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Tuesday
Oct222013

Team Top 10: Horror Films AFTER "The Exorcist"

It's Amir here, bringing you the second episode of this month's Team Top Ten. Last week we looked at the best horror films made before The Exorcist. This week it's time for everything that came after that seminal classic. Moreso than in the previous list, Team Experience members have agreed on canonical titles, barring an exception or two. This isn't to say there weren't any surprises. We decided against compiling a preliminary list of eligible titles before voting - precisely to avoid total agreement on our choices - and lo and behold, differences in opinion over what is considered horror lead to some major eyebrow-raisers; I'm already anticipating your comments about the absence of Jaws. But that's the fun in list-making.

Without further ado join us for the haunted house, serial killers, and terrifying isolation of...

The Top Ten Best
Post-Exorcist Horror Films


10. The Others (2001)
Generally speaking we divvy the write-up duties on our team top ten ballots based on who ranked what highest. Curiously The Others fell to me, Nathaniel, though it was actually not on my ballot. Surely it's that ghostly aura of Kidmania which surrounds me. Or was it the fact that this neo horror classic is also a canonical entry in the Women Who Lie To Themselves™ genre of which I am a super-fan. Despite all the wonderful little scares in The Others involving creaky old houses, mysteriously reappearing husbands, and possibly sinister servants my favorite moment is all visual. Despite Nicole's expertly haunted star turn -- a star turn Nick once geniusly described as "ceramic befuddlement" and there's no topping that so I won't try -- my favorite moment in the film is all visual and actor-free. It's the extended sequence when the haunted house is flooded with light, all the windows, doors and shudders freshly opened. What a glorious reversal of horror tropes from this throwback to classic ghost tales. The film's twisty smart screenplay understands this and exploits it: it's the light, not the darkness, that so unsettles our delusional protagonist; self-awareness can be frightening. The film's subversive hand, deftly played, suggests that some people will do almost anything to stay in the dark. 
-Nathaniel R


9. The Descent (2005)
I was raised in a Catholic country where legends about headless priests, demons who step out of hell to collect souls after midnight, indian cemeteries with hidden treasures found by following orange trees made out of gold and ghosts of a myriad other varieties (not to mention the infamous chupacabras) were an essential part of my formative years. By the time I was in my teenage years and realized all of this was phony, it took a lot to scare me. For example I still don't get why people think "The Exorcist" is any scary for example, other than for it being an allegory for the perils of losing your soul to the film industry...

It wasn't until 2006 when a film truly crawled under my skin and made me squirm, gasp, drop my popcorn and want to pee my pants from fear...and it was "The Descent". Neil Marshall's film takes the concept of spelunking and twists it around by revealing that nothing is more dangerous than losing one's humanity in the caves of your mind. Morals, kindness and any signs of love are flushed down the drain as five women get lost in some caves in the Appalachians turning against each other, each of them craving only to survive...and all of this happens before actual flesh eating monsters are introduced! By then the movie had me covering my eyes and hoping it would all end soon; however, that final shot (from the original cut) will never cease to haunt my dreams.
-Jose Solis


8. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
When The Blair Witch Project first opened in 1999, I was 15 and my sister was 13. One of the few television shows the whole family watched together was The X-Files - my sister and I considered it a big thrill when we were allowed to stay up late go watch it on Sunday nights. Blair Witch was inescapable, and when my parents heard there was no gore, they decided to ignore the R rating and go as a family. Put aside the brilliant marketing campaign (the greatest since Psycho's "no latecomers allowed!" policy), forget about the seemingly endless homages and parodies (you are allowed to include Book of Shadows with them), and The Blair Witch Project is still the scariest film of the last quarter-century. Even if we now know it's fake, the terror onscreen feels real. This is how people really react to being scared - they don't think, they don't fire off a witty comeback. They jolt, scream, and run like hell (swearing optional). Just how scary is Blair Witch? Let me put it this way: My family lived in a wooded area - our house was set back from the road and surrounded by woods on two sides. When we got back from our evening screening and realized that we had to take the garbage out to be collected the next morning, it took all four of us to bring out one garbage can. And some of us never took it out ever again.
-Daniel Bayer

7. Scream (1996)
“What's your favourite scary movie”

And just like that a new generation was introduced to the wonders of the horror genre. Before Scream’s 1996 Christmas season release the genre was in dire straits. Quality titles such as Candyman would flop and lacklustre direct-to-video Leprechaun sequels populated the Blockbuster shelves. In a way, Scream acted as a reboot to an entire genre and remains one of the most influential horror movies of all time. Why? Well firstly, it’s adherence to genre conventions made it work as an audience-baiting slasher the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the early ‘80s heyday. Who can deny the terror of watching Drew Barrymore receive taunting phone calls over jiffy pop, or effective old-fashioned ‘boo!’ scares as Ghostface plays cat and mouse with soon-to-be-iconic final girl Neve Campbell? Still, It’s thanks to Kevin Williamson’s wicked screenplay that Scream become legend. His roster of whipper-smart teens and refreshingly multi-dimensional adults (when will the Academy officially apologise to Courteney Cox?) not only knew the conventions, but how to (theoretically) defeat them. For once the characters were as smart as the audience, and in sweet irony changed the “rules” at the film’s core. It became a $100m box office smash and a new horror video night standard (not to mention the equally amazing Scream 2). I feel like I’ve spoken about Scream so much that I can’t possibly have anything more to say (perhaps that’s why I’ve struggled to finish my own scene by scene deconstruction of the initial trilogy). Ultimately this film is so great that that’s never the case.
-Glenn Dunks


6. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
It's claimed for horror films that they're a reflection of the time in which they were made, which probably applies to some genre masterworks more than others. But there's no missing how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, made in the waning years of the Vietnam War and shortly before the Watergate scandals brought American respect for authority figures to an all-time low, underlines the anxieties of its era in deep red smears. A group of conspicuously un-special young people arbitrarily dying horribly for no reason other than being in the wrong place, and a third act that turns the holiest altar of Norman Rockwell Americana, the family dinner table, into a torture chamber? You can't get much angrier at the state of things in the '70s than that. It's so nihilistic that you can almost miss how relatively free of blood it is; the real brutality lies in the film's certainty that this pointless death and violence is impossible to stop, or even to slow down. It's a howl of dark energy as bestial as the inarticulate screams bellowed by the seminal slasher villain Leatherface in the last scene, free to kill again, and again…
-Tim Brayton


5. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The scariest moment of The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t involve Anthony Hopkins grand performance as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. It isn’t even the agonizing night-vision scene where Clarice Starling quakes in the darkness, utterly vulnerable to the stalking killer. No, the scariest moment is when Catherine Martin stands in a parking lot watching Buffalo Bill in a fake cast, pretending he can’t lift a couch into the back of a van. We cringe as she ignores all the warning signs and allows herself to be lured to her doom, and it’s extra horrible because, if you’re like me, every time you watch a voice in your head says the same thing: “I would have helped too.” Two decades later Silence has been a victim of its own success as the power of the film has been overshadowed by parody, camp, and an endless stream of lesser imitators. But watch it again. The film holds up because somewhere in its dark core it isn’t playing. These people exist. These things happen. Sure Silence is undeniable fun. It’s baroque horror, a thriller, executed with exceptional artistry on every level. But then there’s that girl who found herself at the bottom of a pit just for being kind. And she lingers in the mind long after the fun dissipates.
-Michael Cusumano


4. Carrie (1976)
As we just learned this past weekend, you try to top Brian DePalma's 1976 emotional shocker and they're all gonna laugh at you. Or at least shrug. And where's the girl power in that? There's no shrugging in horror! And nobody anywhere near DePalma's film comes close to shrugging - from top to bottom, from that potato peeler flying across the kitchen to PJ Soles' little baseball cap, everybody's bringing their big game. Big bigger biggest. Nowhere moreso than in its pair of powerhouse central performances - I feel fairly righteous in saying that Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie will never be topped, as many awesome ginger-ish actresses as get tossed this way. This is opera, this is iconography, this is an eensy little mother-daughter drama standing in for everything in the world (religion, puberty, pig-farming) and dragging it it all down to car-flipping teacher-smashing potato-peeling heart-rending hell. These are godless times, and I liked it, I liked it! Let's drink to that.
-Jason Adams


3. Halloween (1978)
Along with Psycho, Halloween is the horror film I’ve probably seen the most. For this reason, it is one of my favourites and, what I consider, one of the most effective made. As with the Hitchcock film, I’ve watched it roughly once a year since I first saw it in 1987. (Not always on October 31st, though it does help, and not always all the way through.) Sometimes, especially if I’m alone, it freaks me out too much to carry on watching. Even now. It’s a film with real staying power. The first time I watched it I was alone, it was late, on Halloween, and in a dark house not entirely dissimilar to Annie Brackett’s (Nancy Loomis). Oh, how I had trouble sleeping that night. Its power truly resides in what it leaves in your mind. It’s that music. The sense of dreadful expectation. The half-glimpsed “shape” of a man in a bad William Shatner mask and a boiler suit just standing there in the garden, in the street. It, He, Michael Myers, even has the balls to appear in broad daylight, allowing for no avenue of next-day escape; watching it in the daytime doesn’t ease the situation — it often makes it worse. The way Carpenter plays horrible, clever games with screen space and ominous pause — suggesting in the emptiness of Haddonfield just what lurks in the darkest corners of our imaginations — is tinged with just a dash of sly, knowing genius. But it’s those shots near the end that make the fear resoundingly concrete. The camera returning to the locations of Myers’ kills after he’s... vanished. The once familiar but now-empty areas visited by death. It’s the potent horror of these snapshots of sheer terror that I remember most. Thanks for eternally terrifying me, Mr. Carpenter.
-Craig Bloomfield


2. Alien (1979)
The beauty of Alien is its simplicity. At its heart, the film is a classic monster in the haunted house story. The titular monster - only given history, biology, and a name in later sequels - appears in Alien as a fatal force hidden by shadows. The brief glimpses of the alien are as disturbing as they are deadly - a flash of spiny tail, light refracted off an elongated skull, the sudden dart of a fanged inner mouth. The rest of the film is as elegantly designed as the monster itself. The first half builds slowly for atmosphere but never stops for explanation. Once the monster is birthed, the spaceship's crew is picked off with increasing violence until only one unlikely survivor remains - Ellen Ripley. Alien is stylishly streamlined. With the constant conjecture that has surrounded the film since its 1979 release, the ultimate takeaway is clear: that which we don't understand scares us most. Like the cyborg Ash states, "I admire its purity."
-Anne Kelly


1. The Shining (1980)
Despite its place of honor atop our list, when The Shining was initially released in the summer of 1980, it was hardly seen as a modern-day masterpiece: Critics dismissed it and Stephen King (who wrote the book it was based on) was one of its major deterrents complaining the film adaptation was not faithful enough to his story (he even went so far as to remake The Shining into a miniseries in 1997 so that his vision could be realized.) One of the few Kubrick films to not receive a single Oscar nomination, it was rewarded with a pair of Razzie nominations (Worst Director and Worst Actress for Shelley Duvall) during the awards' inaugural year. But over the past 33 years, the film seeped itself into the cultural lexicon with such indelible images as a ghostly pair of twin sisters ("Come play with us, Danny. Forever and ever..."), an elevator door that opens to reveal a cascading wave of blood, "REDRUM", and a manic Jack Nicholson hacking his way through a door with an ax to deliver perhaps the film's most memorable or certainly most quoted line, "Heeeeere's Johnny!" (The line was an ad lib by Nicholson and Kubrick almost didn't use it in the film's final cut.)

Like much of Kubrick's work, it takes multiple viewings to discover the complexities lurking below the surface. The 2012 documentary, Room 237, even went so far as to present different theories as to what the film is really about. Is it really a social commentary about the genocide of the Native Americans? (The blood on the elevator is that of the Native Americans who's sacred burial ground the Overlook Hotel is built on.) Is it really about the Holocaust? (Kubrick was researching a film about the subject at the time.) Or perhaps its really a take on the Greek myth of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth. What about a coded admittance by Kubrick that the 1969 moon landing was, in fact, staged by the director? The fact that the film holds up under such intense scrutiny is a testament to the work's quality, making The Shining not just one of the greatest horror films of all-time, but one that transcends genre to take its place among the all-time greats.
-Andrew Stewart

Trivia:

• A total of 61 films received at least one vote from the 14 ballots. Curiously the only film besides The Shining to top more than one list was a film that missed the top ten: Perhaps it's because there were two versions splitting votes?: Ringu and The Ring
• The most recent films to receive a vote was The Conjuring (2013) which came in at no. 9 on one list.
• No film appeared on every list 
• David Cronenberg continues to be a favorite of The Film Experience. Though none of his films made the top ten four of his films received votes: Dead Ringers, The Fly, The Brood, and Videodrome 
The most unusual "is this horror?" choices were [safe] (1995) and INLAND EMPIRE (2006). Horror of the soul for sure!
• Sadly no foreign-language titles made the list but the most popular were Ringu and Audition from Japan, Sweden's Let the Right One In,  and The Netherland's The Vanishing


Runners-up:
Let the Right One In (2008) missed the top ten by just 1 tiny point. The rest of the top twenty in descending order were The Ring and/or Ringu, Suspiria (1977), Dawn of the Dead (1978),  Audition (1999), Jaws (1975), Se7en (1995), Dead Ringers (1988), The Fly (1986) and a three way tie for 20th between [safe] (1995), Bug (2006), and The Omen (1976).

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Reader Comments (58)

Awesome selection of films, I personally would have Carrie higher on the list and space for The Mist - such an awesomely underrated gem - did it appear on any list? But how can I disagree when The Others made it in! :D

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermorganisaqt

I'm surprised at the lack of support for 28 Days Later, a hugely influential film which breathed new life, so to speak, into the zombie film.

I am however pleased to find I am not alone in my admiration for The Descent.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

I like that [safe] cracked the top 20. I watched it for the first time recently, and the first act is definitely functions as horror.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

With my list I tried to give props to some lesser known titles like GHOSTWATCH (the only film to give THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT a challenge to scariest movie of the last however many decades - or ever?), THE WOMAN IN BLACK (the British original), MANIAC (the 1980 original with its urban decay of terror like never before) and WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE.

Do I think SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and ALIEN are technically greater films? Yes and no. I mean, if I were doing a "greatest films ever" list they'd be jostling for position, but I kind of wanted to keep the list to the sort of horror movies I'd watch over Halloween. So that's why my list is SCREAM and HALLOWEEN and BLAIR WITCH and TEXAS CHAINSAW and CARRIE and so on. And, yes, I even put Gus Van Sant's PSYCHO on there.

Other titles I wanted to include were THE OTHERS, RINGU, AMERICAN PSYCHO (but I deemed it too comedy), POLTERGEIST, THE STUFF, DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004), THE FOG, [REC], THE SHINING and THE DESCENT.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I thought "The omen" was gonna make it easily. Anyway, I'm on board with [safe] (if both the movie and the performances are good, I'm in... such an underrated film with Julianne Moore probably at her very best). I'd add "Amour". It doesn't matter how good you were in your lifetime or how many great memories you had, the monster of aging is real, and it won't be nice at your last breath. After I saw it, I was looking like this for a week: >_O (no, I didn't learn anything from it unlike you, people).
Anyway, I'll comment tomorrow on foreign movies (Japanese most likely), I'm too sleepy right now.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Much to think about, and it is late, but the one thing that hugely depresses me: neither Evil Dead could even crack the runner-up list? Ah well, Texas Chainsaw made it much higher than I was expecting, and that's a comfort.

October 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterTim Brayton

I'll probably forget it by tomorrow, so, I don't know if you have seen it (or seen it and liked it), but "In the mouth of madness" is definitely my favorite horror film.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

Terrific list -- and hats off, Jason, for weaving into your writing two classic lines from Carrie. Well played, sir.

I like to pretend that The Others is Nicole Kidman's Grace Kelly movie. That is all.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

P.S. Dark Water (the original Japanese version, which incidentally features a killer closing credits song by Suga Shikao) and especially The Lady in White belong on this list. Who knew Mona from Who's the Boss could be such a terrifying, effective horror star!

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Glad to see the shout out for the original version of The Vanishing. Herzog's Nosferatu is another of my favorite European horror films. Kinski's performance was amazing in ways that Willem Dafoe never came close to matching in his own take on the role in The Shadow of the Vampire. But that film calls to mind the director's earlier work in Begotten...truly a creepy collage of disquieting images. I never thought of Silence of the Lambs as a horror film, but if it is then I'd include Se7en too.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavide

Cool list... but... John Carpenter's The Thing! Undoubtedly one of the best :)

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen Russell

Just curious whether there was any love for the Spaniards: Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage were so atmospheric and creepy.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavide

I like the second ten choices a lot more than the first in this category. They seem to fit the horror genre more completely than the top ten; "Carrie" and "Alien" have too much science fiction in their DNA to be considered pure horror, for example. And I cannot stand "The Shining", a horrible film, using the other meaning of the word.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

My definition of horror can be broad, but i wouldn't consider [safe] horror. Nor would I consider Me34's suggestion of AMOUR horror.

Davide, for what it's worth I've unfortunately never seen THE ORPHANAGE and PAN'S LABYRINTH wouldn't make any list of mine even though it is good. Also: is it considered more fantasy than horror?

Anyway, i think the fact that no film appeared on every list and that over 60 films were voted for means horror is a wonderful genre that elicits many different reactions from people as to what is scary what is horror and what we consider for a list such as this. I for one was surprised HALLOWEEN got so high given its a slasher and they're not the most critically aligned if you know what I mean. That being said, I didn't have THE SHINING on my list and it made no. 1 so there ya go.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Oh no! I forgot to vote! Well here are mine:

01. The Others
02. Se7en
03. Nattevakten ( Danish)
04. Let the right one in ( Swedish original)
05. Villmark ( Norwegian)
06. Ringu
07. 28 Days Later
08. Scream
09. The Silence of the lambs
10. Aliens

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

I can't quibble with this list because these are all wonderfully scary films. So glad "The Descent" made the list, that scared the BeYeezus out of me!

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjackie

Horror is my favorite genre in film (along with animated and musicals, because I like to be weird like that), so seeing both lists was exciting.

I'm one of those that doesn't consider Silence of the Lambs to be a horror film, nor do I have the greatest love for The Shining (especially after reading the book). But loved the write-ups nonetheless.

If I had to pick my 10 favorites, they would be (in no particular order): Jaws, Scream, The Descent, The Fog, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Black Christmas, Halloween, Trick r' Treat, The Ring, and Feast - although that list would change if you asked me a week later. Honorable mentions to An American Werewolf in London (which I am shocked didn't even make the top 20 here), Alien, Critters, The Omen, Paranormal Activity, and The Blob (the 80s one)

And there are still movies I think should be considered. /nerdgasm

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

I don't know if someone already mentioned it but Peter Medak's The Changeling is among the best horror movies of the 80's. Definetely in my top ten.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

I always wondered what a movie featuring Jack Torrance and Annie Wilkes running a hotel in winter would be like.

Glenn - which Academy do you want to apologize to Courteney Cox first, the Oscars or the Emmys?

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSanty.C

davide -- The Orphanage did receive votes yes just outside the top 20. I dont think Pan's was considered horror by anyone. Herzog's NOSFERATU. is terrific. That and "The Omen" after I saw the final list I was like "why didn't i vote for those?

Ben -- The Thing was just outside the top 20 and would have been higher if Joe Reid had voted I'm guessing but he mysteriously bowed it. He was raving about it during the latest podcast (though i'm not sure that part made the podcast since i had to trim here and there before posting it was so long)

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Cronenberg films were just vote splitters. ;). But good to hear his films still resonate with TFE.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPausner

I'm always surprised by the number of people who consider "The Silence of the Lambs" a horror film. I first saw it as an eleven-year-old kid, and even then I never felt it was scary in any sense, though it is disturbing.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

I definitely consider it a horror film, but not necessarily the kind that I wanted to vote for.

I think Cronenberg's problem was that they're genre straddlers.

Santy C, touche. And too true.

Seisgrados, I watched THE CHANGELING in research, but didn't make my shortlist. It's Neve Campbell's favourite, however!

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I am genuinely shocked that The Ring/Ringu didn't make the Top Ten. A film that actually implies that the very act of watching it (i.e., WHAT YOU ARE DOING AT THAT MOMENT) will kill you?!? That's freaking SCARY. And both versions are so good at creating that sustained feeling of dread, not to mention maintaining it for very long stretches. I'm also kind of shocked that The Sixth Sense didn't make it. I mean, I didn't include it myself because I just forgot, but it still holds up as an effective chiller. Has time been even less kind to that one as it has to Blair Witch?

For me, horror is all about the lingering feeling that everything is not okay, that just around the corner, something is waiting to pounce. And so, with that in mind, my list(s) consisted of those films that have burrowed into my brain and stayed there, ranked in order from most vivid to less vivid. Thus, The Others ultimately didn't make it, even though I absolutely love it.

I almost included Requiem for a Dream, but decided it really wasn't a horror film (though it IS horrific). The Vanishing also almost made it (that last scene! I couldn't move for about ten minutes after the first time I watched it) but I ultimately decided it was too much of a drama. But the film I debated most over including was Nicholas Roeg's The Witches, which was the first film ever to truly scare me - and we were shown it IN SCHOOL. I haven't been able to watch it again as an adult, but I suspect it isn't really as scary as my younger self imagined it to be. But every once in a while I will get the most vivid flashbacks to it and become a scared little kid again, if only for a few minutes. I don't know why, but that film really messed me up.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

All great movies. I'm glad Scream made it, like all super popular films, a lot people like to trash it sometimes. Or at least they don't give it the credit it deserves.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

For those who liked the list, please listen to the latest podcast. the discussion on horror movies is really fun i think if i am allowed to say so about my own podcast.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Denny -- Your experience with The Witches pretty much sums up my relationship with Candyman (I don't even like typing the name), a movie I saw waaaay too young (though not at school, thankfully) and barely remember but I'm too creeped out to revisit it. Tony Todd is probably the nicest guy in the world but he left an indelible impression on me in that role and I'll never disassociate him from it.

There were a lot of surprising omissions from the list but it just goes to show how much more prolific and broad the genre has become. From this list, The Others, Carrie and Halloween have definite spots on my personal Top Ten, not sure about the rest of it. If I were to try and stretch the definition of horror for the inclusion of one film it would probably be Black Swan, though I don't think it would be as big a stretch as some other suggestions I've seen.

And I still don't get the love for The Descent. I wasn't scared by it at all but it's been years since I've seen it. My sensibilities have changed since high school so maybe I'll find something to appreciate after a second viewing?

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

This is, without a doubt, the most accurate list of all lists I've seen in a while! I couldn't agree more! I see that The Omen just missed the cut...that would definitely be on my list. I'm embarrassed to say I've never seen Halloween nor have I seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Going to get on that ASAP!

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

some of my favorites that I remember now: "the thing", "[rec]", "the orphanage"... though I think horror is not a good [enough] definition for the last one, which is much more than that - I really love that movie.

(a top of horror movies should maybe be subgenre-specific... there are so many different types of horror movies, it's almost unfair to compare some of them)

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Tim Brayton: First one's not really what most remember, and the second? Definitely on a "horror-comedies" list, but it's WAY too wacky to belong as a straight horror in anyone's mind. American Werewolf in London would most assuredly be there as well. Shocked Scream got so high (would it get higher than Ghostbusters on the genre mix list?). My list, which discounts ANYTHING I'd count as a "horror-comedy" (which means Scream, Ghostbusters and An American Werewolf in London are out of my contention, though the last one would probably be on my list without that rule), is this:

1. Eraserhead (Naturally. Kubrick himself said that this was the movie he used to get his cast and crew in the mood to film The Shining in the first place. I'm sure this got at least a notice or two.)
2. Alien
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street
5. The Shining
6. Carrie
7. (did anyone mention this one?) Tetsuo: The Iron Man
8. The Silence of the Lambs (it's a great movie, but the raw fear quotient is far lower than those above it (probably better than half the list on a technical and performance level), so I have to place it here)
9. [safe] (The first act is enough for me to justify SOME SORT of placement on the list, but the horror aspects mostly dropping away until the ending shot forces it LOW)
10. John Carpenter's The Thing

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I just posted my personal Top 10 over at my site, with some commentary. The one that made it here that I feel the guiltiest about not including is The Descent but I had two other recent horror movies that I wanted to include more, and I couldn't justify having that much from the last decade. But I loooooove The Descent - watching it in a movie theater I actually felt the walls of the theater closing in around me, as if the film ahd extended the cave system to where I was sitting. It was unnerving, to say the least.

Other non-picks - I love the original Ringu but the remake gets on my nerves, but then I've heard from a lot of people that say it all just depends on which one you saw first.

The Others I prize mostly for Nicole Kidman's performance and a wonderful sense of atmosphere. but it does hold up much better to repeat viewings than I thought it would, being so twisy-heavy.

I actually like The Sixth Sense more on repeat viewings than I did the first time I saw it. Toni Collette's scene in the car alone, my god, goosebumps.

I do consider Silence of the Lambs a horror film, most def., and a great one, but I kind of lump it alongside Jaws with horror movies that I sort of take for granted and never feel terribly passionate about. At least not enough to knock anything off my big list.

And I guess the same goes for Scream - I really adore it but I take it for granted, and my list was already so slasher-heavy. I'd probably put the first Nightmare on Elm Street onto my list before Scream.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Terrific write-ups and a great list. I'm thrilled that Chainsaw and Alien made it so high on the ladder. However, I find The Shining to be one of the most overrated movies ever. Some see an enticing ambiguity; I see a cold void. The Omen should be in the Top Five. Donner's movie is very underappreciated, but the fact remains that its famous setpieces hold up remarkably well, and the entire movie palpitates with dread--not easy for a director to pull off. Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score is chilling. And when you got perfectly cast icon of virtue Greg Peck, with that sonorous voice, battling Satan--what else can you ask for?

Also, the little gem Burnt Offerings is a fave of mine. I saw it twice at the theater as a kid. Karen Black, Oliver Reed, Bette Davis--perfect cast for a horror film. Ironically, it came out at the same time as Carrie, and a few months after The Omen. What a great time for horror buffs.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Wonder if Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom made it onto any lists?

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Good list, only complaint would be the inclusion of Blair Witch. I'm not a Blair Witch hater and it gets points for originality but no way is it better than Let the Right One In, 28 Days Later, Ringu, or some of the others left off. I also enjoy Scream for it's examination of the slasher film, but never found it scary.
My List
10. The Others
9. The Descent
8. 28 Days Later
7. The Silence of the Lambs
6. Alien
5. Let the Right One In
4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
3. Carrie
2. Halloween
1. The Shining

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael T

Paul Outlaw- I had it at first and dropped it all together before submitting. I wonder if it's a "horror" film!? Not sure. Just genre boundaries, basically the same as why I didn't any docs with horrific elements. I would swap any film on my own top ten with it though.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmir

I always find it interesting that Cronenberg movies never seem to make lists of top 10 horror movies, but he's usually always listed among the top 3 or 4 horror directors ever (and often even at #1). I think it's because there's no general consensus as to what his best movie is, and furthermore, there's some debate as to whether or not some of his "horror" movies really count as horror movies (Dead Ringers especially). Cronenberg is one of my favorite directors, horror or otherwise, and I'm actually pleased with this. I like that there's no one Cronenberg movie that everyone rallies around; it makes things more interesting and shows how deep his filmography is.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

The Shining
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Others
The Thing
Alien
The Fly
Carrie
Audition
Halloween
Black Christmas

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Better late than never...

1. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
2. Jaws (1975)
3. Halloween (1978)
4. The Thing (1982)
5. Alien (1979)
6. The Sixth Sense (1999)
7. Gremlins (1984) (this doubles as one of the best Christmas movies)
8. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
9. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
10. The Omen (1976)

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSean Troutman

Great write-ups, and I can't wait to listen to the podcast, which are always a riot. I'm surprised that Wes Craven didn't get more of a credit outside Scream, truly one of the most imaginative horror directors around, be it The Hills Have Eyes (a slyer Vietnam War allegory than Texas Chainsaw Massacre), the dream sequences in Nightmare On Elm Street, the bold reinvention of New Nightmare or the daylight scares in Scream 2.

Also, and of course it's not strictly a horror film, but Dolores Claiborne is one of the too few mentioned Stephen King adaptations.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBen

I was comparing the pre- and post- Exorcist lists and was struck by the fact that in the pre-Exorcist list a majority of the films were helmed by foreign-born directors and some were also foreign productions, whereas in the more recent list no foreign language films made the cut. I imagine that horror works most effectively when we let our defenses down and subtitles might be one form of barrier that keeps the foreign-language film from having the same impact it might have otherwise. Subtitles are a barrier for films of all genres I imagine (excluding silent films of course), but maybe they present a special difficulty with horror films. In fact, there were only three foreign-language films in the combined lists. Two of them were silent or mostly silent (Murnau's Nosferatu and Dreyer's Vampyr). Eyes Without A Face was the only foreign-language film that relied on dialogue. Maybe it's easier to "buy into" the a black and white horror film even if it's subtitled because the lack of color already serves to remove the viewer from everyday reality? Does the relative success of Asian horror films with American viewers (compared with non-English language European horror films) also depend in part on the fact that the visual world is so different from that of the everyday American? There are so many foreign horror movies that are, in my opinion, better than those that made the post-Exorcist list that I'm trying to find explanations for their absence. So far, my best guess is that the act of reading keeps a viewer from achieving the kind of full-immersion experience that we associate with the best kind of horror films. For example, would the viewer who found The Descent terrifying because the film created the illusion that the caverns had extended into the theater and the cinema's walls were closing in on him -- would that experience have been the same if the film had been subtitled? Maybe a separate "Top Ten" list could be created for foreign language horror films.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdavide

davide -- it could also be with foreign films that we all haven't seen the same ones. it's harder to find consensus titles once you go international just by virtue of how distribution works and viewing habits too. I had both Audition and Let the Right One In on my list... but in truth i forgot all about The Vanishing (which is so creepy) and Thirst (which i love) while typing up the list but i noticed they made other lists.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

Edwin: I...I watch a lot of classic films trying to break them down. I haven't seen Dead Ringers or The Brood, BUT, I did see Videodrome and The Fly. Of those two, Videodrome was, far and away, the better constructed of the two on an overall basis. Strong scares (though not as strong as those in The Fly), smart scripting and the thematic undercurrent (though slightly obvious in it's construction) is not undercut by the literal narrative. (See: The Fly's awkward shoehorned AIDS comparisons for an example of that last thing massively negatively impacting the quality of his take on The Fly. If Brundle having sex with her actually started spreading the transformation to Geena Davis' character as well, I could see it.) As for ranking him even #3 or #4 horror director? Um...For me, maybe 7 or 8 (though this one allows directors who have covered horror-comedies), overall.

1. Roman Polanski (Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, What? and scenes from The Pianist go toward the ranking)
2. Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Scream are the reason for the ranking)
3. John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing and scenes of BIg Trouble in Little China contribute to this placement.)
4. David Lynch (even though he's only made two films I'd call primarily horror (Eraserhead and Inland Empire), there are also moments of horror within The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive that contribute to this high placement.)
5. Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, "the scene" from Spider-Man 2 (ESPECIALLY "the scene" from Spider-Man 2, probably the scariest scene he's made in his whole career), Drag Me to Hell. Even though he leans heavily toward goofiness and slapstick, he is still a MASTER of making his imagery as frightening as needed to maximize the effectiveness of his scenes.)
6. James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein. That last one, especially, says it all.)
7. Nicholas Roeg (co-director on Performance and Don't Look Now (that film didn't wind up on either of my lists because I ended my first at December 31 1972 and started my second at January 1, 1974, so my list could be "pure" and completely divorced of "should a film the same year as the dividing point film be accepted" questions) and some films I haven't seen)
8. David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly, scenes of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises and a lot of films I haven't seen).
9. Takashi Miike (Audition and a bunch of films I haven't seen, including the original One Missed Call.)
10. Donald Cammell (co-director on Performance and the ONLY reputable filmmaker involved with a Dean Koontz adaptation, in this case Demon Seed (said to be the current peak of Koontz adaptations). Maybe a stretch for a placement, especially since he didn't do much, but that's all I got.)

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Volvagia--Cronenberg himself said that he didn't intend The Fly to be an AIDS metaphor and was actually surprised when people interpreted it that way. He considers it to be about aging and death in general. Others have interpreted it as a metaphor for addiction, though I'm not sure what Cronenberg thinks about that theory. So I don't think the AIDS comparison, as it were, is exactly "shoehorned," because it's not even there, at least as far as Cronenberg is concerned. I personally adore The Fly, and it would have been #1 on my list on post-Exorcist horror movies, but I understand that there are some legitimate criticisms to be made of it. I choose to ignore them because I love it so much.

Also, see Dead Ringers immediately. It's wonderful. The Brood is great too, but not as many people seem to hold that in as high regard as I do.

My top horror directors would probably be something like:

1. David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly, The Brood, Dead Ringers)
2. Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, Night of the Demon, I Walked with a Zombie, The Leopard Man)
3. Roman Polanski (Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, The Tenant, Fearless Vampire Killers, and even though I hated it, The Ninth Gate is a horror movie too)
4. David Lynch (Eraserhead, and elements from virtually all of his other movies with the exceptions of The Straight Story, Dune, and maybe Wild at Heart)
5. James Whale (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and my personal favorite--though it's the most neglected--The Invisible Man)
6. John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, others that I haven't seen)
7. Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Kill Baby Kill, others I haven't seen)
8. George A. Romero (Martin, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, etc.)
9. Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Last House on the Left, People Under the Stairs, etc.)
10. Roger Corman (for the Poe adaptations)

I haven't seen enough Argento or Miike (I've only seen one from each) to know whether or not they deserve a spot on the list.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

quite happy to see so many people interested in the genre. imo Let the Right One in and The Omen deserved better(top5 positions in my chart), also poltergeist and 28 days later would fight for the top10. Really think higher than most for They live (carpenter, 80's), i could mention Angel Heart( Rourke, De Niro), i consider Dead Ringers a superb thriller, i dig From Dusk Til Dawn for what it is, Hellraiser, i add The Dead Zone on StKing, comedy thrillers like Fido and bubba Ho Tep, pontypool from the 00's and i could go on. but one thing, there are directors in europe( ex. dario argento, best at late 70's) )and asia (ex. takashi mike) who really deliver and should get more attention. awaiting for more on horror/thriller from you people and thx

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpete99

Can't believe I forgot:


Jacob's Ladder
Body Snatchers
Possession
Blair Witch Project
Videodrome
Manhunter
Silence of the Lambs
Scream
Dawn of the Dead original and remake

And the scariest thing I saw but I could not call it a horror movie:
The diner scene in Mulholland Drive

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Edwin: There's dialogue in The Fly (that pretty clearly should have been cut or changed due to how little it syncs with the actual narrative of the piece) that makes it pretty explicit, unfortunately, so it's pretty freaking naive of Cronenberg to act surprised. The addiction metaphor: Um...obsession, certainly, but he doesn't go into the machine daily, accelerating the process of his body's degradation through constant use. (Which WOULD be an addiction metaphor.) As for the aging and death thing: I buy that, at least.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Speaking of body horror movies with drug/HIV/AIDS metaphors, BRAIN DAMAGE.

It has a scene that mixes the Re-Animator head-gives-head and the KFriedC scene in Killer Joe. It's also really funny. I know, I need help.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

That last scene in The Shining where you see Jack in that photo from the 20s... I don't know why, but it always leaves me with such an uneasy feeling. That's horror done well. No gore necessary.

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Posted both my horror ballots over at my blog if anyone's curious:

http://seriousfilm.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-best-of-horror-before-and-after.html

October 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

The Descent certainly had me screaming in the cinema - along with the other 500 or so in the audience.

But what about foreign language horrors like High Tension, Calvaire and one of the most horrific films I have ever seen in my life - Martyrs?

Fortunately none of these films have been remade by the Americans ... and hopefully they never will.

October 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

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