By Jason Schoolcraft
A few weeks ago, I saw a list of someone’s “Top 31 HORROR/HALLOWEEN Films” (coinciding with the 31 days of October) and thought I’d make one of my own. It took some time but I decided to challenge myself and watch ALL 31 films during this hallowed month. I own most of the films on my list but, with the help of a few friends, was able to obtain the rest. The BIG question was – would they hold up? Some are new (2010 being the most recent) and some old (1931 the oldest ) and I didn’t watch them in any particular order. My list, as you’ll see, is pretty varied and comprised of eight zombie flicks, eight slashers, seven monster movies, three generalized horror films, three vampire features, and two films featuring the Devil, himself. So let’s dive in…
1) Halloween (1978) – My first entry is one I watched in anticipation of the new 2018 offering. Yes, I’m referring to Halloween (1978). Watching this film brought back memories from 1978 and seeing it in the theater. I was surprised by how much I’d forgotten of it but that’s what 40 years will do to a guy. In fact, many of the older films on this list I’d forgotten much of which was like seeing them again for the first time. In this case, my memories of it being a great film were in no way tarnished. It definitely stands the test of time and I loved the subtle (less is MORE) approach John Carpenter took in his masterpiece (until I re-watched my # 9 film on this list). The music played such a large role in the film, and John Carpenter composed the soundtrack and with just a few simple notes made horror history. Yes, I LOVED it, and quickly added the new 40th anniversary Blu ray edition to my collection!
2) Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
3) DEAD/ALIVE (1992)
Dawn of the Dead (1978) – My very first Zombie film which I saw at a local art house, during a late night showing. The crowd was crazed with excitement and it was an amazing experience being a part of that. There was a lot of yelling at the screen. Not sure if it was at that moment or not but I was hooked on ZOMBIES soon after! I love how George A Romero was story first, humanity second, and Zombies last when he wrote his films. I honestly love this film more today than that first showing and currently own at least eight copies – VHS, DVD, Special Editions, and a six-disc Blu ray collector set! The idea of the world collapsing and survivors seeking out a mall was genius! I can’t tell you how many times after seeing this film I imagined what that would be like, especially having spent so much time at shopping malls during my adolescence. The cast is perfect and Ken Foree and Scott H. Reiniger are particularly outstanding in their roles. Romero’s screenplay was excellent and Savini’s groundbreaking SPFX way ahead of its time.
5) The Evil Dead (1982)
6) ALIEN (1979) There are two things I vividly recall seeing this film in the theater back in ‘79; the tension and “jump scares.” This movie scared the crap out of me though I recall my 13 y/o self leaving the theater pissed off because they didn’t show more of the ALIEN. It took me till my mid-‘20s before I understood the “less is more” concept. A truly great, classic film. Ridley Scott is a Science Fiction master!
7) Mister Frost (1990) I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this rare gem from 1990. The subtle performance from Jeff Goldblum and tension throughout the film was outstanding and I believe it still holds up. I’m honestly surprised this film never comes up when discussing his standout performances.
8) The Descent (2005) I didn’t realize how claustrophobic I was until I saw this movie. The All-female cast gives it their all during a subterranean battle for survival. So well filmed with simple, yet effective creature effects.
9) The THING (1982) This is as close to perfection as you can get, with all the stars aligned for John Carpenter’s take on 1951’s The Thing from Another World. Carpenter boasts a body of work many Directors would kill for and, in my opinion, this one is his best! Quite possibly the greatest ensemble cast ever brought together for a horror film! They filmed on location in Canada and Alaska to add more to the barren, frigid atmosphere of the film. The special effects STILL send your jaw to the floor and if for some crazy reason you still haven’t seen it – RUN, don’t walk, to do so. You will not be disappointed!
10) Evil Dead 2
11) Frankenstein (1931) The grandfather horror/monster films. When I watched this for the first time it was a game changer. It showed me you didn’t need a “killer chasing a victim,” loud music, nor even buckets of BLOOD to be a great scary movie. If you haven’t seen this film, shame on you! On the lighter side, it was also the inspiration for one of my favorite comedies Young Frankenstein (1974). “Behold FRANKENSTEIN!”
12) Audition (1999)
13) Martyrs (2008)
14) JAWS (1976)
15) Night of the Living Dead (1968)
16) SAW (2004)
17) Psycho (1960) This list would not be complete without an entry from the Master of Suspense. The challenge was choosing just one just one Alfred Hitchcock movie for this list. PSYCHO is perhaps Hitchcock’s greatest achievement taking things to the next level from when horror was a shadow, prolonged silence, or a few well placed musical notes.
18) The Exorcist (1973)My first memory of this film was after my mother came home late one night having just seen it with my aunt. She was visibly shaken stating, That film should be rated X!” My first viewing was many years later and, like many, the EXORCIST really affected me. The soundtrack alone is chilling and this classic has retained its impact to this day.
19) 28 days later ( 2002)
20) Return of the Living Dead (1985)
21) Nosferatu (1979) One night I snuck into my brother’s room while he was out to watch his NEW premium PAY channel he subscribed to. I caught this film and couldn’t believe the crazed performance. This remake of the 1922 classic about Count Dracula is mesmerizing in short thanks to Kinski’s performance. I don’t care what anyone says, this is by far the creepiest Dracula ever and a must see for vampire fans!
22) Frailty (2001)
23) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
24) I Saw the Devil (2010)
25) Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
26) We Are What We Are (2010)
27) Inside (2007)
28) We Are Still Here (2015)
29) The Shining (1980)
30) Final destination (2003)
31) Let the Right One In ( 2008)
As you can see, my love for horror films run deep. I enjoy watching them, discussing them, and sharing my enthusiasm with friends. If I had more time and better writing skills, I’d have my own blog dedicated to film! One of the things that makes me happy is to turn someone on to a great movie they haven’t seen or maybe never even heard of. Sharing my top 31 horror films will hopefully inspire you to make your own list and share with friends, too! Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree that October is a SPOOKTACULAR month! Happy Halloween, and may your deepest fears keep you awake this Halloween season!