Top 15 Horror Films

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Posted October 30, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

HiFi counts down the greatest horror movies to date

In 2009, PRAYZEHYMNOnline.com posted their list of top fifteen horror movies of all time. Since PRAYZEHYMN went defunct this year and Halloween has quickly crept up amongst us, we here at HiFi decided to revamp their list. Sure there’s been one or two revisions to the list. That’s what happens when you see a new film and you get geeked.

If you’re not certain on what films would make the perfect “fright night” collection, this is a good list to gather from.

Feel free to leave a comment on your favorite all-time horror flicks.

15
Jaws
(1975)

 

MOST MEMORABLE LINE: “Boys, oh boys… I think he’s come back for his noon feeding.”

The only Jaws flick Steven Speilberg directed, the 1975 film remains a classic. Not just in terms of its financial success (becoming the first of the summer blockbuster movies), but it brought yet another fear to the big screen: the great white shark. The plot encircles police chief Martin Brody (Roy Schieder) as he seeks to solve the cases of a missing woman. Her body is found dead on the shore. Clearly, the victim is injured with a shark bite but the mayor of the town doesn’t want to ruin the summer for incoming tourists on their way to the popular beach. The story intensifies with a treacherous music score (you know, the da-da-da strings) and amazing life-like robotics from the killer sharks. The movie was based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley.

14
Halloween
(1978)

 

MOST MEMORABLE LINE: “He is coming to your little town!”

Oh, the music score for this is classic. It’s scary enough. And it leaves suspense and fear, chills down your spine, with each and every scene. The John Carpenter classic is done with cryptic camera work and its surprising lack of blood and gore. Still, the scares are plenty and the music score, filled with an eerie symphonic display, remains timeless. Michael Myers terrorizes the town and tries to hunt down his sister Laura Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her first feature film) on Halloween night. Notable achievements about the film is its voyeuristic camera angles – walking the audience through the eyes of the killer. Yes, like Friday the 13th. Another thing you must remember: there is no comparing the original with the arggh-ful Rob Zombie remake.

13
The Amityville Horror
(1979)

 

MOST MEMORABLE LINE: “Get out!”

I’ve seen the 2005 more-modern remake but the classic takes the cake. And why? James Brolin plays the scary, terrifying role of George Lutz in what was slated to be a movie based on a true story. Based on the 1977 best-selling book, Amityville Horror tells the story of a house located at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York haunted with paranormal occurrences, a mass murder scene months prior and eventually put on the market for sale. The Lutzes buy the house and experience their own trials of terror. At times in the film, the screams and sound effects are set at high decibels; sending shockwaves of fear across viewers. And who can forget the defenseless priest in the film as he tries his hardest to cast the cursed spirits out of the house. Amityville may have been an independent film with very little critical acclaim, it still stands the test of time for being one of the strongest haunted house classics in horror history. The movie’s tag line: “For God’s sake, get out!”

12
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(1974)

 

MOST MEMORABLE LINE: “Shut up you bitch hog!”

Now…how many re-introductions and remakes have they done of this one? Including the 2003 version which received the controversial “0 out of 5” stars from film critic Roger Ebert. But the original certainly gets the most praise. Done on a very small independent budget of $140,000, the grimy film develops its plot around a bogus “true story” of a Texas chainsaw maniac named Leatherface who aims to kill intruders on his killing spree secrets. And he’s not liking the new kids in town much. Sally, Franklin and their friends are on an investigation assignment about a nearby cemetery. They get answers – but it’s not all in their favor. Some of the scenes are quite cheap and too bizarre of violence, but it’s one of the better slasher films and has even won the praises of some of horror’s greatest storytellers including Wes Craven and Stephen King.

11
The Shining
(1980)

 

Most Memorable Lines: Three-way tie;
“Redrum.”
“Heeere’s Johnny!”
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Jack Nicholson plays the role of Jack Torrance, a struggling author who picks up the job of a lifetime of being the caretaker of a lavish Denver hotel during its winter months. Even though he is alerted of a previous episode including a shocking family murder, Jack doesn’t pass up the opportunity. He, his wife and son (Danny) make their move, but the place triggers a psychic ability in Danny nicknamed the “shining.” Jack goes through psychological changes, even interacting with the hotel’s ghosts, and leads him down a killing spree to end the lives of his family. The movie is pretty long, quiet in the beginning and isn’t all that bloody. But superb acting from Nicholson, the storytelling and climatic scenes are noteworthy. The “REDRUM” chants are also quite memorable. Yes, the story is based on another Stephen King story. What did you expect?

10
Hostel
(2005)

MOST MEMORABLE LINE: “Please! I have money! I’ll fucking pay you! Ten times, two times – whatever you want!”

This masterpiece of a torture flick – also called “gorno” – still gives me goosebumps. At times, the pain and agony of the film’s victims are too much to even watch. American tourists find their way to Amsterdam and discover a brothel. Their imaginations and curiosities open up but leads them down a path of unforgivable torture. It’s not one of my favorites because of all the excessive bloody scenes, but it stands out as one of the more modern success stories in terms of plot originality and producing immediate screams of horror.

9
Saw
(2004)

 MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “Game over!”

The box office hit series “Saw” came to life with this forbidden 2004 tale about the “Jigsaw Killer.” The story revolves around two men who are kidnaped and locked up in a bathroom with a dead body. Their only way of escape is fixed to a given sheet of instructions. The authorities try to kill him – their attempts fail. The only way of escape for these two gents is by following the directions by trying to solve the “puzzle-like” mystery. Clearly, the killer is a looney and moviegoers are desperate for him to be dead meat. But that’s what makes the movie so freaking incredible. Only thing that bothers me so much is knowing this kind of anarchy could be reduplicated in real life.

8
Friday the 13th
(1980)

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “I’m a messenger of God. You’re doomed if you stay here!”

For those who dispise movie spoilers, you may want to shy away from this piece of information. What makes this slasher film so outrageously sensational is that Jason Voorhees, the lead star of the Friday the 13th sequels, only appears in the film’s last scene. You’re lead to believe that Jason is the killer. Instead it’s Mrs. Voorhees, who is perceived in the beginning as a nice, sweet and innocent lady. Mama is plotting revenge for her dead son on the incoming campers of Crystal Lake. The film is quite low budget and doesn’t use any big movie stars, but that’s not really needed here. The directing and the sensational “ki-ki-ma-ma” music echoes (used only for suspense and amazingly not used during the killer’s attacks to “manipulate the audience”) proved to be just as rewarding. Look real close in the film and you will witness a very young Kevin Bacon. Words of advice: do not watch the 2009 remake.

7
Misery
(1990)

 

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “You are going to be just fine. I am your number one fan.”

Stephen King can sho’ll write a book. But when his best-seller Misery made it to the big screen, it opened up a world of praises for the author as a skillful playwright. Kathy Bates plays the role of Annie Wilkes, who won an Oscar for her role of the psycho superfan who kidnaps author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) and pushes her creative demands on him for a sequel to her favorite book. She wants the book to go her way and he doesn’t want that. Besides, he wants to be free. But freedom comes with a cost. Annie is a brilliant antagonist since she makes you feel sympathetic towards her throughout places in the film. Believe it or not, this film is a treasure to see almost any time of the year.

6
Drag Me To Hell
(2009)

 

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “You’d be surprised what you’ll be willing to do, when the Lamia comes for you.”

One of the more recent spectacular horror films, Drag Me To Hell, directed by Sam Raimi of the Spider-Man films, is a splendid blend of horror and comedy. But this is not a joke of a film. There’s more suspense on board to shut the laughter completely off and the film’s unfortunate cause-and-effect patterns builds up plenty of tension as loan officer Christine Brown (played by Alison Lohman) is trying to fight off a curse placed on her by a a devilish gypsy woman. There’s so many twists and turns in this movie that the plot and direction is never really calculated right. Even without all the gore, this film has enough scares, screams and drama to compete against the traditional slasher flicks. But pay extra attention to Mrs. Ganush – the spellcasting gypsy. Her scenes are enough to remind you to respect your elders.

5
Dawn of the Dead
(1978)

 

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them. It gets up and kills! The people it kills get up and kill!”

The sequel to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead set the expectations high for zombie classics. It took eleven years for Romero to conjure up the strength to follow up his infamous black and white 1968 feature film. But it was well worth the wait. Four desperate survivors flee for their lives to a shopping mall filled with all the necessities to win the battle over flesh-eating zombies. It’s fun to watch also – witnessing the living and the walking dead traveling through a shopping maze filled with familiar stores like (JC) Penny’s, Radio Shack and Kinney Shoes. The super allegiance of zombies, along with a stellar special effects and makeup squad, helped revolutionize the film as one of the more celebrated horror films ever made.

4
Nightmare on Elm Street
(1984)

 

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. / Three, four, better lock your door. / Five, six, grab your crucifix. / Seven, eight, gonna stay up late. / Nine, ten, never sleep again.”

Film director Wes Craven gives birth to madman and nightmare goon Freddy Krueger (Robert England) who exists in his prey’s dreams but attacks them in reality. The dreams itself are so realistic that it’s hard for them to tell the difference. They try to fight sleep, but of course, it doesn’t work. Also, a notable fact to remember is witnessing a very young Johnny Depp appearing for the first time in cinema on Nightmare. Sadly, it’s Depp’s death scene that produces the most screams from moviegoers. England is so captivating and devilishly convincing in his role as Krueger that he has become one of the most well recognized villains in all movie history.

3
The Silence of the Lambs
(1991)

 

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Based upon the novel, The Silence of the Lambs is a mystery horror flick that remains one of the only horror films with the most Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay). The film focuses on young FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as she tries to catch a serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill.” She is severely challenged throughout the film when she is introduced to Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). Hecter, a former psychiatrist and a cannibalistic serial killer, is her only real solution to solving the case. She trusts him, but is later betrayed by Lecter’s inner ambitions. Hopkins’s role as Hecter is as gruesome and savaging as Nicholson was in The Shining.

2 (tie)
Carrie
(1976)

2 (tie)
Psycho
(1960)

MOST MEMORABLE LINE: “They’re all gonna laugh at you.”

This Stephen King classic stands out for its sad story about Carrie White, a young teenage girl who is an outcast in high school for not being a part of the “it” crowd. But she is also hiding her telekinetic powers from them. Her mother, a super religious wonder, is the only one who knows about her talent but she believes the gift is of the devil. The humiliation scene at the end is the film’s biggest eye opener and finds her peers, teachers and even her mother at her mercy. Guess the term “payback is a bitch” rings true for this film.

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”

This classic Alfred Hitchcock film is still considered to be one of Hitchcock’s greatest films and is highly sought after by horror lovers. The film focuses on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she steals money from her employer and takes off to Bates Motel as she hides from the law. While there, she encounters Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the owner of the motel. He appears nice, innocent but he is mentally challenged and is led by the “voice” of his mother – whom is really dead and whose voice only lives in Bates’s pscyhe. It’s a classic tale with a strong cast and a suspenseful black and white background. The film even landed at #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of one-hundred most thrilling films.

1
The Exorcist
(1973)

 

MOST MEMORABLE QUOTE: “The power of Christ compels you!”

The king of all horror films, The Exorcist retells the 1971 novel by William Peter Blatty – a story about a demonically possessed daughter of a striving movie star. Her mother hires a young Catholic priest to help save her ailing daughter from demonic spasms and seizures since doctors ruled nothing to be wrong with her. Father Karras and Father Merrin, whom is introduced at the beginning of the film as an archaeologist, both administer the rites of exorcism, but the manifestations of an angry, evil presence makes the battle even more impossible. The bed knocking, the infamous “spider-walk” scene and the daughter’s head turning around a full 360 degrees remains the film’s most memorable events. Although it was nominated for ten Academy Awards, the film did win two of them for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won four Golden Globes.

J MATTHEW COBB


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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