With the release of Lights Out tomorrow I am once again joined by my dear friend Nye Rees (who previously helped out with the Top 5 Musical Films and can be found on Twitter and Instagram) as we pick our favourite horror films. Now I tried not to pick films that fall into comedy horror or thriller categories, so sorry no Shaun of the Dead or Jaws. I also found that all of my picks came before the year 2000, so I may return with another list of my favourite modern horror films to cover those. I would also like to say that horror is probably the genre I watch the least, so don’t be surprised if I haven’t included some of your favourites. So here we go with our Top 5 Horror Films.
- Shuggie: The Exorcist – The Exorcist would probably top many people’s list of the best horror films. And whilst it doesn’t quite reach those heights for me, it is still a great film and well worthy of a place on my Top 5. It may have been made in 1973, but it still holds up really strongly to this day. William Friedkin directed right on the back making The French Connection, and making these two movies alone has entered him into the cultural zeitgeist despite not having a huge body of work. A teenage Linda Blair gives a fantastic performance as the possessed Regan MacNeil, which even earned her an academy award nomination for best actress, something that is never easy for someone in a genre film.
- Nye: The Conjuring – This film is a favourite because, unlike most modern horror movies, it tries to stay relatively simple. Of course, it does have the clichéd premise of a possessed child and follows the typical narrative arch of a horror film, but what this feature does well is play on surrounding details in the story to build tension i.e. the clapping game. It’s gone on to inspire somewhat of a franchise and although its prequel Annabelle didn’t quite live up to my expectations following The Conjuring, its recent sequel didn’t disappoint; with a different cinematic approach and an arguably more intense plot than the first film, it provided a revitalising feel. Give them both a watch and see what you think.
- Shuggie: Scream – What sets Scream apart is that it’s not just a great slasher flick, but also a meta commentary on the slasher genre and horror films in general. Wes Craven cut his teeth in making innovative horror films such as The Nightmare on Elm Street, but for me Scream is his true masterpiece. The mystery ‘whodunnit’ aspect of the film, coupled with one of the iconic horror villains in Ghostface meant the film has both a gripping story first time round, and a lot of rewatchability afterwards. It’s one of the sharpest and most intelligent horror films ever made; laying the way for films like Cabin In the Woods, and doing as good job of satirising the genre as Shaun of the Dead or Scary Movie.
- Nye: The Cabin In The Woods – Drew Goddard’s 2012 original made my top 5 not because of its fear factor or number of jump scares, but for its level of innovation. The concept of a horror movie being manipulated by the US government (although there’s more depth to the story than that) doesn’t only give this film a comedic dimension, but also brings an eerie realism to it. With a cast of mixed prestige, this film presents an array of defined, if not slightly clichéd, characters playing off each other; who doesn’t love a skeptical stoner?! Another aspect of this film I found surprisingly refreshing is the way it ends; it breaks the mould of the typical horror film, but I won’t give it away for those who haven’t seen it yet.
- Shuggie: Psycho (1960) – Psycho is the originator of slasher films, and probably the most masterfully directed horror film of all time. Alfred Hitchcock redefined what horror films were with Psycho. Helped by an incredible performance by Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Hitchcock creates so much tension throughout the film before unleashing it in brutal murder scenes. The shower scene is still one of the most iconic scenes in film history, let alone horror film history. The final reveal in the film is to this day one of the best twists in film history, and one that other horror films still try to replicate. As long as we don’t talk about Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot for shot colour remake starring Vince Vaughn.
- Nye: The Shining – Obviously! An absolutely classic film! Jack Nicholson brings out his A game for this one and makes his descent into madness completely brilliant to watch. The film kicks off with one of the most cinematically fantastic set of opening credits of all time and is followed with one iconic shot after the next. One of the only faults with this film would be that, while Nicholson really does produce an incredible performance, Shelly Duvall seems to do everything in her power to make you wish that the bathroom window was just slightly too small for her to escape through. Having said that, her acting does provide some light hearted relief after being engulfed in the story of a psychotic killer.
- Shuggie: Alien – Whilst the later films in the franchise moved to more science-fiction/action films after Aliens, this original entry helmed by Ridley Scott is pure horror. As the Xenomorph alien hunts the crew of the Nostromo, they have to try and survive against this seeming invincible creature. As well as creating one of the greatest monsters in the history of film, Alien also gave us Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, one of the greatest protagonists in the history of film. Ian Holme’s android Ash really set a template that has been followed in so many of the later films in the franchise, whilst John Hurt, who hold the record for the number of film deaths, has probably his most iconic in the form of a Chestburster.
- Nye: The Sixth Sense – This is undoubtedly one of my favourite films ever, not just within the horror genre. It’s creepy, it’s haunting, it’s tense, and it’s dramatic. In other words, it’s everything you want a horror film to be. What is so great about this film is that you’re experiencing something that all but one character can’t see; you feel privileged to see what nobody else can. Not to mention the twist at the end that, let’s be honest, nobody saw coming. For me, that’s a piece of writing genius. Also it’s always nice to actually see some good acting from a child actor! If you haven’t seen this film, then I can’t urge you enough to try and get your hands on it somewhere. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued on DVD so it might be a slight challenge to find.
- Shuggie: Silence of the Lambs – There could certainly be debate as to whether Silence of the Lambs is a true horror film, but I feel as though it does fall into the psychological horror category. And as I’m classing it a horror film, it easily climbs to the top of my list. The film has brilliant acting, both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins rightly won Academy Awards for their work here, and it is the only horror film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. The scenes featuring the characters of Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter are always incredibly tense every time they’re on screen, and the final confrontation between Clarice and Bill is nerve wracking. This film is a horror masterpiece, and easily my number 1 pick.
- Nye: 28 Days Later – Danny Boyle’s nailed it with this film. No question, this is my favourite horror film of all time. One of my favourite things about this film is that it pretty much introduced the concept of the running zombie to the film industry. Prior to that, they were strolling, groaning, hungry lumps of meat. Now I don’t know about you, but I’d be slightly more scared if that thing could run as fast as me when it was trying to tear my guts out; a simple, yet terrifying evolution and just one of several Boyle has made to ‘The Zombie’. 28 Days Later veers so much between action and tension that you never feel settled. You’re always on the edge of your seat, which is what made this my number one. Not to mention it has a brilliant sequel, ’28 Weeks Later’ directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, which I loved almost as much (I thought it would be unfair to put both in my top 5).