Everyone likes something different in a movie genre. For horror, I tend to be more conservative. What I look for in a horror film. This is my list, my favorites. Please, tell me your thoughts, and or create your own.
- Give me a sense of tension. Make me feel uneasy while watching the film.
- Give me characters I can root for. People I would remember and stick out above other movies I’d watch.
- Have the monsters be unique. Maybe they have a reason for their treachery, maybe not. Whatever the case, make them memorable.
- I do not like shock value in my horror. As in lots of jump scares and violence so graphic is disgusts and shocks me. I am more about fear, rather than disgust.
- Finally, while not always needed. If you can apply some social commentary or moral philosophy. All the better with me.
- Doesn’t hurt if they inspired the genre, though sometimes that does more bad than good.
- While there are many variations of horror. I do consider movies which involve the supernatural to be more horror. So, movies like American Psycho or Don’t Breathe can be considered horror, I’m counting them as thrillers or crime based horror. Therefore my horror is based in dark fantasy/science fiction. Things that are far less likely to ever happy or exist. With a few exceptions.
- Please keep in mind that Horror/Fantasy/ and Science Fiction all overlap. So some of these films will have science fiction/ fantasy genres in them, but also horror. Labeling them exactly can be very difficult. Jaws for example can be considered horror, but I’m not including it because I am less certain.
Again, these are my favorites. I don’t claim them to be the best, but they are the best for me. If you have films you think I should watch or just want to share your picks. Feel free to let me know.
One thing that is neat about putting a list like this together is that you learn things about your taste in cinema you may not otherwise been aware of. In this situation, I realized I love the sense of isolation. When characters are separated from the bulk of “modern” society and left to fend for themselves in incredibly difficult situations. Perhaps that is what I fear most and that’s why it hits me harder than other films. So be prepared to hear a lot about in the following list.
The Thing From Another World (1951) This is the movie which inspired Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). While I enjoy Carpenter’s twist on the classic, this film certainly has some merit. Scientists are stuck in a remote arctic military outpost where they must face off against a dangerous alien organism. Howard Hawks worked on the film though he is not credited because back then horror films were substandard B movies. It also goes into the discussion of science vs survival. Some people in this film want to kill the creature while others want to study it. This is a very real issue we have even today. The things we love to explore and study may also be our undoing.
Evil Dead (1981) This is madness. Basically, Sam Raimi throws everything he possibly can at you in one film. That is why it is so terrifying. A group of people to a small cabin in the woods, they encounter something truly terrible. The movie is surreal, violent, and outstanding.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Imaginative director Wes Craven crafted this unique slasher horror film about a child rapist and murderer coming after teenagers and anyone else who got in his way. Nightmare of Elm Street is something spooky, because many of us dream and have nightmares. Imagine if those nightmares had personal vendetta’s against you and sought to end your life. Worse still is that you need sleep to function, so eventually, you will fall asleep.
Hellraiser (1987) A well made movie by Clive Barker. Probably his best work. The use of puppets and top-notch makeup crew along with practical effects creates a powerful image. This movie tells the story of pain and love. Of sacrifice and terror. It is a twisted, dark, and intense movie filled with creative monsters and devices of torture. This was Saw of the 1980’s and it was sensationally scary. It still makes my skin crawl.
Evil Dead 2 (1987) The insanity continues in this sequel. Taking many of the crazy things which made the first so brilliant and shocking. Adding some more humor because let’s be honest, it was a crazy production. Bruce Campbell put on his iconic chainsaw hand and that was it. This is a horror film that didn’t try to be scary as much as it tried to be fun and it worked. Maybe not as a financially huge blockbuster, but as a cult hit like the original.
Predator (1987) Another film I’ve struggled with this one because it is an action movie, but it does have horror aspects in it. I think good horror isolates people into difficult situations. Where you get a sense of the overwhelming odds against these people. That thought of dead and dread overcome you. How will they survive? Who is going to die first and how? This sense of helplessness, of being stalked by this nearly undetectable beast is terrifying. That fact that it makes an awesome action film doesn’t hurt either.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) This one almost didn’t make my list as horror, but a great aspect of horror (for me) is isolation and therefore it works. This young man is “rescued” from what is a very unstable man with a underground bunker for protection. He will do anything to ensure his safety. I love the concept of hiding from supposed monsters outside, all the while locked up with a potential monster. This movie made me nervous, John Goodman should absolutely be nominated for an Oscar and considered strongly for the award. It is a must see film.
Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1993) I hear people find this movie especially gory. I guess I don’t see it, maybe it is because I’ve so many worse movies since. However, you can’t agree with this vampire movie because of it’s amazing cast: Christian Slater, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, Brad Pitt, and a young Kirsten Dunst.
The Conjuring 2 (2016) I saw this movie earlier this year and it really impressed me. It is yet another James Wan directed movie. It took all the things I loved about the first one and amplified it. Continuing the story of the famed paranormal researchers, the Warrens was a great move. James Wan proved to me that he is the new master of horror. I’ve seen the movie again since watching it in theaters. It still holds up as one of the creepier movies I’ve seen in a long time, especially in the second half.
20-Saw-(2004)- Saw was ahead of the pack. It made popular the torture porn horror style. That I can’t appreciate because I think it is cheap and not good horror. (Feel free to disagree.) However, I find Saw to be the exception. It has a villain with purpose, a demented philosophy about life. This movie has a solid cast featuring Danny Glover and Carey Elwes. It is part horror and part mystery thriller. I may not love what came after, but I respect the hell out of this film.