Monday, October 26, 2009

My Top Ten Favorite Horror Films--At the Moment

Everyone else is doing this and since my PC is working (for now) I thought I'd jump in. The problem is that my interests and tastes change from time to time and so tomorrow this list might be at least a little different. For now, however, here 'tis.
The Wicker Man
Night of the Hunter
Night of the Demon
Night of the Living Dead
The Devil Rides Out
Theatre of Blood
House on Haunted Hill

1-THE WICKER MAN-Many fans don't consider it technically as a horror film but it's filled with imagery and points of view that make people question their very beliefs even as it glorifies the strange and different. If that isn't scary in a way that Jason never could be, I don't know what is! Add one of Christopher Lee's best performances, the amazing Edward Woodward as the "hero," a naked Britt Ekland (and her body double!) and a lovely music score. A literary horror film for the ages.

2-HALLOWEEN-A nearly perfect film of its type, the original HALLOWEEN has riveting direction and a memorable self-penned score by John Carpenter. Everything works from beginning to end if you can just put it out of your head that by this point you've seen it a million times.

3-NIGHT OF THE HUNTER-Charles Laughton's only film as a director is an atmospheric, poetic scarefest as two children are relentlessly pursued by Robert Mitchum as a cold-hearted, murderous character more realistic and creepy than Freddy Krueger ever was.

4-NIGHT OF THE DEMON-Produced strangely enough by former "Little Tough Guy" Hally Chester (See upcoming installments of my DEAD END KIDS series) and directed by Jacques Tourneur, this dark, suspenseful satanic cult film is the source of the ROCKY HORROR theme's off-color line about Dana Andrews and "runes."

5-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-Three nights in a row. What can I say? George Romero's no-budget Indie film is a classic for a reason. An air of non-stop dread and despair permeates nearly every scene in a way the bigger-budgeted sequels and rip-offs never even approached. When it's over, you actually feel changed.

6-FRANKENSTEIN-A tad slow but the atmosphere and the surprisingly still touching performance by Karloff as the Creature get me every time. The whole series has a charm but the original, to me, is the only one that really has a heart.

7-THE DEVIL RIDES OUT-Christopher Lee again, this time as a Dr. Strange type dealing with Charles Gray (himself a future fellow Bond villain) as a satanic conjurer in an old manor house.

8-POLTERGEIST-Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg made the ultimate ghost story movie with this big budget screen sensation. The cast is great and the light-hearted scenes make the scarier ones even scarier. "They're heeeeeeere" indeed!

9-THEATRE OF BLOOD-Vincent Price, Diana Rigg and an amazing cast of equally scene-chewing English character actor victims in a great distillation of the standard revenge-tale horror film.

10-HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL-My first favorite horror film! This 1959 William Castle screamfest introduced me to Vincent Price through frequent local television airings in the mid-sixties. The last time I saw it all those primal fears came back!

The opening of Carpenter's THE FOG is one of my all-time favorites but it's all downhill from there. I love the premise of the FINAL DESTINATION films because you can cheer for "fate" without having to find yourself taking sides with a serial killer. That said, I like SOME of the Freddy Krueger films, the totally unrelated HALLOWEEN 3, the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Bogdanovich's TARGETS, the AIP Poe films, the EC features and all of the great Universal and Hammer films as well as the unsung Amicus anthologies like ASYLUM and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. I loved ZOMBIELAND but I wouldn't call it a horror film. By that score, I've long considered PSYCHO a black comedy so it doesn't count. WITCHFINDER GENERAL, although very much a favorite, is more a historical piece than a horror film. I'm sure there are more.

UPDATE--Okay, here are a few more that were just under my TOP TEN: PHANTASM, BLACK SABBATH, CARRIE, THE RING, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and, of course, THE EXORCIST. Linda Blair uber-fan that I am, it has strangely never been my favorite of her movies.


  1. Night of the Demon is one of those ones that made me crazy scared as a kid. That paper thing just freaked me out and for years I wouldn't accept gum wrappers from people even with the gum inside. Because that is how they GETCHA!

    oh cool..word verification - Caine

  2. THE HAUNTING (the original) scared the heck out of me when I was fifteen; didn't sleep for days and noticed every lumber crack as our house settled. And KILLERS FROM SPACE got me when I was small; a cheesy cheap crapfest, but those ping pong ball eyes haunted me for years.

  3. Great list! All fantastic flicks! Love the love for Theatre of Blood. Always thought that was a spectacular horror flick.

    Yes...Night of the Living Dead is SUPER creepy and has to be on the top ten...but I have always thought that Dawn Of The Dead was a truly truly amazing horror flick. Great acting, epic scope, lots to think about, creepy, and bloody as well.

  4. Some great choices there, Steve!I'm glad you've included Night Of The Demon and The Devil Rides Out, two of the best British horror films ever.

    I'm ashamed to admit I've never seen House On Haunted Hill! I'll have to do something about that...

  5. Agree with all of those, but especially The Wicker Man, both Woodward & Lee's finest hour. An absolutely unique, incredible film.