HALLOWEEN SPECIAL HAMMY’S TOP 10…HORROR FILMS

It’s Halloween today, the scariest day/night of the year (apart from Election Night…but that only comes every few years or so!). So it’s time to dress up like a dead person/ghoul/serial killer, go trick or treating, and watch a scary movie. What’s your favourite scary movie? Do you even like scary movies? I love scary movies! It takes a lot to scare me (apart from Election Night…and not doing the dishes/washing before my fiancée comes in from work!), but there are notable scary movies that have interrupted my sleep with terrifying nightmares. I know it’s all fake, but doesn’t that make it even scarier? With those thoughts in mind, here are my Top 10 Horror Movies!

  1. Nosferatu

Vampires have been done to death. They seem to enjoy a resurgence every twenty years or so. But I doubt any vampire film will terrify more than the original silent film based on Stoker’s Dracula. Why do you need dialogue when brilliant imagery and story-telling tunes convey the story better than trite words? The orchestra guides the viewer through the film, starting off with quite simple melodies and transforming into a complex ‘symphony of terror’ by the end. Max Schrek doesn’t need sound to convey, but a mere movement or gesture to make you think twice about turning the light off at night. All vampires stories have a sexual subtext, but most make it explicit. Here, it’s understated and only adds to the feeling of unease. You’ll never quite see a shadow as scary as Nosferatu’s.

(Click here for my full review)

  1. Day of the Dead

Many people prefer either one of Day of the Dead’s predecessors, but while Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are excellent films, I find Day of the Dead more terrifying than both. I was exhausted after first watching Day of the Dead. It wasn’t what I expected at all. It’s talky (a little too much at times) and relentlessly grim and depressing. Of course, zombies are the enemy here, but most of the humans are bad guys as well. It’s hard to feel sympathy for the majority of the humans, as they are simply vile people. The character that you feel sympathy for is the zombie Bob, who’s beginning to show some signs of humanity. Those looking for gore won’t be disappointed, as it delivers some very gruesome sights (especially the final twenty minutes). But the talky nature of this film may put people off. Don’t let it, however. You’re missing out on Romero’s most bleak, depressing and horrific film.

(Click here for my full review)

  1. Scream

Is this the most successful meta-horror film of all time? I love The Cabin in the Woods, but I don’t think even that is superior to Scream, Wes Craven’s attempt to both scare and dissect scary movies. Yes, Craven tried with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, to a fair degree of success. But hear he succeeds with aplomb and changed the landscape of horror as it turned from the twentieth century to the twenty first century. Genre tropes are discussed openly by the teenagers as they try to avoid being murdered by Ghostface. It delivers the scares typical of the slasher genre, but Craven knows innovative ways to pull these scenes off. In fact, Scream delivers on almost all fronts: a witty script, great murder scenes and a twisting plot that always keeps you guessing. For any lover of the horror genre, this film is a must, to see things you know and love be turned upside down.

  1. A Nightmare On Elm Street

Can you name a more prolific and revolutionary American horror director than Wes Craven? You probably can. But he revolutionised horror a few times. Take A Nightmare On Elm Street, for example. On the surface, it may seem like a typical slasher: supernatural man attempts to kill all the teenagers in a neighbourhood. However, Freddy Krueger doesn’t strike in reality; he strikes in dreams. That elevates this slasher into something special. How do you escape something that’s in your dreams? You could prevent sleep (like some of the would-be victims do here), but that’s easier said than done. There are plenty of horrific murders to satisfy slasher fans, it’s the blurry line between reality and dreams that really creeps you out (of course, Freddy Krueger’s menace was blunted by the many sequels, but came back to prominence with the pre-Scream Scream Wes Craven’s New Nightmare).

  1. Martyrs

It would be rude to have a Top 10 list of horror films without having a torture porn film included, wouldn’t it? And I like my torture porn films foreign with something to say. I did think about including The Passion of the Christ or Saw) here, as that’s full of gore and blood. Martyrs, however, depicts levels of violence and gore that will turn to toughest stomach. But Martyrs has a message behind its gore and blood. And boy, is it full of gruesome, eye-scorching scenes. Self-mutilation, a family massacre, and unrelenting bleakness makes this extremely tough viewing. It doesn’t take glory in its gruesomeness, like most torture porn films do. Instead, it begs and pleads you to turn away. There’s no absurdities here but cold, stark reality. And a brilliant horror film.

  1. The Shining

Here’s Johnny! What Top 10 list of horror movies would be complete without The Shining? After reading The Shining, I went straight to buy the film, and I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. It had little to do with the book I just read and seemed to be very slow-moving. It required a second viewing to see what I had missed (and to put the book to the back of my mind). For my money, The Shining is the most terrifying film based on a Stephen King book. It doesn’t rely on jump scares or a supernatural monster, but instead relies on a mood and atmosphere. Stanley Kubrick uses imagery, sound (or lack of it) and camera angles to induce a sense of horror that’s rarely found in horror films. Jack Nicholson is terrifying as Jack Torrence, the father and husband who takes his family to look after the Overlook Hotel over the winter period. Blood gushes out of elevators, twin sisters haunt his young boy, and Jack makes out with a decaying corpse. Horror at its very essence.

  1. Alien

In space, no one can hear you scream. Well, apart from your crew members. And the xenomorph that wants to tear you apart. Ridley Scott directed the best science fiction horror film of all time in 1979. Before or after, no one has come close to it (even Scott himself). It’s basically a slasher film in space, but Scott puts so much emphasis on mood and atomosphere that it takes superhuman effort not to become absorbed in and terrified by the tale he’s telling. The design of the xenomorph is horrific enough. But it’s the long, slow shots and sudden bursts of gore that really get underneath your skin. There’s literally nowhere for the crew members to escape, which makes the film full to the brim with dread. Alien could easily have been awful. But Scott made it excellent, and terrifying to boot.

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Unfortunately, I watched the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre before watching the original. As usual, the remake was a bore that relied on ridiculous amounts of gore and a green tint to every shot. However, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre original embodies everything that makes horror horrific. It’s rough and ready approach makes it feels a little like a documentary. It promises us the “mad and macabre” in the opening title sequence and delivers on both. There’s not a whole lot of gore, to be honest. But I always remember it being more gruesome the previous time I watched it. The small details, such as the bones and teeth on a table, are what cause the fil to get under your skin. You won’t forget the dinner scene, or the mallet hitting a guy’s head, or the final scene, full of terror and elation. And you won’t ever want to explore the countryside again.

(Click here to read my full review)

  1. Ringu

Have you ever seen anyone so scared by a film that they’ve been reduced to tears? And I don’t mean a child, but an 18 year old. An ex-girlfriend of mine burst into tears after we watched Ringu together. It didn’t reduce me to tears, but it put a fear in me that I struggled to put to the back of my mind when it came time to put my head on the pillow. I’m sure you’ve heard of the story of Ringu: the person watches a cursed video, and only has seven days to live. This film does have a few jumps scares, but the atmosphere is what makes it terrifying. Don’t expect a fast-paced horror, but a slow-building menace that tells its tale well whilst chilling you to the bone.

 

  1. The Blair Witch Project

I bought this on Sky Box Office at the fine age of 15. I turned the lights off and never felt the same again. The Blair Witch Project made the found-footage horror film popular, and I believe that it hasn’t been bettered since. Feel free to disagree, but even thinking about it freaks me out a little. Three student filmmakers decide to film a documentary about a local folk devil, the Blair Witch. Of course, they discover that the legend may not be simply a rumour…It’s a slow build, with our students hearing twigs snap at night and seeing twig dolls, until it ramps up the terror in the final half an hour or so. The grainy footage makes the viewer see things that aren’t there. But in my opinion, it’s all about the ending. The ending gave me sleepless nights and it’s something that still spooks me to this day.

Honourable Mentions

The Cabin in the Woods

Event Horizon

Evil Dead II

Halloween

Inside

Let The Right One In

Poltergeist

Saw

Agree or disagree? Any you’d take away or add? What is your Top 10?

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