Halloween is just days away. Obviously it will be very different than what we are used to with it being 2020. I have always said that, with westerns a close second, horror is my least favorite genre. It is based on trying to scare you and then tries to stumble back with some semblance of a plot. It is backwards filmmaking. But like anything in life there are exceptions. To honor the holiday in which everyone will be wearing masks and stuck to attending house parties, here are my Top 10 Horror Movies.
10. “Lights Out (2016):
“Lights Out” is a simple premise, so simple that the idea is kinda genius. Maria Bello plays a deranged mother who’s house is haunted by some deranged spirit that looks like a deformed witch. Bello’s character seems to be the only one protecting this evil spirit as it continues to attack everyone surrounding mom, including her two children and ex-husband. The catch is the evil undead chick can only attack you in the darkness. So when the lights come on in any form she disappears. When darkness hits she is an unstoppable killing machine. Horror is often surrounded by scare scenes involving darkness. “Lights Out” takes that stereotype to make one hell of a jump out of your seat experience.
9. “The Wailing” (2016):
“The Wailing” is a daunting film with cultural undertones that slowly builds tension. An evil spiritual element is ravaging a village. Things in the town of Goksung, South Korea are fairly peaceful normally. Then a strange Japanese man who keeps to himself arrives and a sudden rise in murders and mysterious illnesses begin. A run-of-the-mill police officer named Jong-Goo (Do-wan Kwak) is tasked with solving this breakout of deaths. Rumors quickly swirl that this new Japanese man living in the mountains is conjuring up evil spirits. While investigating the accused, a goat head hanging above pictures of the victims is found. It gets worse for Jong-Goo as he finds a shoe of his daughter in the same shrine area. His daughter, just like many others, becomes possessed, which brings in a shaman well versed in the ancient spiritual arts in hopes of ridding the town of the evil spirits that the Japanese man may or may not be responsible for. There haven’t been very many horror movies that actually make it to the illustrious Cannes Film Festival as a formal competitor. “The Wailing” is one, and well deserved. The twists and surprises could never be guessed and the atmosphere begins slow until the audience is hit in the face with terror. Add in the second best exorcist scene ever preformed in a traditional Asian dance and you’ve got a horror film worth multiple viewings.
8. “Get Out” (2017)
The only true horror movie to win an Oscar for best screenplay, Jordan Peele’s debut film “Get Out” is a brilliant satire on how systemic racism continues to exist not just in America but around the world. An attractive black college student studying photography named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is dating a hottie white girl (Allison Williams) who’s got jungle fever, allegedly. During a fall break, Chris joins his girlfriend for a trip to meet her parents for the first time. The young man is nervous and hopes to impress the wealthy mom and dad. Things initially seem welcoming, but it quickly becomes clear that he wasn’t nearly nervous enough. After being hypnotized and entering ‘The Sunken Place’, things continue to get worse and Chris, escaping with his consciousness as well as his life, becomes increasingly doubtful as this rich group of white people close in on African-Americans and use them as mental slaves. The parallels to history then and now are undeniable.
7. “Dracula” (1931):
The old school Universal Monsters world from the 30’s and 40’s is iconic. Millenials may find these movies a bit cheesy, but back then these creepy crawlers scared people out of the theatre. While “Frankenstein” is of course the most well known, my favorite came out one year earlier. The master of the night was showcased perfectly by Bela Lugosi in the true to source material original “Dracula”. Vampires have been a horror staple far longer than zombies, even seeing a stupid yet highly profitable resurgence recently with the “Twilight” movies. Dracula himself is the most elegant of the famous monsters. But don’t let your guard down. This dude really does want to suck your blood, particularly if you are a beautiful young woman.
6. “Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn” (1987):
There has to be at least one horror/comedy on this list. Plenty of good ones like “Cabin in the Woods” or “It Follows” would be solid choices. But for me I have to look at Sam Raimi’s classic trilogy with Bruce Campbell utilizing a chainsaw arm to kill the bad guys. “Army of Darkness” is the most fun, but the best overall has got to be the middle installment. “Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn” is in many ways a remake to the original indie spook-fest “Evil Dead”. The first is the most serious in the series. With a bigger budget and a bit more tongue-and-cheek stuff going on, “Dead by Dawn” solidified the series as a cult classic. A group of horny kids in their early 20’s head out for a vacation to a remote cabin. They discover ‘The Book of the Dead’ and an incantation played on a recording opens up the flood gates for demonic creatures of all kinds to terrorize the group. It is up to the group leader Ash to stay alive as the crew gets picked off one by one. A fun way to experience your typical scary thrill ride.
5. “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984):
Slasher movies are almost always one of the dumbest types of movies you can watch. “Halloween” is ridiculous because Michael Myers just walks slowly towards his victims. Girl, just keep jogging slowly and I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine. The original “Friday the 13th” has a woman in his 50’s killing a bunch of young camp counselors because obviously her wrinkly ass is much stronger. Then Jason Voorhees comes in for the rest of the series and he is just a lumbering idiot. The one classic slasher I love is the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. First off, the concept is eerily twisted with real life undertones. An evil school janitor loves to prey on students both physically and sexually. The parents of the town burn the guy alive. So how does Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) get his revenge? He haunts the surviving popular kids at the school by entering their dreams. When he kills them in their sleep psyche they also die for real. It becomes a challenge to stay awake. “Elm Street” is genuinely scary, but my favorite part is that Englund’s portrayal as Freddy is hilarious. You kind of root for the funny dude with a claw.
4. “The Exorcist” (1973):
Several of my elders have talked about how “The Exorcist”, particularly in a time when most people were religious, scared the hell out of everyone. I’m an atheist yet the first time I saw this as an adult “The Exorcist” scared the bejesus out of me too. A young girl played by Linda Blair is possessed by an ancient demon and chaos ensues for the innocent Regan. From using a cross to shove up her vagina until she bleeds, to crawling down the stairs backwards, to twisting her head 360 degrees, the demonic force is not messing around. It takes not one but two priests to try and battle this devil, and even that might not be enough.
3. “The Thing” (1982):
John Carpenter made by far the most badass horror movie ever in 1982 with “The Thing”. An annual screening in Antartica still takes place every year. Kurt Russell and a group of differing personalities are stationed at a research facility deep in the snowy continent. When a Norwegian helicopter shows up trying to shoot down what appears to be a normal dog, an alien menace has now infiltrated the isolated building. The creature can kill and then recreate itself in the spitting image of the victim. “The Thing” is also a real violent sucker that can bite off arms with his stomach. The practical alien effects used were revolutionary for the time. Plus Kurt Russel is simply the shit in this one. Making a movie about paranoia is perfect material for a director like Carpenter.
2. “Psycho” (1960):
The master of suspense made very few attempts at true horror, hence his nickname. When Alfred Hitchcock really went for it in the genre the man did not disappoint. “Psycho” was a ballsy horror film and basically created the slasher film genre. The murder of the presumed main character in the shower just 30 minutes in was just the beginning of this twisted tail about a killer with real mommy issues. To this day everybody uses that “Psycho” music on halloween when they are wielding a knife. Masterpiece.
1. “The Shining” (1980):
The best horror movie ever comes from the G.O.A.T. of all filmmakers. Stanley Kubrick took a solid Stephen King novel and made it the most twisted portrayal of true insanity one could think of. From the moment Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) arrives at the Overlook Hotel with his wife and son it is clear things are not right. Tasked with overseeing the property during the winter season, multiple forms of tortured or malicious spirits begin to seep through the walls, driving Jack to insanity. His wife and son have to fight for their lives as the crazy alcoholic is out for blood. There are so many crazy stories to come out of the actual filming of this, just watch the documentary “Room 237”. I still get chills when I see Jack Nicholson come through the door screaming “HERE’S JOHNNY”.