You may not know this, but Hi-Def Ninja has quite the extensive amount of staff writers and with those writers comes many different views and opinions. To cap off our 2014 Halloween Week, we had a majority of our writers reveal their Top 5 Favorite Horror Films and why those particular films resonate with them.
Once you’ve read the lists, chime in below and let us know what your Top 5 Favorite Horror Films are! Enjoy!
This seems like a nearly-impossible task. There are so many amazingly scary films out there and so many sub-genres within horror, it’s difficult to pinpoint the films that I should focus on. That said, I decided to stay away from cross-genres such as sci-fi/horror and comedy/horror (at least I try to). I’ll save those for my ‘Honorable Mentions.’ Here’s my Top 5, in no particular order…
TRICK ‘R TREAT – Anthology films are a tough sell for me, but this film absolutely nailed everything that it set out to do. Writer/director Michael Dougherty weaves several horror tales together flawlessly while including Sam, a memorable character and potential new horror icon, throughout all of them. The cinematography and music are great and I couldn’t help but root for the little bad guy. It’s just a perfect Halloween film.
THE DESCENT – Potentially one of the scariest films that I’ve ever seen, but one that I always have to watch to the very end. Neil Marshall drills terror into your heart with THE DESCENT. Not only does it feature some incredibly creepy creature designs, but the feelings of abandonment and claustrophobia are all too real.
HALLOWEEN (1978) – While not the scariest film that I’ve ever seen, it does star the most horrifying film villain in history. Michael Myers is the thing that my nightmares are built off of. Whenever I watch HALLOWEEN, I’m guaranteed a sleepless night afterward.
THE MIST – Frank Darabont’s adaptation of the Stephen King novella is amazing, no doubt about it. When I first watched THE MIST, I complained a lot: “there’s too much religious nonsense,” “that ending sucked,” etc. When I watched it a second time, I warmed up to everything that I was originally complained about. A third time: okay, that ending is rather brilliant. Fourth time: there’s nothing wrong with this film whatsoever. In a lot of ways, my reaction to THE MIST was identical to that of FIGHT CLUB. It took a long time, but I ended up loving it in the end. The creature designs are great, the score is harrowing and the black and white version provided on the two-disc Blu-ray is beautifully nostalgic.
SLITHER – Sure, there’s comedic and sci-fi elements, but make no doubt about it: SLITHER is horror at its finest. I love it too much; there’s no way I could leave it off of my Top 5. While I first became aware of James Gunn after he penned the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, it was SLITHER that made me a true fan of his. Add in spot-on performances from Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker, and you have one underrated horror gem that could become a classic if more people supported it.
MONSTER HOUSE – Yes, it’s not really horror and it’s an animated film, but MONSTER HOUSE is my absolute favorite film to watch during the Halloween season and one of my favorite animated films of all time.
28 DAYS LATER / DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) – Well the Romero zombies are classic, the super-speed zombies that were introduced during the 2000s were scary as hell. Both films featured good characters, great music and awesome cinematography.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS / TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL – Gory and hilarious, both of these films were great surprises and ones that I highly recommend to fans of the comedy/horror sub-genre.
THE THING (1982) – The only reason this was kept off my list was because of its sci-fi roots. It’s creepy, atmospheric and 100% perfect.
ALIEN – The same explanation as above with THE THING. HR Giger’s Xenomorph design is probably the greatest creature design in history.
SAW – That ending. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘torture porn’ sub-genre (in fact, it truly nauseates me), but the twist in SAW makes it one of my favorite horror films ever.
GINGER SNAPS / DOG SOLDIERS / WOLF – This trio of flicks are my favorite werewolf films. Each film was stylistic and featured great practical werewolf effects.
JURASSIC PARK / JAWS – Nobody does a creature feature better than Steven Spielberg. I long for the day that he returns to the monster film genre.
FROZEN (2010) – This tale of three skiers stuck on a chairlift while surrounded by a pack of wolves is absolutely terrifying because not only is it realistic, but it also hits home because I was once surrounded by a pack of the wolves while in the wilderness. I’ve felt that fear, and writer/director Adam Green captures it here.
THE EVIL DEAD, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, POLTERGEIST, INSIDIOUS, SCREAM, DREAMCATCHER, .REC, FRAILTY, ROSEMARY’S BABY, GREMLINS, PAN’S LABYRINTH, and THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE.
Right… so I’ve been asked to give my Top 5 horror movies of all time for Hi-Def Ninja’s coverage of Halloween. Asking me to pick a Top 5 list for horror movies is like asking me to pick my all-time Top 10 favorite movies; it’s never gonna happen. There are way too many to list, so I’m going to bail out and give you five of my favorite horror franchises and none of which will come as a surprise!
I should also point out that I was first subjected to horror movies when I was very young (maybe 9 or 10-years-old when I first witnessed the might of Freddy Krueger’s glove and Pinhead’s love of pain), so I came quite desensitised to horror movies very early on with my movie watching enjoyment.
1. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – Who doesn’t love Freddy? Robert Englund made the character of Freddy Kreuger come to life with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and had some fun along the way with the campy sequels before, in my opinion, coming back to full form to do A NEW NIGHTMARE and finish off the Freddy legacy. Of course there is FREDDY VS. JASON which is great fun, and the less said about that terrible shockingly bad utter pile of crap remake the better.
2. HELLRAISER – One of my favorite horror franchises, Pinhead and his merry band of Cenobites are always frightfully delightful to watch. Doug Bradley is great as the Cenobite leader that does tend to play on your mind with the movies, especially the first two, making you wonder just how far people will go to get that ultimate pleasure. Clive Barker, well done sir!
3. HALLOWEEN – Where would the list be without some Michael Myers loving? The unstoppable rogue has survived a good franchise with some pretty bad mask changes along the way. The original is still the best and I highly doubt will ever be beaten. Helmed by the legendary John Carpenter, it’s truly a classic horror movie that set the standard for so many slasher movies.
4. SAW – One of the franchises that kicked off the whole ‘torture porn’ run that we saw in cinemas for a while, but I hold the first movie in quite high regard as one of the horror films that redefined the genre. Anyone who SAW (see what I did there?) that ending coming is full of it and I call you a liar! The sequels aren’t a patch on the first, but it’s a good excuse to see more inventive ways of killing people, with the final film tying things up nicely.
5. FRIDAY THE 13TH – I almost didn’t put this in my Top 5, but I think it would just be downright rude not to. The machete-wielding maniac didn’t appear until the third film in the series, but the first movie remains as one of those genre-defining slasher movies just in the way that HALLOWEEN was, and it’s hard to not recognise it because of this.
GREMLINS – Okay, I guess not really horror… maybe horror comedy? Having watched them both again recently, I never really realised how funny they were, especially the first. But for me, GREMLINS as a kid scared the absolute crap out of me.
CHILD’S PLAY – Yeah, the sequels got worse as they went along, but the possessed ‘Good Guy Doll’ is always fun to watch.
1. HALLOWEEN (1978) – The theme song alone is terrifying. Those three notes played over and over with an expressionless evil staring at you. He’s the monster that never stops. I think that’s why I’ve always found it terrifying. Scariest Moment: when Laurie is in the closet and Michael stands through the doors.
2. THE CONJURING – Things that are haunted have always scared me. And an entire house with rough poltergeists that can effect everything? So many scary moments! Scariest Moment: when the woman in the rocking chair is holding the doll Annabelle and the doll’s head turns at the camera.
3. POLTERGEIST – Scary effects, possessed clowns… just the fact that it was a damn clown under the bed! The damn corpses in the muddy pool! Scariest Moment: that damn clown!
4. THE EXORCIST – Just the idea that this came from a true story and that there is a battle between not only good and evil, but heaven and hell. It had effects so messed up and original that no one was doing them at the time. I like the original without the added new effects and scenes. I think it was awesome as is. Scariest Moment: he dirtiest crucifix scene ever.
5. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) – Nothing like the original story of the macabre scene in Texas based on the stories of Ed Gein. A cannibalistic family with no real reason to eat people; it has always freaked me out and probably always will. Scariest Moment: when Leatherface pops up in the last reel.
SINISTER – What the hell is a sick demonic being that has twisted ways to murder families? Just creepy, and the end scene was weird but in a scary way. Scariest Moment: when the computer video was paused and the thing looked at Ethan Hawke’s character.
INSIDIOUS – Creepy happenings in a house with a convincing demon that listened to eerie music. Scariest Moment: when the demon was standing in the corner of the kids room. Oh, and maybe when he was behind the dad’s head in the dining room.
In no particular order…
ALIEN – For me personally, this is a masterpiece and has never been bettered. Claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the same time (trapped within the confides on a mining ship, but in deep space with nowhere to go)… the combination of Sir Ridley Scott’s tense directing and eye for cinematic visuals… the late H.R Giger’s almost mechanical and sexualised Xenomorph designs hidden in the shadows throughout… and Jerry Goldsmith’s fantastic score, ALIEN’s key moments still manage to make me jump with every viewing.
THE THING (1982) – For years and years, I could never get past that dog scene. It scared me so much that I had to switch it off. I never really watched it properly until I was in my teens (I loved the original 1954 version, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, though). Once I finally sat down and watched it, I was in awe and had it as my Friday night film for a very long time afterwards — up to the point where I could quote the film word for word. Touching on the same formula as ALIEN (trapped but with nowhere to escape to), John Carpenter’s update of ‘Who Goes There!’ successfully isolated the viewer in the deep of Antarctica with a parasitic extra-terrestrial that could imitate anything it came into contact with. The stuff nightmares are made of. Eye-popping and blood-curdling practical effects, an eerie score from maestro Ennio Morricone, some hidden plot devices (real fans who study the film can spot them with keen senses) and superb performances from Kurt Russell and the rest of the crew at Outpost 31. John Carpenter’s THE THING still chills today.
THE HAUNTING (1963) – Discovered after watching BBC’s GHOSTWATCH live (Google that for more info), Robert Wise’s intense and terrifying paranormal investigation into the mystery of Hill House is still the definitive haunted house film for any horror fan. Atmospheric and creepy throughout (thanks to clever cinematography and sound design), it’s miles ahead from the awful 1999 remake.
ZOMBI 2 (aka ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS) – Once banned in Britain under the obscene publications act and a victim of the censors scissors around the world, Lucio Fulci’s zombie classic is ranked highly in the world of spaghetti splatter. Violent and gory, but coupled with a striking score by Fabio Frizzi and some superbly directed showcase sequences, you couldn’t ask for much more.
THE BURNING – Another film that was originally banned in Britain, THE BURNING was so good, they didn’t have to make a franchise out of it in my honest opinion. It’s the only slasher film to genuinely make me jump thanks to some brutal kill sequences. It also featured quite a few recognisable faces in early roles as well (and the very first production from The Weinstein ‘Miramax’ Brothers, film fans!).
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST – Horrific and repugnant, the true definition of the word ‘horror’.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – Wes Craven’s original springwood slasher is a successful horror fantasy.
GRAVE ENCOUNTERS – A superb and scary send-up of TV reality shows.
BANSHEE CHAPTER – Blair Erikson’s feature debut (produced by Zachery Quinto, as well), this clever re-imaging of H.P Lovecraft’s ‘From Beyond’ gave me sleepless nights.
1. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT – Absolutely terrifying to this day, due entirely to the ‘lost footage’ element. It humanized the story behind the three victims in a way that I hadn’t seen before. I saw this on a weird Halloween night that kept me up until sunrise.
2. HELLRAISER – Another film that scared the bodily fluids out of me, HELLRAISER continues to impress because it introduced genuine fear that A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET simply couldn’t provide. Call me crazy, but each time I see Pinhead, my skin crawls. I’ve always wondered who would win in a throwdown: Jason, Freddy or Pinhead.
3. THE CONJURING – Although it’s new, THE CONJURING reawakened a genre some thought dead by going back to basics: make a great story without the blood. The result is one of the creepiest efforts with a great cast including Patrick Wilson and Vera Farminga. And those hands…
4. SCANNERS – On the other side of the genre is the blood-fest known as SCANNERS. It’s a film I still have a hard time watching, due entirely to all of the exploding heads. Although things feel a bit dated, I have to place this on my list because it’s Cronenberg and the gore is just insane.
5. 28 DAYS LATER – Another creep-fest that still resonates with me, 28 DAYS LATER seems to have started the whole well-made-horror-on-a-low-budget genre by (you guessed it) offering a really good story. Credit Cillian Murphy for carrying the first thirty minutes of this gem all by himself and thank Danny Boyle for giving me nightmares afterwards. By the way, does anyone have his address?
SINISTER – Shouldn’t have seen this one alone, but it’s a great mystery served up in tasty amounts of frightening moments.
THE EXORCIST – Yeah, it’s a pretty cliché choice, but show me another possession film with a kick-butt story and I’ll show you a man who can pee his pants at a good scare. That’s me, by the way…
BEGOTTEN – Certainly the strangest horror film ever made, BEGOTTEN ranks at the top of my “let’s watch a bunch of weird films without getting stoned” list. All drug jokes aside, the horror is just plain out of this world, making it truly categorizable. What horror (or really any other) films today can make that claim?
I should start by saying I love horror movies and developed my own post focused on this last year, which can be found HERE. That said, narrowing it down to five picks, while limiting in terms of the massive love I have for all the films that fall under this genre, still leads to me shouting out a few films that may seem obvious, but are certainly some of the true greats.
1. PSYCHO – One of my favorite films of all time, it was practically a no-brainer to choose it as my number 1 horror film. It is great for so many reasons, including the fascinating approach of literally switching main characters nearly halfway through the film, almost giving you a reason to want to root for the wrong person. Plenty more I could say about this Hitchcock classic, but ‘brilliance’ is an easy word to associate with this film.
2. JAWS – JAWS is the reason that I have irrational thoughts about not being completely safe in a swimming pool, which means the movie must have been pretty damn effective when I first saw it. Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 feature may lean on being an adventure film in its second half, but it does not stop being scary, as we witness a monster lurking in the waters and eating its victims. That seems a lot like horror to me and this film is fantastic for that, let alone a myriad of other reasons.
3. HALLOWEEN (1978) – I can talk plenty about HALLOWEEN and how fantastic it continues to be, but I should just note that it’s a film I watch annually, no question about it. Pure greatness.
4. THE THING (1982) – John Carpenter is responsible for one of the best remakes of all time and I will say this, no matter how many times I watch it, the damn chest opening scene still gets me. Kurt Russell leads a manly cast plagued by a monster that is diabolical in its means for hiding in plain sight. Great concept, great effects, a great score (a notable aspect throughout my list actually), and so many memorable scenes; there is really solid filmmaking on display here.
5. ALIEN – Dubbed by some as JAWS in space, this is a wonderful high concept and brilliant execution from director Ridley Scott. With a classic and original monster design, screams may not be heard in space, but they were likely heard in the theater during the film’s original theatrical run. The alien bleeds acid! That’s an amazing idea, held together by the use of atmosphere and a strong cast to really keep this thing together. Plus, Ash was a damn robot!
THE SHINING, EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN, DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), THE EVIL DEAD, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974).
1. THE EXORCIST – The feeling of fear never dies down every time I watch it. It’s arguably the best horror movie ever made.
2. THE CONJURING – The first time I saw it was at a matinee show in a stadium seating theater, and I was the only person in the theater watching it. Let’s just say I was looking at the entrance to the theater frequently to make sure Bathsheba wasn’t coming.
3. HALLOWEEN (1978) – The boogeyman lurks and stalks his prey. What made Michael Myers scary was that he wasn’t part of anyone’s fantasy; he was just a sick, cold-blooded murderer who can lurk in anyone’s quiet town.
4. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS – Much better than FREDDY’S REVENGE and the dream sequences are downright scary. Couple in early performances in the respective acting careers of Patricia Arquette and Laurence Fishburne, this has to be my favorite Freddy movie.
5. SAW – The ending left a lasting impression on me. I remember watching it for the first time and just being absolutely disturbed and shocked at the end of the movie.
1. THE EXORCIST – Growing up Catholic meant that I would forever be more afraid of demons and spirits than some psychopath knocking down my door. THE EXORCIST is the scariest movie to me for this exact reason. Its subversiveness was disturbing, and the horrifying imagery of young Linda Blair thrashing around on a bed spitting profanities at terrified priests is seared into my mind. Thanks, William Friedkin.
2. SUSPIRIA – This Dario Argento film is frightening because of its eerie, nightmarish quality. The use of color and sound created an atmosphere of stifling paranoia that made for a truly unique horror experience.
3. GINGER SNAPS – I love the way this film is not only a clever metaphor for puberty, but also genuinely terrifying thanks to its use of practical effects. Its self-awareness and dark humor is a lot of fun.
4. IT – I never want to see this film ever again, and that’s testament enough to how terrifying it is. There’s something seriously disturbing about taking something that’s supposed to be harmless and entertaining — like clowns — and turning them into the stuff of nightmares. Every time I see a storm drain my stomach churns. God dammit, Georgie.
5. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) – Absolutely horrifying because it is quite possibly the most insane film in this genre, made even more disturbing because it is based on real events. Leatherface has become iconic because he represents the modern horror genre so well; he is the face of something inexplicably gut-wrenching and evil.