Here we are at Halloween and we’ve reached Part 3 of 50 Monumental Horror Films. Closing in, although slightly behind our Halloween “deadline.” Don’t worry though, enough of the Northeast has had to postpone Halloween, so we’re going to carry on until we get through all 50 of these horror classics.
21. The Omen (1976)
I have met some children who I thought may very well have been the spawn of Satan. But none were quite as bad as Damien in The Omen. There is something truly horrifying about evil children. It contradicts the supposed nature of childhood innocence. This is played on time and time again in the horror genre. The 1970s saw a huge surge in horror films dealing with the occult and with questions of innocence vs. evil. This is one of the best of child demon films ever made.
22. Carrie (1976)
The first Stephen King adaptation on the list. If you were ever bullied in high school this is the horror movie for you. We find ourselves cheering for Carrie as she seeks revenge. I think one of the scariest characters in this film is Carrie’s mother. She is this symbol of everything that is wrong with religion and an absolutely terrifying abusive mother. Sissy Spacek is perfect in this role and this is an amazing adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
23. Suspiria (1977)
Another film about the supernatural, this Italian cult classic follows an ill-fated ballet school. The film has become a cult classic and one of the best known Italian horror films. One of the things I love about this film is that every time I’ve watched it I’ve taken something new from it. I also love the affect of the surreal color scheme. It creates a feeling of vertigo and confusion. This is another film that falls into the realm of the supernatural killer.
24. Halloween (1978)
With Halloween came the birth of the slasher pic. This is a film genre that, by the end of the 1980s, was way overplayed. But when Halloween came out it was innovative. I think in some ways Halloween invented what became some staples of horror. There would be an incredible number of sequels after this film and endless imitators. But there can only ever be one Michael Myers.
25. Friday the 13th (1980)
I have a really soft spot for Jason Voorhees. Maybe it’s the hockey mask. Maybe it’s the incredible way he manages to kill people while moving at a mind boggingly slow pace. But neither of those things make their way into the original Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th is really about a mother’s revenge against the mistreatment of her disabled child. In some ways this is the typical slasher film, while in others it is completely innovative. The fact that the killer remains unknown until the end of the film is fantastically well played and creates a great twist ending.
26. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Some movies are really gory and disturbing. And then there are the movies that take it to a whole new level. Like snuff film level. Which is exactly what authorities thought they had just seen upon viewing Cannibal Holocaust. The director had the cast sign an agreement to avoid public appearances in order to create the illusion that the film was a documentary and they really had died. These kinds of gimmicks were nothing new in the horror movie industry. Except that this time it worked a little too well. Director Ruggero Deodato was actually charged in Italian court with murder. He was forced to let actors out of their contracts in order to testify that they were, in fact, alive.
27. The Shining (1980)
What happens when Stanley Kubrick makes a horror film? What happens is you get one of the best horror films of all time. This is a movie that is brilliant and terrifying on so many levels. It plays on our fears of entrapment, the supernatural and abandonment. Jack Nicholson cannot be praised enough for his role in this film. Nicholson’s progression into madness is probably one of the best character developments in horror. There is so much happening in this film I think it would be impossible to really understand it after the first viewing.
28. The Hunger (1983)
Vampire films have always dealt with issues of sexuality. The idea that a monster (a sometimes incredibly sexy monster) wants to exchange bodily fluids with you isn’t a difficult metaphor to follow. The idea of dangerous sexuality has often been embraced by the Gay community. There is an entire subgenre of vampire films that I would call “Lesbian vampire movies.” They often depict a stronger female vampire seducing a woman to make her a companion. The Hunger is one of the best examples of this sub-genre. This is definitely more on the sexy vampire side than the scary vampire side. I also adore the fact that David Bowie is in this film. I didn’t think he’d make a believable vampire but he definitely pulls it off. This isn’t the last Queer vampire film on my list, but the other film deals more with men (spoilers?).
29. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
I think the thing that is most scary about Freddy Krueger is the idea of dying in your sleep. You have to sleep. But, in this movie, if you do, you die. So how long can you stay awake? This is the huge dilemma of Nightmare on Elm Street. I also love that while Jason and Michael Myers are these menacing silent killers – Freddy is as master of nasty sarcasm and makes you laugh and scream. This is another one that has had a million sequels but the original is the best.
30. The Fly (1986)
This movie (a remake of the 1958 classic) is, itself, a classic mashup of horror and science fiction. Jeff Goldblum is amazing in this film. It is suspenseful in the way that he slowly transforms into a disgusting monster. The scariest part has to be the birth scene with the giant maggot (just yuck). In a nod to Frankenstein, we are asked to ponder whether technology has gone too far and what the consequences of technology gone wrong are. There is a sequel and I may be causing controversy by saying that it really isn’t too bad and would be worth seeing if you enjoyed The Fly.