Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Top 200 Favorite Horror Films

To celebrate Halloween 2013 here are my top 200 horror films. This is an admittedly idiosyncratic list, so I will explain a little about my taste:

Horror is one of my favorite genres, but I often find I have little in common with most other fans. With a few exceptions, I don’t much care for American slasher movies or comedy-horror. I don’t think horror films should be given a free pass on acting and writing. I tend to disdain sequels and remakes, and rarely bother seeing them even if I like the original. I find popular blockbuster horror films largely stale and rote, with too much reliance on formula and cliche. I think shock cinema and torture porn are largely hollow and pointless (real shock, in my opinion, is about violating expectations and denying gratification, not just showing revolting images). I'm uncomfortable with the latent one-upmanship in the horror community that values senseless gore, sadism and cruelty and I dislike that cultivating a jaded tolerance to that sort of thing is considered a badge of honor.

What I do like is psychological horror, atmosphere, surprises (including a good twist, if it makes sense), really dark or ambitious themes, strong visuals and sound design, moral complexity, originality, uncompromising endings, characters who don’t behave like idiots for the convenience of the plot and explorations of fear and death that function on multiple levels, dissecting individual and socio-cultural anxieties simultaneously. I like both dreamlike surrealism that scares me by providing a glimpse of the otherworldly or unknown and disturbing realism that scares me by confronting me with actual possibilities and hard truths. I genuinely enjoy the physical sensation of terror and I want a good horror films to frighten me (just like I want comedies to make me laugh and sad movies to make me cry), so I don’t consciously resist my emotional reactions. I actually quite enjoy discerningly-deployed practical and digital special effects (and even a healthy smattering of gore), as long as they don’t smother the screenplay. I’m quite fond of art-horror and foreign horror, especially gialli (though they have their own set of conventions). Though I think it is a lesser form of greatness, I occasionally enjoy campiness and cheesiness, but the so-bad-its-good thing usually only works for me when there is quite a bit of (often misguided) talent underneath.

So with all that in mind, let’s get back to the list. It’s got a lot of weird things on it. You may disagree with my rather generous definition of ‘horror’ as it includes multiple documentaries, musicals and martial arts films. Even I'm not sure of the ordering. But if you find yourself agreeing with the titles you recognize, you’ll have fun catching up on the one’s you don’t.

For the record, I don’t consider anything on this list filler. I like everything here (though some I haven’t seen in a long time). There are several times as many films that didn’t make the cut, so any movie that made it earned its spot and just because a movie didn’t make it doesn’t mean I’m not a fan.

I enforced a rule of only one film per series (including reboots), which is why you won’t see Aliens, Frankenstein, Cat People, Dawn of the Dead or Inferno.

If you are wondering about the absence of ‘classics’ like Halloween, Friday the 13th (which is anyway a remake of the superior Italian Twitch of the Death Nerve), Dracula, Birds, Amityville Horror, Phantasm, The Blob, The Omen or The Wicker Man, the answer is that they didn’t make the cut.

If you think I’ve forgotten something or need to track a title down, put your recommendations in the comments section.

And now the list…
  1. Possession (1981) France
  2. Cremator, The (1969) Slovakia
  3. Deep Red (1975) Italy
  4. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  5. Se7en (1995)
  6. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  7. Diabolical / Diabolique (1955) France
  8. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) Australia
  9. Videodrome (1983) Canada
  10. Eraserhead (1977)
  11. Don't Look Now (1973) UK
  12. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) Spain
  13. Saragossa Manuscript, The (1965) Poland
  14. Shining, The (1980)
  15. Vanishing, The (1988) Netherlands
  16. House / Hausu (1977) Japan
  17. White Ribbon, The (2009) Austria
  18. Alien (1979)
  19. Phenomena (1985) Italy
  20. Gravity (2013)
  21. Boxer's Omen (1983) Hong Kong
  22. Peeping Tom (1960) UK
  23. Sixth Sense, The (1999)
  24. Vinyan (2008) France
  25. Memories of Murder (2003) South Korea
  26. Thing, The (1982)
  27. Death Laid an Egg (1968) Italy
  28. Ring, The (2002)
  29. Others, The (2001) Spain
  30. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
  31. Threads (1984) UK
  32. Descent, The (2005) UK
  33. Psycho (1960)
  34. Suspiria (1977) Italy
  35. Exorcist, The (1973)
  36. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  37. Orphanage, The (2008) Spain
  38. Innocents, The (1961) UK
  39. Targets (1968)
  40. Night of the Hunter, The (1955)
  41. Face of Another, The (1966) Japan
  42. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) Czech Rep.
  43. Lost Highway (1997)
  44. Lunacy (2005) Czech Rep.
  45. Scream (1996)
  46. Trouble Every Day (2001) France
  47. Cabin in the Woods (2011)
  48. Cure (1997) Japan
  49. Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975)
  50. Repulsion (1965) UK
  51. Chinese Ghost Story, A (1987) Hong Kong
  52. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
  53. Cloverfield (2008)
  54. Nosferatu, Symphony of the Night (1922) Germany
  55. Shout, The (1978) UK
  56. Jaws (1975)
  57. Holy Blood (Santa Sangre) (1989) Mexico
  58. Fourth Man, The (1983) Netherlands
  59. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) South Korea
  60. Paranormal Activity (2007)
  61. Shallow Grave (1994) UK
  62. Dead Ringers (1988) Canada
  63. Unknown, The (1927)
  64. Re-Animator (1985)
  65. Blue Velvet (1986)
  66. Devil-Doll, The (1936)
  67. Murder to the Tune of Seven Black Notes / The Psychic (1977) Italy
  68. King Kong (1933)
  69. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  70. Battle Royale (2000) Japan
  71. Faust (1994) Czech Rep.
  72. Hourglass Sanatorium, The (1973) Poland
  73. War Game, The (1965) UK
  74. Nightmare on Elm Street, A (1984)
  75. Man Who Laughs, The (1928)
  76. Mr. Vampire (1985) Hong Kong
  77. Paranoiac (1963) UK
  78. Blair Witch Project, The (1999)
  79. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  80. Heavenly Creatures (1994) New Zealand
  81. Pitfall (1962) Japan
  82. Buried (2010) Spain
  83. Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The (1970) Italy
  84. Tingler, The (1959)
  85. Southern Comfort (1981)
  86. Save the Green Planet! (2003) South Korea
  87. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974)
  88. Finishing School, The / House that Screamed, The (1969) Spain
  89. 28 Days Later... (2002) UK
  90. Gozu (Cowhead) (2003) Japan
  91. Eyes without a Face (1960) France
  92. Triangle (2009) UK
  93. Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1920) Germany
  94. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  95. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
  96. Gemini (1999) Japan
  97. Devils, The (1971) UK
  98. Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945)
  99. Hell (1960) Japan
  100. Dr. Jekyll and His Women (1981) France
  101. Carnival of Souls (1962)
  102. Saw (2004)
  103. Devil's Backbone, The (2001) Spain
  104. Paperhouse (1988) UK
  105. Phantom of the Opera, The (1925)
  106. Cube (1997) Canada
  107. Them! (1954)
  108. Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, The (1971) Italy
  109. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2009)
  110. Careful (1992) Canada
  111. Cache (Hidden) (2005) France
  112. Stage Fright (1987) Italy
  113. Martin (1978)
  114. Nightbreed (1990) Canada
  115. Beetlejuice (1988)
  116. Freaks (1932)
  117. Collector, The (1965) UK
  118. Deliverance (1972)
  119. Curse of the Cat People (1944)
  120. Open Water (2003)
  121. Theater of Blood (1973) UK
  122. Red Queen Kills Seven Times, The (1972) Italy
  123. Honeymoon Killers, The (1969)
  124. Ghostbusters    (1986)
  125. Testament (1983)
  126. Shaun of the Dead (2004) UK
  127. Poltergeist (1982)
  128. Severance (2006) UK
  129. Host, The (2006) South Korea
  130. Return of the Living Dead, The (1985)
  131. Phase IV (1974) UK
  132. Frailty (2001)
  133. Fists in the Pocket (1965) Italy
  134. Sunshine (2007) UK
  135. Tenebre (Unsane) (1982) Italy
  136. Dead Alive (1992) New Zealand
  137. Amer (2009) Belgium
  138. Hellraiser (1987) UK
  139. Horror of Dracula, The (1958) UK
  140. [REC] (2007) Spain
  141. Brain that Wouldn't Die, The (1962)
  142. Kwaidan (1964) Japan
  143. Blood and Black Lace (1964) Italy
  144. Last Wave, The (1977) Australia
  145. Brood, The (1979) Canada
  146. Machinist, The (2003)
  147. Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) Italy
  148. Creature from the Black Lagoon, The (1954)
  149. Legend of Hell House, The (1973) UK
  150. Man Bites Dog (1991) Belgium
  151. Killing Kind, The (1973)
  152. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
  153. American Psycho (2000)
  154. Haunting, The (1963) UK
  155. Cemetery Man (1996) Italy
  156. Cell, The (2000)
  157. Bad Seed, The (1956)
  158. Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1973) Italy
  159. Predator (1987)
  160. Blade (1998)
  161. Ghostwatch (1992) UK
  162. Seventh Victim, The (1943)
  163. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
  164. Stepford Wives, The (1975)
  165. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
  166. Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) Italy
  167. Kingdom (1994) Denmark
  168. Carrie (1976)
  169. Splice (2009) Canada
  170. Vampires in Havana (1985) Cuba
  171. Angst (1983) Austria
  172. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
  173. Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People (1963) Japan
  174. Queen of Spades, The (1949) UK
  175. Misery (1990)
  176. Bucket of Blood, A (1959)
  177. In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
  178. Unbreakable (2000)
  179. Hour of the Wolf (1968) Sweden
  180. Fly, The (1986) Canada
  181. Case of the Scorpion's Tail, The (1971) Italy
  182. Arcana (1972) Italy
  183. Masque of the Red Death, The (1964)
  184. Evil Dead II (1987)
  185. Black Sunday (1960) Italy
  186. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) Japan
  187. Devil and Daniel Webster, The (1941)
  188. Event Horizon (1997) UK
  189. Hellstrom Chronicle, The (1971)
  190. Angel Heart (1987)
  191. Crawling Eye, The / The Trollenberg Terror (1958) UK
  192. Faust (1926) Germany
  193. Troll Hunter, The (2010) Norway
  194. Cronos (1993) Mexico
  195. Incubus (1965)
  196. God Told Me To (1976)
  197. Onibaba (1964) Japan
  198. Thesis (1996) Spain
  199. Ginger Snaps (2000) Canada
  200. Tale of Two Sisters, A (2003) South Korea


1 comment:

Patrick said...

No surprise to see Possession at the top, but Cremator is a welcome follow-up! I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I've seen your top 3 and several of the top 20 or so but not much of the rest.