We originally ran this piece before Halloween 2007. It holds up quite well. The ten films below are still scarier than most of the remakes we’re seeing every month. Disagree? Let us know in the comments! Reader ‘Your Mum’ disagreed and let us know this list is not scary. ‘Your Mum’s’ lack of an apostrophe scared us. -ed.
DO YOU LIKE MY FACE!? Coming up with this list brought me back to the first time I saw The Exorcist. My parents had gone away to a party and my sister decided to treat us to a nice viewing. I did not sleep for 3 evenings straight which did nothing but cause hallucinations. Like this first experience, these movies personally represent the best examples of a good old-fashioned scare. And while there are soooo many scary films out there, these 10 left a serious serious impression on me…and a series of sleeping disorders that just won’t let go.
And as always, scare me, scare me, scare me with your own comments on movies that you love to watch in the dark!
10. Dahmer (USA, 2002)
Fuck Seven, friends. Here’s a movie made with an indie budget based on one of the most notorious killers in American history that is not flashy, grand, or gory and still manages to make you wish you’d never started the DVD in the first place. We all know the story of Dahmer and this movie puts a face and possible explanation to the ruthless killings of a few dozen young men in the Midwest of the 1980’s. Jeremy Renner received critical praise for his portrayal of a cold, calculated, unforgiving confused psychopath. I give him praise for creeping my shit out.
9. The Serpent and the Rainbow (USA, 1988)
Any of you raised Catholic know enough about possession and exorcism to at least entertain the idea that this craziness is real, folks. Well, you try sitting through this creepy classic and tell me that it isn’t. The Serpent and the Rainbow centers upon the themes of black magic and Satanism to mess with your fears.
8. Black Christmas (Canada, 1974)
Here’s one piece of advice for you, friends: never, ever, under any circumstances pick up the phone when you are home alone and nobody is around to come to your immediate aid. You will regret it as did the victims in this amazingly tense and chilling 70’s classic. By the way, don’t even think about touching the remake, it’s a bucketful of B-movie shit!
7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (USA, 2003)
The only remake to make it to my list, this film far surpassed any expectations I had of the often overamped, overbloodied, misdirected remakes of classic horror films. Sure the creep factor of the original was high, but that was mostly due to the scariness and alienating feeling of watching people from the 1970’s get chopped up. In a deliciously brilliant turn of directing, the new version of this amazing story not only gives us our fill of gore, but pushes the levels of tension so f*cking high, that all you will want is for the last victim to be done with and the lights to come up. I’m never going to get stuck in a small town, my friends, never.
6. The Shining (USA, 1980)
Stanley Kubrick re-imagined Stephen King’s terrifying descent into madness with an actor so committed to scaring the shit out of audiences, that he caused my then-30-year-old father to ask my mother if they could sleep with the lights on. Need I say more?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G7Ju035-8U
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (USA, 1984)
Only if you must, watch the 8 million other parts that make up the Freddy Kreuger franchise. Friends, I am here to tell you that all you really need is the first, only, and original ultimate scarefest. I don’t think there’s anybody in my age group who will deny that the first viewing of this film was perhaps one of the most impressionable moments of our childhood. When all kids our age did was play and dream, Wes Craven came along and completely fucked up our desires to sleep at night. First impressions are the best and the first Nightmare on Elm Street will remain the best in the series.
4. 28 Days Later (UK, 2002)
Just when we thought the horror genre was done and our jaded generation could no longer feel movie-fear, director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland came along and smacked us right dead in the face with one of the best horror films in the last 20 years. A killer virus turning innocent men into unstoppable killers who resemble zombies and destroy entire parts of a nation? No way, it could never happen. Or could it. 28 Days Later succeeds on so many levels; it preys on our fears of biological terror by presenting a not-so-unbelievable possibility, it gives these undead full-running-speed, making them outrunnable and undiscriminating flesh eaters, it consists of eerie scenes of absolute darkness, desolation and ignorance, and it does not apologize. The music is enough to depress the f*ck out of you. Have you ever seen a horror movie while depressed?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eunaclr-WgU
3. Halloween (USA, 1978)
I think what makes this film one of my favorites is that I was never absolutely sure who or what Michael Meyers was. Was he a man, was he a monster? Whatever the case, I have never cared to look behind that expressionless cold mask. And every time I do, I get a serious serious mad chill down my back.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SFmmROBUto
2. The Descent (UK, 2005)
This has to be the most white-knuckled, exhilarating horror film I’ve ever sat through. Terrifying, yes. Extremely well-made for a horror flick, yes. Any of you who were not at least unnerved by this film are either stone-cold dead, lawyers, or directly related to Satan. A master film that seems birthed from the best of all horror films where tension, gore, graphic violence, light (or lack thereof), and timing create this most perfect masterpiece of terror. For the ultimate scare watch this one in the dark and by yourself. But make sure you’re wearing your grandmother’s diaper.
1. The Exorcist (USA, 1973)
Georgetown’s “Exorcist Stairs” is the site of one of the creepiest scenes in movie history. Who knew that a dead priest with a turned head could be so fucking scary. In my opinion, the best and truest example of a horror film of the highest caliber.
There you have it, folks, the 10 films that have made me cry, scream, run, laugh, clutch, bite, hide, and have ridiculous dreams; probably the strongest reasons for making sure I still pray for forgiveness every night. Happy Halloween!