For many years, horror has been a big part of my life.
And for the record, I am not talking about my marriage to my ex husband…
Actually, I don’t think I was married to a psychotic clown living in the sewers. However, no one ever saw my ex and Pennywise in the same room, so this remains open to debate.
No, I am talking horror in books and in movies.
I am huge Stephen King nut and I have been reading his books off and on since I was twelve years old. Twenty six years, for you nosy folks!
Of course, Stephen King was not the only thing in my horror diet. I love pizza, but I can’t eat that every day. And I love Stephen King, but my literary diet does need at least some variety, lest I suffer from vitamin L deficiency (literary deficiency, for the uninitiated.)
So, I read other writers. Joe Hill does nicely in a pinch. And I’m not saying that just because I consider him to be The Master 2.0 (I may be just a little biased, but oh well.)
And of course, Clive Barker, Michaelbrent Collings, Joseph Duncan and quite a few others supplement my literary diet quite nicely, so I don’t have to worry about any deficiencies.
I can also turn to the screen to pick up some variety too. In other words, there’s always movies and television.
I will be an X Phile for life. I also love Penny Dreadful and am still officially in mourning because the series ended earlier this year.
And horror movies. Who can forget horror movies?
Is there a better way to spend an afternoon, or perhaps an evening, than watching a good horror movie?
Maybe you snuggle up to your man and bury your head on his chest when the scary parts come on, but still peek anyway. Or maybe you just have dogs for company, although burying your head on a dog may end up squishing the dog instead. Or result in said dog moving REALLY far away. REALLY FAR, maybe as much as five feet away from you!
Watching horror movies is fun. The adrenaline rush is fun. And horror movies tend to have some comedy in them, so you get the laughs too. Or perhaps at least some soft core porn, since sex is usually a big part of most horror movies.
And there are so many horror flicks to choose from. You have ones based on Stephen King books, like Carrie, Children of the Corn and that mini series with that really scary clown dude…hold on, I will think of It…
And classic slasher films. Who doesn’t love Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the escapades of goofy old Michael Myers?
Or perhaps your bag is more dark fantasy, and you get in the mood for some Horns!
At any rate, there are lots of good horror movies out there. And after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write a blog post, listing my top ten horror movies. It took a few tries, but I have whittled it down to ten, so here goes nothing!
Reminder: this is one blogger’s opinion only. I am aware that I probably left your favorite movie off, but I really don’t care. And if you are going to roast me, go with slow heat, the flavors will be more developed that way.
And, as always:
10. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Well, we all have to start somewhere, right?
And my somehow happened to be a movie where people died.
Lots of people died, in fact.
And in really inventive ways.
And klowns were responsible. Killer Klowns. And these Killer Klowns were from outer space!
If I remember correctly, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first horror movie that I watched. And it set the stage for me.
Yes, the movie is just ridiculous. I mean, cotton candy somehow became a weapon…c’mon, man!
And acting? What acting? Although, to be fair, it didn’t require much acting to die at the hands of the Killer Klowns who killed in inventive ways.
Shortly after I watched this (alternating between sort of hysterical laughter and gross out noises that only a 12 year old girl can make), I began to explore horror, in both books and films. I became a Stephen King addict. I started watching Alfred Hitchcock too.
And, as they say, the rest is history.
Killer Klowns should be labeled a gateway movie. Because it was, at least for me.
It was a gateway. A gateway into the horror genre. And I can’t think of a better (or is it horrible) movie to receive that honor.
Often, horror movies deal with morality…
Ok, now that you are done choking on your coffee (or whatever other beverage you may be imbibing at the moment), let’s talk about this.
Of course, sex is a theme in a lot of horror movies. There is a direct correlation to how many clothes come off and the proximity to home base and how quickly one dies in a horror movie, it seems.
But many horror movies deal with other kinds of issues that actually don’t have anything to do with teenagers having sex.
One of these movies is Candyman.
The villain in this movie, Candyman, was actually the son of a slave, who had become a well-known artist. However, the man makes the mistake of falling in love with a white woman, and (literally) all hell breaks loose. He is attacked by a white lynch mob, which cuts off his painting hand and replaces it with a hook. The mob then smears the man with honey, chanting “Candyman”, as he is stung to death by bees.
Of course, the man continues to live on, even after death, as Candyman. a spirit who can be summoned when someone looks into a mirror and says “Candyman” five times.
Since this is a horror movie, there is someone
stupid brave enough to do just that. And lots of people get murdered. Lots and lots of people. So that’s disturbing.
But the movie is disturbing for more than just the fact that a guy can come out of a mirror and kill people. It turns out that 26 people, all of whom were residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, have been murdered. And the police have put forth no effort to solve the murders. Some of these victims are children. All of the victims are African American.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? In other words, just turn on the news, and something similar will likely pop up at some point. Maybe. Tragically, many people of color are murdered in this country. If the victim is lucky, the media acknowledges the murder, and someone puts forth the effort to bring justice to the victim and his/her family. However, more often than not, just like in this particular movie, the crime is ignored. Or worse yet, the victim’s so-called criminal record is on display, and he or she is vilified, rubbing salt into the wounds of an already grieving family.
Race plays a huge factor in murder, the solving of murders and policing in general in this society. Often, there is more than enough real life horror to go around, and a ghost with a hook is nowhere nearly as frightening as our fellow man.
8. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred.
School shootings are tragically common in this country, and some shooters have stated that the Richard Bachman book, Rage, was their inspiration for the crimes committed, for example.
But what if a fictional character can somehow come to life?
I will admit, I spent a whole summer being frightened of storm drains after my responsible camp counselor took it upon herself to enlighten us about Pennywise the Clown. So ten year old me spent a summer assiduously avoiding being in the bathroom by herself for too long, along with jumping at every shadow…good times, in other words!
But luckily, Pennywise never came to life, and I was safe. Although I still stand by my statement about never having seen my ex and Pennywise in the same room, but that’s another story!
Sometimes, characters that are created become all too real. We mourn their deaths as we would the death of a friend or family member. Or we shake our heads when a TV show or book character makes what we think to be terrible decisions, and we feel their pain at the consequences of those decisions.
Or, these characters scare into a change of pants, and they haunt our dreams…
Like Freddy Kreuger.
The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has become a bit of a joke, with all the sequels and even a reboot in 2010. But when you get down to it, Freddy Kreuger is one scary motherfucker…and I will stand by that statement until my dying day!
The fact that Freddy Kreuger is believable is bad enough. After all, guys murdering kids and our justice system letting them off on a technicality is something that happens, unfortunately. And if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be above murder, in the interest of keeping my child and others safe from a monster like that.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes things up a level, and could be considered meta fiction, as Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp both play themselves in the movie. The movie also stars Robert Englund, who plays himself, along with an even more horrifying version of Freddy Kreuger.
It turns out that Freddy is indeed real, and after Heather, because she defeated him onscreen. And no one is safe, including her family.
Works of art can often have an effect on the creator, along with anyone else who may be influenced by that particular work of art. This is a fascinating theme that New Nightmare explores. The deaths are gruesome, and the entire film has a strange, dreamlike quality, which makes this movie even scarier than its “source material.”
It is no secret that people fear what they don’t understand.
As someone who spent much of her life being bullied for her looks and well…for just being herself, I have first hand experience with this. I have had people makes assumptions about anything and everything about me, even questioning my intelligence, because of how I looked. In fact, I had few friends when I was in high school, and did not even kiss a guy until I was 19 years old. And most of this was due to my feelings of how I looked. And I have come a long way, but even today, I am uncomfortable with almost any kind of comments in regards to my looks, even though no one has told me I am ugly in a long, long time.
In fact, I think I dreamed of joining the circus for a time. But since that was not a practical solution, I did the next best thing: I rented the movie Freaks.
Freaks deals with quite a few hot button topics, but it really boils down to is one thing: man’s inhumanity to man, along with the fact that you can’t really judge a book by its cover. Oh, and karma is a real bitch!
This movie is controversial to some, because of how it depicts those who may suffer from disabilities. However, when I watched this movie, the so-called “freaks” were the ones I rooted for, and the ones who actually behaved in a humane (well, sort of, given what they have gone through in their lifetimes) manner. However, the so-called “normal” folks were the enemies, especially the beautiful woman who tried to trick one of the “freaks,” so she could get access to his money.
I thought of the “beautiful one” as one of the mean girls in high school who was only nice to me when she wanted something (like answers to the math homework) and who would talk about me behind her back any chance she got. However, someone finally gave her what she deserved, and she got to take a walk on the other side…
Again, karma is a bitch!
While we are on the topic of high school and the mean girls who rarely get what they deserve, let’s talk about the movie Carrie. For clarification, we will be discussing the 1976 version.
I have mixed feelings about onscreen adaptations of Stephen King novels. Some, like The Green Mile, are straightforward adaptations that remain almost word for word to the source material. Others, like 1408 and 11.22.63, are not straightforward adaptations, but still remain faithful to the spirit of the books. And of course, there are others, like The Running Man, that share little in common with the source material, other than the title.
Carrie is one of those adaptations that fall into the second category: it is not a slavish adaptation to the source material, but anyone familiar with the novel can still “see” the novel when watching the movie. The changes add to the story, rather than detracting from it. Additionally, the performances in the movie, especially by Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek, are outstanding, and bring the movie from good to phenomenal.
The title character in the movie Carrie is one many of us can sympathize with. I also rooted for Carrie when I read the book and watched the movie. And I understood why Carrie “snapped”: there is only so much abuse one can take from her peers before she decides that enough is enough. Carrie’s treatment at the hands of her peers cut me to the core, as I had to deal with bullying for most of my school career, and that bullying pretty much ruined my life for years to come. And Carrie’s death was most upsetting, although I was glad that her bullies got their just desserts.
One of the changes from the novel in the movie was the ending. Sue Snell (who had tried to help Carrie) dreams that she is visiting Carrie’s grave, which has been defaced. Sue attempts to place flowers on the grave, but a hand suddenly comes up from the ground, grabbing Sue. Sue then awakens in hysterics, and is seemingly still in the dream.
That scene gets me. Every. Single. Time.
5) Jacob’s Ladder
My father was drafted during the Vietnam War and actually saw time in Vietnam. We don’t talk about his experiences much, but, not surprisingly, Vietnam has been a huge shadow over my life. I am also an 80’s child, so Vietnam is also a huge theme in many movies that I grew up watching, including Rambo, Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket.
In high school, I read Dante’s Inferno. I was fascinated with the concept of Purgatory: there is a stage between this life and the afterlife, where you are doomed to repeat all the worst moments in your life, before you finally figure it out, and move on to the next level, whatever that may be. And some poor souls never figure it out, and are doomed to repeat their mistakes for all eternity.
The movie Jacob’s Ladder combines commentary on the Vietnam War, along with the concept of Purgatory. The title character, Jacob, is troubled by horrible memories of his time in Vietnam, where he believes that he was drugged and committed atrocities. Soon, he is unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality, as he begins to see odd things in his daily life that he cannot explain. Jacob’s visions escalate, and he fears that he is going mad.
Well, it turns out that Jacob is (literally) a lost soul. See the part about Purgatory. In other words, that creepy fortune teller is right: Jacob is already dead. He was placed in a body bag in Vietnam, but never accepted his death. So he has been stuck in Purgatory and is haunted by his past sins.
It is only when Jacob faces the truth about what has happened to him, that he is able to move on. He is led by his deceased son to whatever the next level of life is. It is noted by the doctors that Jacob seems to now be at peace.
Like The Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a great metaphor for being able to let go and not hold on to something that no longer serves any purpose in one’s life (or afterlife.) It also brings attentions to the horrors of war, and manages to still be a scary, effective horror movie.
Sometimes, we create our own monsters. And the monster within is far more frightening than a bloodsucking vampire or a clown that lives in the sewers.
Horns explores the concept of the monster within in depth. Based on a book by Joe Hill, this movie deals with many other themes other than “the monster within,” including family, friendship, first love and just who (or what) can be considered evil.
One morning, Ignacio M. Parrish (note the initials), or Ig, wakes up and finds he has grown a pair of horns. These horns are invisible (almost) everyone else, but Ig finds out that people will confess their darkest desires (and sometimes even act those desires out, having lost all inhibition) to him, as the horns seem to exude some sort of influence on (almost) everyone around him.
We also learn of Ig’s first love, Merrin, and that Merrin was murdered nearly a year prior. Ig was accused of the murder, and no one in town believes that he is innocent. For the rest of the movie, Ig struggles to understand what he has become, and to solve Merrin’s murder and clear his own name. Ig also finds out that those he called friends and family are really anything but, and that he stands alone in his desire to bring justice to Merrin.
Horns appears to be a horror movie, and it is, but it is so much more. It is a love story, a cat-and-mouse detective story and even a dark fantasy, with a lot of religious allegory. In other words, a little something for everyone.
3. Burnt Offerings
Move over, The Amityville Horror and The Conjuring. There’s a new (well, not really) haunted house movie in town, and it goes by the name of Burnt Offerings.
Burnt Offerings may not be the movie one thinks of when anyone brings up the subject of the haunted house movie. And that would be a grave oversight, as this movie is the movie I believe should represent the haunted house movie category.
In many ways, Burnt Offerings is your standard haunted house movie. There is a nice young family, which includes the sweet old great aunt Elizabeth (played brilliantly by Bette Davis.) The nice young family gets a deal for a summer home rental that is probably too good to be true. The mother of the nice young family doesn’t listen, of course, and that spells doom for everyone.
However, in many ways, Burnt Offerings is NOT your standard haunted house movie. For one thing, ghosts are not a major of part of the movie. Instead, the movie relies on “real life horrors” (like a father trying to drown his child) and the house itself becomes a character, exerting its evil influence on the inhabitants. The film also uses psychological horror, invading the minds of the inhabitants and terrorizing them with unpleasant past memories.
Oh, and before we move on to the next entry, let’s hear it for the chauffeur. In other words, one of the many reasons I need to spend some quality time in my therapist’s chair, even as an adult. He may have also been responsible for a soiled pair of underwear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.
In any horror movie, you have to have a good villain. After all, a good horror movie is nothing without a guy (or girl, or creature) that you love to hate.
For a long time, Pennywise the Clown was that creature. Could anything be scarier than a homicidal clown who lives in the sewers and eats kids?
Well, I think I found someone to give good old Pennywise a run for his money (or is that a run for his souls?)
Enter The Tall Man, the villain from the movie Phantasm. Again, I can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that this man may also have been responsible for a pair or two of soiled underwear.
Phantasm may be old (only a year younger than yours truly…yikes!) but surprisingly, it stands the test of time. I watched this movie recently, and it scared the crap out of me all over again…yikes!
As I have said before, Phantasm is all about the villain. The Tall Man is definitely someone I would not want to meet in a dark alley (and I will pass on his dwarfs too, thank you.) However, I was also struck by the movie’s use of ordinary objects to elicit a sense of foreboding and outright fear. I think I can rightfully make the statement that this the only movie I know of that managed to make a guitar tuning fork frightening. Along with the inside of the funeral home, although those are pretty frightening anyway. Even Mike’s bedroom was frightening, although that may have just been the 1970’s decor (something that thankfully has NOT withstood the test of time.)
It should be noted that while I generally have no use for sequels, especially with horror movies (Carrie 2: The Rage anyone?), I think that Phantasm II is also very good and worth watching, although it seems to be more of a continuation than a sequel.
And now, for my favorite horror movie of all time…
Yes, I have chosen Poltergeist as my favorite horror movie of all time. This may seem like an odd choice, but roll with me on this, ok?
Poltergeist, on the surface, is not your typical horror movie. There is no violence. There is no sex. There is hardly even any swearing…I believe that the worst word someone uses is “damn”, and there are certainly no f bombs. In fact, the movie is rated PG, which is, again, unusual for a horror movie.
In fact, at points, this movie could be mistaken for a Disney movie…thank you, Zelda Rubinstein!
However, Poltergeist is one fucking scary movie. I will mince no words: this movie scared the shit out of me when I first saw, and still continues to scare the shit out of me to this day.
Like I said before, this movie could almost be mistaken for a Disney movie. At first, the hi-jinks of the ghosts haunting the home of the Freeling family are sort of amusing. Chairs move on their own accord. Drinking glasses break. Furniture cannot stay still.
But slowly, the hi-jinks become a little more sinister. Carol Anne’s pet bird mysteriously dies. And then is the matter of that tree outside the bedroom window that is not as nice as it appears…
Then, we get to disgusting, as one of the parapsychologists who pays a visit to the Freelings helps himself to leftovers one night, and finds out he is not eating chicken…
Very quickly, things go from benign to sort of disturbing to outright fucking terrifying, as Carol Anne is kidnapped and trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, between the living and the dead.
But the nice medium pays a visit, to help the family. And Carol Anne is rescued. Dad finds out that the house was actually built on a graveyard (more on that in a minute), and the family decides to pack up and move.
Case closed, right?
Well, no. The last 15 minutes or so of Poltergeist is the biggest roller coaster ride in any movie, as literally all Hell breaks loose.
Turns out, there is a technicality. So…a forgetful person not only built the house on a graveyard, but kind of forgot to move…you know…the DAMN BODIES that were buried in those graves!
In other words, we are FUBAR, ladies and gentleman!
Of course, all ends well (except for that television set, but I can’t blame Dad on that one). But the suspense came close to killing me the first time I watched this movie as a teenager…would everyone survive, or would the spirits win? And even as an adult, those last 15 minutes get the old heart rate up…
The other thing I like about Poltergeist is that it was made long before CGI was even an idea, so Steven Spielberg had to rely on other things to tell the story, like props, makeup, acting and oh yeah…good writing and storytelling! There is a reason why so few movies after, oh say, 1995 are on this list: CGI has made for lazy storytelling and has been responsible for the decline of modern horror, in this humble blogger’s opinion.
Oh, and a side note: I may have referred to Pennywise the Clown quite a few times in this blog post, but I think that Pennywise would do well to bow down to the Poltergeist Clown, as I believe this clown should take home the honor (or is horror?) of All Time Scariest Fucking Clown in a Movie Ever.
Well, that’s it for my all time favorite horror movies. It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and I am sure a few really good movies were left off. What it is it that they say? Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right?
So, check some of these flicks out if you haven’t already. I promise you, none of them are as scary as that thing they call the Republican National Convention, but at least the makeup job on the villains is much better than the makeup job on Donald Trump!
And with that note, adios! Happy viewing!