“Boys and girls of every age, wouldn’t you like to see something strange….” ….insert the rest of the lyrics to This Is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas here.
Okay, yeah, I know it’s nowhere near Halloween, but the spirit of the holiday is never far when you’re a horror fan. Forget Christmas, forget Easter, and DEFINITELY forget Paddy’s Day. Halloween rules, and even if all I’m doing for the night is heading to a mates house, or hitting the town in full costume, or even just sitting in with a huge bag of popcorn and a juicy horror movie, I’ll always have a blast revelling in delighted terror. Although I’m so used to horror and general nasty stories and films that not much scares me these days.
And speaking of horror movies, this time of year, there are always a few to choose from on the countless channels on the old idiot box nowadays. Sadly though, they tend to be the more lacklustre ones, or the ones that rely heavily on gore and violence rather than scares. Long story short: crap. Like, seriously. Jason X? Nuff said.
If, like me, you enjoy staying in and browsing Netflix for something to frighten the bejesus out of you and rid you of a healthy sleeping pattern for a while, here are my personal top ten horror movies. Use them as suggestions or don’t, but in my eyes, they’re doozies. Needless to say, one or two spoilers ahead.
10: The Descent
There’s nothing better than a weekend away with a few friends, right? A couple of days camping, or on the beach, having a few laughs, getting drunk and enjoying each others company. Well, that’s what a group of six women who decided to go spelunking thought…until they became prey to a race of horrific, blind, carnivorous creatures known as Crawlers. Almost the whole film is set in near-darkness, which mimics the ominous feeling of being in a cave, giving the viewer an all-too real shiver up their spine when the shriek of a Crawler sounds, followed by the shriek of a helpless human woman….
American Horror Story is one of my all-time favourite tv shows, and one of the things I like best about it is how it’s an anthology series, meaning that each season has a completely different setting and set of characters, with each cast member playing someone different in each season. Trick’r’Treat is much the same: four different groups of characters who are all connected in some way, and each group has their own respective storyline. They all also find themselves encountering a mischievous (for want of a better expression) little being named Sam, who despite looking like an innocent kid out hunting for sweeties, is really something much, much more sinister…
8: The Exorcist
Probably – no, definitely – one of the single greatest horror films ever made, The Exorcist has terrified audiences ever since it was first released in cinemas in 1973. We all know the premise, and for those of us who have braced the entirety of the film, the images of 12-year-old Regan locked in the various stages of demonic possession will go with us to our graves. And what’s really scary about The Exorcist is the whispered stories about how the film may just be cursed, due to the injuries suffered by cast and crew during filming – not to mention that the book that inspired this particular film is based on true events. But then again, isn’t everything these days?
7: The Evil Dead
Before he brought us the Spider-Man franchise, Sam Raimi, along with a handful of others including the star of the show, Bruce Campbell, brought us a horror film that ticks off a helluva lot of boxes. Deserted, remote location? Check. Bunch of good-looking teenagers out for nothing more than a few laughs? Check. Helpless girl falling victim to sexual assault by a demonically-possessed tree?….check. The Evil Dead, in my opinion, is the definition of a cult classic. Made on a shoestring budget with relatively unknown actors, this film catapulted Bruce Campbell and his highly impressive chin straight to the limelight, spawning two sequels and a remake which, far from the utter misery that normal horror remakes bring, revitalised the story in its own right, excellently staying true to the story while curving off in its own direction just enough to keep us interested. As Ash Williams himself would say….”Groovy.”
6: Child’s Play
Aaahh, yes, one of the horror flicks that made kids – and adults – everywhere highly unwilling to go near or let their children have large dolls, out of the fear that said doll just may be inhabited by the vengeful soul of a serial killer who transferred his soul into the doll the night he was shot to death. And did I mention that he used powerful voodoo magic to do it? Sorry, didn’t think you could hear me from behind the couch there. Well, that’s where I was when I watched Child’s Play for the first time. Then again, I was only about 12. Having said that, it remains as one of my favourite horror movies for its mix of violence, interesting story and black, dry humour. The scene where a motionless Chucky sits in a lift, looking completely innocent to the middle aged couple standing there with him, then once they’ve left the lift and the woman remarks on how ugly he is, only to be met with a derisive swear word from Chucky cracks me up every time.
Stephen King is easily one of my favourite authors, and with works such as IT, The Shining and Carrie, it’s easy to see why. He could take the subject of why salmon is pink and turn it into a tale of unrestrained terror, and I would definitely read it. Misery is easily my favourite out of all of King’s work, and the film version, with a deservedly Oscar-wining Kathy Bates as the maniacal Annie Wilkes, still sends a delightfully creepy shiver up my spine. Seriously, every time I hear someone say they’re a fan of something, all I can hear in my head is “I’m your number one fan….” ringing through my head, followed by the sickening crunch of Annie taking a sledgehammer to the unfortunate Paul Sheldon’s ankles, so he can’t make any more escape attempts. Jaysus I’m shuddering now…but I love it.
4: Paranormal Activity
Nobody had ever heard of Oren Peli before he released this little nugget of terror in 2007, but now, his name is whispered in awe on the lips of horror fans everywhere. Well, maybe not awe so much anymore because pretty much all of the sequels after the second one are kinda…awful, to be honest. But back when Paranormal Activity first came out, it had people running from cinemas in fear before the film was even over. The fact that it was shot on a home video camera for about the cost of a battered sausage and chips brings an all-too real chill to a room, even if you watch it with the lights on. Top tip; if you’re easily spooked, watch this with the lights on. Or don’t watch it at all. Not unless you don’t want to be closing your eyes to go to sleep, only for your Scumbag Steve brain to quickly generate the memory of a young woman screaming in terror as she’s dragged across the floor of her bedroom by an unseen force….brilliant film though. Brilliant.
3: The Cabin In The Woods
Joss Whedon is really having a great time of things these days, isn’t he? Before he released The Avengers, which most of us know as one of the most successful superhero movies of modern times, he wrote and produced The Cabin In The Woods, which received critical acclaim for its satirical nature – essentially, it tore the horror genre itself apart, while maintaining its story in a quick, sharp fashion that kept audiences literally on the edge of their seats. Well, me anyway. I was on the edge of my seat, and not just when Anna Hutchison took her shirt off. The Cabin In The Woods, along with things like Drag Me To Hell and An American Werewolf In London, is one of those films that has successfully brought new life into a genre that has otherwise relied on cheap, tacky effects, girls getting their knockers out and over-reliance on violence and gore. And seriously, the scene where Dana and Marty encounter the huge menagerie of beasties, including a bad-ass werewolf and a guy with buzz-saw blades embedded in his head in a not-too obscure Hellraiser reference? Love it!
2: A Nightmare On Elm Street
Everyone has nightmares. A Nightmare On Elm Street brought a completely new way for idiotic, horny teenagers to be mercilessly slaughtered – rather than the standard maniac with a butcher knife, we got an undead maniac with blades on his fingers and a serious need of some Sudacream. Freddy Krueger was a child murderer who was burned alive by the parents of the children he killed after he avoided prison on a technicality. Evil beings known as Dream Demons then gave Freddy the power to invade children’s dreams, so that he could kill even more people and enact his vengeance in the process. Now I don’t know about you guys, but personally I think being murdered in your sleep, while you’re completely helpless and unable to do anything about it until its too late, is utterly terrifying, and when you’re on the receiving end of Freddy’s blades – and one of his good-to-terrible one-liners – it just gets worse.
And here it is – I’ve saved the best for last and with good reason. For most people, Halloween is a night of kids going door to door for sweets, girls dressed in sexy costumes that shouldn’t be sexy in the first place (not lying, I saw a sexy Dr. Zoidberg once) and lighting fireworks that we’re probably obtained in a not-so-legal fashion. To me, Halloween will always be remembered as the night Michael Myers came home. 15 years after murdering his sister, the aforementioned psychopath breaks out of an insane asylum and wreaks a bloody path of death and mayhem on his way back home to Haddonfield, Illinois – and remains completely silent along the way. Aside from his trademark white mask (which is actually just a repainted likeness of William Shatner from his Star Trek days), the thing that remains with us after watching any Halloween movie, is the fact that Michael never says a word, which, when put together with the emotionless mask, brings a complete image of undiluted evil to a saga of horror that I will always love and never tire of viewing. Except for the two remakes from Rob Zombie in 2007 and 2009, but they were both terrible.
So there you have it, my top ten of horror movies. Do you have any suggestions for something you think should have made the cut? Leave it in the comments and don’t forget to like and share!