Who doesn't love a good fright?
I know I do, I have since I was a kid.
I have vivid memories of taking upwards of an hour to pick the perfect movie from the video store (remember those?).
So after 30-plus years or watching anything and everything with a dripping-blood script, here are my favorites:
1: Halloween (1978) - I just can't not put this one at number one. In addition to scaring the slippers off me when I was younger, John Carpenter's spooky imagery kept revealing something new as I got older. The softly illuminated William Shatner mask hovering in several background scenes still makes my skin crawl.
2: The Exorcist (1973) - I think this was the second horror movie I ever watched on regular TV. Why my parents let me watch it at the age of around 5, I don't know, maybe because it was the network broadcast premiere and heavily edited? If it was, it didn't matter, I kept expecting the ghoul to jump out from the dinning room and get me. As I got older, the film went to an entirely different level, and really terrified me.
3: Jaws (1975) - The first scary movie I think I can remember seeing, and a good one at that. I mean, who was going in the water after this one? I am pretty sure it took me a dozen years to get over that fear. Who am I kidding, I still won't even wade into a lake past my waist.
4: Exorcist 3: Legion (1990) - What? A sequel? So high up the list? Yes. Based on William Peter Blatty's follow up to his best-selling "The Exorcist," the story follows Det.
5: The Thing (1982) - Claustrophobic and terrifying, this update of Howard Hawkes "The Thing from Another Planet," John Carpenter ratchets up the isolation. Not Carpenter's first entry on the list, and certainly not the last, "The Thing" is considered part 1 of Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy (we'll talk more about part 2 in a bit). The pacing, mood and tenor of terror have yet to be matched.
6: Psycho (1960) - Just a cinematic masterpiece. And anyone that says they saw the ending coming is full of it. It was also groundbreaking - killing off the main character in the first half of the movie - and created a blueprint for every modern-day slasher flick around.
7: The Prince of Darkness (1987) - Part 2 of John Carpenter's Apocalypse Trilogy, the film includes several different genres, with a unifying theme. Mixing in a bit of Old Testament religion, ancient astronaut theory and time travel, a team of scientists must halt the coming of the "Anti-God." On first viewing, it can be a bit complex, so you might need multiple viewings, and get the unrated/unedited version, as some exposition is cut from edited versions.
8: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1994) - To this day I can remember the TV commercial, and the trailer on other VHS rentals, where Freddy Kreuger knifes out of a wall, it terrified me. Wes Craven's ultimate triumph, he brought style to what had become a stale teenage-slasher market. It also rang in the era of the stylized horror film, where story was mostly relegated to second- or third-tier status, in favor of gory and over the top special effects.
9: Saw (2004) - Not as gory as some may think, for sure there is a good amount of blood, but not as over the top as later sequels. I consider this true horror. No mad men running around in sports gear, nor spirits terrorizing the living, this completely plausible situation makes you wonder what is most valuable.
10: Return of the Living Dead (1985) - OK, this one is certainly funnier than it is scary, but it is the movie that brought the now generic zombie saying, "Brains!" into the common vernacular. A loose sequel to George A. Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," "Return" is the perfect choice for a night of '80s kitsch.
Se7en (1995) - I still wonder what's in the box.
The Changling (1980) - George C. Scott moves into an old house, and helps a ghost solve a mystery.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) - While not my favorite movie, it rightly (or wrongly, depending on your opinion) ushered in the first-person horror movie. When used right, it can certainly be tense, however, when used poorly, it can ruin a movie.
Happy viewing, and I'll leave the lights on for you!