – 1975
My parents, in all their parental wisdom at the time, decided that when I was ten, I was ready to see Jaws. I was thrilled thinking my parents thought of me as a big boy, but about a half hour into the movie, I was cowering in my seat and watching with my hands ready to cover my eyes in an instant.
That was a pivotal moment for me, first spearheading my interest in sharks and quickly morphing into horror. It was also the birth of the big popcorn blockbuster movie and the world becoming terrified in general of sharks.
Okay, this movie also created massive unease at the prospect of swimming in any body of water. I mean, I gave deep puddles a hard stare for a very long time.
All it took to create this horror masterpiece was a young Steven Spielberg, a great cast and a malfunctioning robotic shark. The fact that the robot shark wasn’t working forced Spielberg into ‘the less is more way’ of shooting the film and it created something they were hoping for from the beginning; the dread factor.
Not knowing when the shark would strike, nevermind how big it actually was, sent the town of Amity into physical and psychological shock. Before you knew it, panic and chaos set in. Enter Quint (Robert Shaw), Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Brody (Roy Schneider) to team up and try and save the day.
The epic ‘Dum-dum-dum-dum’ soundtrack warning of the impending arrival of the shark only heightened the terror for the audience watching this in the theatre. What could have been a disaster turned into a great horror film and an excellent movie all around.
The Exorcist – 1973
I would have loved to have been sitting with the audience when this movie came out in 1973, just so I could look around at people’s reactions to what they were seeing. Back then, it must have been quite the shocker. It’s not a stretch to say this movie shook people’s beliefs to the core. In ’73, many walked out of theatres and went right to their local churches. Statistics show that church attendance rose by leaps and bounds and between 1974 and 1976, more churches were built in the US than any other two year period in US history.
The struggle of two priests to free a young girl of being possessed by the Devil was very powerful back then, especially when they added the tag line ‘based on true events’. No one wanted to end up like poor Regan, especially if their belief in religion till this point was only the odd Sunday offering.
The film comes across as very believable, and a lot of credit should go to the actors and director William Friedkin for pulling this off. The atmosphere they create is so tense it is almost like a living thing on screen with them. For me, the original terror I felt has long past but my enjoyment for the many shocks and scares throughout the film still remain. Even now, forty years later, it is still one of the most important horror movies ever made.
This article was written for publication on The GCE by Jeff Fountain.