I hate to repeat myself, and shouting out the same movie twice in three lists is doing just that. But if you're avoiding all the drunk, horny vampires and GAGAs this Halloween, watching movies at home, you've probably considered throwing this one on. With its creepy house, its dark, gloomy sets and skewed angles, its mummy corpse mom, its knife wielding killer, and its beautiful, unsuspecting, naked victim, this film is the dear old mother of modern horror.
9. THE DESCENT
A couple years ago a few unsuspecting schmoes like us went to movie theaters expecting the run-of-the-mill cheap horror movie with a kind of outdoorsy feminine vibe. We got lulled for a moment with all the carabiniers and headlamps. Then without warning we found ourselves in a nightmare of super-tight spaces, brutal gore, and cave-dwelling demon-creatures in a feeding frenzy. Truly scary with a totally satisfying and hopeless ending.
Hollywood has been remaking Asian horror movies for more than a decade now, generally to dismal results. This Japanese classic (whose American remake is actually pretty good) is enough to tell you why: there are some other-level scary brains in Asia. Watching a videotape condemns viewers to gruesome death. How gruesome? A greasy, horrific spirit woman crawls out of a television and stops your heart. Yup, voted by the Japanese as the scariest movie of all time.
7. THE BROOD
Maybe you beg to differ with this choice. But nobody has had quite the influence that Cronenberg has. Sure we can think of about five of his movies we like better, but this one's his most fun. Reptile-faced blond children marauding through town in one-piece snowsuits, tearing people apart at the behest of their deeply troubled, psychic mother. And that "birth" scene, with the licking! Gah! Nasty.
6. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
The only vampire movie in the recent glut of vampire crap that we've even liked, this quiet, poetic little Scandanavian number is as much a horror movie as a love story. Featuring a twelve-year old girl who has been twelve "a very long time," and a visual dreariness and darkness that somehow manages to be lush, you almost forget it's horror until, bam, something horrible happens.
5. EYES WITHOUT A FACE
This is our dark horse in a herd of dark horses. If you haven't seen this inspiration for the Billy Idol jam, you are missing some really freaky stuff. A little deformed girl behind a blank, white face mask. Scary. A father who kidnaps other little girls to remove their faces. Nasty. The little girl in a mask prancing around the nooks of a big French mansion. Please don't prance, little girl. I don't even need to know what's happening in this film for it to give me bad dreams.
4. EVIL DEAD & EVIL DEAD 2
Sam Raimi's Evil Dead empire put him (and his leading man Bruce Campbell) on the map. Both movies are full of gore, demonically-possessed people and objects, and haunted forests — total Halloween mood. To our mind, the two films just go together. Where the first film introduces us to the relentless and wild language of horror that the two men created, the second really nails it, while really solidifying their campy, sight-gag humor.
3. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
Many horror aficionados swear this movie's sequel was a superior film, but that's just film nerd garbage about better acting. It was the original's agonizing scenes of torture and pleading, the sheer glee of Leatherface dancing as he works, the down home country grotesqueness of his cannibalizing family, and the low-budget, verite camera work, that made it so shocking and doomed the glitzy 2004 remake.
2. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
Although the zombie genre deserves a list of its own (to make room for such classics as WHITE ZOMBIE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, DAY and DAWN OF THE DEAD, and the 28 DAYS franchise), it's this great George Romero masterpiece that made the zombie genre what we know it to be. We love this movie as much for what happens as the general feeling of it — the constant sounds of moaning, the shabby, crumbling house, the tense sense of a threat closing in, the hopelessness. It holds up so well, unlike that house.
Duh. For decades the American horror movie was dominated by a few slasher franchises whose villains we've all come to know. But none of the other jokers compare to Michael Myers, whose monolithic, unkillable body, gleaming butcher knife, and expressionless mask (reputedly a mold of William Shatner's face) have haunted Haddonfield and audiences since John Carpenter's original in 1977. No joke, I had a Michael Myers dream this very morning. It was awesome.