I swear, I will get to my horror movie list shortly, but I still have to explain why I have made this genre mine. This is the last part of the blog so take this as my Ode to Horror.
The first horror movie I truly enjoyed, made me think about what was going on in many of the unspoken scenes and the technicalities of bringing stories to life. It was a rip-off of a J-Horror film, I wonder if anyone can guess what movie I am talking about. I am talking about the American remake of Ringu or the Ring. While it hasn’t aged very well in terms of the special effects, it still has many creepy elements. Who wouldn’t be whacked out of their mind after finding out that they’ve watched a cursed video? One must remember that the first movie was solely about understanding the curse and finding a way to break it. The Ring invigorating the sub-genre of Japanese horror and movies about curses.
From 2003 moving forward, I got into watching horror movies. These movies excited me; they made me think and had me scrutinizing all aspects of the genre. Ultimately when I stopped to examine why I was so fascinated, I concluded that the timing of watching the Ring coincided with a time in my life where I felt very alone, anxious, unloved, and trapped in a life I didn’t want. Years after watching the Ring, I moved into my first apartment, which was a stressful time. Left alone in my space, my horror movie intake increased. I understood it as a way to cope with what was happening around me.
I spent more than a year in that apartment and watched many movies either by way of the theater or the few times spent at my friend’s home renting DVDs from Blockbuster, Hollywood Videos or Netflix. I recall once after seeing a movie called The Grudge, I ended up coming home just after sunset and being too afraid to walk into my dark apartment. I slept with all the lights on that night, but as I drifted off to sleep, I thought I heard the creepy gurgling sound the ghost made in the movie. When I think back to that time, I could see in myself a desperate need to escape. As the years have passed, I find that I am still profoundly moved by horror movies, which symbolizes the current state of my emotions. I am forever battling anxiety, fears, feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, and so much more.
I started out this blog asking why we like watching horror movies and why so many cultures create scary tales. The answer seems to hinge on several factors, but for me, it’s an escape from the everyday worries and a way for our minds to slowly solve or come to terms with various issues in life. But, as the study suggests, maybe we are just epinephrine junkies. Forever chasing that rush of adrenaline that the scariest moments in these movies provides.
Now I present my top horror movies, it wasn’t easy to pick just 10 so I listed 35 from the most recent to the oldest. I gauge these films on 5 elements that go hand-in-hand with making them my favorite.
- Did the initial viewing of this movie creep me out in a good way?
- Is the storyline somewhat believable, or follows logic?
- Does it create a mood or enfolds me into the environment they are trying to portray on film?
- Does it have too many jump scares or overuse of special effects? If so, it’s not on this list!
- How willing am I to watch it more than once?
I know many may not agree with this list, but these are my perfect 35.
Currently, this is on everyone’s list as one of the greatest modern horror movies. To sum it up, this movie has a mix of cults, demons, paranormal activity, and deeply seeded family issues.
This movie is a bit controversial because many people love the original, directed by Dario Argento, but hate this remake. This movie is shot like an art-house piece on a big budget; I am especially fond of the central dance performance, Tilda Swanton, Alek Wek, and the fact that I couldn’t have guessed the ending even if I tried.
Train to Busan (2016)
This is a fast pace zombie movie set in South Korea. The film focuses on a father and daughter traveling to Busan during a zombie outbreak. This movie was funny, mildly scary, but ultimately it’s a heart-wrenching tale that might leave you in tears.
Don’t Breathe (2016)
This story is about a home invasion gone wrong. The movie starts out with 3 delinquents planning to burglarize the home of a blind war veteran. There is a twist in this movie, which leaves you wondering who’s the real bad guy is.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)
A paranormal flick about a son and father who operates a coroner’s office. One evening they received a Jane Doe and is requested to have the cause of death completed expeditiously. The discovery they make is grim and seems to unleash strange activities that don’t end well for anyone involved.
It Follows (2014)
This movie plays on the idea of a curse and how those affected try to break or transfer their misfortune to someone else. This was an entertaining watch, talk about a modern twist on the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases!
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
This is an Austrian horror about twin boys who think their mother has been switched out with a more sinister woman after having facial surgery. The ending of this movie came out of nowhere and made this a well-rounded german language horror.
The Babadook (2014)
This Australian film just like Goodnight Mommy, seems to be about a child misbehaving at first. We have a story about another single mother struggling as she sinks into depression while dealing with her poorly behaved son, work, family issues, and husband’s passing. There are some scary elements in this movie, but you will see the Babadook means so much more in the end.
The Conjuring (2013)
Tells the story of a family who moves into a farm home only to undiscovered dark, evil forces. The movie introduces Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were real-life paranormal investigators. Apparently, this one is based on real events!
Evil Dead (2013)
This is a remake of the classic 1981 horror, where a group of young adults goes off into the woods to party at a cabin. The 2013 version is pretty much the same, but instead of going to the cabin to party, the revamped version tells the story of a drug-addicted woman who seeks out her brother and friends for help. From there, a cursed book is found, and the demon is released. This movie cropped the environment around the cabin in a hauntingly beautiful way.
Under the Shadow (2016)
This is a Persian paranormal psychological horror depicting the story of a housewife and her daughter in Tehran during the 1980s. After the war between Iraq and Iran starts, the mother decides to remain in the city despite her husband and her family’s advice. Like in the Babadook and Goodnight Mommy, we have another mother/wife left alone with her child, which leads to pure terror. The post-traumatic stress of living in a warzone mixed with superstition will get this best of this mother and daughter team.
The Blair Witch Project (2016)
The original film came out when I was a kid and had the best promo of any movie. It was so good that they even had a short special on the Discovery channel explaining the Blair witch’s history. The real charm in this movie had to do with the fact that the Blair Witch wasn’t quite a fictional character. The Blair Witch is real, depending on how you look at the story. This 2016 version tries to pick up years in the future when a family member of one of the original missing hikers set out to find clues about their missing loved one. Of course, this wasn’t the best horror movie, but I felt they made a reasonable effort to explain some of the loose ends from the 1999 film.
The Last Exorcism (2010)
This movie was filmed like a found footage or documentary, telling the story of a southern minister who claimed that he performs hundreds of exorcisms yearly for pay. It’s uncovered early that the minister has lost faith and often use trickery in his exorcism ceremonies. He brings a camera crew along for his last exorcism, which turns out to be a legitimate possession. This is not just about demons and possession, but we also have a cult carrying out their evil work in the background.
The first Insidious movie centers on an average family whose son falls into a coma after going into their attic one night. There is nothing wrong with him in terms of his physical health, but still, he is suspended in a comatose state for months. While in this state, viewers learn that his soul or consciousness is suspended in another realm known as “The Further”. This movie made my list because it did a fantastic job of intertwining elements of the astral realm with horror.
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
While this can be deemed as a bit campy, this movie reminded me of all the old fables I was told as a child. This movie starts out with a young loan officer denying an old lady a mortgage extension. The old lady then curses her, saying that after 3 days, she will be dragged to hell. Like the other movies about curses, we then see the loan officer go off on a journey to break or transfer the curse.
Warning: Martyrs is gruesome, so if you don’t like torture movies, don’t watch it! This is a French language film that dives deep into the idea that torturing someone could cause a form of transcendence, which would leave the victim alive long enough to communicate their experience in the afterlife. The movie starts with a girl escaping a slaughterhouse where she was tortured for a year. In trying to seek revenge, this girl ended up back in the slaughterhouse with a friend from the orphanage she was sent to. Viewers then learn about the secret organization that funds these awful activities and witness their joy and disappointment when they don’t get what they are after.
Let the Right One In (2008)
This is a Swedish language movie that is categorized as romantic horror. This is a work of art that deals with the idea of an old vampire living as a child for centuries, while picking up various familiars along the way. This vampire comes in contact with a boy who is frequently bullied and suffers from the fact that even his parents seem to be ignorne his pain. This boy then befriends the vampire who slowly reveals herself to him as a fatuous type of love is formed between the two.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
I would dear say that before this movie, no other found-footage horror seem to work well on the big screen with the exception Blair Witch Project. It has all the elements of a B-rated film, but the storyline and what they manage to create makes it worth seeing at least once. I will warn you that it’s a slow burn, but that’s the element that makes it unbelievably real in its paranormal presentation.
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Here is another remake of a classic movie that was reworked to perfection. This film tells the story of a family on a road trip who are terrorized by a group of deformed cannibals. This is one of the wild and crazy Wes Craven stories which can be downright offensive.
This is a French/ Romanian film that is said to be based on real events. If this is true, then this is some seriously twisted shit. This is another incredible home invasion movie, which plays on the idea of children engaging in sinister behavior. When the movie ends, viewers then learn that the children involved were between the ages of 10 – 15.
Dawn of the Dead (2005)
It wouldn’t be a good horror list without adding a George Romeo movie, even if it’s a remake. The early 2000s gave us several horror movie remakes done very well, and Dawn of the Dead is one of them. It stars one of my favorite child actress Sarah Polley, who plays a nurse who wakes up to mayhem, chaos, and the zombie apocalypse. This film was well executed and delivered a decent storyline and zombie kills.
The Descent (2005)
Every couple of years, I re-watch this movie, and it never gets old. This British horror is set in a cave system in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. It tells the story of a group of friends who go spelunking and ends up finding more they can handle. This movie indeed leads the way when it comes to claustrophobia and the idea of what nightmares could be underground.
I saw this movie while it was in theaters and remembered it being labeled torture porn and grotesque. This movie has added so much to this genre as many have been inspired by it, especially the opening scene. Saw is set up like a game where victims play for their lives even if it means killing someone else or injuring themselves to escape.
High Tension (2003)
High Tension or Haute Tension is a French horror flick with mind-bending turns, which will amaze you. This movie plays out as if a serial killer has broken into a home, slaughtering a family, and kidnapping the beautiful young daughter.
28 Days Later (2002)
This is another excellently produced zombie movie from the early 2000s, which is now toted as a British classic. Inspired by George Romeo movies, this film shows a bike courier waking up from a coma in a hospital after a deadly virus turned half of the world’s population into zombies. He wonders around London and finds a small group of survivors.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
While this is not categorized as a horror movie and is more of a psychological drama, you have to admit there is something creepy about Stanley Kubrick’s last film. Perhaps the Shinning should have made this list, but I couldn’t leave out Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and his then-wife Nicole Kidman. For the first few minutes of the film, we see a typical family. The story then centers on the husband, who finds out about an exclusive party with beautiful women and mask clad partiers. When he gets to the party, he discovers a sexual orgy ritual performed by elite society members. While at the party, a woman tries to warn him and insists that he is in danger. He is unmasked at the party and exposed, then left with a warning. Considering what we have come to know about the so-called Illuminati and Epstein Island, this story seems to fit into our current reality.
Funny Game (1997)
An Austrian psychological thriller remade for American audience in 2007. The original is much eerier with a storyline involving a family seeking a relaxing weekend at their lake house, but ends up being tortured by two young men.
A childhood classic that makes fun of all the tropes in horror movies, but turns around using these same tropes to baffle and confuse victims. This is a well-known slasher movie once again created by Wes Craven as modern horror. This movie is funny and scary!
The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
An Italian film by Dario Argento starring his infamous daughter Asia Argento. You might know Asia as a witch, Anthony Bourdain’s ex-girlfriend, or a victim of Harvey Weinstein. This is a crime psychological thriller, where Asia plays a detective trying to catch a murderous rapist. She then finds herself possessed by his insanity.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Perhaps this is where it all started, the love affair with sexy vampires. This was decades before Twilight, but the light in which the vampires were cast was romanticized by Brad Pit and Tom Cruise. While this film is far from being overly violent or scary, the story told is about two vampires and a little girl turn into one of them.
The Lost Boys (1987)
This vampire movie stars the two Corey’s as teenage vampire hunters. This is a fun 80s movie that recently became one of my favorite. It tell the story of a single mom who moves back in with her grandfather with her two sons. The older son meets a crew of super cool misfits who turn out to be vampires, from there the movie gears up for a Goonies style adventure into the supernatural.
Fright Night (1986)
This is the second 80s vampire movie on my list, and while I know, they both have a similar tone with teenagers trying to fight evil vampires. Fright Night tells the story of a boy who is convinced that the next door neighbor is a vampire.
This sci-fi horror has inspired many similar movies about aliens. The story is simple enough as a crew accidentally brings another life-form onto their spaceship, and all hell breaks loose. It’s a nightmare that has left a lasting impression and perhaps has subliminally created a fear of aliens in all of us.
Before there was Jason Voorhees, there was Michael Myers. Both wear creepy masks while starking teenagers to knife them to death. This movie single-handle changed the slasher film catogory.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
This movie is one of my top 10 horror movies. I first saw this in the 5th grade, and even then, I knew there was something special about it. This movie doesn’t have zombies, serial killers, aliens, lots of blood, or other fictional creatures. Rosemary’s baby crafted a story around a young couple living in NYC. It appears to be a very ordinary existence for Rosemary and her husband, except for the fact that their neighbors were all involved in an evil cult. Unknown to Rosemary, she was the target of a sinister plan to ensure that she conceives the devil’s offspring. As noted before, the scaries tales are the ones that seem mundane that leaves us with trust issues.
Well I have come to the end of this list, while I have a lot more I would have like to add like Wrong Turn or The Invitation I will stop here. This is the end of my Ode to Horror, perhaps I will do this again next year.