Halloween, that yearly celebration of devil worship, blood drenched supernatural death and goat sacrifice ,where children up and down the land merrily dress up as various incarnations of the undead, get their parents consent to bang on people’s doors begging for sweets and then wantonly vandalize their property if the poor sods don’t cough up the goods. Indeed my own fiendish plan to scare off the little bastards this year was completely thwarted the other day by a rather nervous looking shop assistant at my local joke shop, who claimed never to have heard of the Evil Dead and therefore could sadly not supply me with a life size demon doll that would scream “dead by dawn!” at any bunch of trick or treaters foolish enough to disturb my evening.
Anyway, I’m getting off the point. As a lifelong film geek its fair to say that of the many thousands that I have watched, a good proportion have been firmly rooted in the department marked ‘Horror’. Now admittedly I’m not the biggest fan of this genre -I didn’t enjoy the Nightmare On Elm Street series (how a child killer could become a cult icon is beyond me), have never been able to fathom the popularity of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and have absolutely no desire to watch the likes on I Spit On Your Grave, Driller Killer or Last House on The Left.
However, there are in fact some rather good ones out there that I have thoroughly enjoyed and even have in my rather huge dvd collection – and as Halloween is soon to be upon us, i thought id share with you all my top 10 favourite horror films all time- read on if you dare!
1. The Descent (2005)
Director: Neil Marshall
Actors: Shauna McDonald, Natalie Mendoza
A definite contender for one of the scariest films ever made. Neil Marshall’s magnum opus centres on a group of female thrill seekers who get trapped underground in the Appalachian mountains and then one by one fall foul to a bloodthirsty pack of cave dwelling cannibals. I must have seen this ten times over and it still scares the crap out of me, superbly written, hideously claustrophobic, well acted by the no name cast, directed with panache, skill and verve by Marshall and certainly not one to watch alone.
Best Bit: When the creatures finally reveal themselves – don’t look down that camera lens!
2. Alien (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott
Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Yaphett Kotto, Veronica Cartwright.
A deep space mining vessel responds to an apparent distress signal from a nearby planetoid and goes to investigate. All is going well until one of the crew (John Hurt) gets a sort of parasite attached his face and is taken on board the ship for medical assistance – big mistake. A near perfect film that combines scares, body horror and classic sci fi plus HR Giger’s astoundingly horrible alien monster that would give even Freddy Krueger the willies.
Best Bit: The Chestburster scene – (“the food aint that bad baby!”)
3. The Omen (1976)
Director: Richard Donner
Actors: Gregory Peck, Patrick Troughton, Lee Remick, David Warner.
When the American Ambassador to Britain (Peck) discovers that his infant son is none other than the Antichrist, he teams up with a freelance photographer (Warner) to discover the awful truth and thwart Satan’s evil plans for mankind.
This one always manages to put the frighteners on me – mainly due to Jerry Goldsmiths nerve jangling score and Richard Donner’s suspenseful direction that very intelligently chooses to be less concerned about daft monsters and OTT effects and more to do with the nature of fear and lurking danger hiding in the shadows, which cleverly manages to keep the viewer guessing as to whether or not the story is all real or just a series of supposed coincidences.
Best bit: That final shot – Young Damien, standing at his parents funeral (whilst holding the US Presidents hand no less) – turns to the camera…………..and just smiles.
4. The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Actors: Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller.
Celebrated critic Mark Kermode cites this as his favourite film ever – and its not hard to see why. Cherubic looking Regan (Blair) becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu, then proceeds to speak in tongues, levitate off the bed, vomit pea soup, make unseemly suggestions about exactly what Priest Jason Miller’s dead mother is up to in hell – and don’t even get me started on what she does with that crucifix!
To say the least the Exorcist is one of those films that gets better with every viewing, Friedkin’s direction doesn’t put a foot wrong, the make up and sound effects are still astounding, and the use of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is a work of sheer genius.
Best bit: The climactic Exorcism sequence, where the two Jesuit priests do epic battle with the demon- very uncomfortable to watch – but brilliant nonetheless.
5.The Thing (1982)
Director: John Carpenter
Actors: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David.
A critical and commercial disappointment on its release, this has since become a deserved cult classic. For those not in the know – a shape shifting alien life form gradually infects the men of an Antarctic research station, who then not only have to attempt to destroy said beastie but also avoid killing each other in the process.
Best bit: That ending – too exhausted to carry on, Kurt Russell and Keith David sit outside in the freezing Arctic cold and watch the station burn to the ground – both still unsure if they too have been infected by the alien (“lets just wait…..and see what happens”)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Actors: Jo-beth Williams, Craig T Nelson, Heather O’Rourke
Awesome film – written and produced by Steven Spielberg, Poltergeist tells the story of how an ordinary apple pie American family are haunted by a terrible supernatural force that turns their lives upside down when it abducts their youngest daughter (O’Rourke). Now some may argue that this is more of a ghost story than a straight up horror – but with shocks aplenty, rotting corpses rising from the grave, killer trees and huge monsters appearing out of the ether – it’d be hard to call it anything else. Basically if you haven’t seen this yet then shame on you!
Best bit: Williams, Nelson and the ghost hunting team’s final nail biting attempt to rescue O’Rourke from the clutches of the poltergeist(“don’t let go!”)
7 .An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Director: John Landis
Actors: David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, Jenny Agutter
Naughton and Dunne are two American students on a back packing trip to England who proceed to get lost on the Yorkshire moors and are attacked by a werewolf. Rick Baker’s make up effects deservedly won a bunch of awards and are still impressive even by today’s standards. Its also seriously funny, and damned scary in parts too- most notably the scene at the beginning where the boys are attacked on the moors, and THAT sequence in the deserted London tube station (“i shall report this”!).
Best Bit: The Slaughtered Lamb – Naughton and Dunne walk into East Proctor’s local boozer looking for something to eat, only to be met with stony silence and icy stares by a very unwelcoming bunch of locals. The tension doesn’t last long though as the great Brian Glover proceeds to loudly tell a hilarious joke about 3 blokes in a crashing plane (“he chucks out the Mexican!”) which results in the entire pub collapsing in fits of laughter (just dont ask what that star on the wall is).
8.Horror Of Dracula (1958)
Director: Terrence Fisher
Actors: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough.
Hammer’s extremely loose take on the Bram Stoker classic features Peter Cushing as Van Helsing (endless supply of crucifixes) Christopher Lee as Dracula (iffy fangs, silly run) a mad music score by James Bernard, clunky sets, and daft dialogue (“but its HORRIBLE!”). However none of this matters as its enormous fun, chugs along at a rare old pace and never fails to bring a big smile to my face every time ive watched it.
Best Bit: The seriously exciting climactic showdown between Van Helsing and Dracula, involving a table, some curtains, a handy set of candlesticks and alot of sunlight- classic stuff.
9.The Fog (1980)
Director: John Carpenter
Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins.
On the eve of its centenary celebrations – a small Californian fishing community is plagued by a mysterious fog that kills all in its wake. Another Carpenter classic, well made and very creepy – a must for all horror fans.
Best bit: The Sea Grass boat scene (“hey, there’s a fog bank out there”).
10. Dawn of The Dead (2004)
Director: Zach Snyder
Actors: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber.
Remake of the 1978 Romero classic – which is a very good film, however (and yes Hobden i know this is sacrilege!) i much prefer Snyder’s more polished version that ups the scares and gore quota, throws in bags of action, is better acted and features some really awesome zombies who, rather than mindlessly shuffle about, are depicted as vicious screaming death machines who charge full pelt to get at their victims.
Best bit: Just after Sarah Polley’s nurse escapes from her neighbourhood which has been overrun, the camera pulls back and shows us a birds eye view of her car heading towards a city in utter chaos.
11.Halloween 3: The Season Of The Witch (1982)
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Actors: Dan O’Herlihy, Tom Atkins.
I thought i close this feature with one of my all time favourites – i mean what’s a film list without at least one guilty pleasure???
Bearing no relation to the series featuring the Michael Myers character – this was supposed to kick off a new ‘Halloween’ franchise that would tell a different story with each film. Unfortunately poor box office sales put the kibosh on that, so what we have instead is a very weird (and utterly mental) standalone story featuring O’Herlihy’s unhinged Irish toy maker, who plans to murder all the children in America using booby trapped Halloween masks. Now in my humble opinion this is an unappreciated gem of a film, that is actually extremely well made, with an interesting witchcraft subplot and a doozy of an ending that has to be seen to be believed……………………………..All together now – “one more day to Halloween!…..Halloween! Halloween! one more day to Halloween -silveeeeershamrock!
Best Bit: O’Herlihy’s chilling confession to a somewhat shocked Atkins, about who he really is and exactly what he plans to do on his favourite night of the year (“….the hills ran red with the blood of children and animals!”)
There you go – my top ten horror films – certainly all worth a watch if you fancy a good scare this Halloween – just wish i had one of the zombies from Dawn of the Dead to see off those bleedin’ trick or treaters – oh bugger there goes the door again………………now where did i put that bucket of fresh pigs blood???????????????
Author: Will Strong