Horror cinema has been the most popular method of nightmare creation for nearly a hundred years. We have discovered that the one thing people all over the world love, that entering a darkened room and having the worst imaginable creatures jump out to rattle their unconscious mind and wake up their primordial fears. Being scared can be a private thing, but there’s nothing better than sitting in a crowded theater with dozens of other people, as if waiting for a sermon, and being terrified together.
10. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter turned the slasher film into a cottage industry with Halloween. But with The Thing, his remake of Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby’s The Thing From Another World, is a nasty little number. He put a dozen men, led by the always brilliant Kurt Russell, against a shape-shifting extra-terrestrial that’s woken up from its icy tomb after a thousand years.
9. Near Dark (1987)
Sexy, dusty and bloody, Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark is the bar that all new vampire movies have to clear. A dust devil of erotically charged spree killing, Near Dark follows a pack of nomadic bloodsuckers burning across the American southwest in an RV, leaving nothing but corpses in their wake.
8. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The world changed forever after The Blair Witch Project. The found footage sub-genre – now a thriving multi-million dollar addition to both mainstream and direct-to-video horror – would never have become a viable option for filmmakers without The Blair Witch Project turning an immense profit on a relatively minuscule investment.
7. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
His 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes is a great example, a mix of hillbilly black comedy and take-no-prisoners violence and degradation. The Carter Family vacation is interrupted by a clan of cannibals living in a radioactive desert. The suburbanites must learn to fight dirty if they want to survive one day being hunted by their cut-throat adversaries.
6. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
In 1968 George Romero looked around at a world in turmoil (Vietnam, racial tension, high profile assassinations) and let the ugliness seep into his first film‘Night of the Living Dead, a righteously angry, aggressive deconstruction of suburban passive aggression.
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is still undervalued as a work of precise craft and bountiful art. Everyone knows about the film and its reputation as one of the most unsettling experiences in all of film history, but how many people can pinpoint the incredible work it took to have audiences blindsided by the sweltering ghouls at the heart of the story.
The legacy of Japanese horror is long, storied and filled with more uncanny images of ghostly apparitions and things twisted beyond recognition. Kuroneko finds a veteran (Kichiemon Nakamura) returning from war a hero, only to learn his wife and mother have been murdered by marauding deserters. Their ghosts now haunt the grove near his home.
3. The Exorcist (1973)
Very appropriately, The Exorcist ranked third in our list of greatest horror movies. William Friedkin put to use his experience directing documentaries, crime dramas and experimental theatrical adaptations when adapting William Peter Blatty’s best-selling tale of a young woman possessed.
2. The Shining (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s productivity slowed to a crawl in the years following The Shining, and while in one sense it’s tragic we never got more films from him than we did. It would have been tough for him to do better than his ultimate psycho-sexual daydream Eyes Wide Shut or The Shining.
1. Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock was a scientist, a man who experimented with the emotions and reactions of his audience and images were the medium under his microscope. Psycho was his experiment in making a film with the budget of a TV production and in breaking expectations.